Said and Done

January/February 2012 Edition
Published by the Office of the Dean
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences




"Collectively, this was the group that built the field."

—David Pesetsky, Ferrari Ward Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics reflecting on the scientific reunion, 50 Years of Linguistics at MIT



The Snowfield | GAMBIT-produced game wins in Independent Games Festival
In "The Snowfield," you are a lone soldier wandering the aftermath of a great battle. It is winter and you won't last long in the cold. But you are not alone. Developed at the SHASS-based GAMBIT Game Lab, "The Snowfield" explores how to make rich narrative games without complex AI. The game has been named one of eight student showcase winners at the Independent Games Festival; the MIT team is also a finalist for the Best Student Game Prize, to be announced in March.
Visit + Play Snowfield


Stills from "The Snowfield"



Research Portfolio 
Research is the engine for the School's capacity to help meet the world's great challenges. To name just a few areas of impact, the School's research helps alleviate poverty, safeguard elections, steer economies, understand the past and present, improve health policy, articulate morality, assess the impact of new technologies, understand human language, and create new forms at the juncture of art and science.
Research Portfolio   

Esther Duflo | Demonstrating the influence of women leaders 
A study co-authored by MIT economist Esther Duflo, along with three colleagues, shows that the increased presence of local female political leaders in India has had a marked impact on adolescents and their families, raising the career aspirations and educational performance of young women. 
Story by Peter Dizikes, MIT News

Edward Baron Turk | Valedictory thoughts of an MIT humanist 
"I’ve chosen to ask myself a very simple question: What have I, Edward Turk, been doing at MIT all these years? I will begin with a reminiscence. The time is May 1967. I am seated in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan...."

Alan Lightman | Mr. g
In his new novel, Mr. g, and in two related essays, physicist/author Alan Lightman, Adjunct Professor in the MIT-SHASS Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, engages with questions of ultimate reality. Of his novel, a reviewer writes, "With echoes of Calvino and Saramago, Mr. g celebrates the tragic and joyous nature of existence on the grandest possible scale."  

Stephen Tapscott | New translations of Georg Trakl
"Tapscott’s translations and eloquent preface will bring a new generation of readers to the world of an essential poet. Trakl’s work bridges Romanticism and Expressionism and...stands in tandem at the gate of European modernism with Apollinaire. Tapscott’s translations are themselves haunting poems in English, recreating Trakl’s signature landscapes and landslides."  Stephen Tapscott is a poet, and a Professor of Literature.  
Field Poetry series


Center: Hubble telescope view of the early universe; R: economist Esther Duflo

Jonathan Gruber | illuminating U.S. health reform legislation
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber calls health care reform the “biggest social policy legislation since Medicare.” In his new book, Gruber, an advisor to President Obama and a key architect of Massachusetts health reform, uses a visual, comic book-style narrative to make the case for the national health law. Neera Tanden writes "Gruber has brought the epic struggle of health reform to life. By explaining the challenges in the U.S. health care system, as well as the benefits of reform with imagination and verve, he makes the case for health reform as an important achievement for the American people.”

The research of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences appears principally in the form of books and publications, as well as music and theater productions. These gems of the School provide new knowledge and analysis, innovation and insight, guidance for policy, and nourishment for lives.  
Take a look


Center: Detail, cover of Health Care Reform; R: Jonathan Gruber                            




Scientific reunion commemorates 50 years of Linguistics at MIT 

To celebrate the first 50 years of MIT’s graduate program in Linguistics, alumni, former faculty and postdoctoral scholars gathered at MIT in December 2011, to participate in a discussion of some of the foundational questions investigated by its past and present members. Professor David Pesetsky writes "Intellectually, it was first-rate and exciting; there were some fireworks (just as we'd hoped), and it was a very emotional weekend as well. Collectively, this was the group that built the field." 
More + Photographs and Videos

Jay Scheib | World of Wires premieres in New York City
"Six or seven years ago I asked a group of students what they expected to be doing in 10 years and one student said she’d probably be the first woman on Mars. Then a month later I had a conversation with Joe Gavin, the guy who directed the moon lander. He was the lunar lander brain. He said he wouldn’t go to Mars unless it’s a one-way trip... So that’s the seed that started the human simulation trilogy."
Photographs and Reviews

MIT's Communication Forum conducts a conversation for scholars—and citizens
How are new technologies transforming public discourse? Are traditional news outlets still influential in framing the news we get online? Founded in 1978 by pioneering media scholar Ithiel de Sola Pool of the SHASS-based Political Science Department, the Forum engages leading scholars, journalists, media producers, and citizens from around the globe in explorations of evolving communications media.


L to R: Jay Scheib; neuron rendition; Irene Heim at the Linguistics-50 Scientific Reunion 


Peter Diamond | Washington should fix jobs before deficit
Nobel laureate and Institute Professor emeritus, Peter Diamond said U.S. policy makers should focus on fighting long-term unemployment because workers who lose skills present a bigger challenge than the country’s budget deficit. This article originated with Bloomberg Businessweek.  

Jonathan Gruber | on the Supreme Court and health care as a right 
March 26-28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on four issues that focus on whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will remain the law of the land. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber participates in a discussion about the arguments the Supreme Court will hear.  
More at the Huffington Post

Richard Holton | What do our New Year's resolutions say about us?  
Holton, Professor of Philosophy, has spent more than a decade studying resolutions, choices, decisions, and the weaknesses and strengths of our willpower.  In his book Willing, Wanting, Waiting (2009) he argued that our ability to make resolutions is at the center of our sense of free will. 
Story in The Boston Globe Ideas Section


L to R: Peter Diamond; U.S. Supreme Court building; Richard Holton



David Thorburn | Professor of Literature and Director, MIT Communications Forum 
"You can't grasp what's going on with contemporary technology without historical reference points," says Thorburn. "The new grows out of the old, repeats the old, embraces, reimagines, and extends the old. To understand our emerging digital culture, we need a continuity, not discontinuity, principle."


L: David Thorburn; R: detail, book cover 



Through February 3 | The Pleasures of Poetry 
Pleasures of Poetry—the lively, seminar-style, daily IAP gathering to read and discuss memorable poems— continues through Friday, February 3. 
Calendar and Information

January 21 | Exiled to Hollywood
Boston Chamber Music Society Winter Festival Forum and Concert
Marcus Thompson, Artistic Director 
Works by composers who immigrated to Southern California before and during WWII. Forum at 1:30pm; Concert at 4pm. Kresge Auditorium. Admission free to MIT students.
Full Information

Winter Events | MIT Music and Theater Arts
The School's Music and Theater Arts program provides MIT students the opportunity to experience the language and process of the arts, to learn artistic rigor, risk-taking, and discipline, and to develop discernment about the standards of excellence in the arts. Each term, events organized by the Concert Office play a major role in the life of the campus, and in the creative development of MIT students.  
Calendar and information




Sasha Costanza-Chock | What's next for the Occupy Wall Street movement?
NPR Interview 
Can the OWS movement survive without a physical location? Sasha Costanza-Chock, Assistant Professor of Civic Media in the SHASS Comparative Media Studies program, talks to NPR's Brooke Gladstone about what the future holds, and how the protestors are organizing digitally in new ways.
NPR Audio Interview

Peter Diamond | Taxes—How High is Too High? 
Commentary on NPR Newshour 
"If you want to shoot tax dollars in the direction of business creation, you have got to ask, who is it that's having trouble getting financing? It's not the high-earners. It's further down the income distribution." (Diamond appears at 5:47 in the included video.) 
Transcript + Video





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world of wires

scene from "World of Wires"