Brianne Alcala


Universitybot Responds: Gang Rape as "Sexual Misconduct"

Sullivan's statement was a missive from the bureaucratic bowels of an accounting machine. It was surely manufactured by public relations specialists and lawyers whose interests are simply fiduciary, concerned only with legal liability and potential fundraising.

Who Needs Captains of Erudition?

With our backs to the wall and overcome by the sense that our university was imperiled, we faculty members made arguments that were not in the first instance financial, technological, or political. We made normative claims about what a university ought to be.

Here Comes the Potentiated Self

Raising the self to a higher power is grounded not in the liberating promises of technology but in the more mundane pursuit of excellent habits. Sometimes data can help. But only with coaches and teachers skilled enough to help us make sense of it, and help us learn how to practice.

So Who Edits Google?

We are only now beginning to understand why the unstated norms that shape the design and use of computational algorithms need to be made more explicit—and therefore subject to critical public debate. For now, Google and Facebook don't have mastheads or editorial pages. The names of the people who make judgments about what an algorithm does are hidden. All we have is the veneer of mechanical neutrality and the invocation of an objectivity that operates beyond the human.

Quit Lit: Do the Humanities Need the University?

We have a difficult time imagining the future of the humanities beyond the anxieties of professors and the failures of university administrators. And when we invoke the humanities, we are actually speaking about a beleaguered and exhausted profession. There are only professors and their disciplines here. And they both are trapped, as Nietzsche would say, in a "castrated" passive tense: "The humanities are compelled . . .." There are no agents in this drama, just put upon, passive professors.

Big Data, Small Data, and the Ethics of Scale

If we think of Facebook and Google and the computations in which we are enmeshed merely as information-processing machines, we concede our world to one end of the scale, a world of abstracted big data and all powerful algorithms. We forget that the internet, like any technology, is both a material infrastructure and something we do.

Twitter, Racism, and the “Safe” Campus

What is the proper context for even citing a tweet, let alone understanding the import or effects of 140 characters delivered as part of a longer, partially public, partially private exchange?

Apple Watch and the Quantified Self

This may sound crazy, but what's the difference between tracking your daily prayer life with an app and doing so with another set of repeatable instructions, such as the Benedictine Rule and its set of daily readings and reminders to ponder God?

Algorithms Rule

We are living in an age of algorithmic authority. Algorithms filter our music choices, track our purchasing decisions, find our airline tickets, and help us withdraw money from an ATM. They are ubiquitous. They are forming who we are and who we want to become. But we are only beginning to ask about our algorithmic selves.

Deans Care About Books

By clinging to the idea that that humanities and humanistic social science scholarship must take the form of a print book, scholars and deans threaten the future of university presses and erode their ability to evaluate and distribute high-quality scholarship.

Twilight of an Idol: College, Purpose, and Zombies

College has come to bear an impossible burden, both individually and socially. Its most confident advocates treat it like a stand-alone ethical resource, capable of funding and guiding the self- transformations of America's elite.

Humanities in the Face of Catastrophe

Whatever the fate of the "anthropocene" as a term (its existence and even inception is still being debated among geologists), scientists, activists, and scholars consider human activity and practices as inseparable from nature. Whether they intend to or not, they thereby challenge basic ideas about the human, culture, and agency that have sustained the humanities for centuries.

Big Humanities

Before there was big science or big data, there was big humanities. Until the last third of the nineteenth century, the natural and physical sciences imitated many of the methods and practices of the humanities, especially disciplines like philology, which pioneered techniques in data mining, the coordination of observers, and the collection and sorting of information.

The Wall Must Stand: Innovation At the New York Times

What is the real goal of "innovation" at the New York Times? Is it intended primarily to enable the editorial leaders to use and inculcate the best practices of distribution, with additional staff possessing advanced skills in those practices, in order to support and advance strong journalism? Or is it something else?

The Humanities in Full: Polemics Against the Two-Culture Fallacy

We need a history and vision of the humanities capacious enough to see the humanities not as a particular method or set of disciplines but as a disposition, as a way of engaging the world.

This is an Artisan Post

The gourmet, bespoke, personalized, and designed just-for-you creation is so appealing on this planet of 7 billion people. You are not just a number. You are special. Even your burger roll is artisan.

#failedacademic: the New Public Intellectual?

The university may well be antiquated, hypocritical, and in some ways outdated, but at its best it is a bulwark against the pressures, market and otherwise, that celebrity tweeters, #failedintellectuals, and smart writers will certainly face.

The New Heresy

Literary theories from the radically deconstructive to the deeply historicist have long interrupted our reading experiences, but they have done so within the bounds of close-reading liturgies. Digital humanities violates this consummate exhortation of the practice of Literature. It is the new heresy.

You Must Unplug Your Life!

Avoiding technology may sound like a noble feat of asceticism, but it's neither possible nor desirable. Technologies are part of us.

In Defense of the Misunderstood Hedgehog

It is our 21st-century age-of-the-brand duty to come to the defense of our namesake, the hedgehog, recently maligned.

Who's Afraid of Nate Silver?

Data is hard won, theoretically complicated, and wrapped up with questions of value, questions that Leon Wieseltier claims Nate Silver and all his "intimidating" fellow data journalists fear. But that's just not true.

The Debate Over Nudging

A recent post on "nudging" by Charles Mathewes and Christina McRorie has sparked three thoughtful replies on the blog Political Theology, each representing a different philosophical camp.

Who Should Professors Write For?

The recent controversy sparked by Nicholas Kristof's lament over university professors' self-imposed irrelevance is nothing new. Kant, for example, handled the dilemma of scholarly writing vs. popular writing in his own way.

A Peek at the Spring Issue

A preview of our forthcoming spring issue, "Europe in Search of Europeans," for the curious.

The American Tradition of Civil Religion

Civil religion is a distinctly American tradition, an engagement with enduring principles set against two rival traditions, explains Philip Gorksi.

Read quickly, for tomorrow you die

In moments like ours when we feel as though we are awash in so many words, we look for ways to cope, ways to manage and structure our reading through technologies of all kinds.

Twitter as Aphorism

For University of Pennsylvania Professor Eric Jarosinski, Twitter's formal constraint of just 144 characters has freed him of the endless equivocations of academic prose.

The European Issues

Readers whose interest has been whetted by the Harper's symposium on Europe should look forward to the Hedgehog's diverse delvings into Europe's current crisis.