What is love?

In college, I was often intrigued, if not preoccupied with, the explanatory power of economics theories in some inexplicable human behaviors that I observed on the daily basis. But what about love? Can economics explain why two persons fall in love? If there existed a scholarly literature on an economic approach to elucidating the origin of love, then I would have written my master thesis in applying free trade principles to explaining why a normal person expects to be loved more than he/she loves his/her partner. We are as human are greedy indeed. But greed isn’t bad because it motivates us to do better so that in the end we can achieve something that we desire for. That feeling of “yeah I got it” gives us a sense of satisfaction analogous to the feeling of  after reaching the climax during a sexual intercourse. But make no mistake, love is nothing more than economic transactions or bilateral trade in which both parties do their best to maximize their self-interests in the game. The reason we trade is because we want to acquire new goods that we value more than the goods that own. Acquisition is synonymous to “achievement.” I own a Samsung Galaxy S5 and my cousin has a Note 4. For some reasons, I am becoming fond of the note 4 and my cousin wants to own an S5. We agree to trade our phones. In this case, I certainly value the Note 4 more than my S5, and my cousin vice versa. Love exists in two forms: loving oneself and being loved by someone. But where does our love to someone come from? How did I get my S5 from the first place? I bought my S5. But you cant really buy your feeling in love with someone ( I exclude the possibility that pretending to love someone). That energy that we create our love to someone is transferred from self-love, which is something that we are already endowed. This means that when we spend effort in loving someone, we spend less energy loving ourselves. We only have 24 hours a day so it is impossible to do both at the same time.  But when loving someone you expect someone to love us back. The story is getting more complex now. So our desire to be loved by someone is the “Note 4” that I want so bad. We certainly value the feeling to be loved much more than our love to someone– my S5. When you love someone, you actually wonder whether that person loves you more. You want that person to be yours just as bad as i want the note 4 to be mine.  You want her to love you forever until you find someone else that you may love more; just like I may find iPhone 6S more attractive than the Note 4. Insofar the trade succeeds love begins to flourishes.

Let’s think about what happen after my cousin and I trade our phones. It is very likely that we will keep our new traded phone for a while before thinking about new one. We both want to take care of our phone because we value our new goods. This is the same as the post-falling love period. You want to maintain and nurture the relationship.


Final Wrap-Up: Museums and Libraries


There have been a lot of debates regarding to what should be proper roles of museums in today society. The general consensus is that the most important function of museums is educating the public. This function renders museums similar to libraries, though equating museums with libraries is mistaken. Both the author of “the end of a museum” and I have reached the same conclusion that museum and library are distinctive terms and should not be used interchangeably in any discussions regarding to museums’ purposes; nevertheless, our premises to reach that conclusion differ in some aspects.

The author argues that museums are not libraries because unlike libraries’ users that know how to read books, visitors don’t know how to look at displayed objects in ways that allow them to fully understand the objects’ meanings or their historical and cultural significance. The tone of the argument seems to indicate the author’s assumption that most visitors do not know how to do so and the users know how to read books most of the time. Is this true? What about high level academic writings?  In fact, not everyone knows how to read scholarly writings. Reading these writings is not just about understanding meanings of their sentences but, most importantly, seeing larger pictures that their authors try to convey. Some people can read the book and understand what is written in it without understanding its author’s main point. Museums’ objects are similar to these academic writings. Like learning how to read sophisticated writings, there are two ways visitors can get good at properly understanding what objects mean: experience and techniques taught by museum experts. The more you read scholar writings of certain disciplines, better your comprehension and more critical you are. The more visitors go to museums, the better and faster they get at know how and what to look at their collections and the more critical they evaluate galleries/exhibits’ themes. Those who lack experience and do not read often can opt for reading courses and still improve their reading comprehension. For those who lack experience of visiting museums, they can take this course and improve their museum-reviewing skills.

What distinguish museums from libraries are, however, distinctions between books and objects as well as between curators and librarians. Books are self-explanatory, whereas objects per se are not. Thus, objects’ classifications and arrangements in museums are far more complicated than those of books in libraries, rendering curators’ tasks more challenging and their roles more important than librarians’. In libraries, books are arranged according to their genres, publication periods, and disciplines to which they belong. In contrast, successful arrangements of objects to show their meanings require curators’ substantial knowledge of specific contexts in which they were made and of multiple interpretations of their meanings. Moreover, curators serve to bridge any gaps between visitors and objects, helping them put themselves in minds of objects’ creators and their social and cultural contexts, by relating objects to visitors’ knowledge and personal experience. Whereas librarians don’t have to do this since connections between readers and books are usually established by the time they are on half way of their reading. Yet some would argue that there are more books than objects so sorting out book collections are more tedious and time-consuming than sorting out objects of different theme and significance. Secretaries type more, do more word and excel assignments that are usually more tiring than making business decision making; yet it is much harder for business leaders to come up to a brilliant decision.




Treating an exhibit as a piece of academic writing

Having read some museum exhibit reviews and scholarly museum evaluations, I finally discovered my own approach to evaluating an exhibit. In today discussion, I will prove that it is possible to apply the techniques for evaluating academic writings to critically evaluating most exhibits. I will use my evaluation of the Dissection exhibit as an illustration of my new method. When adopting a new method, It literally took me 30-45 minutes to finish the entire exhibit.

First, as a reader, you would ask yourself why do you want to read a book? Why is it important to you. Likewise, as an exhibit visitor, you would ask yourself why you want to visit an exhibit.

Second, It is important that one should identify the type of writing of what you read before reading it. Basically, there are two basic types of writing: informative and argumentative writings. Similarly, the same principle applies to exhibits. Nowadays, it appears that most exhibits are about controversial issues. The dissection exhibit is argumentative. When first entering the exhibit, I quickly identified the exhibit’s main argument. Based on the introductory text, I could see that the museum argues whether dissections were ( and still is) an unethical medical practice or not. Nonetheless, at this point, I didn’t know whether the exhibit argued for or against it. Placing the theme within a social context by relating it to my outside knowledge of the issue helped me anticipate that the exhibit would argue against dissections of human bodies. The language in the introductory text is good indicator of curators’ tones such as “horrible crime” and so on. The ability to anticipate what direction to which curators and writers would proceed their arguments would help readers/ visitors understand exhibit’s/ writing’s main points much better. Thus, I made a prediction that the exhibit would provide information and objects that are pertinent to only three aspects : proponents and opponents of the medical practice and common ground viewpoint that would assist either of the sides. In this case, I predicted that the third section would support other argument in some ways.  Regular visitors and regular readers stop at understanding writings’/exhibits’ content. There main objective is to gain more knowledge of the topics. However, critical readers/ exhibit reviewers also going beyond absorbing information to examine the logic behind writings’ or exhibits’ arguments(themes).

In the first section, the most single important assumption that the exhibit makes to support its argument : Dissections of human bodies in England were unethical because the practice gave rise to body-snatching from cemeteries and attempted murders. The curators use the murder of an 11-year-old Italian kid, a landmark case in England at that time, to support this assumption. To steer visitors’ attention to the case, the exhibit contains a short video describing this event.It wasn’t the medical practice that were totally at fault for series of burking and bodysnatching, yet the demand for human bodies to practice dissecting was the culprit. Economically, supply automatically rises to meet the increasing demand, creating a new market for selling dead bodies.  The exhibit’s presentation of different perspectives from the surgeons and the anatomists at that time is noteworthy and important. Is it interesting to know what private art collectors that purchase arts from art thieves have to say about art thieves? Is to know about buyers of elephant tusks as important as to know about the poachers? After all, without private art collectors, the buyers, there would be no thieves and no poachers. The surgeons’ opinions toward bodysnatching were polarized. Some surgeons placed the importance of dissections toward medical science over the practice’s immorality Some surgeons got an ambivalent feeling about the bodysnatching yet ended up accepting it because they were preoccupied with the idea that saving thousands of lives is inevitably at the expense of sacrificing some individuals and violating the dead. The Americans when making decisions on nuking Japan later used the same logic. As we see, to improve its credibility, the exhibit shows that it remains unbiased by offering multiple perspectives toward the issue.

The second section next to the first is, no surprise, provides proponent viewpoints—the scientific viewpoints—of human dissections. Thanks to these dissections, the English surgeons became more adept at performing sophisticated surgeries such as amputations and brain surgeries and the English anatomists were able to improve their understandings of human bodies that played a vital role in shaping modern medical studies.

In the third section, the exhibit introduces another landmark case, in British legal history, that concerns the constitutionality of the Anatomy act, which states that any unclaimed dead bodies are subject to medical experiments including dissections. There is a short video highlighting the parliamentary debate among members of the House of Commons prior to the law’s enactment. Again, the exhibit tries to remain open-minded (although it seemed to against it), by showing both sides of the debate. However, the exhibit may weaken it argument by not showing debate concerning the introduction of the human tissue act as the result of the repeal of the Anatomy act. Had the exhibit done that, a video about human tissue act would have explained what went wrong with the previous legislation, supporting its argument. This may be one of the exhibit’s major weaknesses. The last section would be the exhibit’s strongest evidence against human dissections in today society. The section contains a long video showing the public views toward the medical practice. The video extends exhibit’s argument to include donations of body organs. The exhibit argues that there are two problems existing with the new law. The Muslim immigrants have been tricked by medical services to make organs’ donations though doing so sometimes is against their wills. Medical services sometimes intentionally let their patients die so they can get the organs. In this section, the exhibit’s argument appears to be one-sided. It doesn’t show opposite side of the coin. What if people are get paid to donate their organ? Does it matter if owners’ bodies should donate their organs if their bodies are cremated?

To sum up, if you look at the way I looked at the exhibit, visiting the exhibit is like reading a book about the history of dissections of human bodies and the ongoing debate regarding to its morality and legality.

The museum of childhood, a departure from conventional ways of evaluating museums?

After visiting the childhood museum, I have some points to make with respect to some of the arguments Vilanorva made in her museum review for the same museum and my interpretations.

In her essay, the author makes it very clear that the childhood fails to offer visitors a coherent narrative. The author believes this shortcoming has two main causes with which I agree but also disagree.

In the first place, the museum tries to display the objects in a chronological order. While this may be an effective way in arranging objects, not all museums necessarily needs to use this order. Objects of different cultures scatter all over the place and the museum tries to make up themes or titles for these displays.  The museum places Japanese, Chinese, and Italian puppets are placed in the same group without giving visitors any explanation for them being in the same group. What are major themes or messages that connect them together? Though some displays do give some connections, yet they are weak. On the first floor, there is one big gallery concerned with how toys inspire us; inspire means absorb or affect in this case. One of the resulting effects of toys’ inspiration is creativity. The section contains start war toys, power rangers, and superheroes. These displays are great until the museum puts in a group of dressed barby-type-dolls like that should not belong to this section at all. Creativity should not the only connections, and the theme “inspiration” seems rather ambiguous. This shortcoming leads me to regurgitate one of the author’s main arguments: the museum’s use of contextual elements is forceful. It is not simple to just throw all the toys together and put texts around them to create a meaningful context. Moreover, there is commingles of commercial or massively produced toy and homemade toys. What the story is museum trying to tell? Is there a difference between the commercial and homemade toys that are put in the same place?

Second, the too perfect craftsmanship of some objects in the museum poses a threat to museum objects’ authenticity.  The visiting today illuminates Mark Jone analogy between fakes and restored objects both of which are similar in that they could alter reality and visitors’ understanding about the original pieces of arts needed to be reconstructed. I have found in unconvincing that the homemade toys placed in a section regarding how kids in the past had to make their old toys. These reconstructed wooden houses look too great and its craftsmanship is too sophisticated to the extent that makes it impossible for visitors to believe that these toys are made by kids or their parents.

Nevertheless, it appears that author might have evaluated the museum too critically. One of the question that the author asks is: who is the audience? She argues that the museum also tries to attract adult visitors as much as it does to kids. Some adults want to relate these objects to their own childhood memories. But I may argue that it is not always the case. What if visitors treat museum as playground where their kids can have fun playing around with those toys?  Unlike other museums, the childhood museum may not try to impose certain knowledge on visitors. The way people look toys are not something like a veneer style painting or a type of dinosaurs. The museum may want to let its visitors have their own opinion and experience about the toys they see. Individual visitors pick toys related to their own cultural background and their childhood. When I look at some toys I wish I had, seeing them again just pleased my eyes. I didn’t care much about the text because toys’ appearance is reflective of cultures where they were made. This now comes down to as matter of opinion more than a matter of facts.

One uniqueness of the museum of childhood is that it doesn’t really target any specific audience, although one thing that I can assure is that it does attract visitors who want to get back parts of their childhood memories by looking at the point.  Villanova offers an analytically interesting way to evaluate it, yet her assessment of the museum is not conclusive. It is how we analytically interpret it that matters.

A comparison between Natural Science museums in London and in Oxford

Having visited both of museums, I believe that there are some differences in how they arrange and present their objects.

What distinguishes the museum in Oxford from its counterpart in London is their major collection. The majority of the objects displayed in the museum in Oxford are small and local animals such as insects, whereas the London museum displays a wide range of animals across the globe, particularly huge animals such as dinosaurs. The explanation for this distinction is that each museum’s didactic goals and type of audience differs from another. The Oxford museum has been and is still affiliated with the University of Oxford for a long period of time, mainly serving as an academic environment for Oxford students that major or are interested in the related field. Evidently, on the first floor, there were some lectures going on when I was there. Thus, the Oxford locals and the university’s scholars have been main collectors of the museum’s artifacts since the Victorian era. Since the museum aims at providing a college level education, it is not surprising that the entire collection contains lots of scientific details and more sophisticated texts.


In contrast, lying at the heart of London, one of the world’s hottest tourist spots, the London natural science museum targets a wide range of visitors coming from different countries. The resulting effect is that the museum aims to display as many objects as possible at the expense of paying less attention to the subject’s technicality of which its simpler texts are indicative.  

Moreover, this difference also leads the museums’ different use of contextual elements. Curators of the museum in London, preoccupied with continuous improvement of digital, electronic, and robotic visual aids, try to maximize visitors’ realistic experience. A Terex robot standing at the entrance of the Terex exhibit is an indication of heavy focus on technology to enhance visitors’ experience of living in that period. If the museum in London had similar approach as that of the one in Oxford, most visitors would find it quite boring, also because the London museum is much bigger than the Oxford one. 

In contrast, the museum in Oxford attempts to make detailed classification of different animals accordingly to ancestry, period, age. On the first floor, the museum displays at least 20 different groups of insects, which I found quite interesting. I believe that the way scholars look at objects greatly differs from laymen. Their learning objective is more sophisticated and their expectation is more academic. The museum in Oxford successfully meet scholars’ need by its academic arrangement of  the objects.