Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Week Eight (Wed, 3/16): The Entangled and the Exponential

Quantum Entanglement

today's notetakers: m.aghazarian & spreston

I. coursekeeping
a belated welcome back!

my own related stories re: gender and technology
from the Winchester, Va. Medical Center (and the need for
a re-evaluation of how resources are being spent....)

The limits of safeguards and human foresight (NYTimes, 3/13/11): "The sobering fact is that megadisasters like the Japanese earthquake can overcome the best efforts of our species to protect against them. No matter how high the levee or how flexible the foundation, disaster experts say, nature bats last."
Turning to the more manageable:

some of your most recent webpapers (phreNic, Riki?) are still not linked --and Franklin20's project is still missing images

we're still in process to fill THREE open slots in our syllabus;
by Friday, go to "next steps" and comment a second time...

You'll also need to do a second posting, reflecting over the week;
remember your shared desire to be more in dialogue on-line (i.e. post more comments, do fewer "stand alone" postings)

Also for Monday, read Chapter 7 of Barad's book ("Quantum Entanglements: Experimental Metaphysics and the Nature of Nature," focusing esp. on pp. 331-352).
Heads up that, hosted by GPWSC, she will be visiting BMC the week of November 7! I'll send you a reminder in 8 months!

Also, we met this morning w/ Tian Hui Ng, the HC choral director, who will be visiting this class next week to talk about the history of musical notation (="coding and decoding "information" in musical scores), using the body as an instrument/technology, and other related topics: we're excited to bring you this add'l concrete exemplar of many of our discussion topics.

He/we were curious: how many of you 1) play an instrument 2) perform musically 3) can sight read music?

But first....

  Primarily trained as an evolutionary biologist, she seeks to engage the social and cultural studies of science in the practice of science.

II. Looking back @ Subramaniam's retrospective on feminist science studies --> catch me up on what I missed! what is this field? where was it? where is it now? where is it going?

Might we locate our course in this field? In the terms Subramaniam defines, where might we place ourselves?

Barad received her Ph.D. in particle physics ... she has broadened her scope to include research in feminist theory, philosophy of science, epistemology, ontology, and ethics, with a focus on science and justice.
III. Subramaniam's work frames today's reading: Karen Barad's "close reading" of Michael Frayn's play Copenhagen.

Her introductory chapter is a great example of how a critique can lay the basis for creation; we're going to split class into two parts, to explore each portion of this work.

phreNic, Franklin 20 and vgaffney want more close reading--

Franklin 20: I wish would could delve into the text more....if we really teased out arguments rather than skim over main points....the discussions aren't as grounded in the text (which function as a shared experience for our discussion) as they could be.

vgaffney: numbers of texts which are extremely rich and dense with detail and complexity should almost always be read closely, with a keen attention to their richness (and the ability to mark the pages)....I do think that the humanities—English in particular and philosophy—should be primarily based in the text. I think the only way to truly comprehend and engage very difficult material is through meticulous reading.

here you go! (or: beware what you wish for!)

What is it?

"how to do a close reading," from Harvard's Writing Center

wikipedia: the careful, sustained interpretation of a brief passage of text. Such a reading places great emphasis on the particular over the general, paying close attention to individual words, syntax, and the order in which sentences and ideas unfold as they are read.

How does Hayles define it?
(as distinct from reader-directed, screen-based, computer-assisted hyperreading: searching, filtering, skimming, hyperlinking, "pecking," fragmenting, juxtaposing, scanning, strategy of reading in an "F" pattern)

In Literary Theory: A Short Introduction, Jonathan Culler discusses the "principle that has long governed literary studies--that the main point of interest is the distinctive complexity of individual works:

New Criticism arose in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s.... It focused attention on the unity or integration of literary works... treated poems as aesthetic objects rather than historical documents and examined the interactions of their verbal features and the ensuing complications of meaning rather than the historical intentions and circumstances of their authors... the tasks of criticism was to elucidate the individual works of art. Focusing on ambiguity, paradox, irony and the effects of connotation and poetic imagery....."

(W/ thanks to Kaye Edwards!) we're going to try
this out in a series of exponential conversations:
what happens when a particle physicist "close reads"

a literary text??

First, in pairs:
what observations does Barad make of Frayn's play?
(take 5-10 minutes to list these)

in quads (w/ a reminder of dialogic practices):
which of those observations form the basis of her critique of the play?
(take 10-15 minutes to identify these)

in groups of eight, take 5-10 minutes to distill these:
what is the substance of her critique? 
what does she take those observations to mean?
(what is her claim? what's her point?)

in two large groups (of 14 each?): so what?
what is the purpose and outcome of Barad's critique?
what are its consequences? 

Return to whole group, of 28:
having traced Barad's trajectory from critique to creativity-->
what happens when a scientist "reads closely"?
what's the payoff? (is there one?)
how is this practice differ from that of literary critics,
as demonstrated in the Haverford English Dept's Junior Sem?

All this is to set you up for your weekend reading of Barad's Chapter 7, which demonstrates the new way of knowing that is feminist science studies....

Liz: any other reading instructions, clues, directions?

Course notes by m.aghazarian & spreston