Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rep. Nass Wants Say on UW Research

Evidently it wasn't enough that UW-Madison professors Erica and Rich Halverson cleared their new research project through the MacArthur Foundation, which gave them a grant to do it.

Assembly Colleges and Universities committee chair Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) apparently thinks he needs to approve it, too.

The press release by Nass tries to make a connection between the research by the Halverson's -- which focuses on studying competitive fandom and gaming through an exploration of fantasy baseball leagues -- and the need for adequate funding for the UW in the biennial budget.

Setting aside the fact that the research is funded through the private MacArthur Foundation, it is breathtakingly arrogant for Nass to think that he can judge (or even has any business judging) the validity of a study based upon a single article on it -- which he grossly short-changes in his press release -- that ran through the UW news service.

Here's Nass: "Maybe with higher taxes the Ivory Tower elites at UW-Madison can solve the great psychological mystery posed by the joy that adults and kids get while playing dodgeball or kickball. It couldn’t be that most simple of reasons – it’s fun."

Ivory Tower elites? Does Nass think that by attacking a university he's shielded from sounding pompous himself?

The Halverson's are taking time to critically examine an aspect of a much larger cultural phenomenon, fantasy gaming, that has grown extremely popular in recent years amongst a wide swath of the American public. Elitism would be to shun the fantasy phenomenon as the mindless meddling of the working classes, and it wasn't all that long ago that academia would've done just that.

Nass, meanwhile, is barking out press releases from his Capitol office with the notion that he has special oversight of and insight into how UW professors should run their research simply because he was given a chairperson post by his caucus leader.

And it's a good thing Robert Putnam didn't stop at just considering whether "it's fun" when crafting one of the most important studies on public society in recent memory, which started with an interest in bowling leagues.

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Blogger Xoff said...

Nass is working in the tradition, unfortunately, of Bill Proxmire's "Golden Fleece" awards, which often singled out university research projects with titles or subjects that would make them seem ludicrous at first glance. And that made for plenty of press releases.

July 17, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

That is unfortunate. Even more unfortunate is that Nass either ignored or didn't bother to figure out that the project is funded privately.

July 17, 2007  

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