Summertime, Scrapy and Civic Media

When a semester finishes, there are really two options:

  1. Act like you’re a kid and enjoy three months of slip-‘n-slides, riding bikes, slumber parties, junk food and TV.
  2. Keep working.

As tempting as that first option is, after you finish grade school, it’s not very feasible. If you’re a teacher, you have to prepare for the next semester, writing syllabi, class plans, course outlines, and taking the time to pursue studies in the field you chose (if you’re into that sort of thing). If you’re an undergrad, you probably have to get a job, but you might do an internship. And if you’re a grad student like me, you continue the awkward shuffle of “extremely-busy-yet-seemingly-lazy.” You have to plan for your thesis. There is always research to do. If you’re motivated, you could think about conferences and submitting papers or abstracts. And the amount of reading material available to self-starters never ends – presumably you know of Negri and Hardt’s Empire, yes? did you know it’s the first part of a trilogy? You’d better get cracking!

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End of the Semester Thoughts

Well, it’s only a few days after being done with finals, and I’m still recuperating. My first semester at the New School was really great – I was fortunate to be in a unique place in a unique time, and it’s something I’ll always be fortunate to be able to look back at.

Being a married, commuting student, who travels in for class from out of state each day you’re in the city, really divorces you from the much of the social life and circles that spring up in a university environment. I’ll regret not being a part of things more and missing out on those peer interactions. At the same time, you’re on the periphery of what other people are doing, which puts you in this unique position of observation – like the prospect-refuge principle of design, you don’t feel so much shut out as you feel on the tip of the mountain surrounding the valley, looking down on both sides.

I am glad I never got involved in the All-Student Occupation – I “watched” it happen by observing the social media of friends and acquaintances who were there, or had visited, heard about it second hand, but by the time I finally made it to the study space and Keller Gallery, everyone was gone and everything was cleaned up, save for one lone art school undergrad who was “occupying” the lobby for the last three weeks of school (read: cramming for finals in public). The reason I’m glad for that, is because there was always an undercurrent of concern over “purity” resonating in the accounts of people who had visited. Many felt unwelcome, and a recent article in the New School Free Press revealed that there was in fact, an “inner circle” who had continuously sabotaged the open and democratic process of the general assembly. Perhaps these were altermodernists to the extreme, the sort of people who told Emma Goldman that free speech is a “bourgeoisie superstition” and would have found a friend in Stalin.

There is a need, in any political mediation, to weigh the power of the participants against their ability to fulfill their role. It’s one of Aristotle’s judgements for fair democracy – people need to have not just the freedom, but the ability to reasonably articulate their ideas for the process to be fair. In an ideal debate, the good ideas win out on their merits – that’s the illusion of the “marketplace of ideas.” Unfortunately, much of the world is run by people who recognize (or imagine) the danger people pose to themselves when they are inadequately prepared or able to participate in the process.

In the grander scope of things, I was at Democracy Now! from September to November, during which time I was able to see OWS go down. I would have liked to blog about it more, but between classes, work, the internship, and commuting, I felt there were enough ideas out there at the present without adding my own to the mix.

Now as the winter sets in, I’m looking forward to a few weeks I can catch up on reading, get some things done that I’ve neglected, and start planning for next year. At first there was some panic (no more school! what do I do?) but I quickly realized that even if I spent my time doing nothing, it would be nice change of pace – and that it wouldn’t last forever anyway.