Queen's University

Nothing Up My Sleeve


On May 23, Queen’s MiniU offers a sample of the best of Queen’s teaching at “The Last Lecture on Earth.”

Borrowed from the popular Queen’s Alma Mater Society series, the “last lecture” is an academic tradition in which a professor presents a favourite topic. Vincent Sacco (Sociology) will deliver the lecture, Nothing Up My Sleeve: What I Learned from the Master Magicians on Saturday, May 23 at 3 pm in the Biosciences Complex auditorium.

Interested in magic as a child, Professor Sacco built up his repertoire as an amateur magician, before dropping the hobby as a “geeky habit.”

As a sociologist, he is well known for his work in crime and societal attitudes towards it. A few years ago, he began to see parallels between his childhood hobby and his professional study of popular culture and collective behaviour.

“Magic is predicated on ignorance,” he says. “The whole point is to have your audience not understand what you have done.” Similarly, information presented to the general public through political rhetoric and in advertising is carefully crafted to elicit specific responses.

“Government and corporations are in exactly the same business: the management and diffusion of information – some of which they want you to see, and some of which they don’t.”

The use of misdirection is a classic magician’s technique; the art of getting an audience to look at the wrong place at the right time. Professor Sacco will look at the many uses of illusion and misdirection, from the vaudeville stage to broadcast news.

Professor Sacco cites commercials that exhort the viewer to “ask your doctor if this medication is right for you.” Under the guise of encouraging people to be proactive about their health, these ads use consumers to sell products to themselves.

From the early days of stage magic to the modern study of agnotology, the study of culturally-induced ignorance, Nothing Up My Sleeve promises to be an entertaining and informative look at belief, illusion and the nature of knowledge.

Attendance is free with MiniU registration. Reserve your seat by contacting Alumni Relations at 613-533-2060 or at miniU@queensu.ca


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Last updated at 2:05 pm EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
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