Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Professor Mellodge is one of five professors that have been named Faculty Fellows

Five University of Hartford professors have been named Faculty Fellows of The Humanities Center for 2014–15: Power Boothe, Don Jones, Melinda Miceli, Patricia Mellodge, and Robert Leve.
Each fellow will be working on a scholarly or pedagogical project related to the 2014–15 theme of the Humanities Center Seminar, “Exploring Complexity,” developed and led by Marcia Moen, associate professor of philosophy, and Jane Horvath, associate professor of economics and Director of the van Rooy Center for Complexity and Conflict Analysis. Each Fellow will also give a talk as part of the Spring 2015 series of lectures associated with the theme.

Power Boothe, professor of painting in the Painting and Drawing Department of the Hartford Art School, will present two workshops and a lecture titled “Complexity and Art-making” that will explore complexity as it relates to perception, the arts, and art-making. The two hands-on workshops are designed to provide experiences that will suggest that meaning is not to be found in the words we use, and, although meaning can be triggered by words, or a mark, or music, meaning arrives as an emergent “felt” coherence that is embodied and dependent on “networks” of relations between the brain, the body and things that are exterior. The lecture will demonstrate that the imaginative capacity we all have, and which is evident in how we experience the arts, is based on our innate ability to make sense of a complex range of sense experience we are bombarded with everyday—that should overwhelm us—but instead emerges as coherent and even significant to us. Professor Boothe says, “The two workshops and the lecture will explore how the bottom up, non-linear nature of complexity manages conflict by going into a turbulent phase involving experimentation and feedback, to eventually stabilize into a new structure or form, unpredicted by the parts. As a result, this new order will redefine the meaning of the parts.”

Don Jones, associate professor of rhetoric and professional writing in the English Department of the College of Arts & Sciences, will consider “Complexity and Epistemology: How Do We Know What We Think We Know?”  Dr. Jones's project will be to develop a future honors course focusing on epistemology, pragmatism, and postmodernism. In his lecture for the Humanities Center, he will explain Dewey’s non-foundational epistemology, which is based on the following four principles: the primacy of experience, the construction of knowledge, the influence of language on knowledge, and the achievement of agency. He will compare and contrast Dewey’s non-foundationalism with the postmodern epistemology of Michel Foucault. Dr. Jones will explore the epistemological implications of complexity theory, grounding these abstract principles in engaging examples including Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” and Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” Like Osberg, Biesta, and Cilliers, he believes that the epistemological implications of complexity theory can best be explained as “Deweyan transactions” between reality, language, and knowledge.

Melinda Miceli, associate professor of sociology in Hillyer College, will analyze complexity theory as it relates to sociological theory and research, specifically in the areas of social movements and intersectionality. The focus of her research is the networking of localized and regional social movement organizations into centralized, yet diverse, national and international social movements advocating for the rights of LGBT youth. This intricate networking process has forced these social movements to manage the complex intersection of inequalities of sexuality, gender, class, race, ethnicity, religion and other social factors that make up the varied lived realities of the LGBT youth whose interests they represent. Her fellowship will focus on the usefulness of complexity theory in sociological analysis of both social movements and intersectionality. Dr. Miceli’s lecture will present material on social complexity theory and its practical application in the empirical analysis of her research on LGBT youth social movements.

Patricia Mellodge, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA), will examine “Emergent Behavior in Robot Systems: A Case Study of Cubelets.” Cubelets, made by Modular Robotics, are intended to teach children about complex systems and robotics in a way that is physically grounded instead of virtual. Rather than being screen-based as many other demonstration systems are (such as Conway’s Game of Life or NetLogo software), a user can physically touch, interact, and reconfigure the system quickly and easily. New system designs are rapidly implemented simply by altering the interconnections between the blocks. However, the system also allows for more depth and exploration. More advanced users can modify the programming in the different blocks to redefine the rules that they follow. Dr. Mellodge’s seminar talk will focus on Cubelets and the use of emergent behavior in robotic system design. The behavior of systems composed of Cubelets will be investigated through demonstrations and compared to traditionally programmed robots.

Robert Leve, associate professor of psychology in the College of Arts & Sciences, focuses his research on tests of complexity models in real world situations to understand the process of how multi-dimensional complex problems are solved without falling into a state of cognitive chaos. His previous research documents how subjects avoid intellectual chaos when given complex problems to solve across various situations such as auto navigation, bicycle racing, financial decisions, and real estate problems. Testing out such problems also analyzes how variables such as time, perceived confidence, and variable relevance influence the decision process. His most recent unpublished research focuses on the parameters that determine emergence and how the perspective of the observer influences existence of emergent phenomenon such that a narrow perspective often eliminates the recognition of emergence. Dr. Leve seeks to understand the process by which a particular variable interacts with other variables in that environment to reorganize the energy flows in the environment resulting in a new and unexpected pattern (i.e. Emergence). In his lecture for the Humanities Center Seminar, Dr. Leve will discuss the threat of chaos as a strong determinant on how humans solve complex social and scientific problems, illustrated by real world examples that document the sudden emergence of significant intellectual solutions that have had a profound influence on modern technology.
The Humanities Center Honors Seminar is a two-semester course for honors students. The Lecture Series on Complexity in the Spring 2015 semester is open to all students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the community. Lectures begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Dana 202/Mali 2 Lecture Hall, and are free and open to the general public. The Humanities Center at the University of Hartford supports interdisciplinary scholarship focusing on the humanities through arts, sciences, technology, media, psychology, history, film, philosophy, and literature. For more information, contact T. Stores, director, at stores@hartford.edu.

Source: http://www.hartford.edu/daily/announcements/2014/05/Humanities_Center_Names_Five_Faculty_Fellows_for_201415.aspx

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