October 23, 2013

How "Dessert and Discussion" Works

Photo credit: Indiana Memorial Union
As Marie Antoinette never actually said, "Let them eat cake!"

Dessert and Discussion is exactly what it sounds like. Students meet in the Tudor Room to enjoy as many desserts as their conscience will allow and to discuss Themester's topic with one of IU's distinguished faculty members. Already this semester students have had the opportunity to discuss the film And the Band Played On with Professor Rega Wood (Philosophy), cognitive networks with Professor Colin Allen (History and Philosophy of Science), and empathy in networks with Professor Fritz Lieber (Education).

The events present a unique academic setting for students. It's an atypical experience to listen as a professor explains something between bites of lemon meringue pie rather than between PowerPoint slides in Times New Roman. There's something different about learning as you slowly enjoy a slice of German chocolate cake rather than hastily scribble notes in a crowded notebook. The result is a conversation that is more comfortable and complicated than anything you'll get in the standard lecture hall.

At these discussions, ideas aren't just passed from professor to student. They are passed back as well, then picked up by another student, then passed around the whole table (along with a cookie or two). Soon everyone has given and gained some perspective on the topic.

At one discussion, for example, Professor Allen got the ball rolling by discussing how a network by itself can be useless, but what we do to the network--in terms of finding patterns, applying algorithms, and looking at movement--can tell us a lot. As students jumped into the conversation, they took this one idea and related it to networks in language learning, spying with metadata, and a spectrum of other subjects.

This is how a typical Dessert and Discussion goes. When we run out of time, everyone heads out with food for thought and thoughts of food.

Click here to register for the remaining discussions.

Ryan Myers
Themester 2013 Intern

October 14, 2013

Flashback: A Look at Themester Events So Far

Creativity and Collaboration in the Arts Series
Irish Music and Dance Workshop
Photo credit: Sarah Boyum
Themester has seen a wide variety of events so far. This season's line-up has included dance workshops, plays, lectures, film screenings, and art exhibits, all of which explored a diverse range of networks.

We kicked off the semester with two exhibits in the Grunwald Gallery. Imag(in)ing Science featured collaborative work that combined the efforts of artists and scientists, while Geist und Form featured the work of of ten Berliner artists who represented and discussed the rising art capital.

"The Top 1% of Neurons in the Brain
and Why They Do Most of the Talking"
John Beggs (Indiana University - Physics)
Photo credit: Alex Hughes
Our film series began with The Social Network, a fictionalized account of Facebook's origins. It was followed by And the Band Played On, which reveals how networks operated in and influenced the AIDS crisis. The Hunt showed next, a film that illustrates the drastic, damaging effects of a single lie within a small-knit community. Our latest installment in the series was Margin Call, a dramatized version of the 2008 economic crisis.

The season has also featured two theatrical productions thus far. Cardinal Stage Company's production of Lord of the Flies examined how connectedness is lost and changed in a group of stranded young boys. Bloomington Playwrights Project just wrapped its production of Sequence, which explored debates between luck versus fate, coincidence versus predetermination.

Imag(in)ing Science at the Grunwald Gallery
Photo credit: Alex Hughes
Lecturers and panels have discussed connectedness and networks as they pertain to romantic attraction, disease, international relations, and much more. Vincent Hendricks, for example, gave a series of lectures covering social epistemology, game theory, and financial crises. The Framing the Global Conference discussed evolving research in global studies.

We're only half way through the semester. There is plenty still to come! For a full list of our future events, refer to Themester's official calendar.

Amber Hendricks
Themester 2013 Intern