The Problem with Categories

  • Muhammad Abdul-Mageed, iSchool; Julia Bullard, iSchool; Leah Macfadyen, Educational Technology Program; Patrick Moran, French, Hispanic and Italian Studies; Kerry Wilbur, Pharmaceutical Sciences
    Coach House, Green College, UBC

    Thursday, November 7, 5-6:30 pm, with reception to follow
    in the series
    Green College Leading Scholars
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  • Categories are the building blocks of language and thought. Reality is so infinitely complex that we must resort to pattern recognition to make sense of it. Thus, categories are both a strength and a weakness. They help us apprehend the vastness and variety of the world and move beyond our immediate sense data. But at the same time, they are inadequate for explaining the texture of the real and the irreducible individuality of each thing. They form the basis for nearly all systems of knowledge and communication, while also enabling cognitive bias, prejudice and exclusion. The notion of categories is at the conceptual heart of this year’s Green College Leading Scholars’ theme of “Challenging Differences.” There is a problem with categories, no doubt; but how can we even talk about this problem, let alone attempt to resolve it, when our very language is category-based and can only relate to real things indirectly?

    The scholars assembled for this talk deal with categories and their problems in various ways. Muhammad Abdul-Mageed studies ways categories can be represented to machines. Leah Macfadyen works in the area of learning analytics, and navigates the tricky ethical territory of learner data and whether analyses may 'categorize' learners in essentializing ways that may limit them. Patrick Moran studies genres in medieval literature and what they reveal about the cognitive processes that lead to category formation. Kerry Wilbur explores how health professional student performances are framed and therefore judged by different evaluators across changing contexts. Julia Bullard studies infrastructures of categorization and classification and will moderate the discussion.

    In conjunction with this sub-theme, Matthew Vernon (UC Davis), author of The Black Middle Ages (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), will give a talk on "Slumbering Legacies: The Romantic Consciousness of W.E.B. Du Bois" on March 3rd 2020.
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  • Unless otherwise noted, all of our lectures are free to attend and do not require registration.

 

When
November 7th, 2019 5:00 PM   through   6:30 PM
Location
Coach House
6201 Cecil Green Park Rd
Green College, UBC
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1
Canada
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Speaker (new) Muhammad Abdul-Mageed, iSchool; Julia Bullard, iSchool; Leah Macfadyen, Educational Technology Program; Patrick Moran, French, Hispanic and Italian Studies; Kerry Wilbur, Pharmaceutical Sciences
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