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COLUMN

Oh, the Technology

Philip Burrowes

Admit it: you aren’t really interested in elections or war and other “poignant” topics. Sure, when it’s in the news on the front page -- or homepage, as the case for you may be -- you’ll develop a snap opinion, but you’re not going to dig into a publication’s bowels to keep up with the casualty counts, be they bills or bodies. No, you’re concerned with your image. You chose MIT because it was the “best” school, not because you thought you’d learn that much more here. Heaven forbid those outside the Ivory Dome(s) call you on that, or, even worse, think you’re actually a big enough nerd to really want to maximize learning potential. Well, prepare your transfer application, because the Institvte’s about to get even geekier.

First off, we’ve got a Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) machine in the arcade. You may think the arcade was geeky enough in itself, but it was a lot worse when you had to go into the basement to play Virtual Tennis by yourself (and you know you did). At least now, because every other room in the Stratton lobby is a business of some kind, we can pretend it’s not really an MIT venture. Plus it has pool tables, and only cool people play pool. Well, cool people and everybody on Blind Date. Then there’s the whole argument that an arcade is nominally less geeky than a Newbury Comics, despite the fact that Newbury Comics is actually a popular music chain that only has comics in its corners.

Back to the issue of DDR. It’s, like, from Japan and stuff, and that’s never okay, unless you’re a 13-year-old girl (or you could be Japanese, but then again you really should be assimilating). It’s not even the advanced version of some popular domestic machine, like the ridiculously superior “UFO Catchers” which have brand-name plushes. DDR is an idiosyncratic genre, a cross between the NES Power Pad and PaRappa the Rapper. Sure, almost every category’s archetype appears weird and anti-American -- Mario was one giant ethnic slur -- but DDR is different. There’s a reason it has “revolution” in the title.

Subversion isn’t the name of the game, however. Rather, the revolution is making you exercise when playing. For the sedentary scientist, this is all the more unsettling. MIT students were just not built to dance. Ballroom dancers don’t count, because too many of them are grad students, and it’s too close to a sport. You see, sports can go on college applications, so there are genuine athletes here. Nobody gets in for clubbing.

To top it all off, everybody gets to look at you. With a group watching, playing DDR is like taking an exam. Watching somebody during an exam is cheating, and nobody at MIT cheats. “Seriously,” though, why do you think the same people who apologized to their 8.01 TAs when they missed recitation would willfully skip their HASS classes that have mandatory attendance? Mandatory attendance means a participation grade, and a participation grade means people are watching you -- you’re being graded.

Wait, that analogy won’t make sense soon, because 8.01 is becoming participation-based. This goes against all, yes, all MIT stands for. Professors are researchers first, embittered ex-students second, and teachers third or fourth, depending on whether or not they have tenure. Lecturers don’t really like answering your questions. GIRs are large and impersonal for practical reasons beyond the number of faculty.

Don’t think this isn’t in our favor. It’s our last chance, after all, to meet people before they break off into their respective majors and become effectively cliquish. Similarly, GIRs are the lone common ties that bind a student body which selects majors (numerically) ranging from Civil (and Environmental) Engineering to Philosophy (and Linguistics). They might as well make you sit forever with the people in your Orientation groups.

Except Orientation groups and freshman seminars don’t give you laptops. Using computers becomes less stigmatizing every second, but the more there are, the closer we get to an outsider’s stereotype of MIT. Clusters already seem ubiquitous to visitors, but just wait for those tour groups to go pass the TEAL rooms. “Oooh, they’ve got Dells! How high-tech.” Why’d they have to be Dell machines, anyway? At least the laptops that the libraries give out are IBMs, which are slightly less plebeian. But don’t think that makes it okay. There need to be limits. Next SIPB will be running MIT Cable and writing columns for The Tech (rim shot!).

Oh, and then there’s Harry Potter. Just remember: Halloween was two weeks ago.