Technology and the transformation of identity, community, and commerce Moderator: Sherry Turkle '69, Ph.D. '76, professor of the...
Technology and the transformation of identity, community, and commerce
Moderator: Sherry Turkle '69, Ph.D. '76, professor of the sociology of science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Panelists: Mark Bregman '78, general manager, Pervasive Computing, IBM Corporation; Joan Feigenbaum '81, technology leader, Information Sciences Research Center, AT&T; Shikhar Ghosh, M.B.A. '80, president, chief executive officer, and cofounder, iBelong Inc.; Michael Ragunas '86, chief technology officer, Staples Inc.
Speaking about our culture of simulation, Turkle told an anecdote about her daughter in Italy. The child gazed into the azure Mediterranean and said, "Look, mother, a jellyfish. It's so realistic!" Don't laugh. Visitors to a Disney park in Florida sometimes complain that the actual animals on display aren't realistic enough. The alligators lie still in the sun by the riverbank instead of slapping the mud with their tails and rolling their eyes, like proper Disney virtual animals.
Bregman spoke of the blurring of location between home and office, the vanishing of boundaries between business and personal time, amid all the new ways of communicating and exchanging data. If you travel to Japan, he asked, and use your cell phone to call a colleague in New York, who reveals in mid conversation that he is in a taxi in Paris, and time and place don't matter to either of you to the point of altering your behavior, what does that say about your personal identities?
Moving to barriers in the world of e-commerce, Ragunus observed that the proprietor of the old-time corner grocery store knew a lot about your personal tastes and helped you shop efficiently, and you found that an agreeable sign of community. Why should you hesitate, therefore, to provide personal information to e-commerce merchants so that they may offer you what you want in products and advertising? It depends what else they do with the information, said Feigenbaum.
A whole range of distinctions between public and private spheres is changing, and we are on the threshold of trying to figure out what it all means, said Ghosh. "My experience so far is that given a choice between being rich and being right, most people are choosing being rich." ~C.L.
"Schools can't do it alone"
Challenges in public education in America
Moderator: Theodore R. Sizer, M.A.T. '57, Ph.D. '61, founder and chairman of the Coalition of Essential Schools and former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Panelists: Mary Jo Bane, M.A.T. '66, Ed.D. '72, Bradshaw professor of public policy and management, Kennedy School of Government; Chester E. Finn Jr. '65, A.M. '67, Ed.D. '70, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and assistant U.S. secretary of education for research and improvement (1985-1988); Mweusi Willingham, Ed.M. '96, mathematics teacher at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School, Dorchester, Massachusetts.
"Is public education the great equalizer?" asked Sizer, and the panel's general answer was, "Not even close--at least not as currently practiced."
Sizer himself explained that public schools "are profoundly segregated by social class. Most public school systems are really private, in that students are divided on the basis of the economic power of the family." Yet, according to Finn, throwing money at the problem doesn't work well. He cited an average annual expenditure of $8,000 per student in the New York City public schools: "Multiply that by 25 kids in a classroom and you get $200,000 a year per classroom. Maybe $50,000 or $60,000 of that goes to the teacher's salary and benefits. Where is the other $140,000 going, and what is it buying?" Bane argued that "Catholic schools certainly do as well as public schools and arguably do better--but at one-quarter the cost! Of course, they don't pay their teachers anything. Even so, their budget might be only $2,400 a year per child, including the subsidy from the bingo game."
Willingham seemed to voice the most idealism: "I regret the idea that some are born to fail and to be undereducated, that some are not allowed to dream." In any case, the schools' leverage is limited, Bane noted, since children spend 90 percent of their first 19 years not in school. "I don't think there's a shred of evidence that schools by themselves can reverse the lives of kids on any large scale," Sizer declared. "Schools can do a great deal, but they can't do it alone." ~C.R.
"Use it or lose it."
Permanent prevention and possibilities for cure: new directions in life-science research
Moderator: G. Timothy Johnson, M.P.H. '76, lecturer on medicine, founding editor of the Harvard Medical School Health Letter, and medical editor for ABC News. Panelists: Judah Folkman, M.D. '57, Andrus professor of pediatric surgery and professor of anatomy and cell biology at Harvard Medical School, surgeon-in-chief emeritus and director of the surgical research laboratory, Children's Hospital Medical Center; Carla J. Shatz '69, Jf '76, Ph.D. '76, professor of neurobiology and chair of the department of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School.
Folkman studies endothelial cells--which form a single layer lining the tiniest capillaries throughout our bodies--to puzzle out the mechanism of angiogenesis: how blood vessels "turn on," sometimes with such devastating results as psoriasis, arthritis, blindness, Crohn's disease, or cancer. Shatz studies how the brain wires itself in utero and in infancy to develop in time the kind of sensory network that enables an adult with cataracts to see again once the cataracts are removed--whereas a child born with a congenital cataract will be sightless in the afflicted eye if the cataract is not removed within three or four years, even though the eye itself is physically corrected by the surgery. In the process of giving précis of their work, the speakers shared the excitement, labor, and risks involved in basic research that may, after many years, yield therapeutic applications.
Both speakers emphasized the constant need to ask questions. Folkman, who has spent 30 years investigating angiogenesis, said that includes questioning oneself by maintaining a balance between persistence and obstinacy in one's line of research. We are the sum total of our experiences, plus what our genes give us in the basic framework of our wiring, said Shatz. "Our brains have changed just in the space of this talk." "Use it or lose it," both speakers agreed about brain and body--physical activity, after all, improves blood circulation in the skull. ~J.M.
"It may not be pretty."
Perspectives on the global economy: Where have we come from? Where may we be going?
Moderator: David R. Gergen, LL.B. '67, IOP '84, professor of public service, Kennedy School of Government. Panelists: Martin Feldstein '61, Baker professor of economics and president of the National Bureau of Economic Research; Joseph S. Nye Jr., Ph.D. '64, dean of the Kennedy School of Government and Price professor of public policy.
Feldstein conducted a whirlwind tour around the globe, touching on Japan's recession, Europe's unemployment, recent mismanagement afflicting the Asian "tigers," open talk by the government in India about the privatization of nationalized businesses, and the danger of the U.S. economy overheating--with the possibility that the Federal Reserve will overreact and trigger a Fed-induced recession (as virtually every recession has been). The demonstrators in Seattle who wish to retain existing trade barriers are mistaken. The demonstrators in Washington who oppose international capital flows are mistaken. Globalization is a major benefit, improving standards of living around the world. The shift to market capitalism is basically painful, but countries are committed to paying the price. The longer-term outlook around the world is bright.
Economic globalization is not new, and perhaps more of it happened in the nineteenth century than is happening now, said Nye. From 1914 to 1972, the world experienced deglobalization. Inequality between labor and capital and between countries increased in the early stages of globalization, and fascism and communism arose. Then the welfare state was created and provided the political cushion necessary to have open economies. Economic integration is still quite limited. Economists call that inefficiency. Political scientists, however, say it is useful inefficiency because it provides buffering between nations.
What are the major ticking time bombs in the world? asked an audience member. The enormous nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union, the so-called "loose nukes," said Nye. The current-account deficit, said Feldstein. "If at some point the rest of the world tires of lending us $1 billion a day, then the dollar will fall and interest rates rise, and it may not be pretty unless it happens slowly and we simultaneously increase our rate of saving." ~C.L.
Photos by Jim Harrison
"The constant questioning of all things."
The vision of the research university
Moderator: Neil L. Rudenstine, Ph.D. '64, president, Harvard University.
Panelists: Robert M. Berdahl, chancellor, University of California, Berkeley; Lee C. Bollinger, president, University of Michigan and professor of law and former dean of the University of Michigan Law School; Frank H.T. Rhodes, president emeritus and professor of geological sciences at Cornell University; Alison F. Richard, provost, Yale University.
The speakers explored the possibility that the information-technology explosion will turn star professors into free agents selling their ideas and discoveries to the highest bidder (Berdahl); the troubled state of many foreign, mostly state-supported, universities after decades of over-enrollment and underfunding (Rudenstine); the need to reexamine the content of undergraduate and graduate education (Rhodes); opposition to efforts to diversify student populations, and the difficulty in managing prices and costs when "the cost of the education we give undergraduates is twice what we charge" (Bollinger).
All recognized the need to figure out how to hold these special communities together. Diversified faculties and student bodies, said Richard, have produced more two-career academic families in which both partners find it hard to live near or spend much time at their respective institutions. New technologies offer opportunities for distance learning, but may transform residential universities into "virtual communities" where the scholars and students have less and less di-rect contact with each other. "Community," she warned, "is too easily neglected as we grapple with the daily concerns of keeping these great institutions moving forward."
Universities develop and transmit knowledge, said Bollinger, and they help form the nation's cultural identity. Above all, they possess a "distinctive intellectual character [defined by] the constant questioning of all things." That doesn't "fit" the daily lives of most people, including politicians, he noted, who must make decisions and stand by them. But he called it a necessary safety valve for democracy, in which citizens must recognize that often there is no one right way to solve a problem. ~J.M.
"In every setting, a new type of intelligence."
What is intelligence and what kinds of intelligence will be most important for leadership in an information-rich new millenium?
Moderator: Howard Gardner '65, Ph.D. '71, Hobbs professor in cognition and education, Harvard Graduate School of Education. Panelists: Ronald A. Heifetz, M.D. '77, M.P.A. '83, codirector of the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School of Government; Stephen M. Kosslyn, professor of psychology; Nitin Nohria, Chapman professor of business administration and chairman of the Organizational Behavior Unit at Harvard Business School.
Gardner noted that the panelists covered a spectrum of approaches ranging "from molecules to Mandela, and from the hippocampus to Bill Gates." They focused on their efforts to establish accurate definitions of "intelligence" and "leadership."
Gardner summarized his views that intelligence comes in a number of different forms. Those most important for leaders, he proposed, are linguistic, interpersonal, and "existential" intelligence, the latter being "the ability to ask the big questions" and offer answers, at least in outline.
Kosslyn, who studies how the brain processes information, noted that the key number in Gardner's theories has risen to eight and a half and suggested that figure is far too small. Psychologists have discovered "the power of the situation," he reported, and scans of brain activity show that "in every setting, a new type of intelligence is constructed" as a neural network linking specific areas.
Heifetz, who is a psychiatrist by training, proposed that good leadership boils down to a few key abilities: "the heart and courage to raise tough questions," "the capacity to be visionary," and "an ability to test one's vision against reality, to find out if it is accurate." Lack of the last quality, he pointed out, distinguishes Adolf Hitler, for example, from Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Nohria studies corporate leaders and ambition, which he defined as "hustle, drive, energy, will," noting that "ambition is a certain kind of emotion." Because his studies indicate that leadership qualities remain the same over time, he does not expect past and future leaders to differ significantly in personality type.
Given the increased pace of change in modern society, asked an audience member, "How will leaders manage to keep up in constructing abstract models on which to lead?" The panelists agreed that teamwork among specialists will be vital. "The leaders of the future," Kosslyn noted, "will have to be plug-compatible." ~D.S.
"Not pursuing, at any costs, the golden fleece."
Private philanthropy present and future: How does it shape education?
Moderator: Hanna Holborn Gray, Ph.D. '57, Fellow of Harvard College and president emerita and Judson Distinguished Service Professor of history at the University of Chicago. Panelists: Gregory C. Carr, M.P.P. '86, cofounder, Boston Technology Inc.; Rita E. Hauser, L '58, president, The Hauser Foundation; Walter Hewlett '66, director, Hewlett-Packard Company, and chairman of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Shirley Anne Peppers, director of West Coast development for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University.
In one 20-year period, John D. Rockefeller donated $30 million to the University of Chicago for unrestricted use, Gray told the audience. Today, such open-ended contributions are increasingly rare and institutions balancing academic autonomy against a desperate need for funds are challenged by how to respond. Universities must find the strength to remain independent, Gray said. "They have to be clear about not pursuing, at any costs, the golden fleece."
That is hard to do because the face of philanthropy is changing so rapidly, said Hauser. New donors are a younger, more diverse crowd that includes a growing number of women; they tend to give money for specific objectives or personal passions. "These are people who have made enormous amounts of money by the time they are 40 and expect to live another 40 years," she said. "[They] want to see the results of their money." (The issue has spawned a new field of law as unhappy donors sue institutions; schools must negotiate contracts for use of the donations carefully.)
Carr, for example, was distressed by the rise of neo-Nazism in his home state of Idaho, so he donated money to the Kennedy School to further the cause of human rights. "I was respectful of the school's independence," Carr said, "but I also feel we have found a way to meet in the middle, where I can bring a personal interest to the school and create an involvement."
Peppers reported another change in philanthropy: a general rise in donations from the West Coast, where high-technology companies predominate. Their priorities include keeping education accessible to working- and middle-class students and ensuring that universities keep pace with changes in the new economy, which can mean allocating more money for high-technology programs. Hewlett stressed the need for philanthropists and universities to see the mutuality of their missions: to solve the problems in society. ~N.P.B.
"We are all in Jerusalem now."
Religion and the new world order
Moderator: J. Bryan Hehir, Th.D. '77, chair of the executive committee and professor of the practice in religion and society at Harvard Divinity School. Panelists: Harvey Cox, Ph.D. '63, Thomas professor of divinity; Diana L. Eck, Ph.D. '76, professor of comparative religion and Indian studies and chair, Committee on the Study of Religion in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Religious belief is personal, Hehir began, but not inherently private: religious convictions are expressed communally and shape individuals' social behavior, as in providing services to the hungry or homeless, or acting as advocates "so we won't have the hungry and homeless among us." One cannot understand world affairs, he said, without considering religion, citing the influence of Catholicism in Latin America, of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa, and "of a Polish pope in the fall of Communism."
Echoing the point, Cox culled recent headlines on religious cults in China and Japan, India's Hindu government, and the differing role of Muslim clerics in governing Iran and Indonesia. In Pope John Paul II's participation in Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions during his recent visit to Jerusalem, Cox saw enormous progress from the Crusades, "a mere thousand years ago." "We all are in Jerusalem now," he said. "Muslims and Jews and Buddhists and Hindus are not across the ocean from us any more." That pluralism brings opportunities for progress, as in the pope's ecumenicism, but also the risk of discord as fundamentalism arises in every religion's "wings."
Eck focused on the dynamism of religious traditions revealed in America. "The world is marbled," she said; for example, mosques serve 7 million Muslim worshippers in this country. At Harvard, she reported, one can now hear the Muslim noon call to worship from the Widener steps, and added, "I can't help but imagine what the old Puritan founders would have thought." What scholars think, said Hehir, is that religion and its relationship to society merit study within great universities. ~J.S.R.
"A nation of couch potatoes."
The public's health
Moderator: Barry R. Bloom, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and professor of immunology and infectious diseases. Panelists: Jeffrey P. Koplan, M.P.H. '78, director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Christopher Murray '83, M.D. '91, professor of international health economics, School of Public Health; Steven A. Schroeder, M.D. '64, president and chief executive officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Public-health professionals deal with prevention rather than treatment, populations rather than individuals, process and analysis rather than great moments in medicine, said Bloom--and they, like Rodney Dangerfield, don't get enough respect. That's owing to the profession's "dismal job of marketing what it does," said Koplan, going on to list the 10 great public-health achievements of the twentieth century: vaccination, increased motor-vehicle safety, safer workplaces, control of infectious diseases, a decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke, safer and healthier foods, healthier mothers and babies, family planning, fluoridation of drinking water, and the recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard. Among the challenges ahead: eradicating racial disparities in disease and addressing concerns about child development, violence, the ramifications of bioengineering, aging, and the environment.
Fifty percent of what determines health is behavior, 20 percent is one's genes, 20 percent the environment, and only 10 percent one's healthcare, said Schroeder. We will have to change human behavior to advance. He showed a series of 10 slides depicting the wildfire increase in the prevalence of obesity (being at least 30 pounds overweight) year by year over the past decade in the United States. "We are fast becoming a nation of couch potatoes. Regular physical activity," he suggested, "may be the next sort of immunization to take us to a new stage of health."
We must reduce health inequalities, said Murray. There are huge differences in life expectancy between rich and poor in this country, and one's chance of a healthy life varies by a factor of two from sub-Saharan Africa to the U.S. and most of Europe. ~C.R.
"You are what you read."
Of lasting value: What are the new classics?
Moderator: William C. Kirby, Ph.D. '81, Geisinger professor of history, chairman of the department of history, and director of the Asia Center. Panelists: Lizabeth Cohen, Jones professor of American studies; Jamaica Kincaid, writer and visiting lecturer, departments of Afro-American studies and English and American literature and language; Michael J. Sandel, professor of government; Maria Tatar, Loeb professor of Germanic languages and literatures.
Wth the battle cry "You are what you read," Kirby launched an exploration of books that are "permanently important--first-class works to be read in the original." After reviewing the controversy over the academic "canon," Cohen cautioned that most books therein "were considered interlopers until the twentieth century....We must be wary of pronouncements of what is a classic and what is not." Kincaid, who grew up in the former British colony of Antigua, recalled being "told that I was very fortunate to have been dominated by people who could produce Milton, Shakespeare, and so on....The canon can be a tool of war." Still, she admitted, "I happen to be very fond of the 'dead white men,' and am awfully sorry that they're dead." She added, to laughter, "Or that they're white."
Sandel mused that the list of classical texts in political philosophy--Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Mill, Marx--is "not all that different from when many of you [audience members] attended college here, four or five years ago," raising another appreciative laugh. The authors of these classics, he said, "revered the past, but in their actual writings also sought to obliterate it. The great thinkers had the ambition of showing what preceded them to be a form of confusion."
Tatar, after noting the current popularity of Salman Rushdie as a senior-thesis topic, said, "We are just as likely to be reading Cold Mountain as The Magic Mountain with our students. You have to avoid the tunnel vision that comes when you focus only on high culture. I want to get students to think stereophonically." ~C.L.
"Buying time to run an experiment."
Entrepeneurship and the pursuit of opportunity
Moderator: William A. Sahlman, M.B.A. '75, Ph.D. '82, D'Arbeloff M.B.A. Class of 1955 professor of business administration. Panelists: Jeffrey J. Bussgang '91, M.B.A. '95, president and chief operating officer, UPromise Inc.; Todd Krasnow, M.B.A. '83, cofounder and chief executive officer, Zoots; Kristin Rhyne, M.B.A. '99, president and founder, Polished Inc.
"What is entrepreneurship?" asked Sahlman. The Harvard Business School definition is "a way of managing that involves pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources currently controlled." Historically, half of Harvard M.B.A.s have ended up as entrepreneurs 10 to 15 years after graduation. In the Internet era, students pursue new enterprises 10 to 15 weeks before graduation.
Krasnow, who joined Staples "at the business-plan stage," in 1998 gave up access to company jets and vacations to build a new firm, Zoots, which aims to revolutionize dry-cleaning services. Once launched, change became the norm: Zoots built stores, then learned customers want home delivery and on-line service. If it works--annual revenue is now $30 million--Krasnow envisions "sowing the seeds of my own discontent" again.
Computer scientist Jeffrey Bussgang is at his second technology start-up, with $35 million of initial venture capital but little in the way of people or operations yet. He described "spiraling expectation setting," as entrepreneurs pursue prospective financiers, managers, and partners before any of those ingredients are in place. If the wooing succeeds, then there is the problem of "sweating like hell" to execute.
Rhyne works alone, developing the idea of nationally branded, airport-based beauty and well-being centers for travelers. With minimal finances, she has finally secured a first lease and begins operations this fall.
Each company demonstrates the idea of "buying time to run an experiment by raising capital, and then, if warranted, raising more funds to experiment further," Sahlman said. In valuing such ventures, he emphasized cash flows and confided, "Buy low, sell high, collect early, and pay late--that's the secret of an M.B.A." ~J.S.R.
"Things you can do by yourself."
Aging: Meeting the challenge of outliving our fourscore and ten
Moderator: James H. Ware, dean for academic affairs and Mosteller professor of biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health. Panelists: Lisa Berkman, Norman professor of health and social behavior and of epidemiology, chair of the department of health and social behavior, and chair of the Harvard Center for Society and Health at the School of Public Health; John W. Rowe, president and chief executive officer of Mount Sinai New York University Health and professor of medicine and geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Walter C. Willett, D.P.H. '80, chair of the department of nutrition and Stare professor of epidemiology and nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health.
Not only is the elderly population increasing, but scientists are showing us that healthy aging, for many people, is more a function of proper exercise, diet, and behavior than hereditary factors, said Rowe. People waiting for the "silver bullet" to cure their ills "will die waiting."
"We're talking about things you can do by yourself," said Willett. Adult-onset diabetes and gallstones, once thought to occur naturally with age, are now linked to weight gain. The risk of forming cataracts is tied to smoking. In a new study due out this spring, Willett and colleagues report that if people didn't smoke, maintained an average weight, ate healthily, and got consistent, moderate exercise, the rate of coronary disease would fall by 82 percent, the rate of colon cancer by 71 percent.
Social behavior and engagement--how older people participate in society--is being linked to life expectancy and cognitive function, reported Berkman. Higher life expectancy is not primarily a function of money--the United States spends more on healthcare per person than any other country in the world, yet ranks in the bottom third for life expectancy, she said. Nor is healthy aging based purely on genetics. Rather, Berkman believes the engines that drive people to live longer and retain mental agility are social relationships with friends and families and work that is satisfisfying. In France, where women live to be among the oldest human beings on the planet, a study found that families had a relatively large amount of contact: grandparents, for example, saw their grandchildren, on average, 48 times a year and children called their mothers 85 times a year. ~N.P.B.
"Epochal change ."
Democratization and its unintended results
Moderator: Jorge I. Domínguez, Ph.D. '72, Jf '72, director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and Harvard College Professor and Dillon professor of international affairs. Panelists: Carter J. Eckert, A.M. '68, director of the Korea Institute, and professor of Korean history; Grzegorz Ekiert, Ph.D. '91, professor of government; Samuel P. Huntington, Ph.D. '51, Weatherhead University Professor; Charles S. Maier '60, Ph.D. '67, director of the Gunzburg Center for European Studies and Krupp Foundation professor of European studies.
The expansion of democracy worldwide is "the most significant political development" of the past quarter-century, Huntington said. The proportion of the world's countries governed democratically has risen to nearly two-thirds. But democracy does not equal freedom, he cautioned: consider Peru or Russia. He also warned of ethnic violence and nationalist-populist hostility to America.
Democracy has effected notable improvements in eastern Europe and Latin America. The triple transition to open governance, competitive markets, and pluralistic civil societies in the former Soviet-influenced realm has defied analysts' fears, Ekiert said. Moreover, wider dispersion of political power fostered broader economic reforms and superior growth. Latin America, too, seemed in the past to face a sharp choice between democracy and prosperity, Domínguez said. Circumstances have since turned around in countries like Argentina--once "the Olympic champion of bad government, with equal opportunity ineptitude"--as opposition parties were forced to agree on economic policies that reassured citizen savers and business investors alike.
The historians sought to explain how this all came about. Maier saw democratization itself as the product of "epochal change"--the evolution, beginning in the 1960s, beyond the heavy-industrial and territorial nation-states established a century earlier. With globalization and new technologies, the "space to which people [had given] their identities could no longer control their lives," economically or otherwise. Even when those forces played out very rapidly, as in the recession that ravaged Korea in 1997, a fledgling democracy showed "surprising resilience," according to Eckert. After decades of fast growth, a large middle class there embraced democratic values, underscoring "the important connection between the economy and democracy." ~J.S.R.
"You have to delight first, in order to teach."
The transforming power of art: What do we learn from the arts that we can't learn anywhere else?
Moderator: James Cuno, Ph.D. '85, Cabot director of the University Art Museums. Panelists: Lillian "Gish" Jen '77, author; Emily Mann '74, artistic director, McCarter Theater, Princeton, New Jersey; Elisa New, professor of English and American literature and language; Jonathan Sheffer '75, founder and artistic director, Eos Orchestra; Edward Zwick '74, producer/director for film and television.
"In this age of increasing seduction by the virtual, art represents the real, the stony matter-of-factness of the thing itself," Cuno declared. But how do the "things" of art teach? "There are no truths, only stories," said Zwick. "In my life, art has meant narrative...only narrative can reach us in a kind of limbic place where learning begins....You have to delight first, in order to teach. It has to be engaging." Jen asserted that art "proceeds from the individual and reveals the artifice of society to be artifice. There is a gap between our manners and who we authentically are. The larger this gap, the more room there is for literature. Art is of no redeeming social value to the current social order. It paves the way for social renewal."
After speaking up on behalf of "useless art," Sheffer lamented that many new art objects are very well crafted, but lack content. "We are all poets in our dreams," he said. "The question is, do our dreams connect with anybody else's?" New opined that, "For me, what art brings to life is surprise. Your brain waves veer off into different spaces, different surfaces, and the day is changed by it." But how changed? "The level of satisfaction in art is much more ineffable than moral," said Zwick. "It's not didactic. If a work is intrinsically good, then ironically, commercial success tends to follow." Mann shot back, "And I've had exactly the opposite experience." ~C.L.
Symposium reporters include Craig Lambert, Jean Martin, Nell Porter Brown, Christopher Reed, John S. Rosenberg, and Deborah Schneider.
Photographs by Jim Harrison
You might also like
Genetic analysis reveals a culture enriched from both sides of the Danube.
Harvard researchers illuminate a longstanding epidemiological connection.
Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences broaches two tough topics.
More to explore
Expect massive job losses in industries associated with fossil fuels. The time to get ready is now.
A third-generation French baker on legacy loaves and the "magic" of baking
Generative AI can enhance teaching and learning but augurs a shift to oral forms of student assessment.