Syllabus of the Month (June)

This month’s honorees are Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West from the University of Washington for their very ambitious INFO 198 / BIOL 106B course:

Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data

Our learning objectives are straightforward. After taking the course, you should be able to:

  • Remain vigilant for bullshit contaminating your information diet.
  • Recognize said bullshit whenever and wherever you encounter it.
  • Figure out for yourself precisely why a particular bit of bullshit is bullshit.
  • Provide a statistician or fellow scientist with a technical explanation of why a claim is bullshit.
  • Provide your crystals-and-homeopathy aunt or casually racist uncle with an accessible and persuasive explanation of why a claim is bullshit.

We will be astonished if these skills do not turn out to be among the most useful and most broadly applicable of those that you acquire during the course of your college education.

More.

May 29th, 2017 by

Syllabus of the Month (February)

This month we highlight RISD Professor Clement Valla’s course, Uncreative Design, and ponder its relationship to the OSP.

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“In 1969 the conceptual artist Douglas Heubler wrote, ‘The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.’” So opens Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing, published in 2011. Following Goldsmith’s lead, this class will explore various strategies in art, writing and political activism that will lead us to an uncreative design. We will make use of copying, repetition, appropriation, detournement and bricolage in a series of studio experiments. Though the class will be focused on ways of (not)making, class participation and discussions of assigned readings will also play a major role in guiding studio work, and in evaluating student projects. There are no prerequisites, though students should be willing to take major risks and have a very open approach to different modes of working.

Creativity, intuition, improvisation, composed, hand-made, unique, original, subjective, genius, authored. These are all to be avoided in this class. Rather what we create will be uncreative, systematic, scripted, chance based, calculated, mass produced, digital, appropriated, objective and copied. The role of contemporary producers is no longer be to create new things, but to channel, frame, re-assemble and contextualize existing things – from creative production towards an ‘uncreative’ production. Uncreative Design explores how new meaning is produced by collecting, archiving, captioning, erasing, parsing. There are many examples of this work and theory in other disciplines, including writing, art, new media, music, film and video.

February 4th, 2017 by

Syllabus of the Month (September)

September’s ‘Syllabus of the Month’ is a 1994 University of Chicago class, “Current Issues in Racism and the Law,” by a junior faculty member you may have heard of.  (Click the image for the full syllabus).screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-10-27-07-am

September 12th, 2016 by

Why Sociology May Always be the Field of 20 Years Ago

Kristin Thomson has posted an excellent piece on Medium that unpacks some of the major demographic features of the top 500 sociology texts in the syllabus corpus–particularly in regard to gender, age, and publication dates.  To hit a couple of the highlights:

Among the works on the list published since 1970, only 24% are by women authors:Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 12.07.20 PM

Continue reading “Why Sociology May Always be the Field of 20 Years Ago”

May 18th, 2016 by

The OSP at Two Months

The Open Syllabus Explorer is two months old and just crossed 250,000 visits.  One of the exciting aspects of the launch for us has been the process of discovering the audience for the project.  We anticipated strong interest from US academics in the teaching rankings within fields and the ‘teaching scores’ for their own work.  The traffic data appear to bear out that assumption.  We anticipated interest from the library, publishing, open data, and educational technology worlds, and from students.

We didn’t expect the extent to which the OSP would be treated as an authoritative ranking of Great Books, with a broad audience interested in non or extra-academic learning.  The most powerful hook for media stories (and resulting bumps in traffic) wasn’t the things that interested us most—the significance of introducing a new publishing metric and the potential for exploring the history of fields—but the use of the top-ranked books as a proxy for being educated or ‘well-read’, and the enduring connection of these ideas to forms of status anxiety.  The Washington Post boiled this down to its simplest form: What Ivy League students are reading that you aren’t. Continue reading “The OSP at Two Months”

March 25th, 2016 by