Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

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Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by vcuEvan » Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:47 pm

I think there are some problems with the 20/20 ACF distribution and I'd like to come up with a viable proposal for a reformed version before the end of this year. I have a few principles that I'd like to see reflected in a new distribution:
  • continued bifurcation of the Fall/Regionals distribution with the Nationals distribution
    less religion
    more trash at the Fall/Regionals level, none at Nationals
    merging sculpture with painting and ballet/dance with music to make more room for other arts
    slightly increased role for English language literature over European literature (probably by making having "1/1 world/English language" instead of "1/1 world/other"]
I'm interested in what people think of these potential changes. I'm also interested in any other changes people think might be warranted.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:49 pm

vcuEvan wrote:less religion
Any specific reason why?
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:01 pm

Thoughts:

1. I agree with less religion. I have argued that the more interesting, accessible portions of religion can be addressed in myth (the cosmic stories), literature (some texts), social science (thinkers/thought), philosophy (ditto), or geography/other (some practices, tossups on countries or regions). Religion is hard to write for a lot of people, the answer space is small at easier tournaments without descending into holiday or minor religion bowl (or biblical book, etc.), and quite frankly, I think a lot of religion questions are unfairly biased in favor of people who grow up in certain religious traditions. I might be in favor of keeping religion 1/1 at Nationals though, when the answer space can be expanded.

2. I would be opposed to trash's expansion. I don't see a good argument for this--more creative, accessible answers in the other categories would make sense. I'd offer a quixotic plea for trash's return to ACF Nationals as I think it leads to really interesting questions that south of CO, you don't get anywhere else.

I've outlined my feelings on film in another thread.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:04 pm

Personally I'd rather see current events role be expanded ahead of trash, especially since packet-submission collegiate trash tends to end up being terrible questions on writers' favorite pop stars, video games that most adults have never heard of, and Deadspin articles.

EDIT: I know this make me sound like a curmudgeon, and fully intend for this to be an ignored viewpoint.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:14 pm

Cheynem wrote:Thoughts:

1. I agree with less religion. I have argued that the more interesting, accessible portions of religion can be addressed in myth (the cosmic stories), literature (some texts), social science (thinkers/thought), philosophy (ditto), or geography/other (some practices, tossups on countries or regions). Religion is hard to write for a lot of people, the answer space is small at easier tournaments without descending into holiday or minor religion bowl (or biblical book, etc.), and quite frankly, I think a lot of religion questions are unfairly biased in favor of people who grow up in certain religious traditions. I might be in favor of keeping religion 1/1 at Nationals though, when the answer space can be expanded.
I've outlined my feelings on film in another thread.
Fair enough. I guess the 'unfair bias' would also fade at Nats, where you're less likely to encounter a bonus that's a gimme 30 for one player without studying, and a pity 10 for another.
Cheynem wrote:I'd offer a quixotic plea for trash's return to ACF Nationals as I think it leads to really interesting questions that south of CO, you don't get anywhere else.
Interesting, yes, but it still stinks to have a nationals match decided by a question on sports or Straight Outta Compton. I realize that's not a particularly strong argument, but the argument in favor "really interesting" questions seems rather subjective too. We can keep arguing over where to put the dividing line all we want, but returning trash to the nats distro isn't going to help.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem » Wed Feb 26, 2014 3:15 pm

Yeah, I do think that at harder levels, the bias fades quite a bit because you're not writing on a "basic holiday" or "basic set of practices."
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:00 pm

Sulawesi Myzomela wrote:Personally I'd rather see current events role be expanded ahead of trash, especially since packet-submission collegiate trash tends to end up being terrible questions on writers' favorite pop stars, video games that most adults have never heard of, and Deadspin articles.

EDIT: I know this make me sound like a curmudgeon, and fully intend for this to be an ignored viewpoint.
I mean, I essentially feel the same way when I play on trash questions crafted by non-NAQT organizations, though I'll admit that this probably has to do with the fact that I'm a terrible trash player in general. At least NAQT makes some effort to balance its random indie bands, sports plays, video games, TV shows, and internet memes with things like food, more "mainstream" pop culture, non-video games, and the like.

I don't know if we need to mandate current events, but where we have 1/1 Geo/CE/Trash/Other Academic at a lot of tournaments, I'd rather see 1 "modern politics" and 1 "modern culture" (using those terms in the vein of my - obligatory plug - Modern World tournament). Some possible advantages of this:

1. People can write geography questions to fulfill either (or both) parts of this section. However, because they have to incorporate modern politics or culture in some way, you preempt boring questions purely on African rivers, Canadian lakes, European mountains, or cities of interest along the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
2. The "politics" distribution would allow for questions on civics and the like, allowing people to ask questions like that outside of the social science distribution (since "other academic" is not allowed at all tournaments).
3. The categories can be construed in a broad manner, but nobody's going to be stuck with 1/1 state-governors-bowl or 1/1 sports-bowl or something terrible like that (though thankfully this rarely happens anyways).
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Auroni » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:06 pm

I hashed out a full new distribution for non-national college tournaments in IRC a while ago, and I'll repost it now:

4/4 literature (1/1 each of American, British, Euro including ancient, then 0.5/0.5 nonwestern and 0.5/0.5 immigrant fiction, subdistribution straddling questions, miscellaneous)
4/4 history (1/1 each American, British, continental European (including classical), world (including non-classical ancient))
4/4 science (1/1 each biology, physics, chemistry, the other sciences (fairly distributed))
3/3 RM + Thought (1/1 each R, M and Thought (a mixture of philosophy and the more theoretical aspects of social science, like sociology))
3/3 arts (1/1 each painting, music, other arts (representing everything, maybe weighting film higher than other things))
1/1 trash
1/1 geography, ce, practical social science (things like economics or psychology concepts), evenly distributed

The advantages of this distribution are as follows:

1) Editors and writers of low level tournaments aren't hamstrung by the limited number of philosophy answerlines and have some more breathing room.
2) Hard tournaments and opens do not become a deathmarch of tossups on extremely hard thinkers you've never heard of, since people won't be allowed to submit both a philosophy tossup on someone like Charles Hartshorne, and a social science tossup on someone like Herbert Blumer, for the same packet.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Auroni » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:16 pm

Addendum to above: For tournaments without trash, the geo/ss/ce can be boosted to 2/2.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:22 pm

I'm not a fan of the idea of handing Britain 1/1 of its own history distribution. The reason why literature gets more British content is because as an (unofficially) Anglophone country we're more likely to be studying the original Anglophone literary tradition. But there's no particular reason why the machinations of 14th century English monarchs are that much closer to Americans (or even Canadians) than the machinations of 14th century French monarchs.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:23 pm

1/1 British history seems very high. At non-nationals tournaments, this will descend into kings-and-queens-and-nobles bowl pretty quickly, I'd imagine. Granted, I would probably personally benefit from this, but I'd rather not see it happen.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:27 pm

vcuEvan wrote: continued bifurcation of the Fall/Regionals distribution with the Nationals distribution
Can you elaborate on what this means? Other than trash, the distribution is not radically different.
less religion
I have not found 1/1 religion to be a hugely onerous burden in the past. It seems to me that the problem with religion questions (to the extent that there's a problem at all) is that people just go, "Fuck it, gonna write about Jewish holidays," many of which aren't all that interesting. But there's a ton of material out there that can be the topic of good religion questions, it's just a matter of getting people to think outside of a very constrained box.
more trash at the Fall/Regionals level, none at Nationals
There is no trash at Nationals now. But why do we need more trash at Fall/Regionals? There has never been more than 1/1 trash in ACF.
merging sculpture with painting and ballet/dance with music to make more room for other arts
I would support this.
slightly increased role for English language literature over European literature (probably by making having "1/1 world/English language" instead of "1/1 world/other"]
I'm not sure why this is necessary. The distribution already mandates what is effectively 2/2 Anglophone literature because you have to have 1/1 American and 1/1 British. And of course because much of the "world" literature comes from former colonies, you're very likely to get some more Anglophone lit in there anyway. I don't see English-language literature being underrepresented at all, and I don't see the utility of making it a more explicit requirement.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Auroni » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:34 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I'm not a fan of the idea of handing Britain 1/1 of its own history distribution. The reason why literature gets more British content is because as an (unofficially) Anglophone country we're more likely to be studying the original Anglophone literary tradition. But there's no particular reason why the machinations of 14th century English monarchs are that much closer to Americans (or even Canadians) than the machinations of 14th century French monarchs.
gamegeek2 wrote:1/1 British history seems very high. At non-nationals tournaments, this will descend into kings-and-queens-and-nobles bowl pretty quickly, I'd imagine. Granted, I would probably personally benefit from this, but I'd rather not see it happen.
I have a hard time believing that this is not doable if you give a fair amount of weight to 19th and 20th century British history, which is very much non-monarch focused. Of course, you'd need a history editor with that sense of balance in mind.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:11 pm

Kenneth Widmerpool wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:I'm not a fan of the idea of handing Britain 1/1 of its own history distribution. The reason why literature gets more British content is because as an (unofficially) Anglophone country we're more likely to be studying the original Anglophone literary tradition. But there's no particular reason why the machinations of 14th century English monarchs are that much closer to Americans (or even Canadians) than the machinations of 14th century French monarchs.
gamegeek2 wrote:1/1 British history seems very high. At non-nationals tournaments, this will descend into kings-and-queens-and-nobles bowl pretty quickly, I'd imagine. Granted, I would probably personally benefit from this, but I'd rather not see it happen.
I have a hard time believing that this is not doable if you give a fair amount of weight to 19th and 20th century British history, which is very much non-monarch focused. Of course, you'd need a history editor with that sense of balance in mind.
You probably could do it, but does British history really have as wide an askable answer space as all of American history, or all of continental Europe combined across 2500 years?
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:20 pm

Kenneth Widmerpool wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:I'm not a fan of the idea of handing Britain 1/1 of its own history distribution. The reason why literature gets more British content is because as an (unofficially) Anglophone country we're more likely to be studying the original Anglophone literary tradition. But there's no particular reason why the machinations of 14th century English monarchs are that much closer to Americans (or even Canadians) than the machinations of 14th century French monarchs.
I have a hard time believing that this is not doable if you give a fair amount of weight to 19th and 20th century British history, which is very much non-monarch focused. Of course, you'd need a history editor with that sense of balance in mind.
Maybe I didn't make my point clear. I'm not saying this will all devolve into king-and-queen bowl. I'm saying that there's no reason to view British history as particularly close to Americans. Like, I don't think there's much that would suggest that someone should be much more familiar with 19th-century Britain than 19th-century Germany or 19th-century France. Britain is "special" in literature because of the shared language, but it's not "special" historically to the extent that people would just naturally know so much more about it than they would about other major European powers. What's more, I don't see any drivers for upping the British share of the distribution; it already gets plenty of coverage in European history in general.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Rococo A Go Go » Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:23 pm

gamegeek2 wrote: I don't know if we need to mandate current events, but where we have 1/1 Geo/CE/Trash/Other Academic at a lot of tournaments, I'd rather see 1 "modern politics" and 1 "modern culture"
Perhaps it's time to revisit the role of current events in collegiate quizbowl with an entire discussion on the topic. I do have two core points which I think are relevant to both the present discussion on the ACF distribution and any future discussion on current events in general.

1) I believe that CE must have a stable place in any quizbowl distribution to fulfill our game's goal of rewarding those who are intellectually curious. Having a working knowledge of how the world is currently working is vital to being a productive citizen, and generally has a great deal of benefit in regards to intellectual advancement as well. While I don't think quizbowl players need to be policy wonks to power questions on a given topic, we should acknowledge the fact that having a strong knowledge base of current events is laudable and worthwhile. Too often we see CE lumped in with trash as simply dangling on the edge of the canon ready to be cut off by the community, but it is an important form of knowledge that deserves a secure place in the distribution.

2) The sub-distribution of CE should reflect the current state of our world, and perhaps it doesn't always do so now. While political facts are absolutely important, there is no need to ignore other important topics such as modern scientific and technological advancements, knowledge of the business world, or substantial policy developments that have an important impact of the world that quizbowl players must live in. Current events must be a topic that can be relevant not only to itself, but all other academic disciplines that we ask about in quizbowl, and questions can be written in many ways to address that reality.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:24 pm

I'm sure the expansion of British history could be done, and that it would come at the expense of questions on other European countries that would probably be more accessible to the vast majority of newer college players, who largely have a background in European history that consists of AP Euro and maybe an assorted college class or two at most, and in most cases this education isn't Anglocentric at all. At least most U.S. college players have solid background knowledge in American history from, you know, growing up in America and taking American for a few years of their pre-college life, so you can easily justify 1/1 American history. However, I don't like the idea of shunting out questions on Henry IV, the Teutonic Knights, and Peter the Great in favor of extra questions on 19th and 20th century prime minsters and the NHS, which all get a lot of attention already.

Also, quizbowl history is already very modern-centric (and I feel it's becoming increasingly so) - this would skew it even more in that direction, unless we are to expand monarchs-bowl.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:53 pm

I don't want to get into this while there's still work to do for CRR, but I'm glad (as always) this is being discussed. I agree with what's said above about religion, and my anti-mythology views are well-known. I'd like to add, though, that it really doesn't make sense to give as much of the distribution to philosophy as we do, though it's a respectable field in which interesting work is done and I don't think it's as ridiculous as asking about feathered serpents and so on. The point is there's no way quizbowlers are studying so much more philosophy than any one of the social sciences and there's also no way they're reading more philosophy in their free time than they are various under-represented art forms.

I say this as someone who has as a major academic regret that I didn't study more philosophy as an undergrad, but that's mainly because its skills are widely applicable. The material itself, while important, isn't more important than all the more empirical things people actually study and/or consume in their free time.

EDIT: Also, adding more trash to Fall and Regionals is a terrible idea, especially if ACF is planning to move forward with that plan to tie Regionals more closely with Nationals as a qualifier or whatever.
Last edited by Tees-Exe Line on Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:55 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Maybe I didn't make my point clear. I'm not saying this will all devolve into king-and-queen bowl. I'm saying that there's no reason to view British history as particularly close to Americans. Like, I don't think there's much that would suggest that someone should be much more familiar with 19th-century Britain than 19th-century Germany or 19th-century France. Britain is "special" in literature because of the shared language, but it's not "special" historically to the extent that people would just naturally know so much more about it than they would about other major European powers. What's more, I don't see any drivers for upping the British share of the distribution; it already gets plenty of coverage in European history in general.
grapesmoker wrote:The distribution already mandates what is effectively 2/2 Anglophone literature because you have to have 1/1 American and 1/1 British. And of course because much of the "world" literature comes from former colonies, you're very likely to get some more Anglophone lit in there anyway. I don't see English-language literature being underrepresented at all, and I don't see the utility of making it a more explicit requirement.
These two Jerry posts mirror my feelings on the relevant subjects perfectly. What I would support is adding a note to the distribution requirements clarifying that people can write on "immigrant literature" (your Jhumpa Lahiris, your Monica Alis, what have you) for the "world literature" subdistribution, in case that wasn't already clear.
vcuEvan wrote:less religion
more trash at the Fall/Regionals level, none at Nationals
merging sculpture with painting and ballet/dance with music to make more room for other arts
--Less religion at lower levels I could get behind. Having edited it a few times there it's kind of a pain to fill out with useful and interesting stuff when you're writing 1/1 for 15+ packets without excessively repeating yourself (that is, writing on the same topics tournament after tournament and year after year). At Fall, certainly, a move to 2/2 RMP with with 1 religion and 1 philosophy wouldn't be a bad idea. I think above that the answer space expands enough that you can support 1/1 of each, though you could also do something like set 2/2 in each packet aside for religion, philosophy, and something like current events, then control distribution of topics at the set-wide level.
--Assuming you mean 1/1 trash in the final 20/20 for Fall and Regionals, I can get on board with that. People's weird trash biases (both in writing and reacting) aside, interesting trash questions can be written at any level.
--I'd like to hear your justification for the arts shift. More room for opera/architecture/film?
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:00 pm

Oh, I guess if you mean mandating that there be 1/1 in the final 20/20 for trash, I don't have a problem with that. Trash is pretty accessible and interesting if done right and really in ACF tournaments (which is what we're talking about here), I trust the ACF editors to do it.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:06 pm

If interesting trash can be written at any level, why are you pushing for more of it in easier tournaments? You're only underlining the association of "trash" with "easy," which I fear further associates "trash" with "stupid." It strikes me that precisely because quizbowl is consciously elitist/highbrow in every other part of the distribution (as it should be), in trash it's acceptable to slum it, at least intellectually.

If you want to argue for more and better trash, you should argue for its equal representation at all levels and for more careful policing of what's actually worth letting in. I think that is basically impossible, FWIW, and I'll fight you every step of the way, but what the Trash Party is suggesting now is self-contradictory in addition to being pernicious.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:09 pm

I say this as someone who has as a major academic regret that I didn't study more philosophy as an undergrad, but that's mainly because its skills are widely applicable. The material itself, while important, isn't more important than all the more empirical things people actually study and/or consume in their free time.
Literature is not "empirical things" any more than philosophy is, nor are paintings or music for that matter. I'm not sure what "empirical" has to do with anything, since that's never been a criterion for distributional inclusion. To me, the justification for philosophy having the level of inclusion that it does is simply that it's a widely expansive field of thought that undergirds many, if not most, human endeavors. You can do science without knowing much about Popper, but all things being equal, you'll probably have a better understanding of what you're doing if you do know about Popper.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:12 pm

Tees-Exe Line wrote:If you want to argue for more and better trash, you should argue for its equal representation at all levels and for more careful policing of what's actually worth letting in. I think that is basically impossible, FWIW, and I'll fight you every step of the way, but what the Trash Party is suggesting now is self-contradictory in addition to being pernicious.
Dude, no one is being pernicious here. The distribution allows for 1/1 trash at Fall and Regionals, and always has. As I pointed out in my response to Evan, this has been the case for a long time and there hasn't been any trash at Nationals since, like 2009 or something. I'm not sure anyone is actually pushing for any more trash than we have already, but if I'm wrong about that, I'd invite those people to clarify just what they're looking for.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:15 pm

From what I understand (?), Evan is pushing for 1/1 trash to become a set part of the 20/20 distribution, so that it isn't just allowed but actually mandated in the same way that 1/1 myth is.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:16 pm

grapesmoker wrote: To me, the justification for philosophy having the level of inclusion that it does is simply that it's a widely expansive field of thought that undergirds many, if not most, human endeavors. You can do science without knowing much about Popper, but all things being equal, you'll probably have a better understanding of what you're doing if you do know about Popper.
Right, that's precisely why I regret not studying more of it, but I don't think that translates as seamlessly into quizbowl as you're suggesting. For one thing, if philosophy should be well-represented because of its importance to other fields, that has implications for the proper content of philosophy questions. This is similar to the argument that's been put forward in favor of myth's representation: it's "culturally important," so we'll gesture in the direction of that cultural importance while having you memorize which Naiad did what.
grapesmoker wrote:Dude, no one is being pernicious here. The distribution allows for 1/1 trash at Fall and Regionals, and always has. As I pointed out in my response to Evan, this has been the case for a long time and there hasn't been any trash at Nationals since, like 2009 or something. I'm not sure anyone is actually pushing for any more trash than we have already, but if I'm wrong about that, I'd invite those people to clarify just what they're looking for.
I was under the impression that a guaranteed 1/1 Trash in 20/20 would be an increase from the status quo in which there's a maximum of 1/1 Trash in a packet submission of 24/24.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:27 pm

Well, I certainly don't dispute that the content of philosophy questions could be improved. I'm always down for one less pre-Socratic in quizbowl. But I think you're underestimating the level of connection between philosophy and other disciplines. That's probably due to two factors: the Anglophone/Continental split and the emergence of philosophy as a separate academic discipline. Those things make it seem like philosophy has nothing to do with stuff that people "really care about" as opposed to abstruse metaphysics or what have you, but in fact, philosophy has its tendrils everywhere. For example, you can't read about politics (at a high academic level) without running into, at minimum, Hobbes, Locke, and Rawls (and usually plenty of other heavies). Any time you start talking about the meta-rules of science, there's Carnap and Popper. You can't get too far in justice discourse without running into Mill and Kant. And so on.

I think the problem is, as usual, people failing to utilize their options creatively. Because of this, you get a lot of the same questions in terms of content. But there's no reason this should be so: the field is huge, the possibilities are numerous, and you can always construct an interesting question if you're willing to work at it. I accept it as a fact of quizbowl life that lots of people are going to take the lazy way out, but that's why we have editors.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:33 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Well, I certainly don't dispute that the content of philosophy questions could be improved. I'm always down for one less pre-Socratic in quizbowl. But I think you're underestimating the level of connection between philosophy and other disciplines. That's probably due to two factors: the Anglophone/Continental split and the emergence of philosophy as a separate academic discipline. Those things make it seem like philosophy has nothing to do with stuff that people "really care about" as opposed to abstruse metaphysics or what have you, but in fact, philosophy has its tendrils everywhere. For example, you can't read about politics (at a high academic level) without running into, at minimum, Hobbes, Locke, and Rawls (and usually plenty of other heavies). Any time you start talking about the meta-rules of science, there's Carnap and Popper. You can't get too far in justice discourse without running into Mill and Kant. And so on.

I think the problem is, as usual, people failing to utilize their options creatively. Because of this, you get a lot of the same questions in terms of content. But there's no reason this should be so: the field is huge, the possibilities are numerous, and you can always construct an interesting question if you're willing to work at it. I accept it as a fact of quizbowl life that lots of people are going to take the lazy way out, but that's why we have editors.
I agree with all of this wholeheartedly, but controlling for question quality, you've still got the fact that many more people study and/or consume the things I called "empirical" than do philosophy. People should care more about philosophy! I wish I had. But I would pretty well bet you that for all the people who have their private "I like to read/look at/study ____ and that comes up basically never" agendas, none of the things that fill in the blank are philosophy.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Feb 26, 2014 6:41 pm

Tees-Exe Line wrote:I agree with all of this wholeheartedly, but controlling for question quality, you've still got the fact that many more people study and/or consume the things I called "empirical" than do philosophy. People should care more about philosophy! I wish I had. But I would pretty well bet you that for all the people who have their private "I like to read/look at/study ____ and that comes up basically never" agendas, none of the things that fill in the blank are philosophy.
Yeah, I just don't see that. Not least because I used to be one of those "I read/look at/study ___" people and oftentimes that ___ was filled in with philosophy. And again, I don't see what "empirical" has to do with this at all.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by at your pleasure » Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:16 pm

I'll second what Jerry is saying about philosophy(and extend it to certain areas of critical theory)-at some point in studying pretty much everything you start running into philosophy whether you like it or not(Roland ). Concerning history, I don't see the point of expanding British history substantially(although king-and-queen-bowl is mediocre history and worse quizbowl whatever the subject); there are substantial chunks of European and World history that get short shrift as is and expanding British history would just make that worse.
Anyhow, my thoughts on RMP and arts:
-Merge religion and mythology, with some of the more literary bits of the myth distribution being sent off to lit and a more general "of which no more than x/y can be primarily written from texts"; having a hard-line distinction just makes it harder to write good questions without using myth clues in your religion tossup and religion clues in your myth tossup(and parts of the religion distribution generally turn into "myth questions on Judeo-Christian-Islamic texts" anyways), and the distinction is more or less defunct in the chunks of the academy that actually deal with either subject with good reason. This also neatly solves the quandry of having enough to write on because editors can tailor the myth-ier to religion-ier balance according to the overall target difficulty.
-Arts: I think merging sculpture and painting, or heck even all non-architecture visual and painting is probably a good idea, insofar as That's How People Learn About These Things(even with film, there tends to be a fair amount of crossover between art history and film studies) and it gives editors a bit more flexibility, but if we do that it obviously the visual distribution as a whole needs to be expanded(a blanket 2/2 visual distribution could work, although it would require strict editorial control) and I'd be sort of worried about film becoming the new opera by generating a lot of questions that people just write as pseudo-lit questions because they're in a hurry/lazy.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Cody » Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:26 pm

Kuandian Manchu Autonomous County wrote:I'd be sort of worried about film becoming the new opera by generating a lot of questions that people just write as pseudo-lit questions because they're in a hurry/lazy.
"[most] people will write bad questions" is a silly argument. If we determined the distribution based on what [most] people wrote well, there'd be no science. There are plenty of editors and writers capable of writing good film questions.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by theMoMA » Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:46 pm

I don't think that any of the "other arts" should be merged with painting or music. I think that editors who believe that there should be more film should solicit more film in the other arts portion of in their packet submission guidelines. All distributional divisions are obviously just approximations, but I think that painting and classical music are both academically important and empirically askable enough to warrant entire 1/1 portions of a distribution.

Film might be both important and empirically askable enough to come up more often, but if so, I think that should come at the expense of categories in which much of the askable material is getting worn down from overuse. To me, those categories seem to be solidly in "other arts" (sculpture, photography, etc., especially at regular difficulty). So the solution of "moving these worn-out subjects out of other arts" instead of "telling people to write different other arts" seems misguided and likely to lead to a collateral effect (the same well-trod answers crowding out painting instead of being reduced proportionate to their askability).
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Fri Feb 28, 2014 2:54 pm

Rather than weighing in on the particular merits of any of these changes, I guess I'll just say that it's probably a better idea for individual non-ACF tournaments during the year to experiment with proposed tweaks before the community asks ACF to change its official distribution. I would not be averse at all to a calendar where two or three mACF tournaments have slightly-altered distributions with well-argued reasons for the alterations, so that ACF and others can see how these propoesd changes play out; after all, nothing forces non-"official"-ACF tournaments to apply the ACF distribution outright.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Galadedrid Damodred » Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:07 am

I think the 2/2 subcategory currently known as "European, Canadian, and Australian History" should be renamed "Europe + Mediterranean History" in order to reflect the fact that places like Egypt and Turkey have been major players in European history since antiquity. This will allow Canadian and Australian history to be moved to World History, which makes more geographic sense, and it will alleviate some of the "monarchy bowl" issues that can crop up when you have 4 European history questions per packet and you start to run out of good ideas.

My personal opinion on the fine arts distribution is that painting and music should be left alone and Other Fine Arts should be more like 1/3 visual, 1/3 audio, 1/3 film. However, I think Matt Jackson makes a great point and it's probably best to let that situation evolve in a bottom-up fashion rather than through ACF mandate.

I don't understand the flak that Religion is getting, especially when the same people saying Religion should be reduced or distributed across several other categories are in favor of keeping Mythology at 1/1. In many cases, mythology is basically just religion that isn't practiced anymore, so religion is more important from a "keep it real" sense. However, there's absolutely no reason to decrease the Mythology content, since in my experience a whole lot of quizbowlers (myself included) really like reading about it and those questions are among the most well-received (in terms of being powered/30d and provoking discussion) at tournaments I've attended. There is a lot of potential for creative answerlines and interesting topics in Religion that is not currently being maximized. In short: the issue is with writer laziness, not the category itself.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Tees-Exe Line » Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:39 pm

Galadedrid Damodred wrote: In many cases, mythology is basically just religion that isn't practiced anymore, so religion is more important from a "keep it real" sense. However, there's absolutely no reason to decrease the Mythology content.
This is a profoundly ahistorical (or a-mythological) point of view. It just isn't correct that "The Ancient Greeks believed X" or "the Celts of pre-Roman Britain believed Y." In most cases, the sources for what quizbowl takes to be the mythology of some culture are much later compilations, often with an explicitly nationalistic, didactic goal in mind. I'm far from an expert, but pre-modern Religion doesn't look at all like the bedtime stories about heroes and gods that pass as quizbowl mythology. The closest analogue in the contemporary world to what actual no-longer-existing cultures did for religion is something like the single-deity-specific cults in Hinduism and the associated festivals and observances that mark people out as members of some ethnic group (or sub-group) or other social division.

The reason why mythology should be eliminated or vastly reduced is that it's fundamentally unworthy of representation in a body of knowledge that ostensibly has extrinsic value. We don't ask about comic books and the Batman storyline in Literature; neither should we ask about Hercules and Thor in Religion. It doesn't matter how accessible it is or how much people enjoy it. The fact that some collegiate "quizbowl" clubs insist on reading only trash in practice is universally condemned on these boards. No one is suggesting that as an argument for increasing trash representation in the ACF distribution, though some of the posts above get close to that in effect. The fact that mythology questions are well-received or enjoyed is neither here nor there.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Magister Ludi » Mon Mar 03, 2014 2:00 am

theMoMA wrote:I don't think that any of the "other arts" should be merged with painting or music. I think that editors who believe that there should be more film should solicit more film in the other arts portion of in their packet submission guidelines. All distributional divisions are obviously just approximations, but I think that painting and classical music are both academically important and empirically askable enough to warrant entire 1/1 portions of a distribution.

Film might be both important and empirically askable enough to come up more often, but if so, I think that should come at the expense of categories in which much of the askable material is getting worn down from overuse. To me, those categories seem to be solidly in "other arts" (sculpture, photography, etc., especially at regular difficulty). So the solution of "moving these worn-out subjects out of other arts" instead of "telling people to write different other arts" seems misguided and likely to lead to a collateral effect (the same well-trod answers crowding out painting instead of being reduced proportionate to their askability).
I don't want to say anything too specific about this until after ACF, but I agree with Andrew and believe rather than moving to a more restrictive view of misc arts we should look at a more expansive, interdisplinary approach to the category.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Mar 03, 2014 9:22 am

Tees-Exe Line wrote: The reason why mythology should be eliminated or vastly reduced is that it's fundamentally unworthy of representation in a body of knowledge that ostensibly has extrinsic value. We don't ask about comic books and the Batman storyline in Literature; neither should we ask about Hercules and Thor in Religion. It doesn't matter how accessible it is or how much people enjoy it. The fact that some collegiate "quizbowl" clubs insist on reading only trash in practice is universally condemned on these boards. No one is suggesting that as an argument for increasing trash representation in the ACF distribution, though some of the posts above get close to that in effect. The fact that mythology questions are well-received or enjoyed is neither here nor there.
Bolding mine. I have no idea what the "extrinsic" value of literature is supposed to refer to; surely the value of just about anything is extrinsic so how that's supposed to be a distinguishing characteristic of things that are not mythology is unclear. And it's also far from clear that Batman is the correct parallel to mythology questions. Batman doesn't occupy the same sort of position in the history of literature that mythology occupies in the history of religious thought.

I also would like to point out that not too long ago, you were also attacking the philosophy distribution on vague "empirical" grounds that were never substantiated. So basically, you think that 2/2 of the standard distribution doesn't belong, but it's hard for me to see how these arguments dovetail with each other. Why not reduce religion and mythology to a single distribution and increase philosophy to 2/2? I mean, if you're pushing the line that things should have more academic relevance, then philosophy should definitely have a bigger share of the distribution.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Mar 03, 2014 9:49 am

Are we seriously engaging with "mythology shouldn't be asked because it isn't true?" Can we stop?

As usual, these discussions don't go anywhere if we allow people to just make up principles that never existed without offering convincing arguments for them. Everything just degenerates into "we need more biology because I am a biology major" or "I don't enjoy current events questions, let's get rid of them." The idea that quizbowl can't be discussed rationally and everything is just the sum of inborn, fixed democratic preferences was something we moved past long ago. Let's not backslide.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man » Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:12 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Tees-Exe Line wrote: The reason why mythology should be eliminated or vastly reduced is that it's fundamentally unworthy of representation in a body of knowledge that ostensibly has extrinsic value. We don't ask about comic books and the Batman storyline in Literature; neither should we ask about Hercules and Thor in Religion. It doesn't matter how accessible it is or how much people enjoy it. The fact that some collegiate "quizbowl" clubs insist on reading only trash in practice is universally condemned on these boards. No one is suggesting that as an argument for increasing trash representation in the ACF distribution, though some of the posts above get close to that in effect. The fact that mythology questions are well-received or enjoyed is neither here nor there.
Bolding mine. I have no idea what the "extrinsic" value of literature is supposed to refer to; surely the value of just about anything is extrinsic so how that's supposed to be a distinguishing characteristic of things that are not mythology is unclear. And it's also far from clear that Batman is the correct parallel to mythology questions. Batman doesn't occupy the same sort of position in the history of literature that mythology occupies in the history of religious thought.
I could be wrong, but I'm guessing that Marshall's comparison of mythology to Batman storylines is the (Edith) Hamiltonesque nature of mythology questions. I don't think anyone would dispute that knowledge of Homer or Snorri Sturluson as literary authors is important, but when we treat the characters in their texts as part of a mythological system we either unduly privilege those works in the distribution or we start asking questions whose only reference is bedtime stories.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner » Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:18 pm

Again, I find the principle that "mythology = comic books = bedtime stories" to be self-evidently ridiculous. You need to at least put forth some sort of argument for this rather than just repeating it over and over again. I can outline why it is NOT true, but I assume from the fact that we are all intelligent people that we can identify the role that understanding of mythology plays in all other humanities (or "useless disciplines with no extrinsic value" as some would have it) and that I don't actually need to elucidate this further.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Ben Dillon » Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:38 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:Are we seriously engaging with "mythology shouldn't be asked because it isn't true?"
I agree with Matt. We have courses in Mythology at the high school level and majors in Mythology at the collegiate level. Once upon a time, it was Religion. Of course it belongs. Don't consign it to the Lit category, or we'll have to put all Religion there.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem » Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:40 pm

The bedtime story thing seems a spurious argument. There is nothing in the "mythology" portion of the distribution which requires the topics being asked about to be more than "bedtime stories" (which I don't think they are anyway), any more than it requires that the "history" portion of the distribution restrict itself to military battles. Mythology has a cultural impact and is academically studied. I don't actually think it is as "important" academically (whatever that means) than, like economics, probably, but quizbowl as a game also doesn't need to get bogged down in it. Myth is accessible, people have knowledge of it, it's interesting, it can be written well, and it has academic value. To me, that means it deserves its portion of the distribution.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:55 pm

I too question Mythology's status as a category in the quizbowl distribution. Not because I in any way question its importance to culture generally (familiarity with it is important in many of the fields I have studied academically), nor because I think Mythology shouldn't come in quizbowl. Rather, I find labeling Mythology as a self-contained category unto itself an act out of keeping with the wider world's treatment of the subject. Mythology departments are significantly rarer than departments in any other subject we give 1/1 weight to, and do not exist at the majority of colleges (most academics I have met who study it do so under the auspices of other academic departments). Yes, Mythology influences many other categories. But well, so does every subject in the humanities, but those other subjects' weight in the distribution surely derives not merely from their interdisciplinary influence but additionally from their status as self-contained disciplines with recognized importance and merit. I've met almost no non-quizbowlers who believe that Mythology is an independent subject or discipline, rather than a component of another discipline, or who do not express surprise when told that we weight Mythology as 5% of a quizbowl distribution in which the most important Social Sciences (or even Sciences) get <1%. Those non-quizbowlers I've met who still engage with Mythology in their collegiate and/or adult lives do so in one of three ways: 1. As a form of literature 2. As a form of religious belief/practice 3. As a source of anthropological study. I think Mythology should certainly continue to exist in quizbowl, but I think it should exist as a sub-distributional component of other categories, rather than as a category in and of itself. I think that mythological epics/tales from dead cultures should be a part of the literature distribution; stories from extant, still-practiced religions should be part of the religion distribution; mythography and explicitly anthropological approaches to myth belong in the social science distribution. I would argue that such a practice would be a much better reflection of the treatment of Mythology in external reality.

I think an ideal distribution of the 20/20 packet would look something like this:

4/4 Literature (1/1 American, 1/1 British, 1/1 European, 1/0 or 0/1 World, 1/0 or 0/1 Ancient or Mythological)
4/4 History
4/4 Science
3/3 Fine Arts (1/1 Painting & Sculpture, 1/1 Classical Music [including Opera], 1/1 Misc. Arts)
1/1 Religion (No more than 1/0 or 0/1 Myth)
1/1 Philosophy
2/2 Social Science
1/0 or 0/1 Trash
1/0 or 0/1 Current Events

As you can see, I support the expansion of social science, since given the importance of Political Science, Economics, and Psychology (to pick the three most prominent examples) in the world and the tremendous frequency with which they are studied in universities (these are among the most popular majors), their lack of prominence in quizbowl is rather surprising. I also support collapsing opera into classical music and sculpture into painting. Part of what I hope the Misc. Arts would be used for is to allow Jazz and Film, two under-asked categories, to have more exposure. But also, I think we need to give some more exploration to non-Western art, and to genres of visual art outside of the standard mix of architecture, photography, and film. The Euro-centrism we allow in the Fine Arts distribution would make us shudder were someone to propose imposing it upon the Literature or History distributions. And you have only to visit any major art museum and view the list of galleries there to realize how tremendously narrow our definition of Fine Arts is, as compared to that of even the most conservative Visual Arts institutions in the world.

It is worth noting, though, that I am in no way advocating that these changes be achieved through sudden or massive canon expansion. It would be nice if non-quizbowl-traditional Fine Arts categories got maybe 1/1 a tournament, for a start, and these answer-lines would probably have to be very basic, since quizbowlers may not have much exposure. And I in no way advocate for ACF to make any of these changes. I would actively oppose their doing so, if they tried. Nor, actually, do I recommend that this distribution be adopted by a packet submission tournament, as I think the collapsing of opera into music and of sculpture into painting is going to create subdistributional balance problems for the editor. This represents an ideal distribution that may remain impractical in most packet-submission situations. But I would be very happy to see a housewrite tournament attempt this distribution, as an experiment, to see how it goes.

(Since such accusations appear to be the inevitable response, let me add: I obviously would not benefit as player from such alterations as those that I propose! I know nothing about Economics, barely anything about non-Western art, and only a smidgen of Political Science. And obviously, it is in my interest for Mythology not to count towards the Literature distribution, since I rely on non-Mythological Literature for the bulk of my points!)

Also, while I do not necessarily endorse the views that Marshall expressed in his last post (which was banished to the Forbidden Zone for containing an instance of meta-posting), it looks like several paragraphs of what he wrote formed a substantive response to Jerry's criticisms in this thread. Is it possible to have those substantive portions restored to this thread, while keeping the meta-posting bits still in the Forbidden Zone?
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Ringil » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:39 pm

I feel the biggest problem with mythology and religion is that quizbowl write questions on those subjects really poorly in terms of answer selection. Why does mythology nearly always become genealogy bowl or questions on obscure and irrelevant dudes from Polynesian myth? The fundamental problem here is that the amount of myth that is actually culturally relevant is effectively limited. People don't really write or care about obscure facts in Graves. I think that myth should be reduced at higher levels because of this.

Religion has the opposite problem. Why does religion become name spam of practices of minor religions like Cao Dai? Why are there so many questions on obscure Jewish practices which only have around 20 million adherents when we could instead talk about practices of Buddhists, who have at least 300 million adherents? Sure, I agree at lower levels this would be a poor idea because Buddhist thought hasn't really permeated the Western world, but at higher levels why are we still bound to these ideas? The amount of culturally relevant religion has not been fully explored and instead we tend to focus on the things that are of limited importance to the wider world.

Essentially, I think that while these subjects can be interesting and well written, I feel like these subjects have become arms races about increasingly irrelevant things at higher difficulties. I think change to the distribution could be one way to fix this, but I think people should first just write better questions on things that are relevant.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by vinteuil » Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:07 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: I think we need to give some more exploration to non-Western art, and to genres of visual art outside of the standard mix of architecture, photography, and film. The Euro-centrism we allow in the Fine Arts distribution would make us shudder were someone to propose imposing it upon the Literature or History distributions. And you have only to visit any major art museum and view the list of galleries there to realize how tremendously narrow our definition of Fine Arts is, as compared to that of even the most conservative Visual Arts institutions in the world.
I'm completely in agreement with John that non-western arts need to become (gradually, as always) a more major part of quiz bowl, but I'm honestly a bit confused by the idea that changing the distribution facilitates this—most of the non-western art that I've been exposed to at least has been music and sculpture, film, and architecture. John, are you suggesting that there be a defined "non-western" component of the "other arts" distribution? And why could that not be implemented as just part of the subdistribution of the existing categories (i.e. "music" now includes 1/1 West African drum rhythms, "architecture" now includes 1/1 Javanese temples etc.).

Although, now that I think about it, another large portion of the non-western art I've been exposed to has been "decorative" and "fashion," two categories that I very much support including in "fine arts."
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by at your pleasure » Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:31 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: I think we need to give some more exploration to non-Western art, and to genres of visual art outside of the standard mix of architecture, photography, and film. The Euro-centrism we allow in the Fine Arts distribution would make us shudder were someone to propose imposing it upon the Literature or History distributions. And you have only to visit any major art museum and view the list of galleries there to realize how tremendously narrow our definition of Fine Arts is, as compared to that of even the most conservative Visual Arts institutions in the world.
To provide some data from the other end of the institutional spectrum: Looking around the art history majors at my school, exactly one person I know of in the past two years is doing BA research on a "traditionally quizbowled" topic, maybe a third or so of the core faculty at most do much with post-Renaissance European painting, and about a third or so of the core faculty do non-western art(not including medieval art). Now granted Chicago is somewhat unusual given its heavy focus on film, photography and modern east asian art, but virtually every single art history program will require some classes on non-Western art and medieval or earlier Western art, and it would be reasonable to assume that any halfway competent art history department will have some medievalists and scholars of non-Western art on the faculty and even the dullest and most backwards textbooks on art history will include substantial material on non-western art and subjects outside of the "traditional media". Nor is it especially hard to learn about these things; any basic art history textbook put out recently will include chapters on Islamic, Chinese, Japanese, or Precolumbian art and extensive chapters on Medieval art, there are a great many publications on each of these topics put out at least semi-recently, by experts in the field, and written with the nonspecialist in mind, and of course there has been an explosion of on-line resources for the study of these topics.
vinteuil wrote: Although, now that I think about it, another large portion of the non-western art I've been exposed to has been "decorative" and "fashion," two categories that I very much support including in "fine arts."
Precisely! Our categorization of the visual arts as "fine arts is painting on canvas or fresco, sculpture and architecture, everything else is decorative and not worth taking seriously" is itself a very Eurocentric affair(for example, it winds up relegating, say, Islamic manuscripts to "decorative arts", never mind that their production was very often quite an important affair which nobility and royalty took a great interest in the production and commissioning of and which some of the most talented artists of the day worked on). and one that winds up excluding a lot of major art from other cultures or pre-Renaissance Europe. So our classification actually does wind up making it harder to fit in much non-western art even before difficulty concerns come into play because it implicitly excludes most of it from 15/15 of the visual arts distribution and makes it compete with a tonne of other smaller parts of western art plus film for the remaining rather limited "other visual" slots.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by vinteuil » Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:46 pm

Kuandian Manchu Autonomous County wrote:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote: I think we need to give some more exploration to non-Western art, and to genres of visual art outside of the standard mix of architecture, photography, and film. The Euro-centrism we allow in the Fine Arts distribution would make us shudder were someone to propose imposing it upon the Literature or History distributions. And you have only to visit any major art museum and view the list of galleries there to realize how tremendously narrow our definition of Fine Arts is, as compared to that of even the most conservative Visual Arts institutions in the world.
To provide some data from the other end of the institutional spectrum: Looking around the art history majors at my school, exactly one person I know of in the past two years is doing BA research on a "traditionally quizbowled" topic, maybe a third or so of the core faculty at most do much with post-Renaissance European painting, and about a third or so of the core faculty do non-western art(not including medieval art). Now granted Chicago is somewhat unusual given its heavy focus on film, photography and modern east asian art, but virtually every single art history program will require some classes on non-Western art and medieval or earlier Western art, and it would be reasonable to assume that any halfway competent art history department will have some medievalists and scholars of non-Western art on the faculty and even the dullest and most backwards textbooks on art history will include substantial material on non-western art and subjects outside of the "traditional media". Nor is it especially hard to learn about these things; any basic art history textbook put out recently will include chapters on Islamic, Chinese, Japanese, or Precolumbian art and extensive chapters on Medieval art, there are a great many publications on each of these topics put out at least semi-recently, by experts in the field, and written with the nonspecialist in mind, and of course there has been an explosion of on-line resources for the study of these topics.
vinteuil wrote: Although, now that I think about it, another large portion of the non-western art I've been exposed to has been "decorative" and "fashion," two categories that I very much support including in "fine arts."
Precisely! Our categorization of the visual arts as "fine arts is painting on canvas or fresco, sculpture and architecture, everything else is decorative and not worth taking seriously" is itself a very Eurocentric affair(for example, it winds up relegating, say, Islamic manuscripts to "decorative arts", never mind that their production was very often quite an important affair which nobility and royalty took a great interest in the production and commissioning of and which some of the most talented artists of the day worked on). and one that winds up excluding a lot of major art from other cultures or pre-Renaissance Europe. So our classification actually does wind up making it harder to fit in much non-western art even before difficulty concerns come into play because it implicitly excludes most of it from 15/15 of the visual arts distribution and makes it compete with a tonne of other smaller parts of western art plus film for the remaining rather limited "other visual" slots.

This makes me wonder if we would be better off subdistributing 3/3 fine arts as
1/1 "things that primarily involve you looking at them" (including tapestries, manuscripts, etc. in addition to painting and sculpture),
1/1 "things that primarily involve you hearing them" (inc. jazz and "world music"), and
1/1 split some way (2:3?) between "things you use" (that you inhabit, worship in, wear, put stuff in, sit on, eat off, etc.) and "things that you both hear and see" (film, ballet, arty musical theater, opera?).
I'm not sure exactly what the subdistributional consequences of this would be, but it seems to provide a nice compromise between various positions people have staked out, and allows for more expansion of what "fine art" is for quizbowl.
Last edited by vinteuil on Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by gyre and gimble » Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:53 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I've met almost no non-quizbowlers who believe that Mythology is an independent subject or discipline, rather than a component of another discipline, or who do not express surprise when told that we weight Mythology as 5% of a quizbowl distribution in which the most important Social Sciences (or even Sciences) get <1%.
This is of course a sensible criticism, but you have to consider that the distribution quizbowl follows is extremely different, proportionally, from "what people study." According to these links and the premise that the distribution match what is important by the numbers in the real world, then psychology, biology/health/physiology, and engineering should each take up as much of the distribution as all of fine arts, fine arts should be asked more than all of literature, and history+non-psychology-social-science should get 3 times as much coverage as literature.

I think the philosophy behind the current distribution is that it better matches "what people like to learn about" regardless of whether it's in an academic or in a personal setting, and I think that's the best philosophy to have. The alternative philosophy people are proposing (that questions be strictly relevant to academic study of the subject) is meaningless to people who don't study a particular subject in school. For example, if I read Cosmicomics for fun, and the quizbowl world knows about it pretty well, why should I care whether people read that in class when deciding to write a tossup on it? I doubt even a quarter of the people in quizbowl who have read that book read it for class, or engaged it academically (beyond just enjoying the collection, I mean) in any way. In the same way, a tossup on Peleus shouldn't have to be justified by whether anyone in academia gives a shit about him. This argument doesn't justify why Peleus should come up more often than Nathan Zuckerman, but I do want to point out that the insistence that the quizbowl distribution conform to "what is studied in the academic world" is a misguided view of what kind of knowledge quizbowl should test. We don't go to school to get better at quizbowl, nor do we play quizbowl to review for our exams. I'd venture to say that for most of us, what we choose to learn in school lines up well with what we choose to learn for quizbowl, but also for most of us, we learn things outside of our major because we find them interesting but without, for a second, considering whether it merits value in an academic setting.
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:As you can see, I support the expansion of social science, since given the importance of Political Science, Economics, and Psychology (to pick the three most prominent examples) in the world and the tremendous frequency with which they are studied in universities (these are among the most popular majors), their lack of prominence in quizbowl is rather surprising. I also support collapsing opera into classical music and sculpture into painting. Part of what I hope the Misc. Arts would be used for is to allow Jazz and Film, two under-asked categories, to have more exposure. But also, I think we need to give some more exploration to non-Western art, and to genres of visual art outside of the standard mix of architecture, photography, and film. The Euro-centrism we allow in the Fine Arts distribution would make us shudder were someone to propose imposing it upon the Literature or History distributions. And you have only to visit any major art museum and view the list of galleries there to realize how tremendously narrow our definition of Fine Arts is, as compared to that of even the most conservative Visual Arts institutions in the world.
I disagree here. The following is an accessibility argument similar to my discussion in the pervious paragraph, in that non-Western art tends to be studied as cultural artifacts rather than intrinsic pieces of art. I'm not an art history major, but I have taken art history courses and I've found that people care much less about artistic intent or an artist's individual technique when it comes to non-Western art than they do about what a work says about the culture that created it. We probably don't even know the artist's identity for the majority of the most famous non-Western artworks! I have no doubt I'm being ignorant at an art-historical level when I say that a couple of Buddhas made centuries apart (let's just pick the two hypothetically most important ones) are basically the same thing, since someone who's actually studied that stuff will be able to tell me the subtle and nuanced differences, but how many of us care as much as we do about the differences between Michelangelo's and Donatello's depictions of David?

You raise a point about how art galleries have a lot of things that aren't asked about in quizbowl, but personally I tend to spend a lot more time looking at a Caillebotte painting as an artistic object than I do looking at a piece of Japanese pottery, and I'm pretty sure that's not because quizbowl has conditioned me to care about Caillebotte and has more to do with the fact that society as a whole tends to treat Caillebotte as "art" and a Jomon vase as "artifact." This is at least my personal perception as someone who, like most people, has not studied ancient Japanese art. (Nor do I want this to be a debate about whether society ought to treat such objects as artifacts; the important thing is that it does, at least in my point-of-view, and that's what should matter for quizbowl.)

To get back to accessibility: Far, far more people are interested in Western art while not really caring about non-Western art, and even among those who do care, I'd say the majority still steer towards Western. I.e., the non-art-scholar's interests are Eurocentric (perhaps because American culture is Eurocentric?), and I think that justifies a Eurocentric quizbowl art distribution. Quizbowl should ask about what people know and are interested in the most.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by vinteuil » Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:59 pm

gyre and gimble wrote:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:As you can see, I support the expansion of social science, since given the importance of Political Science, Economics, and Psychology (to pick the three most prominent examples) in the world and the tremendous frequency with which they are studied in universities (these are among the most popular majors), their lack of prominence in quizbowl is rather surprising. I also support collapsing opera into classical music and sculpture into painting. Part of what I hope the Misc. Arts would be used for is to allow Jazz and Film, two under-asked categories, to have more exposure. But also, I think we need to give some more exploration to non-Western art, and to genres of visual art outside of the standard mix of architecture, photography, and film. The Euro-centrism we allow in the Fine Arts distribution would make us shudder were someone to propose imposing it upon the Literature or History distributions. And you have only to visit any major art museum and view the list of galleries there to realize how tremendously narrow our definition of Fine Arts is, as compared to that of even the most conservative Visual Arts institutions in the world.
I disagree here. The following is an accessibility argument similar to my discussion in the pervious paragraph, in that non-Western art tends to be studied as cultural artifacts rather than intrinsic pieces of art. I'm not an art history major, but I have taken art history courses and I've found that people care much less about artistic intent or an artist's individual technique when it comes to non-Western art than they do about what a work says about the culture that created it. We probably don't even know the artist's identity for the majority of the most famous non-Western artworks! I have no doubt I'm being ignorant at an art-historical level when I say that a couple of Buddhas made centuries apart (let's just pick the two hypothetically most important ones) are basically the same thing, since someone who's actually studied that stuff will be able to tell me the subtle and nuanced differences, but how many of us care as much as we do about the differences between Michelangelo's and Donatello's depictions of David? To get back to accessibility: Far, far more people are interested in Western art while not really caring about non-Western art, and even among those who do care, I'd say the majority still steer towards Western. I.e., the non-art-scholar's interests are Eurocentric (perhaps because American culture is Eurocentric?), and I think that justifies a Eurocentric quizbowl art distribution. Quizbowl should ask about what people know and are interested in the most.
I'm not sure I get your argument that "not caring about the specific artists behind the art" or "not wanting to compare specific pieces" leads to "people aren't interested in this kind of art." The influence that African and Asian art pieces had on French artists and composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (to take a particularly well-known example) was entirely separate from caring about either of those things, to the best of my knowledge. I don't think John is suggesting "the eventual goal would be tossups on this specific Buddha" but rather that questions about "sculptures of the Buddha" would test knowledge of things that people in fact do learn and care about.

(Thread-split in order?)
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by gyre and gimble » Mon Mar 03, 2014 6:05 pm

vinteuil wrote:I'm not sure I get your argument that "not caring about the specific artists behind the art" or "not wanting to compare specific pieces" leads to "people aren't interested in this kind of art." The influence that African and Asian art pieces had on French artists and composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (to take a particularly well-known example) was entirely separate from caring about either of those things, to the best of my knowledge. I don't think John is suggesting "the eventual goal would be tossups on this specific Buddha" but rather that questions about "sculptures of the Buddha" would test knowledge of things that people in fact do learn and care about.

(Thread-split in order?)
Sorry if I was being ambiguous, but I didn't mean that "not caring about the specific artists behind the art" or "not wanting to compare specific pieces" means people aren't interested. What I did mean was that people look at those works as cultural artifacts and not intrinsically artistic works. By that I mean 1) evaluating artistic characteristics of most non-Western works requires applying anthropologically-based facts about the culture that produced them and 2) the artistic characteristics we do gather, in a somewhat circular (though of course valuable) fashion, are analyzed to find out more things about the culture. The way one studies Praxiteles (curve, proportions, desire to depict the ideal human form etc.) is very very different from how we engage giant Olmec heads. So if a clue on a Buddha is more about the culture that produced it than about the Buddha, then that question belongs in the history distribution or anthropology distribution and not in visual arts.
Last edited by gyre and gimble on Mon Mar 03, 2014 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Suggestions for a new ACF distribution

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Mon Mar 03, 2014 6:06 pm

While I agree that an increased prevalence of non-western art in quizbowl would be an interesting thing, you have to keep in mind that the two primary criteria for asking about something in quizbowl are "does it make for a good question?" and "does it make for an answerable question", and not "does an arguable notion of 'importance' give me a moral imperative to include questions on it?". The reason that the arts distribution is dominated by western art forms and artworks is that for better or for worse, those are what people, almost universally (and especially outside the category of "art majors"), know best. By all means, write interesting and accessible questions on Islamic printmakers or Mayan frescos when and where you can (bonus hard parts, as the subjects of or as clues in common link tossups, at hard tournaments, etc.), but that is a step that must be taken long, long before the distribution is radically changed.

Also, 1/1 myth 4 lyfe.

EDIT: Stephen's post is really good, in both the myth and art sections. Another thing to keep in mind when proposing distributional shifts is that the existence of a few good, clue-dense, fairly widely answerable tossup subjects (e.g. sculptures of the Buddha) does not necessarily imply the ability to continue filling tournament after tournament, year after year, without excessively repeating oneself.
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