Shop Talks


Fall 2012 Schedule

Presenter: Sujay Rao

Title: The 'Holy Man of Mandisovi': Studying Popular Dissent in 19th-century Argentina
Time and Place: October 12, 2012 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


The appearance of a self-declared prophet briefly panicked authorities in rural Argentina in the early 1820s, who ultimately managed to arrest and silence him. His brief career offers a much-needed window into the ways in which ordinary Argentines experienced the construction of their nation. The case of the "holy man of Mandisovi," easily lost in official histories, allows historians to question the ways in which political power and political dialogue emerged in the decades after independence.

Presenter: Max Hailperin

Title: Electronic Poll Books and Voter Eligibility Verification
Time and Place: October 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


On November 6, Minnesota voters will decide whether to amend their constitution to impose new election procedures. A little-known part of what they will be deciding is whether all voters should be subject to "substantially equivalent ... eligibility verification" before their ballots are counted. This poses significant questions regarding technology as well as public policy given Minnesota's robust use of Election Day registration. Would it be practical to use "electronic poll book" computers to verify eligibility at the polls? How do other states already use electronic poll books? What problems have arisen? How would Minnesota's circumstances differ? Although photo ID has dominated the public discussion, it is worth noting that 20 of the 60 pages in the elections bill vetoed by Gov. Dayton were concerned with electronic poll books. I will summarize the role I played in shaping that language based on my study of electronic poll books elsewhere and my knowledge of general systems-engineering principles. If the proposed constitutional amendment were to pass, similar issues would be sure to arise as the enabling legislation is crafted.

Presenter: Peg O'Connor

Title: In the Cave: Philosophy and Addiction
Time and Place: November 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


There is a paucity of publications about western philosophy and addiction, which is somewhat odd given William James's influence on the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is also strange because addiction, for many, is a search for the meaning of life. Addiction is a deeply existential condition; it is all about how human beings live with the choices we make. While philosophy has become a specialized discipline in institutions of higher education, philosophy originally was concerned with living life well, which requires a high degree of self-examination. Socrates professes, "The unexamined life is not worth living." If recovered people are good at anything, it is examining our lives and taking responsibilities for the choices that we have made. It is in this spirit that I undertake the work of using some of the concepts of western philosophy to help addicts to make sense of our experiences and our lives. It is through this that we make our meaning of life. Addicts struggle with issues of self-identity, moral responsibility, self-knowledge and self-deception, the nature of God, existential dilemmas, marking the line between appearance and reality, free will and voluntariness, and freedom. These are some of the perennial questions of philosophy and discussions of them throughout the millennia have yielded many different approaches. Accordingly, this talk will reflect some of those differences and put them to good use.

Presenter: Anna Versluis

Title: Formal and familial material aid following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
Time and Place: December 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, over two million persons moved to temporary camps, most which arose spontaneously in the days after the earthquake. This study focuses on the material assistance people in five Port-au-Prince camps reported receiving, and explores differences between assistance from formal aid agencies and from "informal" sources such as family. The study concludes that aid organizations and agencies working in Haiti can learn from the informal material aid sector whose proclivity toward cash transfers tends to result in more timely and more effective material assistance.

Spring 2013 Schedule

Presenter: Mark Bjelland

Title: Sustainable for Whom? Density, Family Life, and Commuting in the Greenest City in the World
Time and Place: February 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


This study explores the successes, failures, and unintended consequences of Vancouver, British Columbia’s attempts to manage growth in an ecologically sustainable manner. In the City of Vancouver’s quest to become the greenest city in the world, it has focused on redeveloping derelict industrial lands, densifying existing neighborhoods, and prioritizing public transit, walking, and bicycling. Evidence suggests that sustainable urban living has become a highly desirable, positional good within the Vancouver region, although not adopted by all social groups.

Presenter: Kristian Braekkan

Title: Psychological contract violations, union commitment, and trust in management
Time and Place: March 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


This study examines how psychological contract breach (an individual’s recognition that expectations or promises have not been fulfilled by the employer) and violations (an emotional response or feeling of injury that results from the employer’s failure to comply with a contract) impact union commitment and trust in management. The study also investigates how union instrumentality impacts the relationship between breach and violations. The study was conducted with two organizations (one unionized and one non-unionized) and the results will be presented and discussed.

Presenter: Sean Easton

Title: Orpheus and the Invisible Government: The Post-Democratic Mythology of Three Days of the Condor (1975) and The Adjustment Bureau (2011).
Time and Place: March 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


The Greco-Roman myth of Orpheus, the greatest of all musicians, has many permutations, but its most famous ancient versions have these elements in common: Orpheus’ lover Eurydice dies, he descends into the Underworld in search of her, persuades the powers of Death to let her return with him, but nevertheless fails to bring her back. In this paper I suggest that the films Three Days of the Condor (1975) and The Adjustment Bureau (2011) each participate in a modern, U.S. variation on the Orpheus myth in which society as a whole is represented as under the control of a figurative or literal Underworld. In this version of the ancient story, the hero descends into the Underworld to redress or reverse the injustice that caused him to lose his lover, but also to obtain from its ruling powers special dispensation to live with a level of self-determination not permitted to the rest of society.

Presenter: Elizabeth Jenner

Title: "De-gendering Images of Nurses: Socialization and Gendered Job Segregation"
Time and Place: April 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


This paper explores current images of nurses in mass media, traces some trends related to mass media and cultural imagines of nurses, and the efforts by nursing professionals to change social attitudes.

Presenter: Kyle Chambers

Title: The Statistician with a Pacifier: What Babies Learn about Language & How it Changes Them
Time and Place: April 26, 2013 at 4:30 pm in the Interpretive Center


Children are amazing! In less than four years, they go from just crying and cooing to telling elaborate stories about their favorite dinosaur, and even though it takes adults countless hours of studying to learn a new language, children learn their first language without any apparent effort. In this talk, I will highlight some of the research being conducted in the Center for Developmental Science at Gustavus that attempts to solve the mystery of this impressive feat by investigating statistical learning as a potential language acquisition mechanism.