Tag Archives: Harvard

Sad News, the Passing of Jerome Bruner

young brunerOn June 5th, 2016, after becoming a centenarian last October. Renowned for his significant thinking in cognitive, developmental, and educational psychology, and ranked as one of the top-cited psychologists of the 20th century. Comprehensive obituaries are certain to follow, but for the time being, here is an engaging interview in the NYU Law magazine from last year that aptly identifies him as an “acrobatic meta-connector of ideas;” also, a note on his life and career from the Harvard department of psychology.

older bruner

Additionally, here is a post that I particularly enjoyed over on the History of Emotions
blog
 , by Jules Evans, about Bruner’s volume Acts of Meaning and the cultural construction of emotion.

Here, here, and here, are previous AHP posts that relate to his work.

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Digital history position at Harvard

It’s true: there’s a job opening at Harvard!

Harvard University is seeking a “Preceptor” in digital history.

We are looking for a promising scholar to implement a vision for digital history in the department and beyond. The preceptor will be responsible for offering support and instruction in digital history and for coordinating departmental initiatives in digital research and pedagogy.

The affiliation would be with the Department of History, but they are also accepting applications from PhDs in allied areas (specialization open). The challenge comes on the digital side:

Experience in aspects of the digital humanities relevant to historians, for example, the use of large data sources, database creation and management, data visualization, digital mapping, text mining and mark-up, and experience in using and developing digital tools and platforms in the teaching, research, and presentation of history…. A strong doctoral record is preferred, and knowledge of programming is a plus.

The deadline for applications is 1 March 2013. It is a 1-year, limited-term, non-tenure-track position.

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Interview: Joel Isaac on the Interstitial Academy

The online interview series New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, part of the New Books Network, has released an audio interview with historian Joel Issac on his recent book, Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (right). In Working Knowledge Isaac explores how the human sciences developed at Harvard University in a variety of interdisciplinary spaces in the mid-twentieth century.

As described on the New Books Network website,

In Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (Harvard University Press, 2012), Joel Isaac takes readers into the interstitial academy of Harvard University in the middle of the twentieth century. Isaac traces a kind of early history of interdisciplinarity in the American academy in the course of an elegantly wrought argument for situating one of the most pivotal texts of the history and philosophy of science, Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, within the emergence of what have become known as the human sciences. Twentieth century philosophers and social scientists sought to replace Kant’s transcendental notions with concepts more firmly rooted in the activities of working scientists and mathematicians, creating an epistemology that was deeply rooted in social practices. Maturing in this context and coming of intellectual age largely in the interstitial academy, Kuhn developed a notion of scientific paradigms that were “revealed in its textbooks, lectures, and laboratory exercises,” grounding his philosophy in a fundamental concern with pedagogical practices. At the same time, Isaac’s book is about so much more than Kuhn: it treats the history of American universities, the sociology of Pareto, the development of the case method in legal education, the changing disciplinary relationships between philosophy and psychology, the development of an idea of “social sciences,” among many other themes and stories. It is an exceptionally rich and persuasive story, and well worth reading – be it on the beach or elsewhere.

The New Books in Science, Technology, and Society interview with Isaac can be heard online here.

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Go Ask A.L.I.C.E. – A Look Back at A. I.

Go Ask A.L.I.C.E. Panel Discussion @ Harvard from Harvard University, History/CHSI on Vimeo.

On November 29th, 2012 the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments (CHSI) at Harvard University held panel discussion to coincide with its museum exhibit, GO ASK A.L.I.C.E: Turing Tests, Parlor Games, & Chatterbots. The exhibit, which closed at the end of December and was one of a number of events organized to mark the centenary of Alan Turing’s birth, explored

… the strange afterlife of the Turing Test as it has circulated in popular, scientific, and commercial cultures. It reexamines elements of Turing’s own interactions with humans and machines, later imaginations of thinking machines, as well as a famous attempt to translate Turing’s parlor game into a real test of artificial intelligence: the Loebner Competition.

These issues were further explored in the GO ASK A.L.I.C.E. panel discussion, video of which is posted above. Among those who participated in this event Daniel C. Dennett (Tufts University), Fox Harrell (MIT), John Searle (UC Berkeley), Peter Galison (Harvard), Jonathan Zittrain (Harvard) and Sophia Roosth (Harvard). Video of the event can also be found here.

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The Harvard Psychedelic Club Reviewed in NYT

The New York Times has reviewed a just released book on psychedelic research at Harvard University in the 1960s: The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered In a New Age for America. Authored by freelance journalist and religion writer, Don Lattin The Harvard Psychedelic Club’s title calls to mind Louis Menand’s 2001 book The Metaphysical Club, also about psychology at Harvard, though in an earlier period.

Lattin’s book details the exploits of Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Andrew Weil and Huston Smith at Harvard in the early 1960s, as well as their lives after Harvard. As the NYT recounts,

In 1963 Leary and Mr. Alpert were kicked out of Harvard for their exploits, which included giving drugs to undergraduates. One of the men behind their expulsion was none other than Andrew Weil, still an undergraduate. Jealous at not being fully admitted into their world or, Mr. Lattin suggests, being given the best drugs, Mr. Weil helped engineer an exposé of Leary and Mr. Alpert in The Harvard Crimson. He took the pair down, Mr. Lattin writes, “with the zeal of a jilted lover.” The older men never fully forgave him.

Mr. Lattin tracks all four men as they go their separate ways, trailing stardust and grievances. Timothy Leary became, well, Timothy Leary, the Johnny Appleseed of the psychedelic age. Richard Alpert traveled to India, came back as Ram Dass and wrote the counterculture bible “Be Here Now.” Andrew Weil, with his bald head and Santa Claus beard, would become a benevolent alternative lifestyle guru, a man whose work combines Eastern and Western medical ideas. His empire now includes not just best-selling books and herbal supplements but lines of olive oil and cookware. Mr. Smith, the most serious academic of the group, became critical of Leary. He found Leary’s slogan — “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out” — “too negative to command respect.”

Although the NYT review of The Harvard Psychedelic Club is largely favourable, the reviewer takes issue with some of Lattin’s stylistic decisions, including his decision to invent some of the dialogue that appears in the book. Despite the problematically concocted dialogue, the reviewer found the story engrossing.

As described on its dustjacket, The Harvard Psychedelic Club,

is the story of how three brilliant scholars and one ambitious freshman crossed paths in the early sixties at a Harvard-sponsored psychedelic-drug research project, transforming their lives and American culture and launching the mind/body/spirit movement that inspired the explosion of yoga classes, organic produce, and alternative medicine.

The four men came together in a time of upheaval and experimentation, and their exploration of an expanded consciousness set the stage for the social, spiritual, sexual, and psychological revolution of the 1960s. Timothy Leary would be the rebellious trickster, the premier proponent of the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of LSD, advising a generation to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Richard Alpert would be the seeker, traveling to India and returning to America as Ram Dass, reborn as a spiritual leader with his “Be Here Now” mantra, inspiring a restless army of spiritual pilgrims. Huston Smith would be the teacher, practicing every world religion, introducing the Dalai Lama to the West, and educating generations of Americans to adopt a more tolerant, inclusive attitude toward other cultures’ beliefs. And young Andrew Weil would be the healer, becoming the undisputed leader of alternative medicine, devoting his life to the holistic reformation of the American health care system.

It was meant to be a time of joy, of peace, and of love, but behind the scenes lurked backstabbing, jealousy, and outright betrayal. In spite of their personal conflicts, the members of the Harvard Psychedelic Club would forever change the way Americans view religion and practice medicine, and the very way we look at body and soul.

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