Author: Grace Carroll

Being Revolutionary

Keith Peterson’s talk on being revolutionary was difficult for me to wrap my head around. The lack of breaking down philosophers’ opinions and Peterson’s inability to make them relevant to the present day resulted in me not gaining much from the talk. Rather than draw from philosophers, it would have been intriguing to evaluate different actions on what it means to be revolutionary. Throughout the course, we were exposed to a number of speakers, all of which touched upon components of what it means to be revolutionary.

Despite not gaining much from the last talk, I gained a richer perspective of the many ways one could be revolutionary. A revolution doesn’t have to be a revolt, or a protest. Rather, it is making a statement, changing opinions, and spreading beliefs. Given this versatility, how would lead a revolution at Colby College, or is there a revolution already taking place on-campus? These talks showed the many ways in which revolutions can occur, but did not provide insight into how to lead or notice one.

Another side note is who leads revolutions? Is there a certain type of person that can execute a successful revolution? Or is this restricted to the situation? Much of the talks pertained to contexts, often discussing favorable or unfavorable situations and resources. None of them addressed specific characteristics of a successful revolutionary.

Perhaps looking at the revolutionaries themselves is another area ready for exploration, or something of interest for individualistic cultures only. Regardless, it would offer additional perspectives to the wide definition of what it means to be revolutionary.

Hidden Revolutions

Jeremy Popkin’s talk “Haitian Revolution and the Origins of Modern Democracy” discussed the many revolutions Haiti underwent (1776, 1789, and 1804) to establish itself as a democracy. Popkin provided insight into how the Haitian Revolution is often overlooked, forgotten, and/or disregarded. However, as unique as the Haitian Revolution was for becoming the first African-American run democracy in the New World, there may be legitimate reasons for historians to overlook the revolution.

What has the Haitian Revolution resulted in? Was it truly successful? Historians choose to delve into significant historical events. Why? Significant events, such as the American revolution, are more apt to influence subsequent historical occurrences. An event like the Haitian Revolution, although having potential  to empower freed African-Americans and former slaves, did not change the world sphere. Rather, the event passed by. Some people may point to racial injustices, I would point to how the Haitians’ independence didn’t involve high stake powers and was separated from the, at the time, main-stream world.

This is my personal reflection regarding the Haitian Revolution. Although many historians will continually point to racial injustices, I would argue it would be worthwhile for them to at least consider this point of view, and at least bring it up, or counter it, when calling for people to reconsider overlooked historical events.

Revolutions, an Evolution in Itself

Janet Brown’s talk, “Rethinking the Darwinian Revolution” delved into characteristics of the original Darwinian Revolution, and discussed how it has evolved since. One component to her talk was the striking difference between the Darwinian Revolution when Darwin was alive and when he was deceased.  Although Darwin developed his theories and recorded extensive data, his life-altering perceptions about our relationship with other species caused controversy. It was not until Darwin passed away that he became an icon. As Brown mentioned, upon his death Darwin’s friends petitioned to have him buried in the famous Westminster Abbey.

It is intriguing that Darwin’s thoughts, and him as an icon of the presently changing mindset, did not catch steam until after his passing. One notable point Brown discussed was that Darwin was not the only evolutionist of the time. However, with the help of his friends, Darwin became the face of the movement and was quickly idolized. Even though Darwin’s image improved, compared to when he was alive, his revolution would not truly impact the lives of many until the American scientists accepted his theory in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

The story of Darwin demonstrates the different forms a revolution can come in. Specifically, the duration of revolutionary thoughts, and advancements in human’s understanding of the world, can clearly exceed the revolutionary’s lifetime.  Moreover, the evolution revolution underwent many changes and altered its image over many generations. This also shows the number of changes a revolution can undergo, and how different generations may interpret, or misinterpret, its purpose. Thus, revolutions can be variable, evolving, and adaptable; they suit to the current environment and it is the ideas, and not always the people, that keep the revolution in motion.

Dealing with Uncomfortable Monuments

In Jeffrey Schnapps’ talk about developing the BZ ’18-’45 monument in Bolzano, Italy, Schnapps discusses the story of transforming an uncomfortable, yet important, story into one generations can learn from and embrace. Although Schnapps’ work occurred in a small town in northern Italy, his work provides insight into an ongoing issues across the world: How do we deal with our uncomfortable past? Schnapps, although without resistance, took an important representation of a town’s history that was once avoided and transformed it into something with significant purpose. This story is an important one to listen to. Across the world, there are aspects of every country’s past that are looked down upon, or even forgotten, and learning how to handle and display them properly is needed.


Responding in this manner, of preserving uncomfortable artifacts, can be revolutionary in itself, or foster subsequent movements for how we view our past. One such example is the fight over Civil War monuments and graves, namely on the side of the Confederacy. Despite the attack on these artifacts, many local historians gathered and strived, much like Schnapps, to restructure them in a manner that made them educational. Although this movement across the American south remained hidden from the media, a small, but important revolution, occurred and resulted in the preservation, and updating of, important artifacts.

These experiences teach us the importance of being uncomfortable, and learning from history. Schnapps is unique from other movements as he made his exhibit technologically advanced, interactive, and accessible to many. Historians, artists, architects, and more can learn from his work, and ideally apply it to many communities.

The Future of Big Data

In Aaron Hanlon’s presentation “Revolutions in Data, Big and Little”, Hanlon discussed the development of big data, and its relationship with advancements in technology. The concept of big data has emerged not only in scientific research, but also across a variety of disciplines.  Moreover, with this big data, visual representations are crucial for comprehending the big picture and making information accessible to many populations. However, now that data has transformed to big data, what does this mean?


With the rise of the Internet, we have been quickly termed “the information age”. As Hanlon highlighted, big data has become visual, and this combined with the Internet’s accessibility in developed nations makes this data, and its meaning, more available and widespread. With this in mind, data’s importance for understanding daily issues and probable solutions has increased. Rather than go on intuition or point to religion, citizens of developed nations are beginning to turn to research. There are many future directions of these implications. Will the importance of data spread to developing and underdeveloped countries? It is reasonable to hypothesize this will occur soon for developing nations, as Internet is rapidly becoming more accessible. Underdeveloped nations also have potential, but given their ongoing statuses, I predict it will be longer for this rapid shift.


However, what does this shift towards depending on data mean? There are many issues with it, as data can be done incorrectly, and even if it is disproven its implications persist. For example, the statistic stating one in four (or five) women will be sexually assaulted on college campuses in the United States has been disproven countless times and somebody with a basic knowledge of statistics can read it and decipher where these well-intended researchers went wrong. However, despite studies retesting and disproving the one in four (or five) the meanings hold. This brings up an important necessity: Knowledge in data interpretation and questioning. Statistics has seen a rise in recent years, and it is crucial to educate future generations about how to interpret research and know when false meanings, or bad research, is being presented to them.


Despite this important concern, data provides wonderful insight. Despite depending on housewives tales, people can look at data and, most of the time, can make better, more informative decisions. It will be intriguing to see the continuation and expansion of big data, particularly with social media’s growing dominance in its presentation and the increasing role developing nations will play.

The Darwinian Revolution – Still Unfinished?

Professor Judy Stone, a Biology professor at Colby College discussed “The Unfinished Business of the Darwinian Revolution”. She highlighted “the evolution” of thought, well before Darwin entered the scene. Notably, it was intriguing as to how much the idea of evolution has changed, and even when Darwin postulated his theory, it was misinterpreted and took many years before its acceptance in the sciences. However, as Stone briefly discussed, this revolution to understanding Darwin is unfinished; but what do we do with this information and what does it imply?


As Stone noted, much of our understanding today is misrepresentative of Darwin’s true reasonings. Individuals are plagued with the stereotypical ape to human image, which misrepresents evolution as a moving, ladder-like process with an end goal. These even extend to Intro. to Biology courses across some colleges and high schools, further digging in this skewed image. What does this mean though? Such a misunderstanding is important; it shows that it is acceptable to misinterpret conclusions, and allow a false story to develop. This is problematic, and quite common, in all domains in life. Often the media portrays, and draws false conclusions, from all forms of people: Politicians, celebrities, newscasters. Moreover, academics may unintentionally misinterpret past, or new, research, and much like the story of evolution, create a new one that is far from indicative of the truth. This is especially rampant today, given the mass exchange of information across many domains.


However, what do we do with this seemingly common problem? Call a revolution to truly grasp the point being made before synthesizing or altering it? Perhaps not, but it does offer a space for individuals, like Stone, who seek to correct the falsely told narrative. Within this process, we might actually gain more; such misrepresentations motivate passionate people to re-examine the original source in depth, and strive to correct whatever misconstrued story has been told. Albeit the truth may never overpower the strong misinterpretations, like the iconic ape to human image, it will continue to foster discussion and push people to learn more about whatever process they deem misled.

Curiosity: The Driving Force for Revolutions?

Professor Kerry Emanuel discussed the history of climate science’s revolutionizers and the path taken that has led climate science to be what it is today. Some of the major themes Emanuel emphasized include the duration of this path, its dependence on technological advancements, and the vastness of knowledge that has yet to be learned. However, during this discussion, one driving force was subtly spreadheading every part of the process: People’s curiosity in climate science. This leads one to wonder: Is curiosity the driving force for revolutions, and, or are other factors in play?


The origin of revolutions is a complex matter. Every revolution is unique, context-specific, and requires different resources to guarantee its success. Could curiosity be the sole driving force? Looking at the climate change revolution, specifically, Emanuel pointed to several early researchers. Each one of them was genuinely curious in how the world functioned. Whenever a finding arose, their curiosity only grew and prompted additional exploration, like the geologists noticing scratch marks on arctic rocks. Other major scientific revolutions originate from the power of curiosity, like the concept of evolution and even the expansion of technology.


However, did curiosity drive other revolutions’ success? One could argue curiosity for a better life and society drove the French Revolution, or curiosity of complete independence drove the American Revolution; but did other factors dominate these revolutions? I would argue for societal-changing revolutions, there are other overarching factors, such as anger, passion, and dissatisfaction. General curiosity is not bound to push for grand changes like these revolutions achieved; stronger, more pressing feelings and emotions seem to push these revolutions over the edge.


Albeit curiosity may not be the significant contributor to every revolution, it seems to be important in exploratory-revolutions, whether that be improving science and/or technology. This is intriguing, and makes one wonder about whether these fields of work foster this likely necessary curiosity.



Social Media and the Art of Expression: The Next Best Method to Revolt?

Khalid Albaih’s conversation about his ongoing work with political cartoons shined light into how people in the Middle East are reacting to the ongoing climate and how effective, yet simple, drawing cartoons is for freely expressing opinions and thoughts. Although the concept of drawing images to express opinions precedes long before the twenty-first century, the combination of these drawings with technology transform its prior utilization. Albaih’s ongoing work may be foreshadowing the most efficient and effective way to begin a revolution: Art and social media. Art’s universalness already makes ideas more accessible, but launching this on the Internet, namely social media, completely enhances attempts to revolutionize.

As Albaih highlighted, freedom of speech is unheard of in many parts of the world. However, art complicates the government’s ability to directly point to violations against their law. As illustrated in Albaih’s cartoons, hidden messages can be conveyed through intricate art, and his work’s meaning is up to the interpreter his- or herself. This makes art an easy segway to get ideas and feelings across without directly violating the country’s law. Moreover, it allows the audience, often average individuals, see what they want to see and is also accessible; no formal education is required, only being aware of the surroundings is. This has been a custom for centuries, and Albaih carries on this wonderful tradition.

Moreover, combing art’s accessibility with technology revamps the entire process. Albaih can easily upload his cartoon to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and can capture the attention of thousands of people from all over the world. This viral component not only educates individuals from different countries, but also enhances accessibility for residents of relevant countries; these cartoons are not restricted to the cities where revolutions often take place, but also to rural locations and small towns where they can now feel part of the revolution too. Furthermore, as Albaih mentioned, even countries who are undergoing similar revolutions can now share these ideas, and these movements can combine and empower all involved. This act is completely unique of the twenty-first century, and given the increasing connectedness of the world, will likely continue to escalate and transform the way revolutions begin and spread.

Albaih’s efforts, albeit may seem simple, have the capability to change ideas and bring people together to revolutionize. Platforming art onto social media, and using this to generate opinions and make change is a basic yet completely effective process. Albaih’s work is likely the beginning of a core component to revolutions in the twenty-first century.

Tambora’s Effect on Understanding History – Not So Unique Anymore?

In the discussion, The Tambora Revolution: The 1815 Eruption that Changed the World, Professor Wood explores not only the life-altering effects of a volcanic eruption, but also the interconnectedness of the world’s events and the expansion of this globalized perspective. This is an incredibly intriguing point, particularly because history gets written by either those who prevail, or those who have the resources to record past events. Although this volcano eruption illustrates how history can be interconnected across discrepant cultures and over great distances, it is worthwhile to wonder whether this will be unique from a twenty-first century perspective.

The twenty-first century is a time of dramatically increased overlapping and interconnectedness due to the sudden increases in the types of technology and their accessibility. This change has completely affected how we view the world and how we have recorded their events. We are more apt to learning about far-reaching crises and issues, thus more easily pointing to these events and how they affect everybody. This makes the phenomenon of recognizing Tambora’s worldly effects and putting subsequent events less unique; rather, this has become characteristic of the twenty-first century.

Albeit there is this more open worldview, we face challenges, especially when considering how we view history. The interconnectedness that comes with technology has its own advantages and flaws. One of these flaws that is related to this conversation is the interpretation of information presented. Given that the western world continuously exerts control in the economy and the technology industry, it also impacts what and how information is presented on social media and news outlets. Thus, this control in presentation affects people’s subliminal reactions to a given event, resulting in a skewed interpretation and recording of the event.

Although discovering how one volcanic eruption on an obscure island affected many significant historical events around the globe during the nineteenth century, it is worthwhile to ask, is this really special? In many ways it is, as it makes us really pose other historical events; were they more interconnected that we thought? However, looking in our current twenty-first century lens, we can discover that have evolved to live in an interconnected society, and events that occur will thus have some form of a ripple effect. Though this comes with probable issues, especially western biases and ignorance, this interconnectedness will forever impact how we currently record future historical events. This makes Tambora less special, as we are already utilizing this interconnectedness perspective, but the truly unique component to the Tambora story is how we can re-evaluate past events, and see if we can pair past historical events that we would not have done otherwise.


The technological revolution: A repeat of the scientific revolution?

Fast forward 400 years from now, will subsequent generations be hosting discussions like Professor Cohen’s “How Revolutionary – and how Scientific – was the Scientific Revolution”, but for the ongoing technological revolution? The technological revolution continues to accelerate before our eyes and influences our lives in unimaginable ways. Moving for jobs is no longer as difficult when you can Facetime your loved ones at any time, and anywhere; you can keep in touch with old high school classmates through social media platforms like Facebook; you must maintain a “clean” social profile, as what goes on the Internet, stays on the Internet. When this revolution of sorts past, and is recorded down in history, will Colby’s class of 2416 be asking: Was the technological revolution really technological and revolutionary? Albeit the continuing technological revolution differs significantly from that of the scientific revolution, I’d expect some individuals will be posing these sorts of questions given the many parallels the technological revolution has with the scientific revolution.

Can we place the technological and scientific revolutions on the same comparison plane? Let’s first examine what constitutes a “revolution”. As discussed in Professor Cohen’s lecture, a revolution results in a break with the past, is violent, has a group spearheading the movement, and this group is ousted, and is sudden. However, like the scientific revolution, the technological revolution encompasses not all, but only some of these. It is sudden, celebrates a break with the past, may be violent through means like cyberbullying, and has many big-name groups, like Apple, Google, and Samsung directing its trajectory. These characteristics do not necessarily overlap with those that make up the scientific revolution, but it shares its ambiguity.

With such ambiguity, future generations might examine the technological revolution and ask, was this really a revolution, and was it really technological? Even today, the technological revolution is not a fully established term to describe the ongoing changes related to technology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Moreover, much like the term “scientific”, the word “technological” is fluid. Technological might represent something completely different than how we currently define it.

Like the scientific revolution, it will take outsiders, specifically those outside of the revolution’s direct influence, to fully comprehend its meaning and whether it represents a revolution or not. Moreover, I’d argue they would likely come to the same conclusion Professor Cohen did: That the most revolutionary part was its metaphorical implications of the word “revolution”. However, it will be a path we will currently lay out: Whether or not we solidify on the ongoing changes as a technological revolution, and, if so, whether this decision will affect what constitutes a revolution in the future.