Value vs. worth (again)

WeatherGrrrl is today starting down the difficult road of recovering from knee replacement surgery. Being modern folk, we’d counted on wireless in the hospital to allow Netflix to be a key mental narcotic, helping keep her mind off the pain that unavoidably comes of having bones reshaped with saws, ligaments removed, and various other tissue pushed around and annoyed.

Turns out that this hospital is really quite wonderful. The staff have been splendid and caring, she has a very nice room to herself, and they have treated me as a real part of the process and not just a mildly annoying guy in the way.

So, really wonderful. Except that the guest wireless doesn’t seem to reach her room. It’s great in the lobby. It’s great here in this family room. But her hospital room appears to eat radio signals, as neither wifi or cell seem to penetrate that space reliably.

As a result I suggested that we buy a film or similar for the iPad to help make up for the Netflix shortfall, and came here to the family room to download Thor as a bit of distracting popcorn.

And it was $20.

Which gave me pause.

Which in turn really made me annoyed with myself.

So far today I’ve spent that much on meals. We’ll certainly spend that much on gas back and forth for this procedure. It’s a fraction of our minuscule share of the huge bill this will rack up. (We are very grateful for the University’s excellent health care plan.) Or we could compare this to the cost of Thomas’s tuition at Hampshire. Or my soda pop habit at the office. Or money I lose under the bed.

JOCP!!! What was I thinking? Why did I even remotely care? If this film gives her even an hour of distracted relief from the mending and tearing going on in her leg it’s totally worth it! And, I’m quite sure it will do more than that.

I realize that there’s a lot of privilege assumed in this, and that there are people for whom that $20 would be a genuine concern. (& way too many for whom an operation like this would be out of reach.)

But that’s not us.

And I just spend the best $20 I’m likely to spend in a very long time.

Related posts

Incentives and cognitive surplus

Via TechDirt I found this very cool video on how our “standard” notions of incentives don’t always work very well, especially when it comes to cognitive work. There’s a ton of cool ideas in the video (and more in the TechDirt piece, including some cool links).

The incentives in the talk are typically money, but I suspect that there are interesting things to be said about grades as an incentive in the academy. Does anyone know of work along those lines?

One really interesting story is about Atlassian, an Australian software company. (Their stuff is cool, and we’ve used some of it here at UMM in the past, but it’s gotten pricey and we’ve moved to other tools.) Apparently Atlassian gives their employees a 24 period every quarter to work on whatever they want, and then they have a party where people share what they’ve done. This apparently leads to a ton of cool ideas, bug fixes, and development. So, so cool.

How could we apply that here in the academy? What if we gave everyone in our Computer Science discipline a 24 hour period to work on whatever they wanted to and then had a big party where people shared what they did? Could we do it? Would it make sense if we did? What would it mean? We’d probably have to cancel at least our CSci classes that day, and probably make sure that no one was giving an exam the next day, etc., etc.

Because we would only control our discipline’s behavior, though, we wouldn’t give many of the students the freedom they’d need to really take advantage of the opportunity. It would presumably work a lot better if we did this across the entire campus – no classes, no exams, no papers due, and then some sort of event (or set of events distributed across campus) at the end for people to share their results.


Related posts