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Writing something interesting to counter writing something dull

posted 28 Mar 2012, 08:45 by David Sherlock   [ updated 29 Mar 2012, 01:31 ]
I’ve been messing with lots of tools and technologies recently. R, Netlogo, Sweave, Link Data, it all feels a bit shallow. I’m not particularly enjoying work at the moment either; there is a strong pull towards using these tools and technologies to visualise and prove the value of an organisation, a nice way to kill any enjoyment I got out of the tools in the first place. I guess this is what happens when somebody who hates web development does web development for 5 years.

One thing I am enjoying at the moment is supervising a MSc student in his final year project. The student seems generally grateful for the advice I give him. Although I don’t actually work in the department he is studying in my background is in it and I think I know the departments quirks well enough to point him in the right direction. I would also like to think that being around some exceptionally good tutors for a few years might have rubbed off on me, even if only the slightest. 

I think I enjoy the immediate feedback of helping someone through something in his or her life. How exactly is twitter mining going to have a positive effect on my student. This got me thinking about the role of the University and the roles of individuals who work in the Uni. I’m trying to help a student pass a difficult course and I find that rewarding, but what positive impact will an MSc have on this students life? Will he be able to get a better job? Is that enough? 

It feels like there is something else that Universities should bring to the table other than a certificate saying 2.1. For lack of a better word I’m have been thinking of it as culture, but that makes me cringe and  I don't think its the word I'm looking for.  Laermans, R. (2011): ‘“Culture” is that which makes incomparable ways of living comparable’ (Baecker, 2005a: 47; cf. Luhmann, 1995b). or even better:
Culture emerges out of the contact between different ways of living Bateson (1972: 61–72). Reminds mes I used to play called civilization. Every city you created had boarders. The size of these boarders was determined by the citys culture, which was generated by the different types of buildings that you had in each city. These buildings were religious, military, entertainment and the university.