Lost in Translation

August 8, 2016

Do You See What I See? By William Chafe and Gareth O. Price 

Word clouds, like real clouds, can reveal or obscure; two people looking at the same cumulonimbus invariably will see different things. Using stories from The Chronicle archives, we created two word clouds from the demands students made in the 1969 and 2016 takeovers of the Allen Building. We wanted to find out whether single words, distilled from the order of sentences and the context of paragraphs, might expose new meanings in the narratives. A Duke historian and a linguist pondered our clouds and shared their thoughts...

The Story of My Selves by Emily Feng

In the home videos my father filmed of my childhood, I am often the star: a skinny, bright-eyed girl, shouting with ear-piercing shrillness in Chinese, running to get back into the camera frame whenever it tries to pan away from me...

Learning to Speak Computer by Andrew Hilton

When I was a child, we had a Compaq 286 computer with a green-and-black screen. It didn’t have a mouse, of course; instead, you had to type commands for everything. There were still games for computers in those days, and I loved playing them. With the help of a book of 100 games, in second grade I started writing my own in BASIC, one of the earlier programming languages. I would type the game codes into the computer, run the program, and play the game. Although this process generated a game I could play, it was a terrible way to learn to program: Imagine trying to learn a language by copying text from a book, then watching the movie...

Anatomy of an Anthem by Ian Holljes

As songwriters, we try to write about the subjects that matter to us. In the early months of 2015, no social issue was more regularly consuming my mind and dominating the conversations within my band, Delta Rae, than the deadly violence against unarmed black Americans taking place in Ferguson, New York, Chicago, and other cities across the United States. Like many others, I was discovering the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates and his articles on the systemic oppression of people of color by way of U.S. housing policy and the penal system. We were following the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and felt confronted by our own place within the racial divide. I wanted to write something to address this long-standing, seemingly intractable illness in our country, but I also felt incredibly intimidated by the subject. What could six white, privileged adults have to offer?...

Can I Still Learn That? By Barry L. Zalph (online-only content!)

While an undergraduate at Duke, I read The Once and Future King, by E.B. White. My ideal was not the kind and wise King Arthur nor any of the brave, strong, and skillful knights of the Round Table. Instead, it was Merlin, the wizard and mentor to the young Arthur. My inchoate hope for myself was to develop intellectual abilities that would amaze my friends, baffle my enemies, and earn me a place on a high-powered team. I would not be a marquee CEO or popular public figure, but instead a wizard behind the scenes, conjuring effective and elegant solutions to vexing problems...

What We Want to Hear by Jack Zhou (online-only content!)

If there is a platonic ideal of American politics, it is that of the “great debate”: two opposing sides armed with sharp rhetoric and strong values yet with enough wisdom to concede to the soundest argument. Think of the Lincoln-Douglas debates or fictional orators like Jed Bartlett whose victories are founded on speeches of principled logic. Unfortunately, our political reality may be more like House of Cards (or perhaps Veep) than The West Wing, and communication rarely wins out...