Monthly Archives: June 2009


Summer is supposed to be a quiet time at a university, yes? Not at Draper! We’re reading admissions files, finalizing new faculty hires, developing courses for the fall, and taking care of various other responsibilities that must happen between now and September. We’re busier than ever, which means that the coming academic year may be one of the most dynamic and exciting we’ve had in a long time. More on that as the autumn term nears.

And there are also, always, other tasks. I’m working on my book with feverish intensity. Called Picking Up, it asks a simple question: What is it like to be a sanitation worker in the city of New York today? The answer is fascinating (which surprises many people; go figure!). It lets me tell stories about history, about work, about time, and about how challenging it is to draw a boundary around a subject (that is, garbage and its labors) that always resists containment.

To see if the writing makes sense, I’ve given a few talks in recent weeks. It’s a good way to test-drive new ideas (does the audience think I’m crazy or wise? or something in between? How do I squeeze 300 years of history into a 45-minute presentation, anyway?) and meet people interested in the themes I’m playing with.

A talk I gave in early May, for instance, was in a venue new to me. The GEL Conference (GEL stands for Good Experience Live) collects thinkers, shakers, doers, inspirers (it should be a word) from various walks of life and asks each to speak on his or her expertise for no more than 20 minutes. I was honored to be included, and the event was a marvelous opportunity to learn from scholars, entrepreneurs, designers, artists, and educators whom I otherwise might never have met. There will be a link to a video eventually, but for now there are pictures of yours truly and all the other speakers on Flickr, here.

In early June I spoke at the New York Public Library, which is always a pleasure. I tried to jam a few centuries of history into less than an hour, in a discussion about the parallels between public health and trash management. It worked, sort of… The audience was attentive, patient, and asked many good questions, which helped me immensely.

Then last Saturday (June 20), I gave a talk at Freshkills Park on Staten Island (that’s Freshkills at the top of this post; I took the picture last March). It truly is one of the most extraordinary geographies in the world. I’ve visited many times, though knew it better when it was an active landfill. I loved it then and love it now. If you ever have the chance to take one of the tours run by the Parks Department, don’t hesitate. You will be dazzled and amazed…!

Free Op-Ed Writing Workshop for Graduates: NYU Journalism, 9/18/09

NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute will be offering a free, non-credit ‘Op-Ed Writing Workshop for Graduates and Professors in the Social Sciences’ and Draper students are invited to attend.

When: Friday, September 18th, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, 20 Cooper Square, 6th floor

Instructors: Dalton Conley, FAS Dean of Social Sciences
Brooke Kroeger, Director, NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute

Per the Journalism’s announcement:

“The workshop morning will cover the whys and wherefores of writing for a wide but sophisticated general public with the afternoon devoted to workshopping each student’s individual piece. Participants will submit 250-word queries (pitches) for their articles by September 8th. The edited queries will be returned promptly. Drafts of the 850-word final articles will be due by September 15th for a second edit and we will work with that edited version in class.Preparatory text for the workshop: George Orwell’s Politics of the English Language.”

To register: Contact rachel.pinson@nyu.edu with subject line: Op-Ed Workshop

Please include your program and school and whether you are a graduate student or a professor.

Further details will be made available to those who sign up. Class limit is 20. The workshop is being offered for no academic credit and free of charge. Admission will be on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Professor Tom de Zengotita Published in Harper’s, June 2009


Professor Thomas de Zengotita recently published “Reframing Your World” in the June 2009 issue of Harper’s.

Tom (who teaches three immensely popular seminars for Draper) is a frequent contributor of non-fiction for Harper’s, and this short ‘fantasy essay’ is part of a forum of similar pieces published in the magazine. He is also the author of Mediated, which was awarded the Media Ecology Association’s Marshall McLuhan Award in 2006 for outstanding work in the field.

The full text of the story is only available to subscribers online, although you can read the beginning here.