Welcome! I am Jason Nguyen, a graduate student in ethnomusicology at Indiana University, Bloomington, and this blog is where I make observations about music, culture, and academic life.

How bureaucracy produces silence whether it means to or not


For the past two days, I’ve been working with colleagues in the IU Communication and Culture department to figure out how we formulate a response to the recent plans to merge our department, Journalism, and Telecomm into one giant Media School. This is similar to other initiatives around the country, and perhaps should come as no surprise. What did surprise me a little is the extent to which fellow graduates (and I myself) felt like we should do something, but were always somewhat complacent. CMCL grads were in deep on IU on Strike last year–we know what it means to organize and express our opinions. But we weren’t really doing it for this one, and it seemed weird, since the fate of the program was really at stake. Maybe it is  the sense of inevitability, but I think there’s something more going on.

The following is a letter I planned to send to CMCL grad students to maybe light a fire under us. In consultation with some smart friends, I’ve chosen other tactics (check out the Facebook event), but I do think what I had to say might still be interesting.

Continue reading How bureaucracy produces silence whether it means to or not

“You can text in class…if it’s going to ME!” – Student Texts –> Google Spreadsheet. (Semi-)LIVE in the Classroom!


So in C122 Interpersonal Communication this week, I wanted everyone to submit a greeting of some sort to me, and then we could look at the student responses in aggregate. Basically, this is what I wanted to happen:

Me: Everybody pretend that I’m the friend you want to talk to after class, and text me how you’ll greet them.
Students: [ dutifully texting their messages ]
*magic magic magic*
The Board: [ magically shows all the text messages ]

The solution I came up with wasn’t perfect (it takes a few minutes to update and grab all the texts), but it went pretty damn well. Instructions after the jump. Continue reading “You can text in class…if it’s going to ME!” – Student Texts –> Google Spreadsheet. (Semi-)LIVE in the Classroom!

New Bibliographies section

It’s super rough, but I wanted to add a section of suggested readings for various topics. Right now, it’s just a few suggested readings on semiotics, but I’ll add more as I feel the need to organize my readings.


Essential WordPress Plugins / Themes

Whenever I put together a new WordPress blog, or clean up a pre-existing one, there are a number of plugins that I always make sure are added or which I make sure to keep following the purge. This is the list, as much for my own records as it is for any passerby looking for a second opinion.

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Discursive and Material Effects of a Movement: OWS as a case study

Sometimes, I get really annoyed when people say a movement like “Occupy Wall Street” doesn’t have a purpose or its just the anarchic activities of a bunch of ne’er-do-wells. Perhaps it is those things, but that doesn’t mean that it has no political effect.

So, the point of this post is not to take a stand on the movement either way, but to articulate in clear terms, with supporting evidence, that a movement without an easily perceptible agenda can have both discursive and material effects on political activity in a nation.

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MLK on the purpose of demonstration

Again I contend that we are not doing more harm than good in demonstration because I think demonstration serves the purpose of bringing the issues out in the open. I have never felt that demonstrations could actually solve the problem. They call attention to the problem. They dramatize the existence of certain social ills that could very easily be ignored if you did not have demonstrations, and I think the initial reaction to demonstrations is always negative.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 21, 1966
On “Meet the Press”

The Nietzsche Family Circus

This site takes a random Family Circus and puts it with a random Nietzsche quote. My first two:

LOLculture is famous! Ish.

Harmonic Dissidents, an online magazine, recently re-published one of Charles Keil’s old articles, and they asked me if they could spruce it up with one of the pictures from my other site, LOLculture:

This particular image was created by my good friend Kurt Baer.

Original Post: http://www.lolculture.com/charles-keil-wants-you-to-know-about-his-groo

Brothers West and Smiley miss (or are ignoring) an important point

I much respect the strong positions Tavis Smiley and Cornel West take with respect to the poor and the disenfranchised, of all color and creed. Their voices are important ones that force us all to refocus our lenses vis-a-vis the status quo. That said, I find their continued criticism of President Obama somewhat myopic–not because I think that the President is a saint, but because I think they are missing the point.

In an interview with Ed Schultz, Dr. West characterized the president as having “missed the moment” to focus on homeowners and poverty. However, pinning the blame on a single person–even the President of the most powerful nation in the world– only serves to shift the blame away from ourselves. If there was a “moment” as Dr. West stated, then we all missed it. Indeed, it was never Obama’s opportunity to take–it was our’s. “Yes we can”–if we want to.

Seeing the fabricated problems brought about by the staunch Tea Party caucus in the past few months, I see both a very sad truth and a lesson: if you want a reality, you have to MAKE that reality. Tea Party Republicans have managed to construct the world they believe in by controlling the narrative, rising up together, and fighting for it. The government will never become an advocate for the poor and disenfranchised before the American people do so.

Daily Accountability with help from Google

Google Docs Logo

This semester, I have a lot of work, but it’s all going to have to be self-structured.  So I took a strategy from a Noah Kagan blog post, “Daily Accountability Marketing Metrics“, in which he asks those working for him to fill out a daily form that asks them what specific work they’ve done as part of their duties for that day.  What I like about the forms he uses is that they are both metric and reminder.

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