Campus Commentary- Bryan Stevenson

The Bryan Stevenson talk a couple of weeks ago was incredibly moving and beyond inspiring. He had my attention at every second, and he is easily the best speaker I have ever heard.

The one point that really stuck out to me was the one about proximity. Stevenson was absolutely correct when he said that we need to get out of our comfort zone and help those who we do not see everyday. However, Michaela made a great point in another class we have together (Race, Gender, Migration (German 351)). She said that we cannot make a difference in the world unless we fix our own community first. There are plenty of things to do around your own community, and that is a good place to start if you want to make some sort of a larger difference. 

To be quite honest, there is not much I am doing right now to be making a difference. Besides learning the history of racism in some of my classes, I would say that I am not being very productive in changing the way we view race in our country. Even at Davidson, our school is still very segregated, and people usually tend to stick to members of their own race. 

To “change the world,” we need to step outside of our comfort zone and actually deal with the worldwide phenomenon which is racism. It can be hard to accept the fact that you may be more comfortable being around people that are more like you, everyone is, but the only way to expand your mind and the minds of others is to do something you are not comfortable with.

In this world, we need to change the idea that staying only within your comfort zone is okay. The best way to learn how to appreciate our world and culture is to delve into others. If one only spends time with someone they are familiar with or never leaves the comfort of their familiarity, they will never grow as a person or learn to appreciate what our world has to offer. 

Campus Events- Macbeth 11/3/19

This afternoon, I went to see the play, “Macbeth”, which featured some of the humanities community in the cast and crew. I read Macbeth in high school, but it was cool to see it being performed in real life. As someone who worked with technical theatre in high school, I payed close attention to the tiny details that can make a show even more spectacular. One of my favorite details about the show was the repetition of certain themes and the foreshadowing. As Lady Macbeth progressed deeper into madness, her costume changed from black to red, which symbolized her decent into the madness. I also enjoyed the trapdoors that were incorporated into the set, which added to the spookiness and eeriness of the show. I also thoroughly enjoyed the lighting design of the show, and especially liked how some lighting represented madness and some represented the weird sisters, etc. Macbeth is a difficult show to pull off due to the fact that it contains so many meticulous details, but I think the theatre department did a beautiful job.

Post on Being Human: Disciplinary Reflection by Sarah Zhang

On October 8th, I attended the lecture titled “Being Human: Disciplinary Reflections” presented by Dr. Gouri Suresh in the economics department. Throughout the whole lecture, I was constantly haunted by how my knowledge from the Humanities classes could be applied to the economics as well.

First, the lecturer distinguished between Homo Economics and Homo Sapiens, stressing on the irrational nature of human being. The fact that people are irrational and independent makes it extremely hard to come up with a single model that concludes all human behavior. But, just as the professor mentioned, when the economists were building a model, they assume that all human beings are the same. And this reminds me of what Prof. Quillen talked in unit 1 about the danger of prescribing a generalized universal truth that easily exclude and eliminate diversity. What is the danger of using a single model to conclude all human’s behavior? One thing that the Dr. Gouri Suresh pointed out is that when we actually apply the model for a practical purpose, people are very likely to change their behavior. And now the model cannot be used to explain behavior, but this again doesn’t prove the model wrong, because there are other possible factors, for example psychological ones, responsible for change in behavior. This is in fact, a form of secondary elaboration because you are using a conclusion based on observation to explain observation, and you can easily find an excuse for the failure of the conclusion to predict by saying that the premise of such prediction simply doesn’t match observation. This circular thinking makes it impossible to prove something wrong nor prove it right.

Another concept mentioned is the “As-if” economics, which reminds me of pragmaticism in that it doesn’t focus on how “realistic” the model is, as long as the model can provide good predictions. A consequence of this, mentioned by Dr. Gouri Suresh, is that economists then ignore the assumptions and the flaws but focus on empirical results, and publish these results anyway (if flaws exists, the function of the result would be to prove the flaws). Moreover, the “As-if” statement, being circular and unmeasurable is also a form of secondary elaboration in that it adds new parameters to fit the outcome of the research instead of offering explanation. What is the consequence if the science industry, or all disciplines, adopts pragmaticism? If the transition from classical economics, that answer the big questions, to behavior economics, that focus on smaller individual questions, is also a form of paradigm shift, why are we still running in circle? How are we trapped in our secondary elaborations?

An interesting statement Dr. Gouri Suresh gave is that we should give everyone in the public sphere quantitative training to be able to see the flaws and what can be best applied. One thing that I mentioned in sections is that, we are increasingly looking at the world from a quantitative view, concretizing everything into numbers, interpreting everything in a way that minimizes the influence of subjective opinion. Is this really helping? The idea of “what can be best applied” is just the same as what pragmatists describe as “useful”, but can a quantitated world actually best serve us? Are numbers bringing us closer to the truth?

DCSO Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5

On Tuesday September 24, I attended Davidson College Student Orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. While I’ve attended my high school’s music concerts, I’ve never experienced this level of orchestra, which was much more advanced and sophisticated. Not only did the music sound amazing, but the conductor, concertmaster, and musicians were very cohesive and formally well practiced.

I enjoyed how the conductor provided background information about the piece and composer before the music began. In particular, she mentioned how we can never know exactly what Tchaikovsky’s thoughts were in creating his music, but that we have clues from his notes. This made listening to the concert more intriguing, as throughout, I would ask myself, why did the composer chose to do? What emotions could he be trying to elicit? Also, 19th century compositions often tell a story, which is a type of music called, Program Music. With this in mind, I tried to visualize the narrative that the music was telling.

I’m happy that I got the chance to attend this performance. While I don’t listen to orchestral symphonies often, the music was beautiful. It was also great to see my classmates who were playing in the concert.

Davidson College Symphony Orchestra Concert 9/24/19

On Tuesday, September 24, I went to the Symphony Orchestra concert in the Duke Family Performance Hall. The music they played was the Overture to “Die Loreley, Op. 16” written by Max Bruch and “Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64,” written by Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky. The first piece was a calming melody which did reach concerto at some moments, but ultimately had a smooth and calming melody. This piece was short compared to the second piece the orchestra played, which took around thirty/ forty-five minutes. There were four movements in this piece and each movement sounded a little bit different, as if it was telling different parts of a story. I really liked this piece because during certain moments, I could feel the rhythm of the music in my chest, which made me feel one with the music. Going to the concert was also enjoyable because Humes’ own, Mary Shandley, played her violin in perfect view from where we were sitting. It was really cool to see one of our own classmates participate in something they are passionate in outside of the classroom.

On Being Human : Professor Quillen Lecture

The lecture series, “On Being Human” attempts to answer the big question, “What makes us human?”. President and Professor Quillen spoke on September 3rd about how she believes that storytelling is the key. Her lecture discussed how listening to and sharing narratives connects people and allows us to see the humanity in others.

While the terms of liberalism appear to be true, Quillen pointed out the insufficiency of a focus on “all equal” and reason, as we have discussed with Locke’s philosophy. This universal language generalizes, dehumanizing those who are different or “alien”.

Professor Quillen concluded with the possible solution that a liberal framework is valid, as long as we focus on listening to stories as well. This allows us to respect all of humanity while still respecting the distinctions between us. Following the lecture, some audience members asked questions about how we can value certain stories over others as more true or valid. However, I felt that these questions missed the point. To me, the lecture was not teaching how to seek truth in a haze of differing opinions, but rather, how to respect differing opinions to resolve conflict in a world of unnecessary hate.

Grace Gardella

The Speed of Thinking : Joelle Dietrick and Owen Mundy

On September 4th, I attended the Van Every Gallery opening for The Speed of Thinking. This gallery was organized into three rooms with digital art pieces that explored concepts of consumerism, technology, and global trade. Three main interactive art pieces stood out to me as focal points of the exhibit.

In the first room, there was a computer game called Tally (https://tallygame.net/how-to-play). This is a browser extension that can be used on applications such as Google Chrome. Once the extension is downloaded, a character, named Tally appears on the screen. When the user surfs the web, other characters pop up if the website you are on is tracking your behavior. Tally then battles with these characters, creating an awareness of the constant yet subtle monitoring of behavioral patterns from software and websites. 

In the main room of the gallery, there was another interactive game. In this game, the user moves a cargo ship to try and catch container boxes as they fall from the sky. After reading about this piece, I learned that it is meant to make the user think about climate change and limited natural resources. If you fail to catch all of the boxes, the sea levels rise, leading to the end of the game. www.sneakaway.studio/the-speed-of-thinking 

The final room of the gallery stands out compared to the others. It is a screen depicting swaying bamboo trees. However, these are not real bamboo trees, but a video of digitally drawn trees. This room is meant to serve as a retreat from the stress of tech and consumerism in the other rooms, with bean bag chairs to lounge on and watch the peaceful trees.

The interesting catch with all of these art pieces is the paradox behind them. In the Tally game, even though it is helping the user identify surveillance of their online behavior, the game encourages online use, because one must be searching the web for it to work. The cargo ship game is similar, as it warns of limited resources and climate change, but is really a distraction from the reality of our nature and earth. The bamboo trees have a similar paradox, as it may seem like a natural escape, but these trees have been digitally drawn, surrounding the viewer who may want to retreat from technology with more technology.

Grace Gardella

Bryan Tran – Homo Narrans

While attending Professor Quillen’s lecture, Homo Narrans, I had an understanding of how storytelling in humans allows us to understand different point of views and have the ability to understand. I correlated her speech to how history is taught and that we share stories. Yet I found that sharing stories allows us to understand, yet still doesn’t change motives. In a world that we live in we find it hard to discuss what is right and wrong. Story telling may allow for others to understand, yet does not resolve issues. An example that was used was politically if there is a Trump support and a Hillary support, the Trump supporter argues for better treatment of the working class. The Hilary support may agree on the same point, yet still vote for Hillary. Storytelling in its purest form is just a way of expressing our opinions. I found the Q&A the most intriguing because it opened up the issues happening today. Uyen asked about the people that do not have the privilege to be where we were listening to Quillen, and that just saddens me that we do not have the ability to hear there story. It made me realize that we put power in stories. That stories are impactful only to the degree we put them in. A person of power may have stories that is “more impactful” than any other persons, but who defines that?