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Faculty Fellows 2015-16

Jessamyn Abel

  • Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and History
  • Department of Asian Studies

Title: From Communication Line to Data Point: The Bullet Train as Information

As the most important highway maintained by the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Tōkaidō connecting the political capital in Edo with the Imperial capital in Kyoto was a central means of information flow for centuries, even providing the foundational route for Japan’s earliest trains and wired networks. The high tech bullet train, which opened in 1964, carried mid-century information from Tokyo to Osaka along this path, but also provided a new data point by which to compare Japan to other countries and re-imagine its cities and people. This project seeks to explain the bullet train’s symbolic importance, by examining how information prompted a rewriting of identity on the level of nation, locality, and individual in a changing Japan.

Richard Doyle

  • Liberal Arts Research Professor of English
  • Department of English

Title: Radio Free Valis and Phytopsyche: Two Books on the Discursive Effectives of the Concepts and Practices of Information

During my fellowship, I will be composing two books on the discursive effects of the concepts and practices of information. Radio Free Valis: The Informatic Visions of Philip K. Dick explores writer Philip K. Dick's The Exegesis, a nearly 9000 page, mostly handwritten text inquiring into PKD's experience of being “nailed by information” now hosted on a Penn State server atZebrapedia.psu.edu. The book excavates and explicates PKD's informatic interpretation of “nonduality” - a mode of awareness dubbed by Dick “ultra metacognition” wherein the subject perceives themselves as essentially and not accidentally as a being composed not of matter but of pure consciousness capable of being modeled by and as information. The second, Phytopsyche: Close Encounters with the Science of Plant Intelligence,explores the effects of informatic techniques and paradigms on the science of botany, where researchers have turned to the language of “plant intelligence” to articulate the networks of informational complexity they have observed using the tools of genomics and molecular biology.

Samuel Frederick

  • Assistant Professor of German
  • Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures

Title: A Poetics of Collecting: The Redemption of Things in German Realism and Modernism

I will be using the CHI fellowship to make headway on my second monograph, which looks to the discourses and practices of collecting to understand the precarious place of things in literary and cinematic works. I focus in particular on realist and modernist aesthetics in the German tradition and the problem of making visible or legible what is so small, fleeting, trivial, or devoid of use value that it falls below the threshold of representability. Drawing on thing theory, information theory, and ecocriticism this book thus turns from subjects to objects, from people to things, from human experience to inanimate matter in order to replace the traditional model of mimesis (imitation, reproduction of reality) with a model of collecting (accumulation, sorting and classifying of reality) as an alternative critical paradigm that is better able to come to terms with the neglected, contingent, and discarded things of the world.

Kathryn Gines

  • Assistant Professor of Philosophy
  • Department of Philosophy

Title: Collegium of Black Women Philosophers in a Digital Age

As the founding director of the Collegium of Black Women Philosophers I am committed to recruiting and retaining Black women into philosophy, archiving our significant contributions to the field, and making this ever-expanding archive available to the widest possible audience.  My project, Collegium of Black Women Philosophers in a Digital Age, has three main components: 1) an enhanced interactive Collegium of Black Women Philosophers website; 2) collaboration with online encyclopedias of philosophy to feature scholarly entries on Black women philosophers; and 3) collaboration with online comprehensive bibliographies and electronic journal collections to feature the publications of Black women philosophers.

Michael Legaspi

  • Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Jewish Studies
  • Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies

Title: Information, Knowledge, and the Pursuit of Wisdom

In studying wisdom-seeking as a cultural endeavor, I seek to describe the development of influential ‘wisdom frameworks’ over time. This study begins with a formal definition of wisdom as a holistic, transmittable program for human flourishing that derives authoritative prescriptions from a shared understanding of what is real, ultimate, and good: a program, in other words, that unites the metaphysical, the intellectual, and the ethical. I aim to see how wisdom programs were construed and enacted in Western thought and to learn, specifically, how concepts of data, information, and knowledge function within these programs.

Stuart Selber

  • Associate Professor of English
  • Department of English

Title: Institutions, Literacies, Technologies

My CHI project is a rhetorical study of the ways in which academic computing units mediate the teaching and learning of writing and communication in American higher education. More specifically, I conceptualize how colleges and universities structure and manage the complex universe of information technologies (IT) and provide heuristic strategies teachers can use to involve themselves in the constitution of this universe. Although academic computing units have a rich tradition of running faculty engagement programs, my argument is that humanities teachers need to contribute more directly to the technological agendas of colleges and universities, developing IT engagement programs that can have a positive bearing on students and teachers and academic institutions. There is simply too much at stake in this universe for humanities teachers not to have a voice in decision-making processes.