Obermann Center logo and tagline
Late October 2020 

Events hosted by our friends at the Center for Teaching (register at https://teach.its.uiowa.edu/events/upcoming):
  • Oct. 30, Nov. 3, or Nov. 6 - Top Hat Training 

  • Nov. 10 - Executing Effective Group Work Face-to-Face and Virtually
News & Achievements 
Celebrating the work of current & past Obermann scholars and friends 
  • Corinne Peek-Asa (Advisory Board, 2013-14) has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine.
  • John McKerley (HPG Intern Site Host, 2020) has launched a new podcast, Speaking of Work, which explores the everyday and extraordinary stories of Midwestern workers, past and present.
  • Leslie Schwalm and Mary Bennett were featured on IPR's Talk of Iowa, discussing efforts to rename parks and counties with problematic namesakes. Listen to the segment.
colorful computer code
Exploring the Echo Chamber
Brian Ekdale PI on $1M Grant to Study Social Media Algorithms and Extremism

Say you want to watch a news clip about Confederate monuments. You search YouTube and choose a video from what appears to be a randomly generated list of results. When the video ends, YouTube autoplays another video and recommends dozens more-and likely they're the sort of thing you actually might watch, because that list is generated by algorithms that process your YouTube viewing history; the videos, tweets, and posts you've liked on social media; and your behavior elsewhere on the web. Seems helpful, right? What's the problem?

The problem, explains Brian Ekdaleassociate professor in the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication and PI on a new $1 million grant from the Minerva Research Initiative, is that "social media algorithms tend to reinforce our personal biases. There's a big difference between scrolling through a news feed online-which is targeted at you, specifically-and picking up a copy of the Des Moines Register, where there's a mix of content that both reinforces your preexisting beliefs and challenges them." If we don't encounter content that challenges our biases, our beliefs are likely to become entrenched and, depending on our own unique psychological and cultural makeup, may become extremist. We might perform symbolic violence against those who hold different opinions, like squabbling online and using discriminatory language to disparage other groups-or we might even end up supporting or performing physically violent acts, from destroying property and stealing political yard signs to kidnapping elected officials.  
An Indonesian communal meal with Cynthia Chou
Obermann Conversations Focus on Wonder and Awe 
ICPL hosts three upcoming conversations with faculty, students, and community 

How can we use awe and wonder to guide us through difficult times? In a series of conversations, we'll look at the topics of labor, field work research, and death and dying through the lenses of awe and wonder. The Iowa City Public Library is hosting this series on its webinar platform. We welcome all to participate in these free events that will contain time for Q&A.  

The series begins THIS WEDNESDAY, Oct. 28, at 7:00 p.m. with "Little Resurrections: Laboring to Find Wonder in Our Work," featuring Christopher-Rasheem McMillan (Dance and GWSS), Kristy Nabhan-Warren (Religious Studies and GWSS) and local pastor David Borger-Germann in conversation about social justice, the body's awe-inspiring movement, and the tension between the mundane and profound qualities of 21st-century labor. The past few months have shone an intense light on the demands of different forms of work. Workers deemed "essential" are treated as though they are "dispensable" as the pandemic intensifies long-simmering tensions. What kinds of labor do we value? Who gets to stay at home and who must go to work? What are the costs of imagining labor as primarily mental or physical rather than embodied? And can we ever find wonder in our work? Register for a Zoom webinar link. 

"Out in the Field: Finding Wonder under the Water, in the Ground, and on the Waves" occurs on Nov. 16 at 7:00 pm. Cynthia Chou (Asian Studies and Anthropology), Katina Lillios (Anthropology), and George Peterson (Director of Dive Programs at the Monterey Bay Sea Aquarium), share their experiences as researchers who spend long stretches of time performing research in the field. Together, they will talk about the wonder and joy of being physically connected to these places and how they balance that awe with the need to be in researcher mode--taking in information and safely doing their jobs. They'll consider how being in the field allows for unexpected discoveries that aren't as possible from the safety of an office and what field-based research suggests for learning practices at this time, when students of all ages are increasingly screen-bound.
Register for a Zoom webinar link.

Early next semester, a third segment of the series will feature a palliative care doctor, a recent English PhD, and a hospice nurse in conversation about death and dying. 

Step Afrika_ dance rehearsal
Get It Done! Working with Hancher in Spring 2021
Join our brainstorming session on November 9, 12:30 p.m.

If you've ever passed by Hancher and felt a pang of desire to be part of a performance, you are not alone! We have asked our friends at this premier performing arts center to share their spring 2021 programming and to explain how you can continue to connect with arts programming at Hancher virtually--especially for teaching purposes. 

On Monday, November 9, from 12:30-1:30 p.m., Hancher's programming and education staff--Paul Brohan, Micah Ariel James, and Chuy Renteria--will give a snapshot of events currently in the making, including a series with Step Afrika!, and brainstorm with participants ways to use these events in the classroom. This virtual event is open to all.