Thursday, January 27, 2005

Research in Taiwan in an international context

Now that the semester is over, I had some time to go over some of articles in the "Forum" section of the Taiwan News. Two articles were particularly interesting to me for their attacks on the Ministry of Education's (over-)emphasis on international ranking criteria such as SCI, SSCI, and A&HCI:
  1. "Academic Production Amid Global Neo-liberalism" by Chen Kuang-hsing (published Nov. 30, 2004)
  2. "Reflections on Academic Evaluation and Academic Production: Taking Economic Sciences as Example" by Chu Wan-wen (pub. Dec. 1, 2004)
These two articles focus on Taiwan's academic production in a global context and how the push for publication in international academic fora have both disadvantaged Taiwanese researchers and led researchers here to neglect local concerns in favor of broader international issues. (Note: there has been extensive discussion on Scott Sommers's blog about this. I just want to point out two other places where this issue is being discussed.)

Chen argues that the government-encouraged value of competing internationally in the academic marketplace (including having the goal of placing a Taiwanese university among the top 100 of international universities) has led Taiwan "to treat academic production as a quantifiable indicator that counts toward national competitiveness and to implement rewards and punishments based on quantified scores." International academic production necessarily means writing in English instead of Chinese and writing for an audience that is perhaps not so interested in the Taiwan situation for its own sake, he continues.
At the same time, if researchers must use the theoretical framework and language familiar to the English-speaking world in exchange for the possibility of publication, then in the longer term the context and concerns of our society, politics, culture, and history will gradually be hollowed out and publication in the humanities and social sciences will more and more resemble that of the natural sciences and become equally monadic. This obviously runs counter to the recent trend in world academia of emphasizing diversity and heterogeneity.
Chu agrees with this assessment, pointing out that
international evaluation criteria do not attach importance to the functional goal of "serving the needs of the local society." The problems that international journals are concerned about, their problem awareness, is led by the European and North American (it would be more accurate to say the U.S.) academic circles. While these concerns also have their universal significance, they do not necessarily have a lot of overlap with the immediate concerns of Taiwan and any other region.
Chu goes on,
The globalization phenomenon of the humanities and social sciences in catching-up economies like Taiwan is not at all an "international division of labor." Instead, under the shroud of U.S. cultural hegemony, we invoke on our own account U.S. criteria (that we affirm) as standard for mutual evaluation. This might lead to a blind following of Western theory. At the same time it might translate into the commitment of vast academic resources for the research of U.S. mainstream issues as well as the examination of local issues from an American perspective and American problem awareness.
Chen and Chu both argue that Taiwan scholars and government organizations like the Ministry of Education should be aware that using "international" criteria for judging academic production can come with a price if the concept of international standards of quality is conflated with the goal of publishing internationally in Western (mostly U.S.) academic journals. What gets lost is a concern with locally pressing issues and concerns.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Comments on proposal to classify Taiwan's universities?

From the January 21 Taipei Times:
Plan divides universities
A proposal championed by the Ministry of Education's higher education department for universities to be classified into a number of categories was the subject of heated debate yesterday during a national conference of university heads. Participants in the panel discussion, which was presided over by Mou Tsung-tsan (牟宗燦), chairman of the Association of Private Universities and Colleges, were divided on the proposal, in which universities would be divided into four categories -- teaching universities, research universities, professional universities and community universities. Due to a jump in the number of institutions, universities have shifted from providing an elite education to a universal education, which has resulted in financial pressure, lower quality graduates and low competitiveness, an departmental official said. To iron out these problems, the department proposed that universities be classified into the categories and that the government offer them funds based upon specific needs, the official said.
Intriguing idea, I must admit--at least on first glance. But also a little scary. Anyone know more about this?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Too young to feel this old...

I'm a little slow in linking to this, but this post from Wil Wheaton's blog cracked me up. His conversation with his kids about why Phil Collins could possibly have been "an international superstar" in the 80s and why Bono sported a mullet ("'The mullet was the official haircut of rock and roll,' I said") reminded me of how I feel every year when I'm facing a new group of students. I don't quite have the same experience over here, but I have noticed that some of my students don't know that Zhang Fei and Fei Yuqing used to have a weekly show together... (OK, I'm not even going to try to explain that reference...)

"Institutionalizing Rhetoric"?

Although I've taken the Blogora off my "Other blogs I frequent" list (b/c I don't look at it very frequently anymore), there was an interesting post (to me, anyway) up about the future of 'the profession' of rhetorical studies in the U.S. (or at least North America, I take it). (Hmmm... 3 parentheticals in one sentence--overkill?)

I'm not much in contact with other rhetoricians in Taiwan--this is something I hope to start doing if and when I get that &#@!!*& dissertation done. But I wonder if they have a similar situation. I get the impression they (we?) are primarily in English (Foreign Language) and Communication departments here, too. Wonder how they (we?) see their (our?) future as a profession here. Any Taiwan rhetoricians reading this? What say ye?

For starters, I have a heckuva time figuring out how to classify my work according to the National Science Council's classification system. They have a category for Communication Studies (fairly recently added, if I'm not mistaken--it used to be part of Sociology, I think). But last time I submitted a grant proposal (I'm doing historical work on language/rhetorical education in Taiwan), they didn't feel my study fit into that category. I forget what they ended up classifying it as, but my proposal got rejected, partly, I imagine, because it didn't fit the category into which the NSC folks placed it. I suppose I could do more "traditional" rhetoric studies such as work on public address (actually, I'll be doing a presentation on p.a. in April), but I'm a little concerned about having my research program determined by the NSC's classification system.

Not really a surprise...

"Satan-Worshipping Bushes?" (from Language Log)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Joining the crowd at the donut shop

Well, I succumbed to the donut craze that has been sweeping the island recently and stopped at our new local (well, not that local) donut shop to buy some donuts--or as they call them here, 多拿滋 duonazi (no, that's not pronounced "Nazi"--it's more like nah-dz). As mentioned by Poagao and in the Taipei Times, folks in Taiwan have been going nuts over donuts recently, with Mr. Donut opening in Taipei and a Japanese place opening around here called 威力 (Waili, they spell it, although it should be "Weili" The word means "might", "force", or "power"). People stand outside these places for hours waiting for their chance to buy donuts.

I didn't stand outside for hours--when I got there this evening there wasn't a line outside (only inside), so I went directly in and bought a few donuts to sample. So far I'm unimpressed, but I guess these are better than the stuff you find in supermarkets around here. My wife says the Waili donuts are more suited to Asian tastes--kind of chewy and not too sweet. I haven't tried their coffee yet (which was the main reason we always went to Dunkin' Donuts when we were in Syracuse). It might be a while, though, since going there always involves braving traffic and waiting in lines.

"I read the comics so you don't have to"

Found this Collin's blog. Being a Spider-Man fan, I went directly to the posts about the Spider-Man comic strip. Hilarious!

"Danger" + "Opportunity" = "Crisis"?

There's a little discussion going on at Languagehat about whether or not the popular saying, "The Chinese word for 'crisis' (危機) is made up of the words 'danger' (危) and 'opportunity' (機)" is accurate or meaningful. I've been guilty (if that's the word to use) in the past of repeating this saying, so I wondered what the problem with it might be. (I knew there might be a problem when my Chinese history professor rolled his eyes after I repeated the saying. On the other hand, one of my professors in the rhetoric program thought it was pretty cool. Guess it depends also on who you repeat the saying to.)

Anyway, it seems that a lot of the problem boils down to two things:
  1. whether or not we should say "ji" (機) should be translated opportunity
  2. whether or not this kind of "etymological" understanding (if it's a real etymology) reflects some sort of deeper Eastern (or at least Chinese) understanding of the notion of crisis.
The discussion grows out of a post to the website by Victor Mair. (Mair also has his own blog, "Pinyin News", for those of us who can't get enough discussion about romanization and East Asian writing systems. I've added it to my blogroll to the right...)

Friday, January 14, 2005

W learns himself someuthat speech act theory

From The Guardian:
"Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean," Mr Bush said. "'Bring 'em on' is the classic example, when I was really trying to rally the troops and make it clear to them that I fully understood, you know, what a great job they were doing."

Sampler of a sampler of "Ask Mister Language Person"

Mark Liberman has a post about Dave Barry up on Language Log that includes a sampler of quotable quotes from Barry's "Ask Mister Language Person" column. At the risk of putting together a sampler of a sampler, here's one of the quotations below. Go to Language Log for the rest of the sampler.
Q. Please explain the expression: "This does not bode well.''
A. It means that something is not boding the way it should. It could be boding better.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Last day of ICC

Today was the last day of Intercultural Communication for this semester. We spent the class (and last week's class, too) talking about the students' research projects that are due next week.

Several folks are doing cross-cultural comparisons of corporate websites and advertising, which will probably be a direction we will pursue in more depth the next time I teach this class--they seem pretty interested in it, but we (including the former native speaker!) need to develop more knowledge about how to analyze visual material from a cross-cultural perspective. I have found a few articles from technical communications journals that discuss website design from a cross-cultural perspective, but I need to do more research into this. (Another reason I am taking at least a semester off from teaching ICC!)

I also want to incorporate blogging more into the ICC class. We had some fits and spurts of group blogging this semester, but it kind of came to an end before midterms. I'm not sure why that happened (one reason might be that I didn't really require it consistently). I'm also not sure if my long and windy blog entries did more to encourage talk or discourage it!

Overall, I think I learned a lot from class this semester--as I have each time I've taught this course. I'm looking forward to a break, though, so I can take some time to figure out what is working and what isn't, and what I might be leaving out. Suggestions welcome!

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Yahoo! video search

Yahoo! now has a beta version of a video search engine up and running. Some of the students in my Intercultural Communication class have been looking for different countries' TV commercials for the same product (for instance, Mitsubishi ads from Taiwan and other countries). This might help.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Naming Taiwan(ese) students

We're nearing the end of the fall semester here (not a moment too soon), which perhaps explains my recent inattention to this blog. I've finally managed to match the (mostly English) names of my 65 first-year English students with their faces; I suppose when we come back from winter break I'll have forgotten again. Fortunately, first-year English goes for a whole year here (is "fortunately" the word I should use?), so by the end of next semester I'll have their names and faces all matched up again.

We're using Neil Anderson's Active Skills for Reading in our class; I told my students that back when Dr. Anderson was teaching at Ohio University, I had the honor of taking a summer class in language testing with him. One of the things that struck me the most was that he could identify every student by name by the end of the first class (and there were over 30 students, if memory serves me). And he didn't forget our names after the first class. Of course, I'm a little embarrassed to mention that, since it has taken me so long to remember my own students' names...

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Slow relief efforts in eastern Sri Lanka

The BBC News has several articles about the slow relief efforts in eastern Sri Lanka. The efforts in this part of the country are being hampered both by seasonal rains and flooding and by the political situation.

I've been forwarded this information about how to aid people in this area:
The following is a fund by the Bishop of Batticoloa in the East of the island. The money should get channelled to the people who are not getting any help from governmental organizations at present.

Name of the Account: "TSUNAMI-2004 Quake Disaster Relief"

Account No. 810 5008632

Name of the Bank: The Commercial Bank of Ceylon,
7056 - 105,
Batticaloa, Sri Lanka.

Swift code: CCEYL KLX