Two years ago, with my long-time collaborator, artist Ethan Gould, I wrote an essay about the future of higher education called “BEYOND U (TM): The organism that therefore the academy is.” It is now published, locked behind a paywall. This is the abstract:
Inspired by theory-fiction and weird philosophical readings of contemporary culture such as Rem Koolhaas’s lyrical ‘Junkspace,’ we consider the central metaphor by which contemporary administrators, educators and students understand higher education – school as business – and offer an alternative model from biology: school as slime mold, a blind, decentralized network organism. In constructing our new metaphorical regime, we look into the roots of the word ‘education,’ the changing interactions among universities (qua brands) and students (qua consumers) such as the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and university franchises, and the potentially beneficial role of the para-academic (the ‘unofficial excess or extension of the academic’). We ultimately note that the situation is not hopeless because the same tools that allow capitalists to turn ‘an education’ into a commodity are, for learners and teachers, new means of generating meaningful connections, serious play and lively communities.
Check out my essay “Finding and Keeping and Losing Utopia” in Cosmologics, the magazine of Harvard’s Science, Religion, and Culture Program:
For my friends’ excellent history of medicine blog, Remedia, I crafted a series of Elizabethan sonnets about skin maladies. You can read these in three parts:
To get under the skin of the history of medieval European medicine—to understand this history through a different perspective to rational narrations of events—I’ve been writing sonnets about diseases, sufferers, and practitioners.
In fourteen lines, I try to animate historical understandings of health and illness, giving voice to concerns over the fragility of the body and, moreover, the soul that seems far removed at first from the world of modern hospitals and pharmaceuticals.
The logic of the medieval world still strikes me as alien. Morality often influences physics, and the goal of the game is not really to live at all, but to die with conviction before the eyes of God. But by focusing on affect instead of fact, I hope to create a different sort of roadmap for a visitor to this world than the one offered in a history book.
For this volume by Clemson University, I turned Sonnet 120 into “Because they say honesty is the best policy, but anyway who are they to say anything at all,” a prose poem very much inspired by John Ashbery.
With Daniel Grushkin, I founded a creative collaboration among artists, designers, and writers who are interested in biotechnology. With designer Karen Ingram, writer William Myers, and artist Grace Baxter, we put on a bioart show in Brooklyn in 2013, produced in collaboration with Genspace.
We have since worked on numerous projects, including a biological design program for college students.
With Scott Neagle, I dropped this psychedelic/ekphrastic rap album in 2012. Yes, many of these songs are Henry James plots set in the future. Yes, there’s a song about Deleuze and Guattari (sort of).
We are currently mixing our follow-up “sophomore” album, which we recorded in 2013 in Bed-Stuy… the week after I had my jaw released from six weeks of wired-shut paralysis. We are using, among many other devices, Little Bits. This album will be more political and more about biotechnology. Birds and gin still appear as themes.
In 2010, with artist Ethan Gould, I created a fake neuroscience textbook called SUSPICIOUS ANATOMY: Workbook No. 15: The Human Cranius. You can buy it here. In fact, you should buy it there. It remains, to my knowledge, the only fake neuroscience textbook available anywhere on earth.
When I was a freshman at Bennington College, I published a modular story about France (sort of) in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern Issue 12. I was recently flattered to find this review of the story on HTML Giant, “the internet literature magazine blog of the past” and truly one of my favorite magazine blogs (blogazines?).