The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Wednesday Morning Omnibus Post

February 6, 2013

Knight DucksGood morning to the western hemisphere. Today brings with it a whole slew of stuff from the Duck of Minerva.

First, I’ve made some progress in updating the academia page — our one-stop shop for our ever-popular posts on the academic life.

Second, I have a general query about awards. As you may know, the voters have clicked and we now have finalists for the 2013 OAIS Awards. The winners will be selected via a pool of judges. The internal consensus seems to be to keep that pool classified this year–not for nefarious reasons, but because the blogging community is small and we want our judges insulated from concerns about hurting feelings. I’m curious if our readership has an opinion on this view.

Third, I have a new podcast up at New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I interview R.S. Belcher about his debut novel, Six-Gun Tarot.

Fourth, some MOOC-related stuff. If a MOOC crashes and lots of people are around to see, does it impact the movement? For that matter, why wouldn’t the combination of e-books and online quizes be a more efficient alternative than the lecture-based MOOC? Or just books? Regardless, a funny thing happened on the way to the MOOC. Well, two things, actually. Alex Tabarrok waxed poetic about how MOOCs are just like the Oxbridge approach to education — except that they’re not. He also argued how awesome MOOCs are by pointing to his most excellent TED adventure:

I won’t comment on my teaching quality but what I can say without fear of dispute is that the 15 minutes of teaching in my TED talk was among the best 15 minutes of my career. Knowing the potential size of the TED audience, I honed my talk and visuals with months of practice. I’d rather be judged by my best 15 minutes than by my average 15 minutes. My offline students get my average 15 minutes; my online students get my best 15 minutes.

This is just all kinds of wrong. As Eugene Morozov notes in his now-classic The New Republic piece:

Today TED is an insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering—a place where ideas, regardless of their quality, go to seek celebrity, to live in the form of videos, tweets, and now e-books. In the world of TED—or, to use their argot, in the TED “ecosystem”—books become talks, talks become memes, memes become projects, projects become talks, talks become books—and so it goes ad infinitum in the sizzling Stakhanovite cycle of memetics, until any shade of depth or nuance disappears into the virtual void. Richard Dawkins, the father of memetics, should be very proud. Perhaps he can explain how “ideas worth spreading” become “ideas no footnotes can support.”

Now, on to “morning linkage….”

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.