Socrates: We must not get the habit of anticipating and suspecting the meaning of one another's words
--Plato's Gorgias

Mediums. It's not a word. Unless you're talking about multiple
energy workers of course.

But despite it being used by some really smart people in some
really intricate contexts and arguments, it still doesn't exist.
The word to describe a medium in the plural, is media.

Why shy away from the word media when trying to describe the
plurality of media (or mediums, if you insist)? It is because the
cultural connotation of media has polluted its dennotation.
'Media' now commonly refers to mass media. 'The Media' is almost
always a reference to mass media, newspapers, television, and film
as if their interests were related.

It is funny that 'media' has become a medium. It is no longer what
it is, but something else. So much so that it is necessary to
abandon the word for the sake of clarity. If you try to talk about
the various conduits we have for communication as media, it gets
muddied, confusion arises about whether the reference was to all
of the vast ways we have of communicating, or just the massively
commodified ones.

New media, social media, mass media, corporate media, multimedia,
mixed media are all starting to bring us back to media instead of
mediums. Since media is a rather broad concept, it has been
prefixed and qualified often. So often that referring to media
alone is ambiguous and could mean any of these things if not
properly refined. But what it really means is mediums, the plural
of a medium.

Medium is no simple word to pluralise though. It has many
different facets and origins. The usage of the word medium to
describe a communications catalyst, when systems of mass
communication were being developed, was an off-shoot of the usage
as a middle or in between. And thus started to describe a separate
entity, not just a middle, but a specific kind of middle that
referred to communications technologies. And so as these
technologies multiplied, so did the new version of medium,
solidifying its identity as distinctly different from the midway
or intermediate in general.

So now we have this word media, that refers to multiple tools of
communication. But it also has come to mean mass media. So in
order to subvert the common usage and return to where a medium
diverted from simply a middle, smart people speaking to a general
audience will say mediums, and I will cringe.

Socrates: When the division of our task is concluded, let us find the point at which we digressed, and return into the old path
--Plato's Republic


Mark Hansen, Math In Action!

"In merely terrestrial terms, programming the environment means, first of all, a kind of console for globalthermostats to pattern all sensory life in a way conducive to comfort and happiness. Till now, only the artist has been permitted the opportunity to do this in the most puny fashion. The mass media, so called, have offered new material for the artist, but understanding has been lacking. The computer abolishes the human past by making it entirely present. It makes natural and necessary a dialogue amoung cultures which is as intimate as private speech, yet dispensing entirely with speech."
                 -McLuhan, War and Peace in the Global Village, 1967

    Professor Mark Hansen (Duke) talked to Trent last

Thursday. He was setup by his many admirers in the room as a sort

of "new media" guru. But he was not some blissed out prophet,

telling us how it is or what we should be doing or what we're all

missing, but instead he just proved a very small truth in very

great detail.

Fekete described this small truth as "updating

McLuhan" and described it as the "ongoing technogenesis of the

human-being." But Hansen, himself paraphrasing Johnny Bored-dough,

put it best as: mathematics is "the structure of media that we can

master without understanding it."

    By no means is this a new phenomenon or limited to

mathematics. When I spoke with John Muir about this, he quickly

pointed out that people drive their cars with a minimal

understanding of what to do if it breaks down. It becomes obvious

with digital media though because we have artists and digital

content providers at he top of the game but with no real knowledge

of how the ones and zeros that actually create their content work.

And since the time of McLuhan, the goal of a medium has been to

conceal how it works. Pay no attention to the man behind the

machine. Jesse Brown in his first edition of CanadaLand tells the

story of how he was told that no one wants to listen to a show

about how the business of media works.

    Now Hansen does think this is problematic, but not for any

of the whiny social reasons we hear from old dogs forced to learn

new tricks. No, his principle example is stock traders trading on

futures and how it has lead to several collapses in the underlying

structures of a capitalist economy. Traders stopped needing to do

the actual math involved, and instead did the math on a preset

data sheet via their computers. It was a process of

objectification, turning social conditions into numbers on a data

table. This becomes a problem because the future is not so easily

predicted and social conditions are not actually numbers. When

traders reach the end of their formula, they haven't actually

predicted the future and acted upon it n the present but fulfilled

a problematic framework.

    For Hansen, the underlying Platonic assumption is that

math is a static realm of forms, untouched and unchanging. Instead

he studies Whitehead, who wants to make math a process. Math as a

contextual creature that is effected by history and personal

experience of it. So the formula of the past you have used to

predict the future is not the same formula required once you reach

that future.

    The problem with not knowing the code when you post your

selfies on the facebath or recreate Indiana Jones on the LudeTube

is not a problem at all. This has been going on for ages, before

the infinite space of digital media. The problem occurs when you

are making actions in the present that assume you know what the

future is going to be, on the authority of an unchanging

mathematical formula. There is a scene in Capitalism, A Love Story

where Michael Moore seeks out a simple answer to: What are

Futures? And finds many traders blowing him off and one that

spends a great deal of time with multiple formulas that in the

end, explain nothing. McLuhan describes this as speech becoming

obsolete, as in the systems that run a global capitalist economy

cannot be translated into natural language, whereas something like

the internet has being translated into natural language as its end


    Technology is our best friend. We grew up together and

share a great deal of memories and thoughts. But it is folly and

plunder to suggest that we need to know everything about them in

order to be friends. Unless we are going to dream inside of their

subconscious (Inception) of course....


a note on pedagogy

*this is the extended version of an article I wrote for Arthur Issue 0 and is based on my experiences during a feild course called Living and Learning on the Land

Pedagogy is the way we learn and the way we teach. Depending on your high school experience, you may have a fixed or rigid way of understanding this concept. Like, there are only so many ways people learn and there is a right way to teach and be taught.

According to “The Strategic Learner”, a style guide by Sheila Collett published by The Academic Skills Centre, there are three kinds of learner: auditory, visual and kinesthetic.
The audiocentric, ear driven learner takes oral instruction better than written instruction and usually needs visual aids vocally explained to them. They are great story tellers and prefer Trent Radio over Arthur.
Those who were given an eye for an ear want instructions written down. Diligent note takers that prefer Arthur over Trent Radio make visual aids to help them in their never ending quest to get the entire lecture down on paper. These learner hawks can tell what you are saying by observing the way in which you say it (body language).
The kinestete must be involved and doing. So many coffee breaks make it so they prefer to stand while working. Space is the place, they need to know their environment in order to feel comfortable working as a part of it. Hand talkers and touchers, they enjoy using their hands and have a reputation for being high energy and in need of relaxation.
Some advice from “The Strategic Learner”:
Ears, tape record lectures, talk to everyone about everything all the time, use stories and rhymes to remember and study out loud.
Eyes, visualize information, look at the lecturer's face, write everything down all the time, and use visual aids and colour whenever you can.
Body, take loads of breaks (I recommend starting to smoke), do something with the information you are given (experiments, building models, explaining it to others), read on a bike or balance board, and double read (skim fast then go for detail).

This is a very linear pedagogical model. We are all eyes, ears and bodies, so will therefore have a combination of these habits. One problem with the more classical psycho-educational models of pedagogy is that it sometimes forgets that people are people and not just observable patterns of behaviour.
Form relationships with your fellow students and your professors. It feels good and you learn more. Form relationships between concepts too, most of everything comes from similar places and is just formulated differently for a specific purpose.
And sometimes it is important to take some time with yourself to be alone with the information you have received. We go to school in a forest, take advantage of that.

On that same note, remember that we learn in communities and keeping those communities vibrant and healthy is of the utmost of importance. So when you are striving for the true, the real and the right, remember that these things have nothing to do with proving someone wrong. Give your fellow teachers and students some space to make mistakes, to indulge in their own perspective and to feel safe doing these things. When you feel like someone has said something that is wrong, or offends you, try to ask a question. By asking a question you are extending you're own understanding of what they are saying and why they said it. Develop yourself, don't put others down.
Asking questions in the face of frustration also sets an example of how we can treat eachother in academia, not treating the academy as a battleground over terms, but a place where we can form positive epistemic communities that improve all of our understandings surrounding an issue, instead of producing anxiety and stress.
In trying to build shared conceptual structures we often forget that everybody has their own experience of them and learns about them in different ways and come at them from different angles. Attune yourself to your own thoughts and build your own understanding of these concepts. Thinking occurs in your mind alone and when we communicate, we are sharing, so be respectful of other students and teachers offerings, because they are a gift.
Dominance via intellectual supremacy is a pitfall that we all must be weary of in our quest to seek out epistemic contributions that fit our own experience of the world. We all face the temptation to think of others as wrong or incorrect instead of letting them speak their piece. You do not need to wholly take in everything a fellow student is saying and it is not your responsibility to formulate their thoughts for them. Speak with them, not for them or on top of them. If an epistemic clash occurs (it will), then speak to what you know in the context of your own experience, and resist the temptation to speak to what you know in the context of how others are wrong or misinformed. If you feel someone is misinformed or wrong, that's their business, you cannot think for them, only give them something to think about.


The Character of Criticism

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be critical, and whether criticism is a virtue, with varying degree's of implementation or whether it's a practise, which has more of a fixed character. I want to know whether being critical is part of someone's character, or has a character of it's own.
These meanderings are by no means a proper paper yet, but maybe a continuation of my research in Testimonial Injustice.
    A bit of background first. I go to a school where even the geography department's course syllabi's have the phrase "critical thinking" in them. It is one of our school's most marketable features, students' ability to question what they are being told. But I find that many of the most awkward conversations I've had inside and out of the classroom have been with self-righteous students, claiming that their dismissive attitude is merely "being critical." Criticism becomes the veil for (usually masculine) hyper-aggression and shows of intellectual power. Insults and criticism should not be difficult to decipher from one another.
     Indeed, being critical is a sign of respect but only when done respectfully and with a degree of care. Careless criticism is sloppy criticism. If reckless abandon leads to the "critical" party to attack an argument in vague terms, or attack an inferior interpretation of the argument, then no progress can be made. And there in lies the goal of criticism, progress, helping, aid. When you're being critical of a project, you re contributing to it. So what kind of contribution are you making? Many crucial contributions are made in poor spirit, but is the poor spirit really necessary? Do you really need to be out to get someone or something to be critical of it?
    This has lead me to wonder whether criticism has to be this thing wherein there is a harsh overtone of righteousness, like somehow just by being critical you're doing the right thing or behaving in a respectful manner. Or can we have some humility when criticising? If criticism is a virtue, then thoughtlessness is its lack and being over-critical is its excess. But "being over-critical" is not the same thing as bullying with criticism. Over-critical to me means being critical where criticism has no place, like when someone is joking. What I am talking about is not about the logical components of what makes good criticism, but what are the emotional components of launching said criticism.
    Just something to keep in mind when launching your next criticism. That an assault on someone's ideas is a serious thing and should be handled with care if we are going to create thriving, healthy epistemic communities instead of anxiety filled intellectual battlefields.


re: Open Letter to Comrades at Trent University by Zach Ruiter

It is difficult for me to call you comrade. You lack a revolutionary spirit. Che said, "the true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love" in Man and Socialism in Cuba. I do not feel the love, Zach. I feel like I have witnessed the tantrum of a little boy who is not getting his way and wants to take credit for other peoples' work.
    Why is the student strike your cause? You constantly berate the student staff of Arthur for being students first, and journalists second. You do not care about the work of the student or its fruits. You once said to me: 'why should I read Hegel when I can read Zizek's commentary of Hegel?' Does that sound like a studious spirit? Spot read some Zizek, cut some red felt, adopt some Marxist buzz words and all in a sudden you're a student revolutionary...
    If you were any kind of a student then you would know about academic charity, the principle that takes thesis' (and people) on their best reading, because it does not benefit anyone to assume the worst of people and their ideas. You would know about academic honesty (which is journalistic honesty too, by the way) which has writers take the context of a quote into full consideration when placing it into a new context, gathering one's own evidence (or properly citing someone else's) and not misrepresenting the intended meaning of a statement. It takes intellectual courage to stand up for what is clearly right and do it the right way, but intellectual courage is found next to intellectual cowardliness and intellectual rashness. Intellectual rashness has good people lashing out at good people over matters of the mind or having ends justify means. There is no need to fear the students of Trent University, Zach, they are supposedly your comrades.
    Students have well founded skills of pratical reasoning; weighing evidence, evaluating arguments, analyzing rhetoric, and hearing the noise. Our poetic blathering here is quite noisey, Zach. A groundwork is not 'theorizing' an Ontario student strike or romanticizing the Quebecois strike. It is about taking the practical steps needed, doing the paperwork to make sure things are legitimated, making connections with other students, getting the word out about actualizing the potential exemplified by our fellow students. This is real life, not hack and slash journalism, the evidence and work come first; the story is shaped by the events, the events are not shaped by the story. By formulating your own story and just filling in testimony where you need to to prove your own point, you are adopting the strategies of oppressors and Sophists.
    It all seems so frusterating that Arthur is doing nothing about a student strike, right? Well, guess again. Why get frusterated when you can contribute to the groundwork that is already going on? Why get frusterated that no one is contacting you when you are a fully able communicator? And I'm not talking about writing some angry emails to people you see as rivals, but helping out your fellow student-journalists in a positive, constructive manner. Attune yourself to the needs of others and help facilitate the political climate on campus. If you are not a student, then be a proper ally.
    When we take our schools back and free tuition, I hope you take the opportunity to go back to school. Maybe you would have time to read some Hegel.


Public-spiritedness and the autonomy of self determination in public education: Why University Should Be Free

“If life were a thing that money could buy,
                         the rich would have it,
                                   and the poor would die.”
               -Jammy Galloway, Land of Look Behind

     University should be a public institution because the scope of private industry is too limited to do what is in the best interest of the public. The goals of private industry and education are not congruent, graduate debt is detrimental to the economy, and a privatized post-secondary system leads to a dissatisfied public.

The goal of a business is profit; the goal of education is multifaceted. When universities become businesses, the telos of the institution narrows and profitability must supersede education. Not to say that these two things are inherently exclusive and unable to overlap, but one cannot be contingent on the other because the two projects (profit and education) have differing means.

This creates an academic climate where one discipline is less valued than others because their worth is set by the ultimate value, the ultimate goal, profit. Said value is determined by those people's work who is already profitable. Autonomy is crushed, control is in the hands of the few. A school is not allowed to be a school because it is really a business. When allowed to set its own values, the academy is much more of a community formed and informed by them, instead of the academic values just being a marketing ploy and people contribute for their daily bread alone. The academic values shape the school, not just provide a marketing strategy.

      The goals of the institution academically and how a school differentiates itself from others has less to do with shared academic values and more to do with marketability and profitability.

We see this at Trent University, where the profit motive dictates the academic goals of the institution, not the strengths and interests of the people doing the work of schooling (teachers and students). Profiteers wrote the 2012 Academic Plan, not educators. Educators were mere consultants. Scientists in a profit-motivated educational system do research based on the needs of people with money, not people in need and not based on their own expertise or interest. Profit motivation leads to skewed results as you are not going to say something contrary if your paycheck depends on you not doing so. The terms and conditions of your work is not in your hands.

Every value a university constructs for itself becomes subservient to its need to make money. For example, Trent is Canada’s small outstanding university and prides itself on its youth and adherence to academic tradition embodied in the college system (ical Recovery: An Academic Plan for Trent University). Yet, the colleges are slowly but surely being dismantled in favour of cost effective private residences. Trent values academic tradition, but said value becomes not value, but a marketable asset for what Trent has to value, money. By taking the profit motive away from Trent, we would see that the goals of the institution would be based on value alone and the downtown colleges would still exist.

     Debt forces graduates to do jobs they have no passion for or skill in doing. In his book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, David Graeber tells the story of a Ph.D. graduate from Columbia University whose $80,000 debt load prevented her from an academic career because she could not afford it. Rather, she wound up working as an escort for Wall Street types. “Here’s someone who ought to be a professor,” Graeber explains, “doing sexual services for the guys who lent her the money.”

This is an American example and an obvious exaggeration but the point remains that this women is successful at her work but is not rewarded because her work is seen as valueless without an immediate, quantifiable payoff.

Closer to home, we can see the adverse effects of having to borrow to go to school. A graduate who has to borrow is told that their work has to have commercial expediency or it is valueless. A StatsCan survey found that “postsecondary graduates with student loans had, on average, lower assets and correspondingly lower net worth than those who did not have student loans.” “Lower net worth”: as in they have been devalued because their values were not that of commercial expediency (i.e. Getting a job instead of schooling) but valued being satisfied with their work instead.

In another StatsCan study done by May Luong, she states that: “Little research has been directed at exploring the impact that student loans may have on individuals’ financial position after graduation." With so little consideration being taken when it comes to the effect of students massive debt loads, it is difficult to hold to idea that the privatization of post-secondary is a benefit to economic stability. It is actually much easier to say that privatization is creating an economy of dissatisfied workers. 
      Tuition makes education an investment, not an exercise in job fulfilment. Once someone leaves the academy and enters the workforce, they are forced to take a job that pays well and forced to take a job immediately, not necessarily a job that they were their skills or expertise lay. This is a recipe for an unhappy, dissatisfied workforce and if people go unfulfilled in their work, they go unfulfilled in their lives.

A government enshrines opportunities for its people, and by letting the punitive individualism free market economy dictate what the value of a citizen's labour is, transforming people into profit­-maximizing machines, it ceases to provide opportunity and instead restricts a citizen's capacity to choose their own work. Rather, by making post-secondary public, a government can regulate and control the economy in order to allow its citizens to choose what their life's work is.

      University needs to be public spirited, not driven by profit alone. The goals of its participants are multifaceted whereas the goal of private interest are limited to profit. The debt created by post-secondary education is crippling the economies ability to function on behalf of its citizens. And by allowing the few who have the monetary means to dictate, via university, what work needs to be done, we are facilitating our own dissatisfaction.


Galloway, Jammy. “Land of Look Behind” by Alan Greenburg. Subversive Cinema, 1982. Film.

Graeber, David. “Debt: The First 5,000 Years”. Melville House, 2011. Print.

Luong, May. “The financial impact of student loans”. Statistics Canada, 2010 <http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2010101/pdf/11073-eng.pdf>. Web.

The Academic Planning Committee. “Radical Recovery: An Academic Plan for Trent (2012-2015)”. Trent University, 2012 <http://www.trentu.ca/vpacademic/documents/Trent%20Academic%20Plan%20%282012-2015%29%20-%20Jan%2018%202012.pdf>. Web.


Che, Smoking, and Death

“Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it,
like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks,
using a ring with no stone in it,
with no finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth,
with no tongue,with no throat.
Nevertheless its steps can be heard and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.”
-Pablo Neruda

This morning I was lamenting the fact that I cannot smoke because it shreds my lungs to bits, I am prone to lung infections. Then I continued my dreary lament by telling my roommate about el Che’s asthma and how he smoked because it kept bugs away in the jungle. He quipped that Che was “pretty suicidal.”
I immediately corrected him. But it made me think about what Che really thought of death. I know he’s not suicidal because his life is always in relation to the cause he is fighting for. And because of this his life is not even his to take.
“Until victory always” is the mantra. If taken seriously then self preservation is a must, “for he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day” (RNM, Heathen). But again, ‘self’ is only a relation to the cause, and it is the cause that is victorious or not.
As a child, he was forced to be in bed during the worst of his asthma attacks, but during periods of good health, he was known to test his boundaries by hiking, swimming, climbing trees, playing football and shooting. So we can assume that Che does not fear death so much as to let it cripple his abilities, but he is cautious enough to not be suicidal. Guerilla warfare is about small, tactical strikes as to eliminate the number of deaths on the revolutionaries side. It is a life preserving style because the guerillo is more concerned with the lives of his comrades than the death of his enemies.
And so, I’m just as confused as I started. Che knew smoking was bad for him and slowed him down, but it also kept him company and kept bugs away. In his youth though, his father used to keep a rigorous diary about the material conditions on the farm and the correlation between Che’s attacks. In the end, there was no correlation. So maybe after years of attempting to combat his poor health, Che lit up a cigar and decided that the only thing that was going to keep him free from pain, was the pursuit of pleasure.