Maintaining Relevance

It’s always nice to feel prescient and relevant when writing. There’s almost nothing worse than feeling out-of-touch with my audience or society around me. A few recent articles and events have happened over the last few weeks to make me feel like I’m in some small way helping to lead a conversation rather than merely reacting.

Last week I wrote about the Darker Side of Academia. Mostly I talked about the commodification of higher education and how that affects everyone from full-tenured professors to new early career researchers and graduate students to first-year undergrads. Which makes the recent news that university lecturers around the UK have been striking for the last two days because of pay disputes take on even more relevance. While lecturers have seen their real-term pay decline almost 15% since 2009 and are asking for an actual increase of a mere 1.1%, they have gone on strike. Contrast that with rising pay for the leaders of universities — vice-chancellors and their ilk — many of whom just this past year received at least a 5% hike in their already exorbitant salary. So yes, I fully support the UCU action to support fair pay for university staff. If I had an academic job from which to strike, I would be on the picket lines with them. With all of this as background, it’s no surprise that a new higher education governmental White Paper, Success as a Knowledge Economy, recommends putting the market forces ahead of student learning. What else would you come to expect from a place that places a premium on money, not knowledge?

In other relevant blog materials, you may recall a few weeks back I wrote about what I would like to see from the new Star Trek show. I’m not the only one who had ideas about the show, as the fantastic Den of Geek team created their own list of 9 things they’d like to see in a possible Star Trek anthology series. That was on top of io9’s own post from back in November stating what they would like a show to have — not necessarily ideas for a type of show, but themes that would be nice. While I don’t agree with everything from all the different articles, it is nice to see that the show is prompting so much debate. There’s even a petition, which I highly encourage you to sign, to have a LGBT captain on the new show. Seriously, it’s time. Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, there’s also a short teaser for the show.

There’s plenty of other Star Trek news, too. Yes, there’s a new Star Trek Beyond preview, but that’s not even the most exciting thing. Honestly, a fan film called Star Trek Axanar, looks better. It has an almost professional-level quality of production. Many members of both the cast and crew are professionals, and many of the actors have actually been on previous Trek incarnations. Unfortunately, the movie has been embroiled with lawsuits since it was crowd-funded years ago. But, according to recent rumours, it might actually get released soon. There have been stories circulating that Paramount — who own the rights to Star Trek movies — is dropping their lawsuit against the film-makers, in part due to nuTrek directors JJ Abrams and Justin Lin. From what I understand the Paramount lawsuit citing copyright infringement has been dropped, but there’s a few lawyer things to finish before it goes away completely.

 

If that weren’t enough reason to celebrate, though, there’s new Trek-inspired technology on the horizon, too. A company called Wavery Labs, currently crowd-funding through Indiegogo, is developing a real-time universal translator called Pilot. Scheduled for release in May 2017, it will be able to translate between English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese upon release.  By autumn of that year the company is also projecting it will have Arabic, German, Russian, Hebrew and a handful of East Asian and African languages available for download. The world is getting smaller every day, and more amazing. I’m feeling more relevant every day.

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