Final Blog Post

I have really enjoyed my time in this class. During this class, we have explored how technology has changed and actively affects our lives, and through our readings, movie screenings, the games we’ve played/explored, and our historical ad objects and looked at how things have changed with several of our senses, such as those of taste and smelling. In addition, all of the works that we have read or gone through have augmented our experiences, especially some of the depression simulation ones and such. But, despite this, I wish that there were some other works that we had read.

One such work that I wish we had gone over was the movie, The Matrix. This movie is interesting in many different ways. It has a commentary on technological innovation, our brain and our senses, and has a philosophical standpoint as well. But, for this class, technology and the senses, we would focus on the former two points for our discussions.

In regards to the technological aspects, we have often discussed technology and how it has affected our lives. Our historical objects focused on just that: how certain objects affected one of our senses or changed the way we saw, tasted, or etc. things. While the movie does not specifically delve into those such subjects it does, as a backstory, talk about what happens when we go too far with technology. What happens when we go too far in the name of science and technology, and create something we can no longer control? For that matter, what happens when we try combining ourselves with technology, as what happened in the movie. But even further than that, we can start discussing exactly what it is our senses are, something which is introduced in the very beginning of the movie.

The movie opens up with our protagonist, Neo, getting strange instructions, and soon, we learn that the world he was living in the whole time doesn’t really exist. Or does it? Just because it is in a computer doesn’t quite mean it doesn’t exist. The computer (an insanely powerful one, I might add) simulated for all the different people (or programs) what certain sensations what feel like and sent that to either the program’s central processes or in the case of humans, through wires to their brains. So, once we have this basic premise down, we can start discussing a couple of things. What is it exactly that makes up our existences? Our experiences, sensations, and memories? But, if these can all be fabricated through electronic means, what exactly does it mean to live? And in that case, what exactly are our senses? What makes them up, and what are they?

While I don’t have a particular answer to these, I would love to see these question answered. I feel like a lot of people may watch the movie for the movie, and may not ask themselves these questions, either because it is in a movie or because the technology seems so far away. But the technology is not necessarily the focus here. Rather, I am asking everyone to consider the questions raised by the technology in the movie.

Science vs Intuition

I think the notion of a connoisseur is interesting, especially when you start exploring what exactly it is that makes up a connoisseur. Someone who knows a lot, or is particularly well versed in a subject. What exactly makes one a connoisseur, exact scientific knowledge about everything on the subject, or first-hand experience? I feel like all of the articles, particularly Widdicombe’s and Fuller’s articles, explore this.

In Widdicombe’s “The End of Food”, she talks about a new product, Soylent, which is a product with a growing fanbase. The product itself is a grayish goop that has all of the ingredients that people need to survive for a day. The connoisseurs in this case are different than your normal ones though. In most cases, you think of a food or music connoisseurs, someone who has refined tastes or knows a lot about what they love. Well, the people who are Soylent connoisseurs could also be said to know a lot about it. The developer or the product itself, Rob Rhinehart, is a man who developed the product out of a need for inexpensive sustenance. He worked and worked, studied more, and eventually came up with a solution. But how did he come across his solution? It was a combination of both science and experience, and he’s not the only one experimenting. He posted the recipe online, and now, a myriad of people have tried to tweak the recipe for their own versions, and possibly an improvement on the middle. Rhinehart talks about how, in the beginning, the farts smelled awful for a long time because they overestimated how much sulfur, and Widdicombe talks about students who tweak the recipe to their own needs, like more active individuals or ones with soy allergies. They have to research, but they also have to see what works through their own experience.

Fuller also adopts similar views, but seems to focus more on the fact that taste can be measured and scientific. While at the end of the article, it mentions how there are street vendors who sell their food that they cook without recipes and how those chefs rely on how it tastes to them, the main focus of the article is on the titular robot taster. At the same time, it does talk about how, because taste is all about personal preference, the fact that it needs to collect data from taste tasters. But despite this, the idea of using a robot based on human data suggests that something as profound as taste can be quantified and measured.

Friedlander also talks about how scent is simultaneously a biological process and something acquired. Some scents, particularly those that come off of dead bodies, are naturally something that humans are opposed to. And then, there are those scents whose odors we can overcome, or even learn to appreciate.

All of these articles suggest that there is a slight connection between science and intuition. In everything you do, by gaining scientific knowledge, you can gain some mastery about what you are studying. At the same time, some people are naturally gifted and sometimes, you just need to actually experience it, like the Thai chefs, to truly get an understanding of what you are studying. And sometimes, you need both.

Separation from the Truth

To be honest, it took me a little bit to read Carl Straumsheim’s and Lydia Brown’s articles than I would have liked. This is because I had to reread some parts, as I took part in one of these programs. It was at my middle school, and put on by one of the teachers who was confined to a wheelchair, where her whole class and then some more students would, for 3 days, confine themselves to a wheelchair. Some students could opt out of it, most particularly in cases when they might already be living with a disability or other strenuous circumstances. But, back to the articles, once I really started thinking about what I did, I realized that the articles really did have a grain of truth.

While I was confined to the wheelchair, there wasn’t really anything wrong with me. Yes, it made life a little bit harder. It made getting in cars impossible without help, and going up hills were awful. But I knew that on the inside, that if I really needed to for some reason (maybe there was an emergency), that I could very easily get up from the chair and run for my dear life. Despite “living” in the chair for three days, my life wasn’t tied to the chair. It made me aware of some hardships yes, but at the same time, may have downplayed others by refuting their existence.

Refuting may have been a strong word, but nonetheless. By introducing this program to get people to understand hardships, they may only “understand” (I say that generously) the hardships they experience in that limited time. It’s almost the same as race discussion, a topic that was alluded to in Straumsheim’s article. You can explain the problems of living with race as much as you want, but other people will never truly understand. In much the same way, I will (hopefully) never truly understand the kind of judgement I would face for the rest of my life and so forth if I was put in a wheelchair.

So, despite its intentions, I think that the game depression had the same effect. It was engaging, and tried to be informative. It tried to take people through the same train of that depressed people have, it just isn’t on the same level of magnitude. Now, I’m not saying that everyone should go and get depressed, but this kind of game just can’t simulate well enough the actual effects of feelings of being depressed and create the same problems as above discussed.

Research that changed me.

I remember very clearly a time when I was very loose with my words. I would always be with my friends, and sometimes, something would slip out, like, “That’s so retarded,” or “Don’t be gay.” I had never really thought about it before. It was just something that was a part of the language, of the culture. I suppose that started changing around the time that I entered the eighth grade.

I think part of why this had developed was where I went to school. I went to a Catholic school for sixth and seventh grade, around the time when the above mentioned tendencies were the worst. I am not saying that Catholic people are hateful people or anything like that, as I myself am Catholic. But, more that, because of where I was, there were less people that really cared about that (those phrases) or protested about that. So, it was a big change when I went to a really liberal school. It was almost like having my eyes opened.

Now, that is not to say it was a sudden thing like an epiphany. It happened over a period of time, but it got its head start with a class that I took called “Race, Class, and Gender”, which talked about such issues as discrimination and inequalities that are present in those categories. I guess part of the problem was how closed off the community I had been living in was. But, in this new school, I was exposed to a lot of different personalities, ideas, and opinions. So, even though what triggered my change was the class “Race, Class, and Gender”, it wasn’t that class per say that really changed me. While I (along with most everyone else in the class), subconsciously had these discriminations and privileges, it wasn’t something that the class itself fixed. It was the existence of the class itself and the revelations that it shed upon me that really changed me, and partially also the way I thought.

Maybe because I never really thought about it and was repeating what people told me, I never really thought about what I said and how what I could be saying could be offensive to the people who I was unintentionally demeaning. Part of the research I did was just learning more about the issue. I had never truly thought about gay rights and such, but the more I started learning about the issue, the more I started to care. Part of the research I did was for class. We started learning about things like Proposition 8. I started to go online on my own and look at current event articles related to the issues. And I met someone a while ago who had a mental disability, and then realized that by saying something like, “Don’t be retarded”, I was putting that person, who I knew personally, down. And all of that changed me.

The Adventure of the Cardboard Box

Literature expresses itself in many different ways. There are different genres, different intended audiences, and most of all, stylistic differences from author to author. Books can range from young adult romance novels such as Twilight to social commentaries on how we live to written documentaries about other people’s lives in other countries. But, while I think that Doyle’s story “The Cardboard Box” is a really great story to read, I am not sure if I could say it meets my expectations of literature.

Actually, I am not sure that is the best way to put it. It personally meets my expectations, but I wouldn’t say that it is similar to, or would be, a story that I would expect to read in my literature class. I say this because of what I have learned to expect from my literature classes these past four years. Not only is this an extremely short story, but it is lacking in any social commentary of hidden message. I find that almost all the stories I expect to be reading in class to have some overarching message or some symbol or meaning that the teacher wants us to find, see, and analyze. For example, when I was reading the book No-No Boy, we were discussing how the racial climate was towards people of Japanese descent in the direct aftermath of World War II, and also what hidden feelings each of the characters might be having. While the protagonist was feeling some regret towards not having served in the army, there are also those who did serve in the army, but still feel inferior to the white men that make fun of them in the bars. There is always some hidden thing to be looking for.

On the other hand, in this Holmes story, there is no such hidden meaning or symbolism. While there are hidden things, they are details that can be picked up, not exactly messages. Holmes and Watson some across the crime scene (because that is practically what the house is) and immediately investigate the problem which occurred. We see the facts as Holmes says them, while Doyle uses Lestrade to illustrate what the common man might see. As the story progresses, Holmes reveals more and more observations about what hew sees until he finally puts it all together and reveals to us who exactly perpetrated the crime.

I am not sure that this reflects a limitation on Doyle’s story. I think that it rather reflects a limitation on the literature I’ve absorbed. I cannot very well say that Doyle was a fool, because his stories were popular and still are today, with two modern movies and a British TV series being made for his titular character, Sherlock Holmes. As such, I think that there may be something wrong with what I have been taught. All of the literature I’ve absorbed in class what taught to us (the class) in order to convey a message of some sort. But, reading Doyle’s stories can be just as engaging, and can also teach us how to be a detective. But seriously, by reading Doyle’s stories and by taking account what we read in Gizburg’s articles, we can learn a lot about human behavior and what it means. Or we can just enjoy the story.

Beautiful Handwritten Letters

In the movie Her, Theodore has a job as a writer, but not in the traditional sense that one would normally expect. Most people would expect writers to be writings in magazines, newspapers, or writing books. But, in this future, Theodore has a job where he writes letters, and not just any letters, but love letters. He works for a company called Beautiful Handwritten Letters, and in a sense, they are hand written. Theodore speaks into a microphone and the computer records what he is saying and it makes the font on the paper look like it is handwritten.

Personally, I am unsure as to what we are supposed to think about the company. In the beginning, I think that we are supposed to be a little put off or disgusted by the fact that this is a job, especially when one hears the content of the first letter. It is a beautiful love letter for a birthday (or anniversary?) and the person it’s it supposed to be by is not even writing it. Instead, we are shown this nerdy/dorky looking man sitting in front of a computer dictating the letter.

But, as the movie goes on to explore even more weird or uncanny things, such as Samantha’s (Theodore’s operating system turned girlfriend) very existence, I think that we begin to get used to the idea of such strange things. I mean, after all, it is a semi well known company, and maybe this is like buying a greeting card.

Personally, I was not too offended or put off by this revelation. While I would be upset if I was the person to whom the letter was directed and I later found out that it wasn’t a “real” letter, I think I would still accept it a little bit, just because it seems society is a little bit more understanding of that practice in the fictional universe of that movie. The movie, I feel, makes this notion seem somewhat normal to you by introducing something even more out of this world: dating an OS. The only problem I had the company was when Theodore said that there was one couple for whom he had been writing letters for 5 years. That seemed a little strange to me, and I definitely think that the producers of the movie had intended that or they wouldn’t have put it there. It just seems amazing to me that one person, or maybe even both people in the relationship, would employ the use of a company to write letters to each other, not being able to be bothered to do it by themselves. It occurred to me that Theodore may even know these couples better than they know each other. He talked about a little gap tooth to one girl he was writing a letter to, and I just found it astounding that he remembered that. But all in all, I think the movie did a good job in how they portrayed the company.

If I were a Professor Revision

As the world around us changes, we too must makes changes to ourselves and the way we live in order to stay up to date and live comfortably in this world without getting left behind in the wave of change. And what a change we have gone through in the last 30 years with the introduction of computers and what we consider modern technology. For example, take the ideas of plagiarism and cheating. Most people when they are young and in English class start learning about plagiarism and how that is a big “no-no”. I have heard that my whole life. Even today, teachers are starting to use such tool as turnitin.com to check students’ paper against plagiarism, intentional or unintentional. But is that right? I used to think so, mainly because I value my possessions and thought that what people come up with should belong to them. But in light of Ed Dante’s confession of being a paid essay writer and my own experience, I am not so sure.

Ed Dante, in his article the Shadow Scholar, talks about what he did for a living: He used to write papers for students, usually college students or seniors, when they couldn’t getting paid upwards of 2000 dollars per paper. But, what he said made me question the immorality of the action. He talked about our current education system, and how it fails to help the students and railroads them into cheating. Everything in our world, at least up until the end of college/university, is about grades and money. If you don’t have one or the other, you will find that you will have a hard time in life. If I were a college professor reading this article and looking at all the people this guy has helped, I think that I would suddenly doubt everything about my teaching methods.

I would also like to talk about Kenneth Goldsmith’s Class “Uncreative Writing”. This is a class where he gets students to outright copy and plagiarize from sources, and their final exam is to pay someone to write their essay for them and then to defend it. Goldsmith talked about how writing has always been about taking in the voices of people you hear, read, or hear/read about. And in a way, that is true. If there is someone who sounds good or says something you like, sometimes, you end up almost copying their voice or trying to imitate them because you like the way they speak and want to, in turn, become a better speaker yourself. The same is true for writing, and now after reading Goldsmith’s article, I am not so sure about how I feel about plagiarism. And part of my reasoning is in 10th grade. I wrote a paper for history, and I used turnitin.com, and despite writing it all myself (other than the quotations I was using), it said that about 7-9 percent of the paper was from other sources. But when I was going through their sources, I realized that I was just unconsciously picking up the voices of the authors I had read, either by phrasing something in a certain way or by copying a certain phrase that was always said. And now, with the Internet and how much information people process per day these days, I feel like there needs to be a new way of looking at plagiarism. People are shaped by who they interact with and their everyday experience, so why shouldn’t writing be that way too?

Touch Someone Blog

A lot of the article “Touch Someone” was about how in the beginning years of the telephone, that it was not used as it is today. It was not used for socializing, but rather was touted as something which could help one in their daily life. It was not until later that the companies started selling the telephone as a tool that could be used to keep in contact with other people on a daily basis. And in a sense, it was taught and sold, as illustrated in the quote “Friendship’s path often follow the trail of the telephone wire” (43). But, it wasn’t until telephones were marketed in this way (for social purposes) that people really got interested and started using them that way.

I think that in much the same way that people had to be taught how to use the telephone, people also have to be taught how to speak in general. It may not always be as direct as an advertisement telling one to do something, and at the same time, some methods may be even more direct. For example, I was always taught to address adults with their title and to always be polite when speaking to them. While I wouldn’t exactly consider it a program, it was something that my parents, and many other 1st generation Asian immigrants, try to teach, because in Asian culture, giving respect to those who are older or hold positions of power is almost a given. It’s in our very language. We sometimes use words that are specifically designated as formal or informal. We attach suffixes to names when necessary.

However, while this was very direct, that was as a result of culture. As people grow up, we naturally learn how to interact with another in a friendly way. Nowadays, most people are usually pretty civil to each other in passing. Or sometimes, people suck up their inner feelings to avoid conflict, but that is something we learn as we grow up. When we are young, we often times speak our minds, but as we grow up, adults, other children, and our own experiences slowly teaches that we can’t always speak our minds.

In the last case I can think of, I feel as if this is something that everyone goes through. When we first get a job, or go to an interview, we are always told either what to say or how to say it, either by our parents or friends or someone else who has experience. It may be that for this and other similar occasions (such as meeting a business partner) that there may actually be classes for this.

These are all similar to the case with the telephone, in that they are ways that we learn how to socialize and interact with people, and yet all very different from it. In the case of the telephone, companies were trying to sell a product, and through that introduced a way to socialize. It also was show people a way to interact through a new means, while the above three cases are more cases that have been established. People always learned how to grow up, and one would always treat an employer with respect. While the case of the telephone was one where something new was introduced, the other three are more established practices.

If I were a Professor

If I were a professor, I’m not sure how I might act at Dane’s confession. At the same time that I would be indignant, not only at my students (for cheating) and for him (for helping them cheat, making money for myself and essentially telling me I’m not doing my job correctly), I think that I would also be a little bit ashamed of myself. Because deep inside, I think I might know that part of him was correct when he pointed fingers the academic community for pushing these students towards cheating.

If one looks at how the educational system is now, there is so much emphasis on grades. Everything through college is about two things: grades and money. Even in elementary school, some children are already thinking abut college, and I know that even before students matriculate into a high school, they are already thinking about SAT tutors, scholarships, how many AP’s they can take, and getting involved in the “good” extracurricular activities. But, the one thing I always hear people say is, either in high school or in college, is talking about how they absolutely HAVE to get good grades in order to be accepted into ____ blank school. So when teachers aren’t helpful and students are under stress, I can understand turning to cheating.

But back to the point, if I had read Dante’s confession, my first thought as a professor would be to go back through assignments and see if there was anything I missed, perhaps a change of style that indicated a different writer. And then, I would try to change some policies. Not too much at any one time, but I may try to become more lenient, and be more open to students needing help. Or I might start out the year helpfully (especially if I taught a class primarily of freshman) and then slowly let the students become independent. I might also utilize such tools as turnitin.com, which checks against plagiarism. And hopefully, through these measures, I would be able to prevent my students, or at least turn them away from, cheating.

Personally, I would really like to take Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing Class. While it may sound stupid, because all you are doing is completely plagiarizing other peoples’ work, you are still, in a sense, crafting an essay. You have to do your own research in order to find all of these other peoples’ work on the subject on which you are writing, and then take excerpts from each of them that you want to use and tie them together in a, at least, coherent fashion. At the same time, everything that you are “stitching and patchworking” should lead to the conclusion you are making in the paper. The class and the skills needed to thrive in it could, in a sense, make you a better writer in that you might learn how to better express an idea or tie in two points. But, part of the reason I would like to take the class is to see what it feels like to be someone who cheats all the time, especially with the final project of buying a paper. I think it would seem almost… surreal to, after everything we hear condemning cheating, then become cheaters ourselves.