Slides and References for the UMA Community Forum on Discrimination and KKK Response

For attendees and members of the general public who are interested in the research basis for the factual claims made by Assoc. Prof. Lorien Lake-Corral and myself in our presentation on discrimination and the KKK in Maine, please feel free to download the powerpoint file attached below, which contains not only our presentation slides but also an appendix on discrimination and a complete set of references.

-Discrimination- A Public Forum

Interdisciplinary Faculty Panel: What is Research? (11/3/15 at UMA)

Interdisciplinary Faculty Panel: What is Research?

Lisa Botshon, Professor of English
Rosie Curtis, Lecturer in Architecture
Sarah Hentges, Associate Professor of American Studies
Peter Milligan, Professor of Biology
Carey Clark, Assistant Professor of Nursing, Moderator

Tuesday, November 3, 12 Noon
University of Maine at Augusta Katz Library

Questioning EyesMembers of this faculty panel will discuss their answer to the question “What is Research?” from the vantage point of their own discipline, then present examples of their own current research projects. Moderator Carey Clark will encourage movement from multidisciplinary presentation to interdisciplinary discussion.

All members of the public and the UMA community are welcome to attend this faculty panel. Please encourage students considering or engaged in research projects to attend. Light refreshments will be served.

FMI: James Cook, james.m.cook@maine.edu, 207-621-3190

Presentation April 22 ’15: Open Maine Politics

Maine friends and colleagues: I’ll be delivering a public lecture this upcoming Wednesday at the University of Maine at Augusta Katz Library. The subject is the Open Maine project, an effort to bring Maine state legislative information into the open information age. I’d love your feedback — and as usual for the UMA Research and Pedagogy series there will be nibbles.


Maine State House, Winter 2015Open Maine: Making Politics Social
A Presentation in the Research and Pedagogy Colloquium Series

James Cook, Assistant Professor of Social Science
Wednesday, April 22, 12 noon
University of Maine at Augusta Katz Library

“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

For most of Maine’s history, the records of its state politics have been officially accessible but practically unavailable.  Before the internet age, information about the legislature was kept in side rooms and libraries at the State House in Augusta, making our collective decisions available only to those who had the time and money to stalk about the stacks.

In recent decades, the website of the Maine State Legislature has taken great strides toward making information about the Pine Tree State’s legislature, our legislation and our legislators available to all.  Some roadblocks remain, however:

  • Maine legislative information isn’t easily shared through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or other forms of social media;
  • Maine legislative information isn’t easily mixed and downloaded for analysis by academics, journalists, citizen bloggers or the curious;
  • It isn’t easy for us to engage in conversation about legislation and legislators in the same environment where raw information is made available;
  • It isn’t easy for us to create, post and share our assessments of our legislators based on transparent and verifiable standards.

This RaP colloquium at the University of Maine at Augusta will present the result of a Presidential Research Grant kick-starting Open Maine, an online civic engagement and education project to make Maine legislative politics shareable, mixable, downloadable, conversable, assessable and transparent. Presentation of the new platform and research outcomes will be followed by discussion and a brainstorm on future development. Students, staff, faculty and members of the public are welcome.

Convocation Remarks on the University of Maine at Augusta theme for 2014: “Innovation”

Convocation at the University of Maine at Augusta, September 19 2014

UMA Convocation Fall 2014
Framing the Theme – “Innovation”

Good afternoon.  Last spring, the UMA Faculty Colloquium Committee identified a special theme of innovation to reflect the University’s 50th anniversary. The committee asks that every member of the faculty, staff and student body read and reflect upon a book about innovation, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  Look for activities throughout the year celebrating UMA’s 50 years of innovation.  As we kick off the year today, I’ve been asked to frame the theme of innovation in a few remarks.

When most of us hear the word “innovation,” we focus on the creation of something new.  But there is more to innovation than newness.  The word “innovation” comes from the Latin innovare, to renew or to make new.  What do we renew?  What do we make new?  Something that was already there.  To innovate is to make something new out of what came before.

To write a “novel” means literally to create a story that is new.  But in the introduction to her novel Frankenstein, a novel of ghastly innovation, author Mary Shelley admits stitching together her story from the science, philosophy and mythology of the day before adding her own animating spark.  “Everything must have a beginning,” Shelley writes, but “that beginning must be linked to something that went before…. Invention does not consist in creating out of void… the materials must, in the first place, be afforded.[i]”  The innovative stories we tell are based on what came before.

Every human being on Earth is a unique innovation, a Frankenstein experiment of sorts, with a genome ripped from our parents and stitched together in a brand new way.  Thanks to mutation, even identical twins don’t have exactly the same set of genes.  But neither is any human being entirely new.  We are variations on the genetic themes set by our parents, and as social scientists know we draw heavily from our environment in fashioning our public selves.  The new, innovative you is based on what came before.

The University of Maine at Augusta is itself an innovation.  Our history tells us that 50 years ago, there was no college or university in Augusta – and when UMA held its first classes on September 12 1965, it had no campus of its own.  Our first classrooms were in Cony High School, set aside for use after school hours; that’s innovative.  Our bookstore was fit into a Cony High School coat closet; that’s innovative[ii].  Even these humble beginnings were not completely new, but based on what came before: an existing school, repurposed and reimagined. In its next 50 years, UMA will rely on already existing strengths as it finds innovative new ways to fulfill its purpose.

And what is that purpose?  What is a university for?  At first glance, it may appear to some that a university is a business selling a product called a diploma to customers called students.  Once purchased, the diploma product can be redeemed by the customer for future economic profit.  Well, it certainly takes money for a person to live and for a university to run.  But is an education just another consumer purchase?  Is a university an assembly-line factory?  Are faculty here to sell?  Are students here to shop?

I think not.  We are here because we share a dream.  We dream of becoming more than we are.  We dream of remaking ourselves, putting parts of our lives that came before together with something new and adding an animating spark.  We know this dream of innovation can come true because we see it happen here every day — for some sooner, for some a bit later.  The poet Adelaide Anne Procter shares a truth we at UMA know well: if we miss our first shot at remaking ourselves a second chance, a third chance will come.  It is never too late.  Procter writes:

“Have we not all, amid life’s petty strife,

Some pure ideal of a noble life

That once seemed possible? Did we not hear

The flutter of its wings, and feel it near,

And just within our reach? It was. And yet

We lost it in this daily jar and fret,

And now live idle in a vague regret;

But still our place is kept, and it will wait,

Ready for us to fill it, soon or late.

No star is ever lost we once have seen,

We always may be what we might have been[iii].”

 

This is the heart of innovation: to draw from what came before, to honor those who inspire your work today, to dream of being more than you are.


[i] Shelley, Mary. 1818.  Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus.  London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor and Jones.

[ii] Brookes, Kenneth. 1977.  The Story of the University of Maine at Augusta: The Jewett Years.  University of Maine at Augusta publication.

[iii] Procter, Adelaide Anne. 1864. “A Legend of Provence” (excerpt).  P. 191 in The Poems of Adelaide A. Procter.  Boston: Ticknor and Fields.

Top 5 Moments at the 2014 New England Political Science Association Meetings

at #NEPSA2014: the 2014 meetings of the New England Political Science AssociationI had such a fun time at the 2014 New England Political Science Association conference that I have a hard time identifying my five favorite moments. But if I force myself to choose, here they are.

1. No such thing as a free lunch? As conference organizer hands me tickets to two keynote luncheons, he says “here, take ’em. We won’t ask for them at the door, but you can take ’em anyway.” Two graduate students on the periphery lean in.

2. Prediction! Campaign consultant shares a tip with me on the side: Senate Democrats Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor? “They’re both going down, big time.”

3. Most enjoyable presentation: Abigail Fisher Williamson and Rachael Ann DiPietro of Trinity College on changes in the social movement for undocumented youth after victory reveals complexity.

4. Prediction! Distinguished speaker declares that this time around, Eliot Cutler’s campaign for Governor of Maine looks strong. Counter-Prediction! Scholars at several tables spontaneously interrupt: “No.” Someone’s got to be right.

5. Finishing my own presentation on social media networks among state legislators, letting the nervous anticipation go, and feeling freed to enjoy others’ work.

Building Offline Community to study Online Community: the Social Media & Society Conference

Attending academic conferences can feel a bit like living in a retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. A conference that’s too small can leave you feeling underfed. On the other hand, a conference that’s too large can be overwhelming, intimidating and even alienating. A conference on a highly particular subject may be quite useful if you select just the right one, but may be completely useless if you’re even slightly off the mark. The presentations at an overly general conference may lack those crucial connections that stimulate career-changing “aha!” insights. If you’ve been to enough conferences, you probably know what I mean.

How rare, and therefore how precious, is the conference that hits the Goldilocks sweet spot in between these distasteful extremes. The 2013 Social Media & Society International Conference was that conference for me. Gathering and connecting presentations on the causes, kinds and consequences of online social connection, #SMSociety13 managed to be more than simply the sum of its individual presentations. Researchers across diverse fields of social science, humanities, business and computer science shared distinctive approaches and concerns regarding the same substantive subject, which meant that we all had some basis for understanding but also had something to learn:

Topics of discussion at #SMSociety13, the 2013 Social Media and Society Conference

Attendance numbered in the sweetly moderate middle between a hundred and two hundred, providing a critical but collegial mass of thinkers who began conversations during one set of presentations and continued them across others. How do we bridge (or barricade) the quantitative-qualitative divide? How do we know who is “really” speaking in an online environment, and how do participants manage the online presentation of self? What are the ways in which online interaction leads to offline action? As we ran into one another again and again in various combinations, these questions carried over into the late night at a pub and over danishes in the morning, with an aggregate from far-flung places becoming a quirky community.

Photos from the 2013 Social Media and Society Conference at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia

The Social Media & Society International Conference meets again at Ryerson University in Toronto on September 27-28, 2014. Got a paper or panel in mind? Submit through this link: I’d love to see you there. Abstracts are due April 18. Poster proposals are due May 23.

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