Week Ending April 28, 2017

‘Hidden Figures’ Curriculum Brings Film’s Lessons To The Classroom
Huffington Post – April 19, 2017
Lessons from the hit film “Hidden Figures” are coming to the classroom. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment announced Monday that it’s partnering with nonprofit Journeys in Film and the USC Rossier School of Education to offer a curriculum guide with lesson plans based on the film. “Hidden Figures” is based on the true ― yet previously little-known ― story of three of the first black “human computers” (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson) at NASA, who helped send the first American into orbit. The film, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, earned more money in the country than any other movie nominated for Best Picture at the time of the 2017 Academy Awards.“’Hidden Figures’ is ideally suited for use in the classroom, but teachers want students to do more with a film than passively view it,” the press release reads. “Journeys in Film has prepared eight comprehensive, standards-aligned lesson plans for secondary students. These interdisciplinary lessons can be used independently or through a team approach that gives students multiple lenses through which to consider the relevant historical and contemporary issues raised by the film.”

Introducing the Geopolitics of Sports
Stratfor – March 27, 2017
Call it “Long March” Madness. It sounds like the setup to a bad joke: What was born in the United States to a Canadian father, crossed the globe with YMCA missionaries, and was endorsed by Chairman Mao Zedong for its emphasis on communal hard work? But it’s not a joke. It’s essentially the history of basketball, which by many estimates is the most popular sport in … China. In the conclusion of the NCAA basketball championship tournament, or March Madness as it’s more popularly known, an upwards of 25 million Americans tuned in. But this number pales in comparison to the 300 million Chinese — that’s nearly the population of the entire United States — who regularly play basketball. Invented at the Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA by Dr. James Naismith (the aforementioned Canadian), the sport arrived in China by the turn of the 20th century, transported by missionaries who understood the ritual power and pleasure of sports in bridging cultural distance. By 1949, when Mao had scrubbed the trappings of Western influence in the name of nationalist-communist rule, basketball was so entrenched in Chinese culture that it could be unironically embraced as an idealized communist sport. This truncated history lesson is a novel bit of trivia, but it also underscores something about the nature of sports as a fundamentally human undertaking — one that can be interpreted to support any number of ideologies, used to foster peace and understanding, or wielded to foment difference and conflict. Thus, the way we see it, sports are fundamentally geopolitical.

Revolutionizing Global Health
MIT News – April 26, 2017
MIT research scientist Richard Fletcher directs the Mobile Technology Group at MIT D-Lab, which develops a variety of mobile sensors, analytic tools, and diagnostic algorithms to study problems in global health and behavior medicine. Utilizing mobile technologies — which include smartphones, wearable sensors, and the so-called internet of things — his group applies these technologies to real-world social problems with global implications. These issues involve a variety of areas, such as environmental monitoring and air pollution, agriculture, farming, and global health. While some might question whether this type of public health work has a place at an engineering school, Fletcher insists that the combination of technical knowledge coupled with the freedom to seek out novel approaches to design flaws are part of what makes MIT D-Lab the ideal setting for the work. Fletcher’s philosophy with regard to the intersection of technology and health is global. While health researchers and doctors don’t generally have the luxury of designing their technology, and instead usually customize what is available, Fletcher’s group is uniquely interdisciplinary and designs everything from the ground up: from the electronic circuit boards and firmware to the software and the algorithms to the network communications and server-side software.

Building a Hub for Refugees to Exchange Skills and Labor
News Deeply – April 24, 2017
Berlin is both Europe’s startup capital and home to Germany’s largest refugee camp, in the former Tempelhof airport. An interdisciplinary team of experts has come up with a proposal to bring these two aspects of the German capital together. They have designed a marketplace consisting of a digital platform and a physical hub to be located close to the Tempelhof camp for refugees, local volunteers and entrepreneurs to exchange skills, services and recycled products. “Re:Berlin, a Platform for integration” is one of three finalists of the Place and Displacement competition hosted by social innovation lab Ideation Worldwide. The San Francisco-based organization asked students and young professionals in the fields of architecture and public administration to design a marketplace for refugees living in Jordan’s Zaatari camp, Kenya’s Kakuma camp and Berlin. The interdisciplinary teams were challenged to come up with a three- to five-year plan for a project that wouldn’t cost more than $100,000 to build and operate. The five-person team behind “Re:Berlin” consists of architect and urban designer Luis Torres, architect Hyder Mohsin, architectural designer Joshua Broomer, political economist Sahar Rad and historian Kostas Korres. Torres told Refugees Deeply what they’ve learned throughout the design process, and what it will take to make the idea work.

How Merce Cunningham Danced Art History in a New Direction
Art Net News – April 17, 2017
The influence of the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919–2009) looms so large that the current tribute to him spans not just multiple departments of one museum, but two entire museums in two different cities: the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. In February, these two institutions simultaneously opened retrospectives honoring Cunningham, both entitled “Common Time.” In general, contemporary art tends to be “post-disciplinary”—think the whole Performa-style, ‘let’s-get-a-painter-to-do-a-performance-and-see-what-happens’ kind of thing. “Interdisciplinary art,” on the other hand, is something else. The concept of “interdisciplinarity” technically involves not one artist dabbling in another field, but the collaboration between two or more experts from different fields. It depends on the synergies of prior expertise, not the collapse of expertise. And Cunningham’s “common time” model of non-collaborative collaboration is an almost willfully obtuse way of reasserting a kind of medium-specificity at the very moment that the various arts were fusing together in the expanded world of post-war, multimedia experimentation around him.