Chinese storytelling
Two master storytellers and one amateur performer from Beijing, China, performed in the Goodhart Music Room in April as part of an academic tour organized by Susan Blader, Professor of Chinese at Dartmouth College.

Renowned Beijing oral narrative artist Lian Liru performed stories in the tradition of the Lian School of Storytelling. She is the first female performer of the northern pingshu style, told without singing or musical accompaniment.

Her husband Jia Jianguo performed in the kuaiban style, a Chinese folk performing art that tells a humorous story in rhythmic, rhymed verse, accompanied by a set of two bamboo clappers. He also played several traditional Chinese songs on the sanxian, the three-stringed plucked lute.

Wang Jingshou, Professor of Chinese at Beijing University, is internationally known for his expertise in Chinese literature and performance. He performed a dankou xiangsheng, a comic monolog, which was translated into English by Blader.

Lian and Jia, along with four other storytelling artists from Beijing and Suzhou, performed at the 36th Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, whose theme was "The Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust," in Washington, D.C., this summer. Their visit to Bryn Mawr was sponsored by East Asian Studies; the Centers for Visual Culture; International Studies; and Ethnicities, Communities and Social Policy; the International Students Office; the Arts Program; and College Collections.



Learning to listen
A new program designed to encourage students to appreciate classical music, "Learning to Listen," brought dynamic young musicians to Goodhart Music Room in 2002.

Three separate performances were geared toward undergraduates with limited exposure to playing or listening to classical music. Members of The Laurel Trio, The Ying Quartet, and students from the Curtis Institute of Music played works by Mendelson, Ravel, Mozart, and Beethoven. They encouraged dialogue with their student audiences, explaining the complexity of the selections and placing them in the larger history of Western culture. They also discussed technique and compositional theory. Students who atten ded at least one session were entered into a lottery to win dessert with faculty and staff at Wyndham and a trip to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra at the new Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

Students said they loved the ambiance of the performances, informal yet "civilized," and particularly appreciated the enthusiasm of performers so close to them in age. "I thought of a classical music appreciation series because all music classes were moved to Haverford," says Learning to Listen co-founder Elizabeth Coleman Mooney '48, referring to the bi-college arrangment made in the 1970s. "This move never made sense to me. Classical music was an important and lasting part of my Bryn Mawr education. The new series is on the Bryn Mawr campus where it should be." Coleman founded the series with her sister, Susan Coleman '45.

Classical music is performed at the College in other settings. In Feb-ruary, The BrynMawr Renaissance Choir sang a capella selections and Spectra Musica, an instrumental ensemble that uses period instruments, also performed. Director Ted Handy said a few words about each piece and its composer to put it in context. In May, Bryn Mawr's chamber music group performed works by Brahms, Reicha and contemporary composer Allen Shawn. In addition to guest artists Marcantonio Barone on piano and Geoffrey Michaels on violin, the concert featured clarinetist Frank Mallory, W. Alton Jones Professor of Chemistry; oboist Karen Greif, Professor of Biology; cellist Paul Melvin, Professor of Mathematics; and violinist Karen Jenks '04.



Celestial lineups
On clear evenings throughout the year, Lecturer in Physics Juan R. Burciaga hosted star, planet and meteor watch parties on the upper hockey field. In November, the Leonid Meteor Shower was unusually spectacular because of debris associated with Comet Tempel-Tuttle. In February, viewers were able to see Saturn "eaten by a dragon" through a small telescope, the Great Nebula in Orion and other deep sky objects.

"Saturn wasn't really eaten by a dragon, but it was occulted by the moon," Burciaga explained. "And it isn't that rare an event. But what made this occultation a nice one is that both the moon and Saturn were fairly high up in the sky and the moon was not too bright."

"The name 'planet' comes from a Greek word meaning 'wanderer,' " Burciaga said. "The ancient civilizations knew seven wanderers-the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. These bodies were so named because they seemed to move with respect to the fixed stars. Though the stars went through seasonal changes they never moved with respect to one another. The planets also changed brightness, their speed with respect to the stars, and most disturbingly their direction of motion."

On May 15th, the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter were within 48 degrees of each other, the tightest bunching of visible planets in the past 20 years.

"It's fun to think of the sheer amount of real estate, and variety of terrain and environment displayed in your view," Burciaga said of the parade of heavenly bodies.



BMC at usability conference
Whitney Quesenbery '76 was part of a strong Bryn Mawr presence at the 11th Annual Usability Professionals' Association (UPA) Conference. Held in July, the week-long international conference emphasized the importance of the human experience for the design of usable technology products. The conference's main message was that if technology is to improve the human experience, it needs to respect human expectations, tendencies and dignity. Shaping technology to meet human needs is as much a science as it is an art.

Quesenbery was on a panel, "Web Applications: What We Know So Far." She discussed how usability engineers are now designing web-based applications and described the taxonomies and patterns they discover while moving from Windows to web.

Quesenbery is Senior Vice President for Design for Cognetics Corporation, a company dedicated to the creation of user-centered software. She has created user interfaces for software applications, web sites, and hyper-media, for clients including Lucent, IBM, ADP, Siemens, Novartis and Eli Lilly. She is one of the developers of the LUCID Framework, which is both a user-centered philosophy and a management strategy that augments existing software development processes. LUCID models the user interface on the user's conception of their work, not the technical implementation. Quesenbery is a frequent presenter and author on user-centered design topics and is the author of a chapter, "Dimensions of Usability," in a forthcoming book, Content and Complexity. She is a member of the board of directors of the UPA.

Also representing Bryn Mawr at the conference were Rebecca Mercuri, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, and Paul Grobstein, Eleanor A. Bliss Professor of Biology and Director of the Center for Science in Society. Mercuri gave a talk, "Humanizing Voter Interfaces," about the role that ballot formatting plays in election outcomes. Following the November 2000 fiasco, it was hoped that new standards would be developed, but the "quick fix" computerized solutions adopted by many communities actually are les s user-friendly than those systems being replaced. At the same time, elections are being increasingly controlled by a techno-savvy elite, while many classes of voters are experiencing techno-disenfranchisement. Mercuri addressed the serious dangers of on-line and kiosk-style computerized voting, focusing on user interface and anonymous ballot security issues.

Grobstein gave a talk, "The Brain's Images: Co-Constructing Reality and Self." Reality and self, he said, are concepts which predate modern inquiry into the nervous system and its workings. He suggested that both concepts can be usefully "re-conceived" as hypotheses developed by the brain to make sense of signals occurring within the brain itself.

The Usability Professionals' Association was formed to provide a network through which usability professionals can communicate and share information about skill development, methodology, tools, technology, and organizational issues and to educate the general public on the usefulness of the profession. For more information, see www.upassoc.org.



Unpredictable intelligence
What happens when a short circuit enables a robot to take over her human creator's body, leaving him trapped in her armature of junk and spare parts? That was a surprise ending for Tom Sgouros's "Judy or What Is It Like To Be A Puppet?", a humorous dialogue between a man and the robot he has created.

Judy and Sgouros discussed imagination, consciousness, stage magic, the uses of eyes, and what exactly it means to play chess with a set where the black pieces are red.

Sgouros built Judy in his basement from pieces of old computers, bicycles, a copy machine, marine stove, and yes, someone's kitchen sink. After weeks of intensive tutoring in phonics, elocution, and the elements of logic, she made her public debut in January, 2000.

Sgouros said he includes chess in the show because of "Deep Blue," IBM's chess playing computer that uses massively parallel, special-purpose computing. "The 40-year struggle to develop an intelligent, expert chess program has only yielded a great chess player," he said. Deep Blue, as it stands today, is not a "learning system" and incapable of using artificial intelligence either to learn from its opponent or to "think" about the current position of the chessboard.

Sponsored by the Center for Science in Society, the March 27 performance in Thomas Great Hall was followed by a faculty panel discussion with moderator Douglas Blank, a cognitive scientist and robotics enthusiast; neurobiologist Paul Grobstein; artificial-intelligence expert Deepak Kumar; dramaturge Mark Lord; and psychologist Anjali Thapar.

"The goal of the show is to look unpredictable but not to be unpredictable. I want to surprise you, but I don't want to surprise me," said Sgouros, who has had near misses with equipment falling from the ceiling. "I can get hurt without planning."

Asked by Grobstein what he thought of the "notion of all theater as fraud," Lord said, "Watching the performance I was struck that 95-99 percent of all theatrical intelligence is artificial-it's programmed, it's predetermined. I think an interesting difference between my world and this world is that artists work hard to deal with that 1-5 percent of the performance that's not scripted or that transcends what's scripted."

Grobstein wondered if "part of the problem that's common in some art forms and in some kinds of engineering is this human distaste for unpredictability. Perhaps we could get closer to intelligence if we got over that distaste."

A graduate of Swarthmore who majored in physics, Sgouros has a background in circus performance as well as the writing and production of documentary films. He has written and performed seven different solo shows, many of which touch on scientific issues.


Tom and "Judy"



Stories and science
The human need to create narratives that make sense of the world and our place in it is more fundamental than curiosity, argued Harold Shapiro, one of the nation's most prominent authorities on bioethics. Former president of Princeton University and the University of Michigan, Shapiro spoke on April 23. "The Ethical Dimensions of Scientific Progress: Reflections on Dolly, Stem Cell Research and Contemporary Genetics," was sponsored by the Center for Science in Society.

A professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton, Shapiro is particularly interested in issues that arise when scientific developments generate moral anxiety. When they invalidate narratives in the human memory, new ones must be constructed. "This, however, is not a trivial task," he said.

Themes from ancient myth to the present are concerned with natural or divine limits on the use of new knowledge. And the dawn of the genetic age challenges "a world view that accepts our mortality, our suffering, and a certain unpredictability regarding our future as an intrinsic part of the human experience," he said.

There are few easy answers to complex moral issues within pluralistic liberal democracies, Shapiro said, but it is imperative that scientists and non-scientists engage in serious conversations in order to understand each other's needs and beliefs.

On April 25, science writer Ruth Levy Guyer '67 described her mission to educate average citizens about science in "Writing Life: Communi-cations on Medicine, Bioethics, Nature, and Science," co-sponsored by the Center for Science in Society and the biology department.

"No one has the luxury of ignoring new developments and discoveries and what they mean for the quality of our lives," Guyer said.

A visiting professor at Haverford College, Guyer worked as a research scientist in immunology and as a staff fellow at NIH before discovering her talent and love for writing.

"When I graduated from Bryn Mawr, I headed off to Berkeley to study immunology," Guyer said. "Had anyone told me then that I would become a writer, I know I would have been incredulous. I would probably have dropped down to the floor. I probably would have started laughing. I might still be laughing now today, curled up in a fetal position, because the notion was totally preposterous to me. The one thing I really hated to do in college was to write. It was major burden, and I felt that I absolutely coul dn't do. So much for self-knowledge and insight! I've been a writer for the last 25 years."

Guyer described her "metamorphosis from shy and retiring averbal researcher to a person who cherishes words, felicitous phrases, well-hung participles and just generally the writing life." At Berkeley, she studied in the laboratory of Marian E. Koshland's lab, after whom Haverford's science center is named. "Marian was a prominent immunologist and she was also a wonderful human being," Guyer said. "She cared about her students and created a great community for us in her lab. At home she had five childr en, two of whom went to Haverford, and like me she was married to a scientist. So for those of us who were interested in spouses and children, she provided a great example of how you would juggle a life, doing what you want to do professionally and have a family, too.

"When I turned in my PhD dissertation, The transmission of passive immunity in the new-born mouse, Marion said my thesis was charming-now 'charming' is rarely used to describe this sort of writing, which I call 'nerd' writing. I use the term very affectionately and in no way pejoratively-I'm a nerd; I'm married to a nerd. But a PhD thesis in immunology must be written in nerd writing, characterized as clear, insightful, solid, accurate - or convoluted, incomplete, unacceptable."

But Guyer did not realize her calling as a writer until she decided she wanted to find a way to work at home and spend time with her newborn daughter, whom she also found "charming." Her first writing position was at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In 1981, while researching antibodies to sperm in women, she stumbled on a paper about a group of men who had high levels of antibodies to sperm. "That's very unusual because one typically to make antibodies to one's own tissue," sh e said. "This turned out to be the very first publication on AIDS - this was the first cluster of men in Los Angeles who had high levels of antibodies to sperms. I wrote a short paper about this observation then for the next year all I wrote about was AIDS."

In 1985, Guyer was invited to write a new front page for Science Magazine explaining that week's main stories in six to 10 sentences, "and in English, not jargon." Becoming involved at the schools of her two young daughters, she was disturbed by the teaching of science in elementary and middle grades. She also "worried about the growing gap between what scientists know and what everybody else understands about science. I saw a real need for accurate reporting of scientific developments as oppose d to hyping. So about 10 years ago, I left the magazine and began to write for the general public. Then about five years ago, I started to focus much more heavily on the implications of scientific discoveries rather than the developments and the discoveries themselves. Bio-ethics addresses these implications.

"We have to begin to discuss whether it's important to use technology, under what circumstances, and who should be in on the decision-making process. Should we continue to build nuclear power plants now that we know that when accidents occur, radioactivity released contaminates the air, water and our bodies for unimaginable numbers of years? Should we, as a democratic and capitalistic society, continue to permit pharmaceutical companies to withhold drugs from people and countries that cannot afford them? S hould a celebrity be allowed to jump the queue on a list for organ transplants, even if resulting publicity increases organ donations? What ought we to do if a brand new baby who's been born prematurely is having difficulty breathing? I spent a lot of time last year in the neonatal and intensive care clinic at Georgetown interviewing the head of the unit. A lot of babies on these respirators end up doing just fine, but others have their brains blown out because the oxygen gas moves through their brains to o quickly, and serious mental, emotional or physical disabilities result. No one knows which baby's going to go one way and which is going to go the other."

Guyer has written about topics ranging from the auction of a kidney on e-Bay, to the past and future trajectory of the West Nile virus, and cloning cats. She is particularly interested in the subject of paying people to participate in clinical trials. "What does this do to voluntary participation? ... What are the moral obligations of researchers to the volunteers in the clinical trials that they conduct? What should volunteers know when they're considering participating in trials?

"Writing is complicated," Guyer said. "It's stimulating, and it's hard work. Writing is about revision, doing draft and draft after draft. I find every part of the process engaging, engrossing, and exhausting, but if it weren't like that, I don't think that I would do it. In my opinion, both passion and intensities come into writing in order to make the process rewarding for the writer and the product worthwhile for the reader. I value the Strunk and White directive to 'make every word tell.' It's simply n ot possible to separate the language you use from the message you're trying to get across.

"I also enjoy writing because I am creating something unique-the result of my idiosyncratic take on the world, plus the facts in my head, plus the way my brain works. A writer gets not only to be the story teller but the person who gets to enjoy first hearing how the story turned out.

"Through writing, I've found it's possible to motivate people to think about these serious issues and sometimes influence their thinking.

"A story will stick in the mind of a reader only if it has integrity-an engaging lede, internal logic, and a perfect ending, 'a kicker' that surprises." Guyer said. "But in bioethics, you can never tie up the story."

An earlier version of Harold Shapiro's lecture is available on the web.



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