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2018 Summer Online – Politics 212: International Relations

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Welcome to 212: International Relations: Week 1.  During this short week, we’ll introduce online learning, we’ll introduce ourselves to each other, and we’ll take a first look at some international relations.

You saw the course’s main page (if you haven’t, please go back and start there).  We’ll look at international relations from a range of perspectives.  And you’ll have a chance to do you own inquiry into the topic of your choice. You’ll have multiple short assignments each week, and toward the end of the course you’ll write a longer paper you’ve been working on throughout the semester.  We’ll discuss this.

It looks like we have a good class size – our 8 or 10 students is effective in a lot of ways.  You should expect that we will have a lot of “discussion” – this means real engagement on everyone’s part, not just regurgitation.  You know that we are  “asynchronous” – that means we will never all be online (or at least, never have to be online) at the same time – you can be anywhere in the world and do your work at any time – so long as it is submitted by the deadlines.

If you haven’t already, please join our facebook group – I posted the link on our Blackboard > Announcements.  If by law or for some other reason you are unable to have a facebook account, let’s discuss – email me using the email address I posted on our Blackboard > Announcements.

Each week we will have reading, writing, research, watching videos, and just thinking.  The assignments might sometimes seem like a lot, but remember we only have a few weeks for the same three-credit course of a fall or spring semester.

Let’s begin by looking at what is online education.  It continues to evolve, just as classroom teaching strategies do.  I’ve been doing this a long time, I’ve taken and led training courses in online education, presented at academic conferences, etc.  But no one knows everything.  Your ideas on improving the course are always welcome.  If you have any specific problems, please contact me immediately.   Use the subject line “Politics 212” in every email you send me, please.

We start with a couple of videos.  Watch all of Charli Carpenter and Pia Mancini.  Watch at least the first seven minutes of the Clay Shirky videos – feel free to watch more, of course.

Charli Carpenter, Transnational Politics, i(I)nternational r(R)elations, and the Information Age – on teaching, scholarship, and Web 2.0 and 3.0 (2012) – (watch all eight minutes) – she focuses on the IR field, but it’s applicable to all social sciences – notice that this is from 2012 – what has changed / what has stayed the same since then?

Clay Shirky,  “How Social Media Can Make History” (2009) – (watch at least first seven minutes) – this is now ten years old – again, what’s still new / what’s not

Clay Shirky,  “How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World” (2010) – (watch at least first seven minutes)

Pia Mancini, How to Upgrade Democracy for the Internet Era (2014) – (watch all 13 min – opens in new window)

Note:  The idea that the Carpenter and Shirky videos are outdated is part of the point – the pace of technological change is related to the our study of political/economic change.

More on online learning itself:

APSA Teaching and Learning Conference 2014, “Short Course on MOOCs“, (J.Quirk, 20:20-24:46) – just this four and a half minutes, on massive open online courses (30,000 students, not eight students) – of course, you can watch more if you like – if you watch here, skip to 20:20

Ann Ferren Conference 2016, “Online Learning: What Students Want” panel –  (1) read the Educause article, (2) see the powerpoint, (3) optional – but if you watch the first 5 minutes or so, you’ll get a  decent sense of who I am and how I approach things – of course, you can watch more if you like. You probably need to turn your volume up louder for this video.

Finally, a short article from Marc Scott, “Kids Can’t Use Computers…and this is why it should worry you” (2013)

Intro to International Relations

Let’s start with a couple of easy articles that really give a sense of some of the basics of IR.  Is the world a world of realism – states in anarchy, each seeking merely its own survival and security?  Or is it something more like globalism (or liberalism, if we use that word carefully), where sometimes states compete for power but other times they decide that cooperation for things other than power is in their interest? Or is the world best characterized as some flavor of Marxist, with oppressors and oppressed – capital states and labor states (North and South? White and not?)?  Finally, in a more recent approach to IR, is the world constructivist, made up of identities and ideas and interests other than simple power?

Let’s begin with these short articles, in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.  You can access these articles when you subscribe – choose the student rate, and splurge for the print edition as well as online access.

These articles are all available here. We’ll get into each of these – and some other approaches – more deeply, but these will serve as good introductions.

Workers set up a bronze sculpture of Karl Marx in his hometown Trier, Germany, April 13, 2018.

Marxist World

Robin Varghese

Ok, your turn.

(1) By Wednesday night – Go to our facebook group, and introduce yourself (link is on Bb).  A 30- to 60-second video is great, or just text if you prefer.  Say your name and anything else you like – where you grew up, what you’ll be doing this summer, your favorite bike path, the novel you’re writing, what you’re great at growing or cooking, anything that says, “this is me.”

(2) By Friday night – you post below – yes, right here at the bottom of this page – two things that you heard or read in the materials above that you didn’t already know – something you learned that you think will make your online learning experience more effective, or about the IR articles.   300 or so words (combined / total) is fine.  Most weeks we’ll be back-and-forth with each other, but this week just read each others replies, no need to respond. You should do this by this Friday night

(3) This week or next week you and I should have a short skype – maybe even just 5 or 10 minutes – I’ll post my link on Bb / fb so we can set that up

Thanks and I’ll be in touch this weekend.  The work load really ramps up in the next few weeks – be ready and keep up – ok, let’s go ! 

17 Replies to “CUA-212-IR-2018-june25”

  1. Yes, this is where you put your 300 word reflection. You can use your real name or a pseudonym (yes, I am ests13, long story), but 1 – tell me who you are, and 2 – use your CUA email address when you post – no one can see it except me. Your first post will be delayed until after I approve it; subsequent posts of yours should appear right away. Great, let’s have fun!

  2. Mancini’s presentation brings to light the impact that the internet has upon updating democracy. Her explanation of the manipulation and hacking the democratic system in Argentina through the creation of Democracy OS is something that most (including myself) do not contemplate as a means of reaching the public. The idea that she created a new political party and garnered support for it through having created Democracy OS (originally as a means of communicating government happenings to the public) is a true testament to the impact that technology has and will continue to have upon any government. This is something so far-reaching and almost unimaginable to me, yet she clearly revealed how it was accomplished in Argentina. Mancini also effectively notes a potentially negative effect that the internet poses on influencing democracy and IR. She uses the example of the potential growth of extremist groups because of the limitlessness of the internet. Along those lines, when people have more information, via the internet, their ability to connect both one on one and one to many (as pointed out by Shirkey), is facilitated and as Mancini notes, allows the growth of protest. As Shirkey points out, the internet has the capacity to carry all prior forms of media and current perspectives, while fostering thoughtful (and sometimes combative) debate locally and globally. Presumably, as the masses grow their voices become louder and more impactful, hopefully leading to positive change that reflects today’s world and not the world of 200 years ago.
    From the survey information I think the ability to read other’s perspectives and the general discussion format will make my online learning experience more effective. Simply reading articles, books and listening to lectures is enhanced by the online class format of reading the perspectives of classmates.

    1. Lots good in here, Sofia, thanks — you might know that ISIS in its early days used youtube and other social media very effectively – as a recruiting tool, and as “marketing” to show the horrors of what they were doing. ISIS or hate groups or new companies or non-profits or political candidates….all have the same tools.

  3. Two things that I found interesting in Amy Chua’s article Tribal World on Foreign Affairs dot com, were how in depth the study of human beings has become and how those studies are used to evaluate international affairs. Humans live in tribes, or a group of people where they share more than one communal interest. She argues that tribalism explains the entire makeup of the world. I did not really comprehend the thought that tribes are the way humans have been operating for thousands of years. Ms. Chua makes the case that human beings are wired a certain way, based on instinct and contemplation. Although each human is different, they all have similar operations when it comes their to neurological systems. Separation is also another element of Chua’s article that reinforces a belief that all young people have. She discusses the fact that humans flock to where they will be the most accepted and respected. Normally, young, energetic, liberal women in Manhattan do not move toward very old, poor, white anarchists in Pennsylvania. And with logics like that, Chua believes that the world is separated because of tribes. Governments ignore what actually happens around the world as well, which she actually makes a great point about the Vietnam war. She believes that due to the selfishness and egotism of President Lyndon Johnson, more American forces were killed than should have been. Johnson, she argues, lacked the basic understanding of the region to truly contain the aggressors; the communists.
    In short, Chua makes a tremendous argument; if we as human beings understand ourselves and our habits better, than we will understand foreign policy and international affairs better as well. By knowing how one nation or group of radical terrorists or one small tribe in Africa, even, is going to act or behave, then we will have a better world for all of us. It is a simple argument, yet powerful.

    1. Nice. And the idea of tribes is not entirely new – Samuel Huntington wrote about a “clash of civilizations” – that there are only about eight mega-cultures (Slavic, Western, Sinic, Muslim, etc.) Charlie from The West Wing [you’ll find I default quite often to The West Wing] says, “You think bangers are walking around with their heads down, saying, ‘Oh man, I didn’t make anything out of my life. I’m in a gang.’ No, man! They’re walking around saying, ‘Man, I’m in a gang. I’m with them.'” People want to be part of something. Tribes are who you are, who you know. Maybe it’s the country club you belong to, or the school you went to, or your favorite baseball team. Chua actually got famous initially for writing a book about her being an Asian-American “tiger mom.” She wanted to explore her own group – ‘I’m with them.’

  4. A couple things I learned from the Marc Scott article “Kids can’t use computers… and this is why it should worry you” is that computer literacy will have huge effects not only in everyday life, but also in politics/IR, and that I myself need to learn more about technology to prepare for the future. I think Scott makes a good point in talking about future lawmaking about computers, saying that “these people don’t know how to use computers, yet they are going to be creating laws regarding computers”. In an increasingly connected world, having clueless legislators determine the course of our society is problematic. How will the government handle driverless cars if none of our politicians are educated about how they work? That, to me, is like Bank of America or Citigroup hiring an executive right out of high school; how can someone be expected to correctly and efficiently determine the direction of an organization if they have no in-depth education about how to do it? Of course, this isn’t exactly a revelation about government, as it’s incompetence has been documented thoroughly over human history. Still, it is disturbing to think how new technologies will be handled by the governments of tomorrow, headed by millennials/gen-xers/etc who only have a surface level understanding of tech. I consider myself to be relatively technologically literate (I was able to answer Scott’s question), but I still have no coding/networking experience, which will be key for those who want to get ahead of their peers and be prepared for the future. I have never built a computer either, to use one of Scott’s examples, and I still, in the end, would be “dependent” on other more knowledgeable people for technological help. I like to think of myself as technologically literate, as I would imagine a lot of other people my age would. However, as Scott said, it’s hard not to think of yourself as that when older relatives keep crowning you as a computer genius of some sort, when all you did was turn on the Wi-Fi or some other simple fix. Computer illiteracy is a worrying problem for the future of not only myself, but of humanity as a whole; most of us need to become more educated so as to prevent disaster.

    1. I love the Scott article, Brendan. How can the Supreme Court decide, or a Senate committee legislate, (or companies defend against malware) if they (and their staffs) don’t have even a basic understanding of VPN or IMSI catchers or what it said in plain language on Facebook’s 2012 IPO – “Advertisers can engage with more than 800 million monthly active users on Facebook…based on information they have chosen to share with us such as their age, location, gender, or interests,” fb stated plainly in 2012, and then in 2018 we have Congressional (and EU) hearings that we’re shocked – shocked! – to learn how fb makes money.

      I suppose most members of Congress didn’t know how carburetors or nuclear power plants worked in the 20th century. Is that the same thing?

  5. A couple of things I learned from watching Clay Shirky’s TedTalks about cognitive surplus and how social media can make history is that cognitive surplus is the ability of the world’s population to collaborate and aid one another on local or global projects. Clay also states that digital technology is what makes this possible. Our ability to talk and connect with people worldwide allows us to aid one another. In the 20th century, we had extensively limited tools in media, which led to a society of media consumers. We weren’t able to do anything with the information we had just received, compared to today’s media tools which lets us create and share with the global population in a matter of seconds. I also learned that the design for generosity is another tool in making cognitive surplus possible. People’s willingness to make and share content with one another without being told to or given an incentive is what makes the large scale global media possible. Global tech transfer is the sharing of technology from a group that then distributes that tech or idea to more places and more people. Clay talks about how the internet gives us a many to many pattern. The media is now able to share messages to as many people as intended. Also media mediums are now next to one another, and that all users on these mediums are also producers. We as a society are now able to become producers on these media mediums compared to the 20th century. Because of social connections, people all over the world are able to share news worldwide within seconds. This allows for widespread aid to be able to be composed quickly.

    1. Nice, Harry – I like the Shirky cognitive surplus talk with respect to Tocqueville – people voluntarily cooperate to help each other, without government telling them to and without govt telling them how. GoFundMe was started the same time as this TedTalk – people will share their money with strangers whose story is compelling. eBay, craigslist, and tinder (yes) are all kind of the same – we have something to share or sell. Twitter (sometimes) has decent, voluntary amateur news reporting. Someone voluntarily, publicly, freely, hacked the College Board so you can get your AP scores early.

      What examples do any of you have that are like Shirky’s cognitive surplus?

  6. I thought that Clay Shirky’s TED Talk about Cognitive Surplus — beginning with crisis mapping in Kenya using Ushahidi — was particularly interesting, particularly considering the versatility and simplicity of a program with so many drastically different applications. I think that the speaker provided a bridge between the insignificant “LoLCats” and the meaningful that I had not previously considered; I never considered his most powerful point (in my opinion) that “the stupidest possible creative act is still a creative act.” The idea that “design for generosity” would be a powerful and motivating force on its own right, in so far as it fulfills a human desire to share and create (beyond consuming)

    Clay Shirky’s second TED Talk, “How Social Media Can Make History,” made me consider for the first time the implications of having “every medium right next door to every medium.” This makes his following point, that this most recent technological innovation allows for not only the announcing of information to a large group but also facilitated conversations amongst that large group, seem to follow organically. I’ve never actually considered that the proximity of all of these different communication platforms — today all available on the internet — would be the reason for their comprehensive integration. Considering technological progress through this perspective makes me consider that further integration isn’t so much a matter of additional innovation as it is a more inevitable coming together of all of these innovations — the printing press, radio, television, internet — living and working in proximity together on a single, connected, platform.

    The “third big change” that Shirky discusses — that the audience of information can now become producers themselves — is similar to the concept offered he offered previously in his Ted talk when he discusses cognitive surplus. What I find most interesting about this is not so much that they both identify how technological innovations are allowing for greater “audience participation,” but how this participation — while often manifesting itself as the very trivial (“LOLCats”) just as likely allows for greater substantive and meaningful collaboration (“Ushahidi”).

    1. Nice, Matt. I commented to someone else about cognitive surplus, but I like your questions about We’re all Creators Now. Sure, there have been blogs for a long time and before there was www (1993) there were online newsgroups and bulletin boards, etc. (if you were tech savvy enough). Makes me think of political cartoons – for a couple of centuries, there were how many – dozens? – of political cartoonists who dominated the few big newspapers. But now, any middle-schooler can make a meme seen by millions.

      Have a favorite example of “we’re all creators now” ?

  7. After watching Charli Carpenter’s video titled, “Transnational Politics”, I realized in this day and age anyone can be a journalist. We have been given an outlet through Facebook, Twitter, and other sites that give us all a platform, to express our ideas and thoughts. Although, it seems that platform is not equal. In 2012 when the video came out, Twitter seemed like a website for quick thoughts on the move. Now in 2018, we see Twitter being used as reputable website for getting news while it’s happening. Anyone, no matter credentials, can post anything. A vast difference we see is based off how we determine if a source is reputable now. The person with more followers, has a louder voice among the public. This is possibly why we see celebrities being more outspoken about their politics on Twitter. Celebrities have more of an appeal on Twitter to the public, with the exception of President Trump. Using Twitter and other social media as tool, someone like a celebrity can push their agenda on the public. Social media is a great platform for people to get their opinion out in the public, and report information/news quickly. Social media has changed how we get our news. We see news networks on television quoting twitter as a reliable source now. The biggest reason for this I believe can be traced back to President Trump first tweeting. Before him, we had never seen a politician interact with the public in such a way, using social media. Agreeing with him or not, he made people question where they received their news from. This seem to only make twitter more appealing to aspiring journalist, who did not now need credentials to report the news. Ms. Carpenter’s video talked about how people are now able to express ideas and acquire a new perspective through social media. Since the video came out in 2012, she was not only right, but it seems to be taking over how we get our news.

    1. Lots interesting here, right? How did people learn about the plane that Tom Hanks landed in the (on the?) Hudson River, or the deaths of Iranian protesters in 2009, or the US raid that got bin Laden: Twitter. More than one unarmed African-American dying at the hands of police: facebook-live. Candidates putting ads on YouTube, from whence news orgs would replay them (for free). And of course Candidate Trump skipping over the media to talk to Americans directly: he tweeted, and all media reported the tweets.

      Where do you all get your news? My fb feed has lots of news orgs of different flavors, like an old-style ticker you’ve seen in movies… I am guessing you don’t go to various web sites ( and and and and and…). Do you? Do any of your use skimm? something else?

      Hey, everyone, how do you get your news?

      1. Wow, I really am behind in everything! Truthfully I have stopped watching the news because I can’t stomach much of the lies that are often being reported. I normally see the news ( when I am logging into my Gmail. I have Twitter but have never considered it as a news source but when I think about it, it’s a 2018 version of AP News with pictures, sounds and millions of ‘journalists’.

  8. In the Carpenter video from the first week’s materials, even though it was 2012, it made me quite aware how out of touch and technically inapt I am. I don’t know if that is good or bad. I have a niece and nephew that are in their mid-twenties but basically have full-fledged conversations thru shortened words, acronyms or emojis. I feel the need to still spell words out completely in each text and check the spelling. The way ‘New Media’ has transcended how information is created and shared is cutting edge. Could you image the impact the ‘Transnational Community’ could have on hunger in the world or how to find solutions to cure diseases that ravage some countries? As discussed in the video, scholars can communicate more directly outside the academic channels via blogs and have more exposure than ever through the mass audience. What an impactful way of getting other academic inputs from those whose community colleges or universities may not have had the funds to author journals or books but have specialized knowledge in a field. Sharing free knowledge for the good of people should be shared to the masses. With the internet having a following of 750 million people sharing thoughts and ideas, there is a larger pool of ‘experts’ who weigh in on academic thoughts as they are being formulated.
    The article ‘Lost (and Found) in Translation: What Online Students Want’ revealed some data I was not aware of and them some facts that I knew. The last online class I took at Catholic was seven years ago and things have changed drastically. Everything in the classes I took were Blackboard centered, had a huge textbook and we posted at the same time every week. The thought of posting on Facebook in a closed group and using an online portal for sharing the required material and posting assignments is great. To be able to transform the classroom learning experience that is ‘mobile’ could become a vehicle that could share life skills, social skills and possibly teach trades to the underdeveloped and perhaps to refugee children that have been displaced by poverty and war.

  9. One thing that I thought was very interesting from Charli Carpenter’s video was the emphasis she put on blogs. As a 22 year old, I am classified in pop-culture as a millennial. Some may view my generation as the pioneers of social media, but in my personal experience, I have never met many people who enjoy blogging as much as they do other social outlets, like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I was surprised to learn that so many IR scholars use blogs as a means of direct communication between the academic world and pop-culture. Everything is translated much more quickly with the popularity and development of the internet, but the even more striking thing to me is the way that opinions are shaped because of the influence of commenters on these blog posts. I have never been one to spend too much time reading the comments on articles I come across, but I recognize now that it actually may be very beneficial to get a different perspective from someone’s comment, that maybe includes a link to another article providing even more perspective. This transitioned nicely into Scott’s article about the truth that kids really can’t use computers. If someone had asked me before I read this article, if I felt comfortable with modern technology, I would have said yes immediately. However, I now realize that I am certainly not tech-savvy, nor do I really know anything about how modern technology works. The combination of these two perspectives has shown me that online learning can be such a beneficial thing to modern academics, but there is so much more that can add to the experience of digital learning if people learn to embrace it. Usually when I think of people commenting on blog posts, I think of internet “trolls,” people who comment on internet postings just to bring others down, without providing anything of substance. Now, I think that I will have a different perspective, and spend a little more time learning about what others have to say.

  10. Something I found very interesting about this topic was Charli Carpenter’s view on the use of blogs. A blog can be anything from a psudo-article to a stream of consciousness on a topic and can be very helpful when attempting to learn somebody’s point of view on a topic. The reason this is important is because many IR scholars are using blogs to directly contact the community of people they are looking to reach. This also helps them to bridge the gap between the professional community and the social media community, finding a common ground for both in blogging. Twitter has become my preferred method of finding out about current events, whether it be through a single tweet or through a thread that links to an article. Of course the best way to find proper sources would be from a well known source but with mediums like twitter you can find perspective from all walks of life that happen to be using the website. Through twitter you can find out everything from sports results, movie reviews, and seemingly never ending political takes. For a long time, Facebook was the main way for people to get in touch and spread information, but quickly turned to a political battleground overnight as “adults” joined Facebook and began to rant about their beliefs. Twitter takes that same political subsect of the site and couples it with the comedy found on Twitter with the up to the second politics of the world. Interestingly enough Twitters political turn seems to be traced back to the Twitter presence of our current President, Donald Trump, who has been very active on Twitter for years, but much more so during his presidential campaign and throughout his stay in the Oval Office. Twitter has become hands down the most versatile form of social media and should continue to be very relevant in the world of politics going forward.

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