Wednesday, December 12, 2012

401V: Isolation and solitude are not the same thing

Following on the theme of what goes into a happy life, two more TED lectures. First, love and the brain, according to Helen Fisher:

(See questions following the second lecture.)

Meanwhile, Sherry Turkle asks us to consider what our disembodied communication patterns (SMS, Twitter, social networks, even social robots) are doing to our souls. Is it time to overcome our fear of unedited self-disclosure in favor of actual human contact and healthy solitude?

Questions about these presentations
Sherry Turkle

  1. What is the central paradox illustrated by Sherry Turkle's story of the SMS she just received from her daughter? 
  2. She says, "People talk to me about the important new skill of making eye contact while you're texting." Why might this ability seem useful? Is it truly useful? 
  3. She goes on to say, "I think we're setting ourselves up for trouble"--in fact two kinds of trouble. What are they? 
  4. What is the Goldilocks effect? (Do you know the story of Goldilocks and the three bears?) 
  5. What was Stephen Colbert's profound question, and how did Turkle answer?
  6.  Turkle witnessed a woman being comforted by a robot in the shape of a seal, and, in her words, "felt myself at the cold, hard center of a perfect storm. We expect more from ... and less from .... And I ask myself, "Why have things come to this?" More from what? Less from what? How does she explain this? 
  7. What are the "three gratifying fantasies"? 
  8. What is the difference between isolation and solitude? 
  9. What attitude to life is symbolized by the phrase "calling in the cavalry"? 
  10. Is the situation Sherry Turkle describes limited to the West or the USA? Is this phenomenon also seen in Russia? 
  11. Why is Turkle optimistic?

Helen Fisher

  1. What three groups of people have these scientists examined using an MRI brain scanner?
  2. Anthropologists have found what phenomenon in every society?
  3. Almost 95 percent of both men and women gave the same answer—yes—to two different questions. What were the questions?
  4. What did the poet Emily Dickinson say about hell?
  5. The study of people in love found activity in the VTA, “part of the brain's reward system.” What functions are associated with this part of the brain?
  6. Among the people who have been “dumped,” these scientists found brain activity in the same region as the people who were in love. Why does Fisher say, “What a bad deal”?
  7. “Dumped” lovers also have activity in two other brain regions. What functions are those two brain regions responsible for?
  8. In terms of human reproduction, how does romantic love differ from the so-called sex drive?
  9. Fisher tells a story about a girlfriend to illustrate her point about “relapse.” What was the story?
  10. Has the spirit of scientific experimentation spoiled the concept of love for Fisher? How does she illustrate her answer to this question?
  11. What has this scientific team found out about people who are still in love after many years?
  12. What are some of the factors that will determine whether we will love this person and not that person? Is it possible to identify all the factors involved?
  13. In what different ways do men and women express intimacy and friendship?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

401V, 501, 502: Ken Robinson, "Bring on the learning revolution"

Attention Group 401 (Evening): More from Ken Robinson. (Also see this earlier post.)

Students in Groups 501 and 502: we are also discussing these talks--Judy and I want to hear your viewpoints, too!

Update for Groups 501 and 502: We didn't have time to see this video last Thursday. We'll see it later in December. But we did see "Schools Kill Creativity."

Discussion questions on the second Ken Robinson video:
  1. Al Gore spoke at the TED conference four years earlier about the climate crisis, a crisis involving natural resources. What is the “second climate crisis” to which Robinson is referring?
  2. Robinson says, “I meet all kinds of people who don't think they're really good at anything. ” They don’t spend their lives doing what they love. Among the factors responsible for this situation, which does Robinson point to? Metaphorically speaking, how are human resources similar to natural resources?
  3. Jeremy Bentham divided the world into what two groups?
  4. What is fundamentally wrong with “reform”?
  5. “I love that word, ‘disenthrall’.” What does it mean, in Robinson’s usage?
  6. Thanks to education, we are enthralled to the idea of linearity. What is “linearity”? In contrast, how does Robinson describe life? It’s not linear, but instead it is ….?
  7. How did this linearity express itself in the educational policy statement that Robinson encountered soon after his family arrived in Los Angeles? What was his response to this policy statement?
  8. Linearity is one principle that holds us in thrall. What is the other idea, exemplified by fast food?
  9. Rather than reforming education based on copying systems, no matter how good*, Robinson advocates what approach in the future?
  10. Why are people leaving the educational system?
  11. Talent is important; what else is important for hour-long tasks to seem like five minutes?
  12. Why should we tread softly?
* KIPP (“it’s a great system”): “KIPP, the Knowledge Is Power Program, is a national [USA] network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools with a track record of preparing students in underserved communities for success in college and in life.” (