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A more manageable bubble (Credit: Pinterest)

Campus is a “liberal bubble”, right?

During many discussions on the current political climate, the word ‘bubble’ pops up, as if by magic. It attempts to explain why some recent political developments—Brexit, Trump’s election, AfD’s success, etc.—appear to have come out of the blue. Often, this observation is appropriate. “Birds of a feather flock together”: It’s natural for us to stick to the familiar. However, in the age of social media, this tendency has reached a whole new level. We increasingly find ourselves in online bubbles which, due to Facebook algorithms and our own self-selection, are drifting farther and farther apart.

On Tom Ashbrook’s NPR podcast OnPoint, guest Erick Erickson, a conservative blogger and radio host, observed: “We’re all spending a lot of time building ourselves into communities that look a lot like us, thanks to the Internet, and we are less and less focused on the physical person that lives next door to us.” He’s right—How many of us can say we really know our Niederschönhausen neighbors? No, smiling at the 250 bus driver and saying “Danke!” to the cashier at REWE do not count.

It’s easy to construct a community of like-minded people online. Stepping outside this safe haven can be scary. You never know what you will find. But intuitively we know there can never be progress without discussion. This is true for both society and our own development. Change requires engaging in real disagreement, where the different parties have deeply rooted, contradictory opinions. Social change cannot exclusively happen online; we must also burst our online bubbles.

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“Plato Goes Live” Poster. (Credit: Bard College Berlin)

The contest “Eine Uni – ein Buch” invited German universities to pick a book, any book. The goal: to inspire a semester of events, ideas, and extensive, diverse participation… all with this single text. BCB students entered with Plato’s Republic. And we won. We were among ten universities who received the scholarship. Yay, us! The result: seminars, debates, conversations, film fests, and “a Long Night of Plato” sprouted from the seminal work of an infamous, bearded Ancient. (Shout out to the sponsors: Stifterverband and the Klaus Tschira Foundation, in co-operation with DIE ZEIT.)

Full disclosure: I’m not a student in the Plato course, not a Plato-phile in the slightest. Even so, last Tuesday curiosity led me to the “Wandering Image” event at the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry. It was one of those ruggedly sleek buildings tucked away in a Prenzlauer Berg courtyard, packed with well-dressed intellectuals.

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Students in the Summer Language German Intensive Program visit the Hamburger Bahnhof. (Credit: Irina Stelea)

The BCB Summer Language German Intensive Program came to a close earlier this month. From the 10th June to the 10th July, a handful of students from various universities immersed themselves in the German language and took part in cultural events across Berlin. This podcast includes snippets of conversations with some of the participants on their experiences at BCB and in Berlin.

Featured songs, in order of appearance:

“Komm Doch” by Die Caufner Schwestern (1978)

“Sonnenallee” by Rio Reiser (1990)

Essay by Mark Twain, source here.

 

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The participants of the 2nd LESC in Freiburg (Credits: Alexandra Sachariew, University College Freiburg)

Hello all you BCBers,

In case someone has been wondering about my absence from BCB in the past semester, let me reassure you of my return in Fall 2017: I am currently not in Berlin but studying abroad at AUC in Amsterdam. The first question one might ask is probably: Why would I study abroad in Amsterdam? Isn’t it just like Berlin, only smaller and with canals and actual bike lanes? I asked myself the same things. But if that’s all you know about Amsterdam, you should just come here and fall in love with this beautiful city yourself. Very few people are able to escape its magic spell.

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Calvin echoes my sentiments on school. (Credit: Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes comics)

“So what’s the plan after this?”

Whoever you are and wherever you are: If you’re a breathing, barely surviving student, you’ve been asked this question before. I don’t know about you, but every time I start to think about what I want to do post graduation, my heart begins to palpitate at an unusually fast pace, and somehow I end up under my covers, scrolling through Instagram — even though I swear I don’t remember any of that

It’s tough. Life as a student is confusing and disorienting: You spend half your time wondering what the heck you did with that pencil you had in your hand a minute ago, and the other half worrying about who is going to hire you and pay you real money for your services.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to study such a variety of courses, but I often wonder what’s next. Will I be a writer? Maybe I’ll be a teacher. Prime Minister of Djibouti? Art Historian?

I DON’T KNOW! I find myself under my covers and scrolling through Instagram again.

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Three of today’s biggest populists: America’s Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen of France and the Hungarian Viktor Orban. (Credit: David Parkins, The Economist.)

Three of today’s biggest populists: America’s Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen of France and the Hungarian Viktor Orban (Credit: David Parkins, The Economist.)

Should populists be demonized? Today especially, after Donald Trump’s latest victory in securing a seat as President of the United States of America, this topic is incredibly relevant. But one might ask: How did he win? Trump’s campaign was largely centered around garnering anti-systemic attention from voters that cited exasperation at their treatment by the current government and its long-standing convoluted bureaucracy. Voters united around a common goal: to elect anybody but Hillary Clinton, the ultimate representation of the so-called system. So, is Donald Trump a populist? Is he a voice for the people? And how do we then categorize Bernie Sanders? Has populism as a phenomenon been demonized all over the world? Are Donald Trump’s election and the entire Brexit campaign examples of the adverse results of populism?

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Geoff with Leonardo

Geoff Lehman with Leonardo (credit: Geoff Lehman)

Once, in a seminar of the Representation class with Geoff, I made a comment about the painting that we were discussing by reading a passage that I wrote on my notebook before I came to the class. He appreciated the comment but insisted that I voiced my impression on the painting at that very moment. I asked him why my present impression matter so much, he gave me a rather interesting response:

Well, put it like this, in a psychoanalytic setting, the therapist is much more interested in how the patient describes her dream at the very moment, instead of what she wrote down in her dream journal. In a similar way, I think its more valuable that you talk about your immediate reaction to the painting, rather than what you wrote down in the past.

This is what I consider as one of the greatest examples of how one integrates different approaches/disciplines in a classroom discussion. With that in mind, lets begin our interview:

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