Topic stack # 1

Img_0031 I’m suffering an accumulation of post ideas and I want to enter the new school year in a state of administrative grace.  Help yourself.

1. A Reality TV show of your very own

Your own Reality TV show, but you get to keep the humiliation to yourself.   German firm makes it possible for people to submit pictures of themselves, and have others comment.  Thanks to my old friend Alan Middleton for the head’s up. here

2. Design and design gods at Yale

Here’s a course taught by Michael Beirut and William Drenttel at Yale.  Not sure when it is taught next.  I would love to sign up.

MGT 833, Designers Designing Design. 2 units. This course offers students the opportunity to be design clients, and to acquire the skills and experience necessary to use design to shape and manage products, programs, initiatives, and campaigns. Two working designers will explore design as a methodology, a way of working in modern organizations — corporations, foundations, magazines, schools, even cities. Beginning with an overview of contemporary “design thinking,” the course will survey far-ranging examples where design has been used as a means of innovation, change, message, and influence. Cases will include corporate, retail and non-profit identity; content-rich media and editorial projects; and social and political initiatives. Weekly assignments will involve writing design briefs for real world projects, considering strategic goals, organizational strengths, and consumer and public need. The course combines hands-on exercises, lectures, readings, and cases. Guest lecturers will include well-known designers, as well as clients involved in live cases.

3. Wendy’s and the "meatatarian" philosophy.

In this ad, a guy and a girl are eating at a restaurant.  The girl offers the guy a bite of her salad, and he says, "no, no, thank you, I’m a meatatarian.  I only eat meat and bacon.  You know, meatatarian.  It’s a personal choice."  This gets a version of "guy humor" that is much practiced but completely unstudied in the social sciences. One of the keys to have it works is the delight guys take in faux sincerity…as a way of mocking people who are earnest where they are, um, jocular.  This is contemporary culture generating itself.  There are vegetarians.  They are much scorned by mainstream males who think them precious and self absorbed.  Along comes a creative team and, hey presto, new term, and a small ripple in our culture.  This term is sure to become a "clam," a fragment from commercial culture that gets pressed into service in daily life. 

See the ad here

4. Michelle Obama was perfect last night

I watched the Fox news coverage.  Williams and Barnes thought Obama did a good job.  But Wallace,  Kristol and Rove thought her talk was study in missed opportunities.  I disagree.  Yes, Obama could have offered more issues.  But this was not the moment for issues.

I was reminded of the advice on public speaking that you start a teaching job.  In that first class, your students are not going to hear a word you say for the first 2 or 3 minutes.  That’s because they are "taking a reading" in that odd and interesting way that humans do.  They are sifting through the verbal and nonverbal signs.  They are not listening to content.  They are trying to figure out who you are.   There is a Canadian phrase for this (perhaps it’s American, too):  They are "sussing you out." 

And I think this is what Americans were doing during Obama’s talk last night.  They were "sussing."   Much of what we hear about Barak Obama says that people are unprepared to take him at his word, to accept the appearance for a reality.  He is "other" in several ways, and this means simply that Americans an extra long sussing period before we are prepared to start to absorb content. 

Think of it as a kind of instinctual due diligence.  We just have to log those sussing minutes, perhaps hours, before anything else can happen.  So the beginning of a conference is exactly the time to let the sussing begin, and a talk like Michelle Obama appeared designed for precisely that.  No content, because by and large we weren’t to (or for) content.  But lots of cues and clues, lots of the verbal and nonverbal stuff we need for the "sussing" process.  Rhetorically and strategically, this talk was perfectly on target. 

5.  News of a radical new experiment in anthropology.

This blog is interested in the Human Terrain experiment taking place in Iraq right now.  Anthropologists are famously unhappy about the use of their method for any practical purpose.  As a result of which, the field is now so removed from application it has become something like a museum piece.  But Montgomery McFate, David Kilcullen and the people serving in the Human Terrain program are reinventing the field in difficult circumstances, and we can take for granted that already the field is beginning to change.  There is for instance something interesting about the idea, below, of the "professional counterinsurgent."  The mind bends and then it boggles.  We shall have to wait to see learnings filter back into the field.  In the meantime, here are a couple of words on and from Kilcullen.

David Kilcullen is a former Australian Army officer, now seconded to the United States State Department.  He earned his Ph.D. studying guerrilla warfare in Southeast Asia and East Timor. He is the author of Twenty-eight Article, a practice guide for junior officers engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Kilcullen calls it "conflict ethnography."

The bottom line is that no handbook relieves a professional
counterinsurgent from the personal obligation to study, internalize and
interpret the physical, human, informational and ideological setting in
which the conflict takes place. Conflict ethnography is key; to borrow
a literary term, there is no substitute for a “close
reading” of the environment. But it is a reading that resides in
no book, but around you; in the terrain, the people, their social and
cultural institutions, the way they act and think. You have to be a
participant observer. And the key is to see beyond the surface
differences between our societies and these environments (of which
religious orientation is one key element) to the deeper social and
cultural drivers of conflict, drivers that locals would understand on
their own terms.


Anonmymous.  n.d., David Kilcullen.  Encyclopedia Entry in Wikipedia.  here.

Kilcullen, David.  2006.  Twenty-eight articles: fundamental of company-level counterinsurgency.  here.

Kilcullen, David.  2007.  Religion and Insurgency.  Small Wars Journal Blog.  May 12, 2007. here

2 thoughts on “Topic stack # 1

Comments are closed.