Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category


What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: A History of the World in Six Glasses

December 2, 2009

By Kristen Fuhs Wells, communications director at the Indiana Humanities Council.

In A History Of The World In Six Glasses, Tom Standage boldly states that the history of the world can be told using six signature beverages (beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola). These drinks are intricately linked to six major periods in world history–from our nomadic brethren deciding to stay in one place to the current fascination with Coca-Cola.

He goes on to divide history much like archaeologists divide it based on different materials (stone, bronze, iron) only in the form of beverages. But not in a world history textbook kind of way (although I did find myself re-learning bits of world history that I had forgotten over the years). Instead, Standage summarizes great periods of history and concepts into just a few sentences, sprinkles in a few interesting factoids and connects both big picture thoughts and minute details to the development of these beverages, as well as their widespread adoption. Standage explains how these beverages extended life expectancies, fueled the enlightenment, contributed to wars, and divided cultures. For example:

Beer contributed to an increase in farming and decrease in hunting.
Wine divided classes and cultures, particularly in Greece and Rome. 
Spirits influenced slavery, the American Revolution, and contributed to the British Navy’s strength.
Tea improved and sustained life, and it was the “lubricant” for the industrial revolution.
Coffee (and coffeehouses) served as fuel for the enlightenment.
Coca-Cola, love it or hate it, is symbolic of America’s rise in dominance.

Some of those interesting tidbits include that the oldest known recipe is for beer; that Coca-Cola created a clear, un-branded bottle for a leader in the Soviet Union so that he wouldn’t be seen drinking Coke during the Cold War; and that rum significantly contributed to the dominance of the British navy because it kept scurvy at bay.

It’s a brisk read, and offers fascinating insights into our history, and into human nature.


Indiana Recycling 19th Anniversary Celebration this Friday

December 2, 2008

This Friday is the first Friday of the month and that means that the Indiana Humanities Council is opening its doors to the public (truth be told, since we work here, we’re kind of open all the time during business hours–but these Open Houses are much more official and traditionally come with cheese and wine…and cookies.)

This Friday we have an extra treat. Not only can you come in and check out our outrageous Georgian Revival digs–a neat treat if you’re into that sort of thing, but this Friday we are celebrating the 19th anniversary of the Indiana Recycling Coalition.

They started their quest for a cleaner, more efficient Indiana way back in 1989 which, if I recollect properly was a the second big wave of environmentalism in this country and about time time politicians first started to really wake up to some real problems. Back then we were mostly concerned with acid rain which was literally washing away national monuments and eating through people’s roofs, holes in the ozone layer, and CFCs in hairspray and nearly everything in the household cleaner aisles.

In the 19 years since, we’ve seen the creation of the multibillion dollar bottled water industry and the mountains of plastic it brings with it, the rise of plastic bags, and perhaps most startling a huge increase personal electronics.

Now 1989 was no slo when it came to boomboxes, walkmans (walkmen?), cooler-sized “portable” TVs, VCRs, and even PCs. But 2008 has so much more and more of it. It’s not just that cellphones exist, but nearly everyone has one. And an iPod…and a digital camera…and a DVD player…and a DVD player in their car…and multiple computers…and an XBox, Playstation and a Wii.

And a home theater system.

And a wifi thermostat. Et. cetera.

Many of these electronics have high metal content that is incredibly destructive to the environment; and, by “environment” I mean “that place where humans live, work, and play.” There is no “environmental” concern that is not also (and perhaps most importantly) a human concern.

So come on out and congratulate the IRC for 19 years of fighting the good fight for you, (probably your parents,) and your kids. And in the meantime head out over to their website to learn more about who they are, what they do, and where they do it. [Celebration details after the fold.]

Hope to see you on Friday.

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Master the Technology and Share the Cookies

November 12, 2008

Our resource partners at Buddy2 have helpfully passed along the Indiana Department of Education’s K-8 Technology Skill Benchmarks. If you have a kindergartner at home, it’s time to make sure your young person can “identify digital tools by name” – scanner, cell phone, MP3 player, etc. Your 2nd grader should be able to “cite sources of information, print and non-print, for class projects.” Good, because then they’ll be ready for grad school.

Of course, many parents are way behind their kids technologically and need their offspring’s help to log onto secure networks and so on.

What, then, is the pinnacle of this K-8 pyramid of tech skills? The effective 8th grader should be able to:

  • Plan, design, and develop a digital product.
  • Explore technology use in real world applications in a global society.
  • Demonstrate effective use of the Internet and exhibit digital citizenship.

The global society is no problem — one can hardly get involved in any online discussion without Finns, Italians, Australians, Taiwanese, and others putting their 2 euro-cents in. Digital citizenship, though, would definitely take a few weeks to learn, for it is “a complex set of behaviors that define the appropriate use of technology, including the areas of safety, rights, communications, etiquette, education, access, commerce, responsibility, and security.”

In fact, the threads woven through the K-8 benchmarks are these three — productivity, communication, and digital citizenship. Only one of them is concerned solely with the child/machine relationship. The other two have to do with the child/world and child/society interface, still the crucial application where education needs to ensure a higher level of functionality.

This entry was posted by: Nancy

Meandering Indiana – 7

August 28, 2008

We need to thank our alert friends at Inside INdiana Business for pointing out this piece from WISH-TV8: Shoe Thefts Puzzle Small Town. The story of a beagle, a firehouse, and a crime spree in Waveland, Indiana, needs to be read in its entirety, yet we are thereby reminded that in Waveland people still have porches and they still leave shoes on them. Foolishly.

However, this tale jogged my memory about the next county I’d like to revisit virtually – Montgomery County. The county seat, Crawfordsville, is probably best known as the setting for Wabash College, “A Liberal Arts College for Men,” as its home page declares. Passing over the reasons why this institution still refuses to admit women (about which I have no clue), I will pause instead to recognize a past Indiana Humanities Council chair, Don Herring, who taught at Wabash and brought his love of literature to his work with us. Let me also give a nod to our friends at the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum who do wonderful work there.

Yes, Montgomery County is an amazingly rich spot for the humanities, but I have to admit that for sheer remarkableness, it’s hard to beat the Old Jail Museum. This structure is a two-tier cylindrical block of wedge-shaped cells that rotates to allow prisoners in and out of the only opening. I actually saw its mechanism demonstrated once, and it is beyond bizarre. It was only later that I learned about the Panopticon, a prison structure built for covert surveillance and popularized by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish. The Old Jail is different from a panopticon, but it too is chilling in an Orwellian way.

Whew, I feel like I just did six degrees of Hoosier associations to get from beagles and front porches to paranoid French intellectuals. Small town Indiana — it’s quite surprising once you get to know it.

This entry was posted by: Nancy

Posted Aug. 28, 2008


Do Museums House the Simulacrum Threat?

August 15, 2008

I know in advance I’m probably way off base here, but this very brief interview with Alison Griffiths at the Columbia University Press blog about her new book Shivers Down Your Spine and the Immersive View kept making me think of “the uncanny valley.”

If you have spent any time on the internet (and given where you’re reading this, I’m certain you have) you have probably heard of the “the uncanny valley,” which is a measure of likeablity for various kinds of “human facsimiles” (robots, muppets, cartoons, etc) that runs from “Super Creepy” to “Totally Great.” I’m going to be pretty general here, if you want something less so, then click the previous link. Basically our willingness to accept certain human forms rises very slowly as facsimiles move from not-human (one of those robot arms that puts bolts in car doors) to an attractive healthy human. But somewhere around Tom Hanks’ character in The Polar Express the general level of acceptability plummets before it rises again with actual humans on the other side of this “uncanny valley,” the unhappy denizens of which are often described as “corpselike.”

At any rate, there’s something here, I think for philosophers in the Baudrillardian tradition. Is Griffiths correct in assuming that the shiver we feel upon entering “the rainforest in the Hall of Biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History” is rooted in ” a sense of the infinite and divine” as when we enter a Gothic cathedral; are the “shivers down our spine” really inspired by “a disjunct between what we see and feel and what we know is happening to us” similar to the ticklebelly feeling of watching Batman leap from a Hong Kong skyscraper in The Dark Knight in IMAX? Or, as the interviewer asks, is it more akin to the “shivers down our spine” we get from horror movies, something rooted in the reptilian part of our brain that seeks survival when confronted with the existential threat of the Artificial pursuing dominance over the Organic? Are we staring into the abyss and recognizing that the face of the beast that looks back is this one?


The New Hoosierati Feed

June 18, 2008

I have added a widget to the top of the right-hand sidebar (the one under the header RSS with a link that says “Subscribe to Hoosierati.”)  If you use a news aggregator or RSS feeder, you should use that link to subscribe to this site. If you have already subscribed to Hoosierati with our old feed ( it would be totally awesome if you would change that subscription to the new feed ( I don’t know if it would be any awesomer for you or not, I doubt it will change anything. But it would be way awesomer for me, since I’m trying to get a clearer picture of how many readers we have and how often they show up and what not.

(PS: Did you like the use of the various versions of “awesome?” I was getting a little self-conscious near the end there and I fear I may have crossed the line. I was just trying very hard to convince you how great this feedburner subscription would be because I know it’s an inconvenience to ask you to change.)

No hard feelings if you elect not to change feeds, I understand.