Tag: postmodernism

5Mar

Postmodern Publishing

Some 120 papers published in established scientific journals over the last few years have been found to be frauds, created by nothing more than an automated word generator that puts random, fancy-sounding words together in plausible sentence structures. As a result they have been pulled from the journals that originally published them. –Fox News

As an avid reader of theological and computer science journals, I can tell you that it’s often hard to figure out what point the author is trying to make — other than, “I’m important because I’ve published an article in a peer reviewed journal.” The result above, then, doesn’t surprise me. But it does leave me with one puzzling question:

How can they tell the difference?

Fox news, above, argues this is a result of the “publish or perish,” model of modern academics. If you’re under pressure to publish, you sometimes take the shortcut, just publishing made up stuff to get another notch on your CV. They then ask the tougher question — if these are supposed to be peer reviewed journals, why didn’t the reviewers notice something wrong? How does this stuff get published in the first place?

The answer here isn’t just that people are busy. Instead, a lot of this is based on the desire not to hurt anyone’s feelings; we don’t want to make someone feel bad, it might discourage them from trying again later. Particularly in the case of “disadvantaged authors,” there’s a tendency to overlook bad work in order to avoid the charges of racism or sexism.

Or perhaps we could just blame it all on our postmodern view of text. If the reader is going to supply the meaning, then there’s no point in the author actually putting meaning into his writing. The reader, in this case some peer review committee, sees a lot of stuff that sounds really good (or matches his belief system), and imbues the text with enough meaning to give it a pass.

7May

The Greed Meme

The world is awash in memes —the evolutionary name for an idea that develops through social interaction over time. Whether or not memes are really the way humans developed morals, popular culture has embraced them. Not as something that develops over time, but as something intentionally created to fulfill a purpose (intelligent design, anyone?).

Internet meme creators and remixers can be a force for good, in that they “look for a pathos in the world and try to capture it,” thereby exposing absurd aspects of commercialization and mass media; but it is increasingly important that those who love memes understand and deal with “the ethical dimensions that can come from our happy generation of lulz” -Technology Review

“Pathos” is an expression of suffering —presumably what this is saying that “meme creators” are doing good by “capturing the suffering caused by commercialization and mass media.” These “meme creators,” are, apparently, a force for social good through their exposure of the power structure —turning individual moments of suffering into humor to attract attention to them, thereby “speaking truth to power.”

Here is one of the various ironies of the culture of the ‘net —turning suffering into humor as a method of social justice.

But underlying this irony is another, deeper irony, one that isn’t like to be seen by those who stand on the pitching deck of relativism. On what do those who want to “speak truth to power,” base their campaign? Do these “meme creators” really have no power on which to stand? Even David had a platform on which to stand —his faith in God.

On what do they stand, then?

On the power of building an audience by building the best “meme,” the best representation of suffering as humor, the most absurd contradiction of suffering and commercialism. On the power of the number of clicks their images get, the idea of a “meme,” “going viral.”

In other words, on the power of popularity. The more attention a meme gets, the more important, within the community, the person who created the meme becomes. As a leader of a community, the creator of the meme now has the power to sway thousands (or millions) of people.

Even if we look beyond the reality that this power to sway and influence can easily be (and often is) turned into the power of cold hard case, the underlying meme, itself, is flawed.

The meme that replacing greed for money with greed for attention will make society a more pure place.

Fat chance.

7Apr

A Postmodern President

Given thirty years of postmodern relativism in our universities, we were bound to get a postmodern president at some point.

But the chief characteristic of postmodern thinking is the notion of relativism and the primacy of language over reality. What we signify and brand as “real,” in essence, is no more valid than another’s “truth,” even if we retreat to specious claims of “evidence”— especially if our aim is to perpetuate the nation state, or the primacy of the white male capitalist Westerner who long ago manufactured norms in his own interests.

Try health care. By traditional standards, Obama prevaricates on most of the main issues revolving health care reform — from the fundamental about its costs and effects, to the more superficial such as airing the entire process on C-SPAN or promising not to push through a major bill like this on narrow majoritism. And recall the blatant bribes for votes to politicians from Nebraska to Louisiana. Look also at the enormous borrowing and cuts from Medicare that will be involved.

Well, those were not misstatements or misdeeds at all. You, children of privilege, only think they are, since you use antiquated norms like “abstract” truth to adjudicate the discomforting efforts of a progressive president.

He, on the other hand, is trying to force the privileged at last to account for their past oppressions (insurance companies that gouge, surgeons that lop off legs or tear out tonsils for profit, investors who private jet to the Super Bowl, or the lesser but equally selfish Joe the Plumber types who do not wish to “spread the wealth”) by extending care to the underprivileged. Your “Truth” about his past statements is something reactionaries evoke to thwart such progressive change; in fact, the constructed truth of Obama’s is that a child will now have regular check-ups. All the other “gotcha” games about abstract truth and falsehood are just semantics. -Works and Days (PJM)

Victor David Hanson is hitting on all cylinders with this one; it’s well worth reading the whole thing.

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