Incompatible Systems?

This morning, I received an e-mail containing the syllabus and suggested readings for one of the fall 2013 seminars at my department. (Great to know that my professor works at 7am on Sundays.) I was planning to audit the course, and had registered as “audit” in the online registration tool. From my professor’s response, however, I learned that the class list lists me as a regular attendee. So, here is what might have happened: The HSS Department’s class list generating system does not need or want as much information as the detail-obsessed online registration tool acquires during its course registration process. Instead of not listing me at all, the class list therefore contains my name without any further specification. I find this quite interesting because it serves as an example that one system being informed by a more detailed one—and without the capacity of representing all of the specific information—can actually cause misconceptions, instead of only nescience. One might have thought that information being transferred between incompatible systems would simply be lost, and not create “false” knowledge. (Yes, I have already told the Professor.)

I have been rather busy this week, finding out about several missed deadlines by pure chance, and therefore trying even harder to fulfil the immunization requirements, have my immigration documents reviewed, order some more books (and read them), pick up a university ID, etc. I find the absence of a check list for (international) students quite inconvenient. (I am pretty sure this would not happen in Germany—or am I just being fanciful?) Yet, the amount of help being offered by fellow grad students, faculty and staff is amazing. I have always received support before, in academic as well as administrative issues, but I always had to ask for it. I am still figuring out what I find more important: the check list or being offered help before asking for it.

By the way: My personal profile on the Department’s web page is online now1. Nobody has proof-read it yet, i.e., you are welcome to do so. Classes start on Wednesday; a first meet-and-greet-and-get-orientated luncheon is scheduled for Tuesday. I promise I will take pictures of the Department later, and maybe have some former fellow students take some of the Berlinian History of Science and Technology / Philosophy floor for me, so you can compare and assess the probable limit for thought unfolding here and there. As long as there will be enough time to stand back and digest, I am pretty sure Penn will offer unknown possibilities for nourishing thoughts concerning Neuroscience and Society, STS, and many other interesting fields.

1 Find the typo in the URL!

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