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(Advanced Warning--this is a pretty boring report...)
First, a brief update on my travel schedule this fall. I'll be in Austin, Texas November 15-18 for the Digital Divide Symposium (http://communication.utexas.edu/college/digital_divide_symposium/index.html) and in Rome November 29 to December 2 for TESOL-Italy Conference (http://www.eurolink.it/tesol/). I hope to see some of you there (and feel free to email me and say "hi, I'll be there too.")
The above paragraph would be rather short for a PN message, so I might as well tell you a bit about Irvine. Irvine is a model for the new kinds of planned communities in the US, sometimes referred to as "edge cities" or "technoburbs". It's completely owned and planned by one company which has tried to orchestrate, with some success, a more-Singaporean-than-Singapore atmosphere. Every housing community is completely planned, most of them are gated. 40% of the city is dedicated to parkland. There's all sorts of high-tech businesses and buildings around, and a few completely artificial (but rather fun) pseudo-urban huge shopping/entertainment centers (including the Irvine Spectrum Center, with a 21-movie theatre complex). Irvine has been written about extensively by social scientists, including several folks familiar to our discussion on social networks. (Joe Garreau, the author of the Washington Post piece on netwar that we've been discussing, coined the term "Edge City" and has a somewhat pessimistic article here: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.12/edgier.cities_pr.html. Rob Kling, a leading figure in the field of social informatics, has an article here: http://www.ics.uci.edu/~kling/postedge.html. A more recent article in the Economist is here: http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=760545. Actually, I find it a really nice place to live, at least at my age, but someone in their 20s would probably find it a bit boring.
Irvine is demographically well-to-do, about half-white, a large minority of Asian-Americans, a smaller number of Latinos and few blacks. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the US.
The mood these days is rather calm, considering everything that's been going on in the US. There have been a number of candlelight vigils organized by student groups and churches. A few extra flags have been put up on houses in the neighborhoods. A brand new Islamic School just opened in Irvine this past week, with a warm welcome from the community and without any incidents or problems.
Since school is starting this week, there are all sorts of student booths set up on the UCI campus. A quick walk through them yesterday indicated that they seem to be mostly made up of religious groups, ethnic groups (the campus is 50% Asian-American), and fraternities, or combinations of the above, e.g., "Koreans for Christ," "Chinese Bhuddist Students," "Latino/a Christians", "Hmong Students Association." More political or activist groups were few and far between.
I also attended a new professor reception (though I've been here since January, these receptions are just organized once a year in September.) The majority of the new faculty members are in engineering, medicine, and the sciences--with the remainder divided between humanities, social sciences, and the arts. There were several excellent new hires in the area of Chicano/Latino studies, as there's a new program in that field on campus. Orange County (the broader County that Irvine is part of, located between Los Angeles County and San Diego county), is going through a major demographic shift, with the percentage of Latinos rising rapidly, so this should be an important new program on campus.
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