Merit Badge (5)

By: Peggy Nelson
October 15, 2010

Introducing the fifth HiLobrow merit badge, The Node!

[Badge shown larger than life-size; actual size is approximately 2 inches in diameter]

You may have already earned this badge. In part, it depends on your outlook. Are you being dragged kicking and screaming into the matrix? Or are you selecting your ankle-length pleather trenchcoat as we speak?

To earn it: REQUIREMENTS mean something is required; all else is optional. As usual, not all of the steps may be possible, but all badges are earnable. Creativity is encouraged. If you would like to submit independent achievements for consideration, then we will consider them.

REQUIREMENTS/ACTIVITIES (complete 1 or more):

1. Check any of the following from your phone at least 3 times a day hour: email, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, texting. Once a day counts if you just leave it open the whole time. One extra point if you’re checking this website from your phone, two if you’re checking it during dinner. You don’t need a witness for this one, although they may submit a complaint if they must.

2. Invent several online identities. Provide links to relevant pages, feeds or streams; or, you may submit icon photos. One identity may be you.

3. Attend Burning Man. After Decom, provide a photo of an object coated with playa dust. That object may be you.

4. Be a member of an online secret society. Of course, you wouldn’t be able to admit it, if you were. So this is neutral as far as the badge is concerned. But if you are, you know: be it.

SHORT ANSWERS (complete 2 or more):

5. What is your Facebook Friend number? (No penalty for submitting zero.)

6. Name an historical or fictional personage whose aphoristic style would be perfect for Twitter. Tweet a sample quote to @hilobrow, including the hashtag #node. If the personage is already on Twitter, RT something from their account.

7. Describe two ways to define a point from geometry. You may include a diagram.

8. Who was the protagonist of Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions? How many dimensions did he inhabit? The protagonist, not Abbott Abbott.

9. What is the human-made object that is farthest away from Earth, at the moment?

ESSAYS (complete 1 or more):

10. What is an intellectual salon? Historically, how did women play a leading role? What were some of the characteristics of these salons? How might these translate into virtual, geographically-distributed spaces like the internet?

11. Has your experience of online social networks been like a virtual salon, full of repartee and intellectual challenges? Or has it been more like elementary school recess, full of cliques and reindeer games? Discuss.

12. Who invented the world wide web? What is a punch card? What did Jacquard looms have to do with it?

13. What is John Locke’s definition of the self? How might the technologies of “social networking” be expanding that definition?

        a. If you think that they are, do you think the technologies are actually causing alteration,         or just allowing us to see certain patterns more clearly?

        b. If you think that they are not, should you still assume the label of Child of the         Enlightenment, or will that just annoy everyone?

14. What is a monad? Would a monad work in an interconnected matrix, or would several misfit monads all be independent together? In your answer you may reference Gottfried Leibniz, Ambrose Bierce, Madame Blavatsky, John Dee, the O’Reilly manual, or Rudolph’s dentist-friend Hermey.

15. According to The World Without Us by Alan Weisman, how long will it take broadcast signals to decay in outer space? List three shows that the alien anthropologists might be watching as they study up.

OK/Not OK Corral:

“Do you . . . investigate?”


ARTS & CRAFTS (find or create 1 or more):

16. A collage.

17. An audio or music track using sampled sounds.

18. A video using found footage.


Email your name, mailing address, answers, links and any attachments to hilobrow at gmail dot com, with the subject line Merit Badge 5/Node. Please number your answers in order.

Badges are free on a limited first-come first-serve basis; there will be a $10 embroidery fee after the free badges have run out. In all cases, HiLobrow reserves the right of final decision, which will be arbitrary.

Important: by submitting material for this badge, you agree to allow HiLobrow to publish excerpts from your submissions at some future point (either linked to your name or anonymously, as you prefer).


Haw-Haw, Kudos