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CUNY Pie and the Future of Academia: Mangia

The THATCamp CUNY Pie Gang

academicdave is surprised; boonebgorges is partially obscured; mattthomas is debonair; clioweb is excited; mkgold is upskirting; samplereality is the unseen photographer. Thanks samplereality for the photo

CUNY Pie is mired in rhetoric. Understood as a purely gastronomic endeavor, the language of CUNY Pie gravitates toward quasi-Italian phraseology and Brooklyn neighborhood names. As understood by those who tout the project as an extended experiment in academic social spaces, CUNY Pie bears a weight far greater than even the low-grade mozzarella heaped lovelessly on a Sbarro slice. Is pizza and beer the lubricant for an academic conversation of more significance? Are instructional technology and postulation on the future of university just excuses to go to Patsy’s? Or does the situation of CUNY Pie within the CUNY Academic Commons or even CUNY as a whole challenge the presumption that there is a justifiable distinction between social and academic behavior? In what can only be described as an instance of academia’s tragic instinct to overtheorize the beautiful, pie theory threatens to outshadow pie eating.

For this reason, it was a relief to actually eat some fricking pizza last weekend at THATCamp. While other attendees went to Hooters or something, an intrepid group of campers, led by our gracious host, took a trip to Tony’s NY Pizza. Jeremy was anxious for a verdict on what he called the best pizza around. And my verdict is: It was pretty good. The pizza was slicejointesque: big pies, sweet sauce, generous amounts of dried cheese. The vegetable pie was surprisingly good, notwithstanding the odd distribution of black olives. The sausage pie offered thick, cross-cut slices of a fennely sweet sausage, which I enjoyed more than the pleasantly fatty but sort of bland meatballs. The crust had the familiar rolling docker pock-marks on the bottom, and was, like many whole pies bought from slice joints apparently used to reheating slices, pulled from the oven about 90 seconds before it should have been. The dough could have used more salt, but the cornicione, especially on the more done sides of the pizzas, had a pleasant chewiness. In sum: an above average street slice type of pie, and really quite good for NY street pie outside of NYC.

There was a bit of Twitter chatter about whether a CUNY Pie event in Fairfax, with just two out of six attendees formally connected to CUNY, really counts. For one thing, a few of the attendees have already been assimilated. Second, if you really believe the ballyhoo about CUNY Pie as a harbinger of the university to come, surely you can’t in good faith fall back on the artifical institutional boundaries that dominate traditional academia. CUNY Pie is more than a bunch of people eating pizza. It’s a movement, an ethos, which could be summed up thus: Stop yammering and eat your damn pizza.

9 comments to CUNY Pie and the Future of Academia: Mangia

  • Great post, as always, you’re about the work. And, I agree, there was assimilation, and Tony’s NY Pizza, despite its horrid name, counts. I’m glad you guys had a good time.

    But you also seem to be implying a larger argument that there’s simply no difference between #cunypie and #pie, and I just can’t abide. What, next a bunch of hippies in Oregon get to call their wheatgrass pizza #cunypie? No thanks you.

  • Part of the background to this post, Luke, is that Boone and I did a lightning session at #thatcamp on the Commons. But instead of listing the Commons as our topic, I listed #CUNYPie, and the subject of talk was the way that the social elements of university life are becoming inseparable from the academic elements. Rather than seeing the hippies in Oregon talk about their pizza, I want to see them blog about their coffee or their beer or whatever foodstuffs are special and local to those spaces. Academic communities all over the country, blogging about their food and local culture . . .it could be a beautiful thing.

  • Agreed– that would be fantastic. But, more importantly, why are you using logic and reason and argumentation and the “ethos of sharing” to diffuse a perfectly fun fight?

    I’m here to speak up in defense of cultural parochialism, and David Simon’s here with me.

  • Yeah, Matt, why are you trying to ruin our fun?

  • Man, reading this post makes me feel like perhaps I’m missing out on something more than extra calories with this whole cunypie biz.

    Thatcamp sounds really cool. Really dug the “Digital Rights Manifesto”.

    Were there any IT staff-folk in attendance? Need to build those bridges to move beyond theory and rhetoric, I reckon.

  • André – Yeah, you are missing out!

    THATCamp is a cool event, largely because it brings together people who normally wouldn’t attend the same kinds of conferences (humanities faculty, librarians, instructional technologists, programmers, museum folks, etc). But systems folks are one crucial group that are not well represented. I guess that’s your cue to get involved 😉

  • Fantastic, Boone!

    I know from experience that there’s lots of smart, passionate IT guys and gals working behind the scenes, in literal or metaphoric “basements”, who are deeply committed and actively working towards these same ideas and goals.

    Whether it’s making sure Faculty have access to Mac and Linux workstations, or building next-generation, high-performance computing facilities, they are laying down the ground-work for Academic Freedom in this oh so digital new world.

    Free Software, Free Speech, and yes Pizza!

  • André — it would be fantastic to see you at THATCamp — Boone is right that sysadmins are not a well-represented group, and it would be wonderful to have your perspective there. I also want to invite you to take part in the Digital Studies Group; it looks like we’re going to have an exciting slate of events next year.