This essay (serialized here across 24 separate posts) uses words and numbers to discuss the uses of words and numbers — particularly examining evaluations of university degrees that employ statistical data to substantiate competing claims. Statistical analyses are crudely introduced as the mode du jour of popular logic, but any ratiocinative technique could likely be inserted in this re-fillable space and applied to create and defend categories of meaning with or without quantitative support. Questions posed across the series include: Is the data informing or affirming what we believe? What are the implications of granting this approach broader authority? The author, Melanie Williams, graduated from UA in 2006, with a B.A. in Anthropology and Religious Studies.
We probably debate the touchstones of “a quality education” because we really don’t know what they are – we trust various institutions to provide the service they describe and in which they claim expertise. If there were strict standards of pedagogy in post-secondary education aside from the bloodless quotas of financial viability and publication rates, they would likely be just as problematic as attempting to determine the “value” of the degrees peddled therein. So who is drawing the lines of academic rites within which we are expected to operate? And what if we are drawing them ourselves? I would place the various articles I’ve read, along with every variety of poll, into the same category of untraceable authority claims in Baudrillard’s circulation of power, in that the “authorities” are the very consumers of the authorizing media that distribute the study. The evidence implies the hypothesis that predicts the evidence, in a “gigantic circumvolution.”
“Thus all the messages in the media function in a similar fashion: neither information nor communication, but referendum, perpetual test, circular response, verification of the code.” Continue reading