CHSS Dean's Lecture Series brings faculty research to City Hall

Submitted by gallagm7 on Fri, 07/19/2013 - 5:11pm

Three free lectures at Bellingham City Hall highlighted the current research interests of faculty members in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. 

The CHSS Dean's Lecture Series is co-sponsored by the City of Bellingham. This year's series featured Inventing Art Cinema: From the Museum to the Screen,” by Kaveh Askari, associate professor of English; Failing to See Unicycling Clowns and Money on a Tree: Cell Phones Cause Inattentional Blindness,” by Ira Hyman, professor of Psychology; and "Home Is Where the School Is: The Logic of Homeschooling and the Emotional Labor of Mothering," by Jen Lois, associate professor of Sociology. 

Askari's lecture asked Who invented the art of cinema? Cinema is a relatively new art form, and so one might assume that its birth should be easy to pinpoint. But the origins of this great art of the 20th century intertwine with so many visual entertainments of the 19th century that it is no simple task to find the most important threads leading to the cinema we know today. This lecture looks back to the very beginning of motion pictures, in the 1890s, to address this elusive question of origin. Moving beyond the noisier contenders for inventor status like Thomas Edison, it looks at the work of a lesser-known cinema pioneer, Alexander Black, who provides a missing link in the history of moving-picture art.

Lois discussed her research, which draws on rich data collected through eight years of fieldwork and dozens of in-depth interviews with homeschooling mothers.  Her analysis reveals that at the root of the homeschooling trend lies the American belief that motherhood ends when children grow up, an understanding that leads most mothers to experience emotional conflict over how they use their time.  Homeschooling provides a way for some mothers to relieve this conflict by devoting the bulk of this precious time to nurturing their children.  Speaking from the center of the work/life balance debate, Lois’s research raises profound questions about the expectations of modern motherhood and the limits of parenting.

And Hyman discussed his research, which documents real-world examples of people who were so distracted by their cell phones that they failed to see the bizarre occurrence of a unicycling clown passing them as they walked. These are all examples of inattentional blindness – times when people are focused on one activity and fail to notice something that may pass directly in front of them. When people become oblivious to the world, they make potentially disastrous mistakes.