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Evolving Systems course, week 9: moving from cultural to individual change

Anne Dalke's picture

As always, you're free to write about whatever came into your mind in class this week.  But if you need something to get you started, here's a question. We have looked already @ some of the similarities and differences geological, biological and cultural evolution. What similarities, differences, and interrelationships are you beginning to see now, as we move from a consideration of cultural change to thinking about the evolution of individuals?

Julie G.'s picture

I'm late

 I'm sorry to be so late to post in here. I've been reading, just not writing.

The most interesting dynamic (for me) in the forum this week has been the language that people are using to describe the different cultures of the two classes. Loaded adjectives have been presented, and often followed by qualifiers. For example, P/A's group was more/less "x" than our group -- not too say that's worse/better, just different. Yet "x" has usually had a qualitative value associated with it. To say that Anne's group is more polite is to say that Paul's group is more rude; to say that Paul's group is closer than Anne's group is to say that Anne's group doesn't have as strong of a bond. As a few have pointed out, it seems that each of us thought that our group was in some way "better" or at the very least, we bristled at the notion that our group might somehow be "worse."

I think Jordan made a great point about the nature of group integration and "showing off," or wanting to put one's best-foot forward and how that creates hyperbolic situations. Perhaps if we had all met in the cafeteria or Campus Center, by chance, there wouldn't have been as strong of a framework of judgement in place. Instead, there might have simply been curiosity and allowances for differences without qualitative analysis.

On the other hand, we all have different preferences which in some way makes us individuals, and also allows for subcultures. Music is a great example of this. What some listen to for relaxation might be nails-on-a-chalk-board for another. I'm not ready to say that each of our classes evolved because all of the individuals in the class prefer a certain form of discussion, nor that Paul and Anne are entirely responsible (although Paul and Anne, have you noticed consistent patterns throughout the years in differences between your ESem/CSem groups?), but it does seem as if the members of each group evolved harmoniously within those groups. That is to say, I didn't hear anybody wishing to be in the other group.

Sarah Ann's picture

Oh dearie me...

So pretty much everything I would have wanted to say about the fusion of our ESem groups has already been said. I guess that's what I get for falling asleep last night before I posted. Oops! But going back through and reading all the comments gave me some interesting thoughts. One theme throughout a lot of them is a conflicting opinion as to which class is "better," which reminds me of a discussion we (Anne's group) had about human nature and mankind's desire to always designate a winner. How do we decide who wins? Why do we always do so? Should we always do so?

Another thing I'd like to say is that going into Paul's classroom gave me a different perspective on this online forum. Because I've now experienced all of you in your natural habitat, so to speak, I feel more of a desire to read all the postings, not just the ones from Anne's section. I feel now like we should be more collaborative, more open to each other's inputs and opinions. Our two classes are very different sides of the same coin, but that coin doesn't necessarily always have to land on heads OR tails. We complement each other. I personally loved visiting the other class, after (of course) the inital shock of learning how to be heard in such a different environment. But isn't that what we're all having to learn how to do as we join the community of Bryn Mawr? We all have to learn to make ourselves heard in this big, new environment, whatever way we feel best expresses ourselves, whether we're "loud" (like Paul's class) or "quiet" (like Anne's).

Imittleman's picture

 Wow.  Reading these comments

 Wow.  Reading these comments are really interesting.  

I have to be honest...when we began talking about cultures, I was convinced our class culture was the "better" one.  (Yes, biased, I know)  And to respond to some of the comments below me, we don't view it as rude.  We don't see it as formal discussion.  It's much more informal, like getting together with friends or family to discuss ideas.  The reason I think we may may come across as less polite or less serious is because we're at a comfort level with each other in which we're less guarded or careful, and yes, louder.  But it's also okay.   

But what's even more funny/interesting is that I, so wrapped up in our culture, never imagined the faults others could find with it.  I imagined others would find our discussions as fun and enjoyable as I did.  That seems kind of naive now.  But also really interesting.  And I think it shows two degrees of blindness: one, not only can one think their culture is "better" but also that they, so content with their own culture, would not be able to conceive another finding fault with it.  (In a wider context, something like one disliking the food of your culture: "What?  You don't like it?  How could you not like it?!") And also, it displays an insider/outsider dynamic in which the experience of being immersed in one culture, and watching it evolve and grow, is probably far different from perceiving it from afar.    

So what happened here?  I think it's partially growing used to one's own class environments (thus seeing it as the norm and perhaps "better") and partially not witnessing the development of the other.  

I could defend Paul's class (I already sort of did), but when it comes down to it, there's probably general pros and cons of both and probably different class room environments that fit different people differently.  (Maybe some would benefit from the more active/loud discussion and others would be hindered by it?)  I love our class and wouldn't change it but I could see how it could be overwhelming to others. 

It's amusing to realize we just took part in small scale culture shock.  Replace "Paul's class" or "Anne's class" with various cultures fitting those stereotypes (loud vs. quiet) and it's essentially the real thing. 

And I know this is getting super super long but I wanted to end with an anecdote.  When I went to France one summer to visit friends of our family, the mom asked me to tell her the differences between french and american culture.  So I told her nudity was a big thing and that in America, her kids (who were 5 and 7) would have to wear clothes and not walk around naked all the time like they did.  She then seemed sort of insulted that I said this and told me, "We are not always naked!  The dutch are always naked! It is very bizarre."

elisagogogo's picture

a couple of things to say

Frankly speaking, I have always felt hard to read cartoons since I was a little child. Struggling to understand what the painter was trying to interpret, I would either consider myself lack of talent or the authors insane. How could they spend much more time drawing those silly pictures just to make the simplified word more difficult to understand? It is embarrassed to confess that reading Logicomix was a challenge for me. Even though the book brought up tons of interesting ideas as well as an amazing inner-world evolution, I still didn’t see the point of putting them into pictures. Last lantern night totally changed my idea. Standing under the shining stars, listening to the most beautiful song in the world and seeing those twinkling lanterns, I suddenly realized that there are a lot of things on earth that could not be recorded by video, described by words… Everything has their best way to be interpreted. Like people could never get the secret of lantern night except actually coming here, the best way to show the culture and individual evolution in Logicomix is by using graphs.


Other than focusing on the evolvement of Russell’s logic, I find myself also interested in Russell himself. Actually, he reminds me of the main actor of the movie: a beautiful mind. Even with different fields of interests, both of them are passionate, curious but depressed and sad at the same time. They all believe there is a particular rule about the world that we can finally find if we think about everything rationally. They get better off and worse off at the same time when each improvement is made. This highly similarity let me feel that Russell indeed represents not only himself, but a kind of people in the world, who are constantly researching the truth that are good to have but hard to reach? Can human really tell how the world works? Or is it a “black-hole” that will trap the ones who are highly evolved and drive them crazy? I don’t know...

Summer's picture

Same Class, Different Class

     It was interesting to find out the differences between the two classes - or I should say the two "same" classes. We are in the same ESem, discussing the same kind of topics about evolution. We are taught by different teachers and are with different classmates. Those factors change a lot in the process of learning!

    We first found the girls in Paul's class are loud. At the beginning I was sitting in the room with the door open and amazed by the value of db in the class. Then Paul asked us to think and discuss about the similarity and differences between our class and his. Our group discovered teasing Paul is one of the important element of their class while we never make fun of Anne. We are perfectly comfortable and are enjoying our class discussion. They claimed that they cannot imagine having a class without arguing. After a while, we found ourselves became louder, adapting the environment in the other class. That was probably because of it was Paul who was in the classroom and guided the discussion instead of Anne. If it was Anne, I suppose girls in Paul's class would be quieter than they used to be.

    Our two class cultures overlap and yet have their own characteristics. Though we have the same class title, the class styles are completely different. When I met Anne on last Wednesday, she asked if we would resist to meet with the other class and accept with their ideas. It turns out to be that we participated in the discussion and exchanged our opinions. I'm sure that we won't be louder in the future and they probably won't be quieter either. We are the components of the culture of "making sense of ourselves in an evolving universe". We, the individuals create the collective culture, us as a whole.  

paige's picture

I like words.

I hardly ever read graphic novels. I don't read graphic novels often because they don't seem like real "novels" to me. I like my books wordy, real wordy. Lines upon lines of text please and thank you.

However, I enjoyed Logicomix overall. The images were striking and not as bad as a distraction from the words as I had originally thought. I didn't really look directly at the images while going from one speech blurb to the next but I found vague images in my mind anyway. Every so often I found myself stopping to just look at the pictures to try to glean some more information. I kept thinking - where's the waldo in these pictures? Is there symbolism in the bushes in the corner?

... somewhere when writing this I caught a new train of thought...ish....

Logicomix is mostly dialogue so I guess we are supposed to get a lot out of the images (Russell's wife's faces...changes in light, etc.). It was just so strange to have the scene or the emotions depicted in such a literal way. I guess I am used to a scene subtly created through a few choice words. I feel that literal representation in the scenes in Logicomix, as background for the words, are just that, backgrounds for words, and not really part of the story. I prefer, I think, to have a dreary afternoon be suggested and clarified by an umbrella by the door and the description of a draft coming through the old window panes then a image. I think that because the images of a graphic novel are so immutable they are less vivid in my mind, despite the super-high-quality toner the printer used. When I read a novel, I just read and the words create the story and it just flows. I felt like I was searching for the story, getting somewhat befuddled with the speech blurbs and irritated with the matter of fact, absolute scenery.

Because more is left to the imagination(this is definitely part of it) in real novels, I "see" the story. Even if I do not have the book anywhere nearby I can just have the image of a passage in my head and it's beautiful or strange or ghastly but definitely there. It's intriguing just how much the medium a story is told in affects the reader's perceptions, obvious but something I'm interested in. I didn't really realize it before.

I wonder if there will be a trend towards more graphic novels  - will books like Logicomix be ubiquitous in the future?

p.s I couldn't find the research on existing evidence of crime and violence causing more crime but I think this paper on the concept of street efficacy is also very interesting, especially considering our discussion of the Parable of the Sower and now individual change over time (as it relates to societal change and local cultures (and subcultures) and much more I suppose)

Hillary G's picture

Logicomix and Such

Regarding Logicomix, I personally loved it. I think it's a perfect example of individual evolution (poor guy, too, he had it kinda rough...despite his endlessly frustrating poor treatment of his wife). But more to my interest, it was a really good way to combine philosophical and mathematical concepts in a visually narrative way. I'm a visual learner so that was wonderful for me (I finally grasped a few concepts that my Philosopher class lectures have only attempted to help me understand). 

But we spent most of the last class discussing "culture" differences between the 2 sections. I personally found it interesting from a psychological point of view. An interesting question came to mind: did mixing the classes really create a much different dynamic? Was it the environment (the room) that contributed to the different dynamics? Or was it the people or the professor that most influenced them? Was this indeed proof that each class had their own culture separate from the other class, in which different behaviors (such as loudness and interrupting) created different social norms/role expectations within that group? I'm not sure if we can answer these questions but they're pretty interesting to think about. 

Olivia's picture


I love Logicomix! The book presents so many things in such a vivid and clear way. I think I need to read twice to deeply exam all the information this book contains.
I like how it shows the evolution of Logic. Before I thought reasoning and logic are things can not be put into doubts; and they are sound and certain. But in the book, it says "Logic is all about rules. In fact, it begins with definitions and continues with rules.", which immediately gives me a sense of uncertainty. Logic is just rules. then how do I know the rules are right? And the idea that logic is rules evolves into that "logic is the form of the language. And it is embedded in it, like the iron structure that supports a building." At the end logic seems to be useless.
I also like the idea of set, a collection of objects. In the book, some one says that the set is the future and can solve everything. And do think set is powerful. For instance, we can make a set of culture evolution problems, and we just need to put factors in the set and exam the set. To me, it is really a clear and simple mode of analyzing cultural problems.
The evolution of Russell is also in accordance with the evolution of Logic. The Logic improvement was partly made by him, and he was hugely influenced by the logic evolution.
And also the idea of map vs. reality.....

There are just so many interesting ideas, and the book is so inspiring.

bluebox's picture

Now, wait just a minute here.

Going through the other posts, I notice that a bunch of them comment on how loud our class is. On thursday, that was very true. As loud as we are, we don't have those side conversations normally, and we don't usually have to yell to get a chance to talk.  The impression that Anne's class got was influenced a lot by the size of the class, and by the fact that there were new people invading (not really, you're all welcome :] ) what is usually a very private bubble of culture.  I think the side conversations and the flaunting of inside jokes (not gonna lie, i did it too) were mostly to validate ourselves as a "culture" or as a group.  In other words, we totally showed off.  We wanted to prove that we are comfortable with each other and I think we were a little over the top. We were overwhelming indeed. We can't really approach our cultures interacting without thinking about the psychological aspect of it...I'm no psych major, I've never even taken a class. But it's logical enough that when another group enters your territory with the intent to judge ("observe and draw conclusions," put nicely) that we'd get a bit defensive.

Anne's class was just like o.o (that's an "i'm scared" face, if you can't tell) at first, but they seemed to get more comfortable as time went on. I think it was just too big of a class to really understand each other and interact in the way that we were supposed to. Yes, our cultures are different, and I think the differences are more because of Anne and Paul more than the people in the class (though we're almost as important). However, we can't really judge the differences based on thursday because of our group psychology...or lack thereof, for those of us who just sat there silently.

MC's picture

I Read a Book

I don't know how I have the free time, it's truly astounding.

Anyway, I read a book the other day and it was quite ridiculous so I won't go into it much, except to say that there was a plot point involving genetically engineered werewolves (I read a surprising number of books where this is a plot point. I should perhaps look into other hobbies?). Now, all of the pseudo-science in this book was absolutely laughable, but for whatever reason the genetic modification of individuals really got to me. Not because I'm morally opposed to it, but because for whatever reason people seem to think that going in and switching around genes to achieve certain results is easy. Admittedly, we can make flies grow eyes on the ends of their antennae and other similar things, which are quite specific, but when we do this we don't use a fully grown fly. We change the fly's DNA when it's an egg so that it develops into an eye-antennae'd fly, as that's the only time when anything's actually developing, and therefor, y'know, changing. Or we make changes to an adult and breed it, and watch the changes over generations. What am I trying to say? We don't have a fly without eye-antennae one moment and then have one the next. It doesn't work like that. We have to change nucleotide sequences to do this-- and contrary to popular belief, there is not a magical telepathic link between every single DNA strand in your body that allows them all to change based on the changes made to a single strand. So I mean, theoretically we could shuffle around human DNA and mix it with wolf DNA. But only in a single cell. And then it would probably die. And unless that cell was incredibly important, then that death would probably be totally unnoticed in the greater scheme of things.

Analysis applied to everything ever: 1. If you change one individual sometimes you'll change the whole (and get a freaky eye-antennae) but more often than not nothing will happen and life will continue on as normal. 2. Adults are harder to change than children/infants/fetuses/blastula/unfertilized eggs. 3. Changes are typically more evident over generations. 4. Radical change often results in death.

I had other things to say. Probably about how individuals change based on cultural change based on biological change based on geological change based on cosmological change. And what's cosmological change based on I wonder?

Oh! I hate the term "personal" or "individual" evolution. It promotes the use of the term evolution in what I feel are misprepresentative ways. Personal or individual change is fine, but not evolution.

Individuals are just cultures (and languages, which are like cultures, which are like languages) on a teeny tiny scale. They are the combination of tidbits from every which way fitted into different shapes. The greatest difference is that it usually takes slightly less time to notice the change in an individual than in a culture. But only usually. That statement/idea/what have you possibly has something to do with genes. Not possibly, in fact, but definitely.

Interpret as you will.

Valentina's picture


Reading this blog is bringing back in me the defensiveness I felt on Thursday when we discussed the difference between our classes. As a competitive person to begin with, I refuse to accept the notion that it is at all possible the other section is in ANY way better than us (despite some implications)... just different.

Though I would love to argue that our section is more evolved than the other section, I guess this would be an unfair argument so instead, I'd like to contemplate why there are differences between our sections. I think this issue comes down to a much debated topic...nature versus nurture? How much of the way our section behaves is a matter of which individuals are in our section versus how much is as a result of us together & with Paulie G (haha, just kidding... Professor Grobstein...)?

In my opinion, we are the super cool way we are because of the way we interact as a group and with Paul- not exactly as a result of our individual natures. For example, take Elisa and Aijingwen. Both international students from China, they started the year speaking rather quietly and, in keeping with our (or at least my…) stereotypes of Chinese people, they were polite and more-or-less perfect. However, just a few months later, our international students are getting just as fired up and passionate about the topics- as evidenced in the rapidity at which they speak. Also, as the year has gone by, I feel we have all been able to open up more about our lives- making our class feel like a mixture of a (debate) team and a group counseling session.

Point being, I love our class. I don’t think we interrupt each other as much as we finish each other’s sentences or thoughts. I think the “loudness” Anne’s section observed is due to the fact that we have a good time together and the fact that we had the comfort of being in our own environment…”home”, even.   

Aimee's picture


 As my class has mentioned a dozen times already, Paul's students are very, very loud. Overwhelmingly so. Although I thought they were quite hospitable toward us strange, quiet folk, I still felt out of place among them. Our class is quiet, but there's a clear and even ratio between those who enjoy voicing their opinions, and those who need coercion to speak. Paul's class had no obvious distinctions. Everyone was talking; some participated readily in the class discussion, yet many other students seemed to hold private conversations through whispers and sideways glances. I was not offended by that class' tendency to interrupt the speaker, but the side conversations bothered me. I believe you (this being the universal "you") should share your thoughts or shut up. Side conversations are exclusive...and for newcomers, slightly foreboding.

Of course, I only spent 1 1/2 hours in Paul's class. Perhaps the unique arrangement of the room caused some people to sequester their conversations. They do seem awfully nice, so I probably just experienced a culture shock. But that "culture shock" led me to wonder how Paul's class formed such a unique culture to begin with. What is the culture of noise?

Can noise be a culture? For my purposes, yes. Let's call it something conventional - extroversion. Extroverts are social butterflies: loud, effervescent, and comfortable around people. I define them so easily because I know they're everything I'm not. Extroversion is a very individualistic culture; personality is the extrovert's only defining, unifying feature, since his/her interests and tastes vary. How does one become an extrovert or an introvert? How does one become any personality-type? By birth? By evolution? Discuss. 





Angela_MCA's picture

Hearing more about the

Hearing more about the differences between the classes, I was thinking that the main influences on both cultures were Paul and Anne.  In the beginning of the semester, everyone entered the class behaving differently than they are now, they more were "cautious" because they weren't sure how to be or how the class was going to be run.  It was how Paul acted that influenced the way the class is now. The interactions he allowed to occur helped shape the "culture" of the class.  As for Anne's class, it seems that her being the main contributor to discussion influenced the class into being a more silent one. This shows how individuals can be a big influence on a culture, and even an essential element of the culture itself.

Also, someone mentioned earlier in the forum that cultures tend to think that they are superior to other cultures.  I think this is true.  But, I think that this is mostly because the culture you are part of is, really, all you know and all you've come to understand, so sometimes when viewing other cultures, you might think their ways are odd or wrong because you just don't understand where they come from or why they are the way they are. People viewing other cultures as wrong or different tend to think of their culture as better and superior.

Bingqing's picture

New understandings

When we first entered this session—topics about cultures, I regarded the culture as something that must be established on the big circumstances and involve a long time span and a wide range of people. Thus, after I got the prompt of the first paper—to write a culture that I am familiar with—in this session, I did a lot of researches about  online about Chinese civilization and struggled to avoid being too general and insipid. After talking with Anne, I realized that the cultural evolution can happen within small region and during short time, like my community and even my family. There could be a culture belonging to my small community and family.

Then, I almost did not notice that two distinguished cultures had already been formed in our two classes until Paul and classmates started to conclude the similarity and difference between two sections. Physically, we are divided by a wall; however, we are more distinguished by the cultures formed in two classes. Why we feel no that comfortable when we are in the other class? The reason I come up with is that we are like infants when we first get into an unfamiliar cultural environment. We form our special culture in our class and feel comfortable to stay here, because we shape the culture all the time with our own flavors and at the same time adapt to the culture with gradual process. In this class, we and our culture shape each other. To some extent, the culture, which is established in certain period and by certain group of people, is naturally exclusive.




ecollier's picture

Desensitization - a pretty loaded word for me

The conversation kept moving away from de-sensitization on Tuesday, but I think it is an important topic to address. I’ve given a lot of thought to desensitization in the past, and I think that it’s an unfortunate product of life experience.

I believe that people would care more and have more compassion for big issues if they weren’t so bombarded with tragedies and depravities every single day. The amount of information on unfortunate events on the internet today is insane. And advertisement campaigns for various social issues are everywhere. How can people truly care about something when there are so many other things to care about? How can people not?

Someone argued that we were less sensitive at a young age, but I find this difficult to believe. Although it may be true that we’re often more offended by horror films more now than as children, I don’t think this means that we’re not being desensitized by information overload. I’m just not sure how to approach it.


schu's picture

differences and rationality

Many of us have already mentioned the amazing differences in two classes.
Actually I am enjoying my fantasy to run certain experients on two classes, for example swap the instructors, or simply turn on the lights and open the door in Anne's section and do the opposite to Paul's. But these experiments can never be carried out under rigorous control of variances,as we've already developed certain culture atomosphere in our places. And the possible result of mixing sections, like being louder in Anne's class or letting others finish in Paul's class, is due to our ability of adapting to new environment and capability of expressing ourselves in different ways. Individuals definitely have these abilities, just of different ranges. Thus the evolution of individuals will have two parts, one for self-adjustment as adaption to enviornment pressure, and one for individual's impact on external environment including other individuals.

Dragging my thoughts a bit back, I love my class culture. It makes feel comfortable to think deeply for a question. And well, there has to be inevitable consequences after two classes all realized the differences...All we can do is to hug the coming change.

About Paul's talking on Thursday, the rationality to solve human problems, it reminds of the S3 E3 of Fringe. In that episode, a man with severe cognitive disorder have the ability to think like a computer and calculate most the possibilities of development of things, thus he can predict things,and meanwhile kill people by his ability. This is too sci-fi, but actually this is way of solving human problems:rationality. Rationality doesn't include human emotion, and it should be right all the time. So this is a good assumption but too hard to reach. But logic, on the hand, could possiblity give a chance to rationality to solve some human problems. People think and remember things following logic, and the logic could be the only way to connect every scene in the progress of all evolutions when we think about it.

Erin's picture


Last week 's discussion is really interesting when we start to talk about the difference between two section of the ESEM classes. I think one particular got my attention. The different ways of expression in the participants actually shape the discussion and decided the results of the discussion. Our section appeared to be more quiet and polite. This characteristics made our discussion a process focused on listening to each other. This process help us really listen to our peers' ideas and allow us to think about the topic from her own unique perspective. More importantly, our section tend to build up on each other. Usually, we can talk about one topic fro the whole class. This pathways help us develop a thorough understanding about certain topic and really explore the depth of idea. This point help explain why I find every discussion inspiring and drive me to a brand new stage of thinking. It definitely make sense when you think of 14 people who each explain story about a turtle, even though there are still turtles all the way down, we have manage to go down 14 floors. The process is absolutely pleasant. I don't consider this big difference a problem as long as we enjoy the discussion and get inspired to develop more critical thinkings.
I also want to mention my reading about Logicomix. I have to admit that it has been years since I read my last comic books. I really like the title of the book. Logicomix means logic and comics,which contains both contents which is the biography of Russel and form of the book, comics. I found the reading both fresh and confusing. Firstly, the reading process is much more enjoyable  because you don't get much chance to have a meaning  comics as homework. All the illustrations help understanding of the complicated logic theory.Secondly, the pictures can be distracted at the same time. I have to tell myself to be more focused on the con tens instead of the colorful pictures. I guess I will be easily to learn in a more serious environment.

LAJW's picture

Cultural Evolution


I think that the last week's combined discussion was interesting. I was excited to find that there are actually a lot of differences between two sections. I think to a certain extent this proves the point that individuals play a vital role in shaping our culture. Two sections are instructed by two professors with quite different characteristics (Paul is always quiet, more interested in discussing ideas and Anne is always loud, more into discussing writing styles.) and are comprised of students with different backgrounds. However, I think that no cultures are deeply formed in either of the two sections since we only meet twice a week in total of three hours. Each of us chooses different courses besides esem and most of us lives in different dorms. We barely meet each other on campus. I think the aforementioned situation applies to the other esem session too. Time is really important for a culture (The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group) to be formed within a group of people.Hence, I think that a new culture (a totally different culture from the original two cultures A+B=C) would be created from the intersection of the two.


Serendip Visitor's picture

Clash of the People

On Thursday's class we experienced a clash of people.
In my head I was really excited to to have this clash, but when it actually happened I was a bit overwhelmed. There were too many people and the air in the room did not feel good. I was not able to understand the arguments and I even made a bogus argument. I prefer the smaller environment with people I already know. I should learn to step out of my bubble, but that is just to difficult.

There weren't just negatives, but positives. For one, I loved Logicomix and we talked about it in class. My peers liked and understood the appeal of math. The talk that Paul ended the session with was wonderful.

Until recently I discovered that math has some open ended questions BUT there is a big but.
Math has actually attempted to answer any particular question by creating a symbol. So technically in math everything has an answer not very tangible but it is there.

The infinite amount of numbers is mind-boggling but as mathematics goes on there are attempts to answer the question. In many cases the problem gets solved, and if not it is infinity and zero. But even in that vastness there are levels for infinity.

I don't know if that makes sense but I am just glad math has gotten a place in everyone's heart. I love it.

FluteSound4's picture


I was so happy that the mixing of the two classes on Thursday wasn't as awkward as it has been in the past. When talking to some of the students in Paul's class before Thursday, we shared a little bit of anxiety on how mixing the two classes would turn out. All in all though, it went pretty well. There's no doubt that the two classes are both very different in style, structure, and overall atmosphere. But I like our class. Even though Paul's class feels exciting and lively, I feel like I always have to fight to speak and that even when I do speak, no one paid much attention because they were focused on something else. Like nina said, our class feels very relaxed and laid back. I like letting people talk and having time to think about their opinions and ideas rather than jumping into a heated debate. Paul's class also kind of confused me. I'm still not quite sure on what our essay assignment is or when it's due, but I guess I'll figure that out tomorrow. I think us going into Paul's class was a good experience. It gave all the students a look and better understanding into each other's class cultures.

nina0404's picture

Differences and change

Like everyone else I found the two different sections to be just that different. Our section, those of us in Anne's section, seem to me to be a bit more laidback in our discussions, always allowing each other to speak, and while an outsider may look at us as quiet, I feel as if we all like to take moments in our discussions to reflect and chew on in our heads what has just been said. Our other half seems to want to always be in motion, and discussions are more like heated debates. One interesting thing that happened though is that each section began to intergrate and assimilate. I saw our section become louder and the other section allow for others to finish speaking instead of interupting. While we were assimilating I still longed to be in our classroom. It was easy to see at this moment how easily we become attached to a certain way of doing things and even though its only been a couple of weeks, how hard it would be to change our group dynamics. Perhaps though I am wrong. Perhaps our group dynamic would change if forced to intergrate, and would change swiftly. Culture is capricious , it gives us a bubble of comfort, and at anytime decides to pop our bubble leaving us exposed, and forcing us to adapt ourselves, adapt those around us, and in some cases perish.

SoundsLikeBanana's picture

Thursday's Combined Class


I wonder what would happen if we switched environments...

What I noticed right away in Paul's class was the excitement that this group felt in their discussion and how boisterously they communicated with each other. That’s not to say that Anne’s class isn’t excited by the material or the discussion, but we take a more graceful approach to the discussion.

I think this comes from both our personalities and our environment. It is likely that many of the students in Paul’s class are naturally extroverted people, while those in Anne’s may not be, or at least aren’t in English. But I also believe that the classroom has something to do with it as well. In Anne’s classroom the lights are usually dimmed and the door is closed, giving the room a certain serene environment, thus leading to a calmer relationship and discussion between the students. Paul’s classroom on the other hand is brightly lit with the door open, giving off a certain excited and alert atmosphere, affecting the class’ interaction.

mwechsler's picture


 At first when we were listing differences I couldn't help but think Paul's class was being unfair to Anne's. It felt like the things we were saying, as best we tried, put our class in a more positive light. But then I started wondering if that was just because I in fact viewed the culture of our class as preferable. Was I just imposing a bias I already had? After talking to several other people it seemed that I had done just that. Cultures have a tendency to think of themselves as superior when they encounter another culture. It was a very interesting experience to have firsthand. 

genesisbui's picture

I must note that during our

I must note that during our collaboration with Paul and Ann’s group, I was so happy that we did our best to assure that everyone was well integrated into the group. However, I still feel that our class tended to take over, but I’m sure it is due to excitement some of our classmates tend to experience during all discussions in general. It was collaboration I was glad to be a part of, but I wonder what differences we would find if instead Paul, Ann took over. Would we find that our classes would be more open to discuss and collaborate?


Kirsten's picture

  I thought that it was very

  I thought that it was very interesting during thurdsay's discussion it was borught up that while Anne's class, I think of as being a group of quiet girls, while Anne is a person speaks a bit louder, and tries to pull the ides from us to form a meaningful discussion on the readings.  It is the complete opposite on the other side of the wall. Paul's class thought of themselves as boisterous while Paul, himself, was quite.  Not as if the students had take over the class, or that they don't have equally meaningful dicussions, but it was as if the atmosphere was a lot louder then what, in my opinion, goes on in Anne's class.  

  Emersing my slef in this efervecent, learning environment made me, a introverted normally shy person, leswilling to talk about my ideas. Perhaps the quiet atmosphere is the atmosphere best suited for me to be more willing to share my ideas, and feel less intimidated.

Paul Grobstein's picture

two cultures in one class

From joint class, 28 October
(click on image for enlargement)

 Some similarities

  • "philosophical", go deep
  • no hand raising
  • class diversity
  • not "class" like others

Some differences

  • AD section less loud, more polite/structured, less argumentative
  • PG section louder, more raucous/argumentative
  • PG section mostly discussion re topics, more use of student papers in AD section
  • AD more directive, PG rarer to interject
  • AD "Anne" from outset, PG -> "Paul"

Rich conversation, partially documented/excerpted above.  Help deciphering notes, additions, corrections, further thoughts all welcome, of course. My sense was that, as in many cultures, participants in each culture felt their distinctive practices were preferable, which make this a nice illustration of how cultures first interact at interfaces between them.  The issue of how each culture might impact the other was only briefly explored (students in AD section would have to get louder or those in PG section quieter) but might be worth going into further.  What more effective cultures might be conceived by observing the contrasts between these two?   

Anne Dalke's picture

weighing in from indiana

(just so you know i'm still attending....!)

So: what more interesting culture might be constructed by joining the two?
Refusing fusion, in order to keep all differences in play....?