Thursday, March 27, 2014

Virtual reality is coming!! (by CCM)

I just pre-paid for the Oculus VR Rift, an immersive virtual reality headset!  You put the headset on and you really feel like you are in the virtual reality space – not just a two-dimensional screen that mimics three dimensions, but a real three-dimensional environment.

The headset is compatible with Second Life and could usher in a whole new meaning to online education.  I already teach my Intro to Philosophy course in Second Life, but imagine going to class in this kind of immersive environment!  We could have class in Athens, Greece when talking about Plato, in Birkenau when talking about the problem of evil, or in deep space when talking about the nature of spacetime.  History classes could take immersive virtual fieldtrips to different historical time periods, Spanish classes could visit virtual Mexico and talk to native speakers who meet you in the virtual space…the possibilities seem almost endless.

Mark Zuckerberg just bought the Oculus company and is dumping billions of dollars into the tech.  He is betting that this kind of virtual reality is the wave of the future.  Since he is Facebook, I see his intentions in social media, but it has far reaching implications for education and all sorts of things.  Nonetheless, Zuckerberg’s interest in virtual reality just made the likelihood of a big boom in virtual reality that much greater.  It’s coming!

Of course, there are downsides.  What if the virtual reality becomes a lot more interesting than “actual” reality?  With everyone pretty much addicted to their smartphones these days, would this become a worse addiction?  Have you seen the movie Surrogates?

So I see the benefits with education, but I see the potential pitfalls…care to weigh in and let us know your thoughts on this??

Monday, March 17, 2014

Women, media, and the "thigh gap" (by anon)

One thing in today's society that I'm getting extremely fed up with is emphasis on bodies - particularly women's bodies. Women, although once considered property, have earned the status of "individual person" through the power of feminism. Feminism, in short, is the idea that women are free to pursue whatever life they want and are no longer restricted to filling particular societal roles as previously defined by men. Sadly, although I would like to believe that this is how things really are - that women really are free - I continue to see women being objectified and valued not for their inner beauty, intellect, hard work, or heart, but for the aesthetic quality of their bodies.

Surely, I am focusing on a sliver of society - which is the part of society that creates standards or models for what women are supposed to look like, which are found in popular magazines, television series, movies, advertisements, and so on. I do not want to ignore the large number of women in this country who are past all of this - I know there are plenty of women who don't feel obligated to adhere to these kinds of standards and who appreciate themselves, and are equally appreciated by others in society, for WHO they are - not what their bodies are. With that said, there are still a LOT of women, particularly young women, who are being greatly influenced by this sliver of society that I'm talking about, and the effects are quite damaging.

To clarify, I myself identify as a woman. When I am faced with media that shows women as thin, large breasted, and perfectly clear skinned, I try to reason to myself that these images are not realistic. Often pictures are photo-shopped or women on TV are loaded with make up. Also, I try to remind myself that an aesthetically pleasing outward appearance has nothing to do with genuine human goodness, and it is especially not required for human goodness. However, severing the link between body image and self-worth is much easier said than done, and I think this is especially so for a woman.

Recently, I saw a youtube video in which a woman (tall, thin, well-endowed, with a "thigh-gap") explained that every woman, regardless of genetics, is capable of achieving a thigh-gap and that the thigh-gap is actually what mother nature intended, and that it was indicative of a high level of good health and fitness. I was both angry and sad after watching this video. For one, the message that a thigh-gap is only what mother nature intended, and is possible despite any genetic predispositions, is entirely unverified/unproven, and is therefore inappropriate coming from someone who supposedly is out to "help" women. And two, prompting women to aspire to have their thighs not touch when their feet are together, especially while under the guise of promoting general health and fitness, is disgusting and infuriating.

The point I am trying to make here is that it's good to advocate health and physical fitness, but when the motivation is the need for a preferred outward appearance as defined by society, there emerges a problem. Exercise and healthy eating are to be enjoyed and freely integrated into one's lifestyle, not forced or regimented for the purposes of obtaining a perfect, aesthetically pleasing body. From my experience, falling short of the goal of achieving a specific kind of body (which supposedly every woman should have according to most social media) usually results in feelings of guilt, anger, frustration, depression, anxiety, insecurity, and/or hopelessness.

What I'd like to see promoted, and what I think should permeate society is the idea of a healthy mind which research shows can be obtained through a healthy diet and regular physical exercise. Positive bodily changes will follow from this, but these are merely a byproduct, and NOT the end goal. Thus, I ask everyone, wherever and whenever one can, to dispel the myth of the ideal body as shown in social media, and point out the fact that bodily appearance should always be second to the healthy maintenance of a happy heart and a strong mind.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Can’t Blame the Unexposed Idiot (by anonymous student)

Our knowledge has a profound affect on our reality. If you only have knowledge on one side of an argument and are not exposed to the other, there is no way you can really have a point of view in the matter. This knowledge you only get from one side of the argument would be your own reality because it is the only side you know; however, if you are exposed to both points of views, you are able to use your own knowledge of the entire situation to know the true reality.

In the discussion of the Eyon Biddle/Kyle Brooks videos, I do not think that anyone can choose whose side they are on unless they have viewed both sides of the argument. If someone only saw the video of Brooks on Fox News, they would most likely view Biddle in a bad light due to what information was shown and talked about on television. Biddle was portrayed as a racist, republican hater on the news because the argument was only given from one point of view on the matter of what happened in that situation. Biddle’s side in that case was not even presented. If someone only happened to see the video of Biddle’s lecture, they are only exposed to the part of the lecture that was recorded and are not aware of the entire context of the situation that the lecture is happening in or what was said prior to it or afterwards. One could agree with Biddle’s speech or disagree, but at least they saw for themselves what was said in the video of the lecture. If someone saw both videos, they would be able to have a strong sense of reality because they were exposed to the entire situation, or as much as was recorded. Therefore, the truth is one’s own perception of reality and they can develop their own stances on the situation of Biddle/Brooks, since they have full knowledge of the situation.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

UWW student acted like an immoral coward (by anonymous student)

Let me first begin by saying I feel people should stand up for what they believe in.  However, this case is a perfect example of how standing up can be done in a horribly wrong way.  Kyle Brooks could have expressed his views/concerns by many means, yet he chose the path of cowardice, showing no concern for those he harmed (and is still harming) in order to benefit himself.

First, let’s cover what Kyle’s actions entailed.  While listening to a guest speaker (Biddle), Kyle was offended by some of Biddle’s comments.  Therefore, he secretly pulled out his phone and began recording Biddle’s presentation.  Later the same day, Kyle then posted the video to multiple sources, and the story spread like wild fire, eventually gaining national attention with Kyle getting an interview on Fox News.

When Kyle began to get offended by the speaker, there were multiple ways he could have handled the situation.  He could have raised his hand and countered the speaker during the presentation (if this was allowed).  If this was not an option, he could have talked to the speaker or the professor after class.  He could have expressed his views on the blog which is specifically created for his class to discuss the topics covered in class.  Or, if he simply couldn’t handle a viewpoint that was different than his own, he could have left the class, an action which would have shown his irritation in a powerful yet peaceful way (even if it is rather dogmatic).

Instead of this, Kyle took the low road.  Is Kyle proud of what he did?  Is he proud that performed an illegal action (videotaping the speaker)? Is he proud that he was too much of a coward to confront the professor or Biddle face-to-face, and instead went behind their backs to a news station which skewed the words of Biddle, allowed him to insult his professor without her being able to defend herself, and basically insulted the entire campus?  Is all of this negativity worth Kyle getting media attention and a potential future career with groups of people as narrow minded as he is?  Throughout the remainder of Kyle’s life he is going to encounter people who are different; is this how he is going to react every time?  Is he going to attempt to get them negative national coverage all for his own personal gain?  Is Kyle incapable of hearing views that go against his own?  If so, he will never be able to function in this society.  With all the grief that Biddle and the professor have been getting, Kyle deserves every ounce of anger thrown at him.

Were Biddle’s comments controversial?  Yes.  Should Biddle consider changing his presentation so it is less offensive?  Arguably yes.  Was Biddle’s presentation horrible enough to justify Kyle’s actions?  NO!  I watched a good chunk of the presentation, and while I might not have agreed with what Biddle said, I was never gasping in horror.  I also feel the professor made no mistakes, except being a Democrat with Kyle Brooks in her class.  She tried to show a viewpoint, believing her students were mature enough to handle it, and unfortunately, Kyle was not.  If this campus truly is as Democrat favored as Kyle says it is (many feel the opposite way), and if he feels so out of place, then he should just leave and try another campus.  If Kyle has any dignity whatsoever, he will apologize to both Biddle and his professor, both privately and publically.  But until that happens, I feel Kyle is an immoral coward who is not fit to be in any adult institution.

Monday, March 10, 2014

On the Brooks/Biddle GENED 130 videotaping: Don't Do Anything Today That You'll Regret Tomorrow! (by anon)

On Tuesday February 25, a professor from UW-Whitewater hosted a guest speaker, Eyon Biddle. Biddle's shocking statements during the Gened 130 class caused student, Kyle Brooks to take out his phone and start recording the conversation.

The speaker was invited to the class to talk about his experiences in state and local politics; beforehand, he was briefed on the topics that were previously taught in class. While Biddle was sharing his views and experiences he stated, "The context of 2010 was white rage, to be honest with you...white people having to pay for healthcare for blacks, browns and gays; racism with the first black president like you saw." Biddle's statements might be regrettable after his speech appeared on Facebook, YouTube, Campus Reform and on national news network, Fox.

While there may be some legality issues with student Brooks videotaping another person, I believe that Biddle should have come prepared with a speech that he would not mind the whole nation hearing. As a politician he should know better to say things, in any context, that he would not want to get around.  As the old saying goes, “don’t do anything today that you’ll regret tomorrow;” Biddle will probably think twice the next time he gives a personal speech.

As technology advances, people are always capturing "rare" moments and publishing them online and in most cases, there are no legal issues.  Biddle might be angry that his speech is appearing in a national spotlight, but would he be angry if the speech highlighted good traits? If people were honoring his speech would there be a question whether or not Brooks broke a law? This is where I believe there is a gray area.

I think as a student, Brooks should be able to record his class; he is paying for it after all.

The full video, captured by Kyle Brooks, can be found here