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Hack Day

November 6, 2012

I snapped the poster pictured on the left this morning when I was in a stall in the ladies bathrooms at the Stanford gymnasium. It was hanging on the inside of the stall door and I suspect every cubicle had one of these posters in it.

As a cultural commentator, I felt compelled to take a picture and Tweet and write about it here because the project described on the poster pretty much epitomizes what Stanford culture is these days -- a mass of wolfish tech startups masquerading as sheepish humanities projects.

There couldn't any more Stanford-trendy buzz words and phrases in this advertisement, from"hack day," "coders," and "women developers," to "mobile, digital and social products," "prototypes" and "evangelists." The fact that the endeavor has a high-profile corporate sponsor -- ESPN -- and is taking place at the D-School (Stanford's uber-hip, corporate-fawning design institute) makes this the kind of project that many students, faculty and administrators will no doubt be drooling over.

But the sports journalism angle, and the Graduate School of Journalism affiliation with the project, seems a little by-the-by to me, as if someone wanted a way to validate an unfashionable and commercially-questionable humanistic / artistic pursuit through embedding it in code.

Not that I don't applaud attempts going on all around campus -- and beyond -- to find ways to turn journalistic ideas into viable business propositions. The media industry would certainly benefit from the development of sustainable commercial models. But the power of the coder over all other fields around here seems both awe-inspiring, intimidating and, frankly, just a bit boring and predictable at this point to me.

Its hard to walk around this campus without running into some new app that's being prototyped or venture capital-backed incubator for hungry, student-run startups. But where the humanities fit into all of this is currently a matter of puzzlement.


  • I was going to applaud you for actually thinking of REAL humanities and real human needs, but I didn't know exactly what to say. Fortunately, your Blogger Captcha prompt says it all: Please prove you're not a robot. You did.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 6, 2012 at 2:04 PM  

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