Goodbye, Harvard: DFW on Communities and Thinghood

Good old Winthrop
I'm graduating tomorrow, which means an early morning wake-up call by Dixieland band as per Winthrop House tradition (I happened to be woken up by the band last year around this time, and managed to hear a few strains of "Indiana"). I haven't too much to say here since graduation's been a long time coming now. In fact, I wrote a brief sum-up piece for The Crimson a few weeks ago as part of the magazine's traditional end-of-the-year "Just the Tip," which features advice from graduating seniors.
Eschew any and all exit strategies. Don’t overuse exclamation points. Master the art of trolling. Be situated so self-transformation is imminent. And always respond to emails immediately.
-Kevin Sun ’14
I recently finished reading Signifying Rappers (1990), an interesting collaboration between then-roommates David Foster Wallace and Mark Costello. It's essentially a collection of back-and-forth riffs on various topics in and around the world of hip-hop ca. 1989, and there are some nice insights here and there, but it's organizationally pretty haphazard. There's a great passage from DFW about synecdoches and stereotypes in rap, which relates to Harvard as you'll see:
I'm sitting, just the other day, on the front steps of the Widener Library. A group of Japanese tourists—native Japanese, for whom the U.S. of A. might as well be Mars—a group of these tourists approaches, brandishing cameras. 
'Harvard, please,' one says to me. 
I look up from the navel I'm contemplating. 'Excuse me?' 
'Where is Harvard,' the guy says, the tourists behind him all nodding in very polite earnest. 
Well Widener is the central library building of Harvard, in the middle of Harvard Yard, which is itself the geographical heart of H.U. So I kind of cock my head at him and say: 'Well, all around you, this is all Harvard, you've been walking right through it.' 
They have a conference. 'But we are looking for Harvard,' another finally says to me, with an emphasis that implies I don't get it. 
I am nonplussed. Frantic to signify that they're inside what they're looking for, I sort of try to point vaguely in all directions at once. 
'HARVARD,' they keep iterating politely, checking a kind of bilingual Japanese Webster's.  
Turns out, of course, after much semioticizing, that they're looking for just one—any—uniquely identifying Harvard-site, a good old venerable synecdoche, some kind of visual Harvard-souvenir they can photograph and then, back home, in Japan, point to for friends who don't know Harvard from a hole and say: 'Look: Harvard.' 
Now, accept the analogy between a particular university and a particular community, and the point of this encounter of the cultural kind emerges: for people not in or of it, a community's a thing, not a place. And it's certainly not an environment where separate species in all their differences and complexity mingle and diffract.
Congratulations, class of 2014.