The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

December 13, 2007

Perhaps a way of teaching media

(I've been filling in for a couple of film courses at Brown University,
and this has led me to think through distributed knowledge in an 'open'
classroom, and how that plays out. The courses were, I think, extremely
successful. I've been partly inspired by two artist/teachers from the
1970s-80s: David Askevold at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design,
and Lutz Presser at the Tasmanian School of Art. Neither of them taught in
any conventional sense; both had a sense of student professionalism and
'being' that created outstanding works and environment. So below is just
some thinking about all of this; it's hardly original. it seems to work
well for me and my students, most of the time. There are also times I'm a
miserable, neurotic failure, but that's another issue, and not necess-
arily related.)

1 In terms of authority - everyone in the class, including the teacher, on
equal footing. I think authority comes from knowledge, not titles, formal-
ity, etc. This is hard to do within an institution where power is the
fundamental backdrop of the classroom, but I've done it as much as poss-

2 Distributed knowledge among students and faculty. In many areas, partic-
ularly those dealing with digital and popular culture, students are often
more knowledgeable than faculty. This is especially true with software -
students are apt to have used and hacked programs I haven't. Knowledge is
distributed and students and faculty work together, empower each other.
The classroom becomes a holarchic space of production, exploration, and
critique. I have to recognize that what I know, in many areas, is already

3 No assignments except for technical in the beginning which may or may
not be completed. Students find their own paths through the class, subject
matter, and production. Students who are confused or aren't motivated
should be helped along, of course; the more collaborative the class is,
the more these students might be carried forward within a general atmos-
phere of communality. This area might be the most difficult - how to work
with unmotivated or reticent students - but I've found there are almost
always workarounds; at times, students might even ask for assignments or
help with content and/or media.

4 Learning equally from students as students from you. This goes along
with distributed knowledge; there's also distributed learning. If I'm not
learning, I'm not teaching well; if the class seems closed in this
respect, I'm doing something wrong.

5 Students/faculty = equal participants. Again, this plays out against the
backdrop of fundamental power, but that power should be deconstructed as
much as possible. Along with this - try to interest as many other faculty
as possible in the course (I've not been so successful here), and encour-
age students to bring outsiders in as well. Obviously there are limits on
this, but in general it works well.

6 Students treated as artists/writers/filmmakers to to the fullest extent
possible. The most successful classes I've seen are those in which stu-
dents are considered as producers in their own right. If I begin with the
idea that what a student is doing isn't 'student work,' more often than
not, I've found that students rise to the occasion.

7 "Professional" advice. Discussing art-making after university - how to
present, distribute, survive, both online and offline. Encouraging stu-
dents to submit work to suitable venues, organize screenings or exhibi-
tions, etc. I've also encouraged students to do their own media/art
history as much as possible; what's current is what is/will become the
student's environment, once she leaves university. I've tended to share my
own work/experiences in class to a limited extent, trying to keep students
from stylistic influence.

8 Students are free to work on whatever, including sliding into other
genres, media. Since the work is student-determined, ostensible class
content might not be the most suitable for a particular project. Instead
of dropping the project, perhaps change it, or change media.

(I feel I'm not presenting this stuff as well as I should be; others have
done a far better job of it. The main points are both a kind of withdrawal
on the part of the teacher, and an emphasis on distributed learning and
production on the part of the class as a whole. This doesn't work for
everyone in all situations - but when it does, the results are amazing in
so many ways.)


The stem of the 6 leans forward, ready to topple.
The stem of the 6 is retained by the entire and complete
calculus of capital.
The calculus of capital is thick, exhausted, is always
exhausted, is always singular, singularity, always
the point and paste of the thing.
The calculus is in opposition to glue holding disparate
parts together _as such._
The calculus of capital knows only the unary divide.
And the unary addition and the unary increment
and substitution. And the unary substitution.
In my weary world the head bobs uselessly.
It looks in the thick of things for clock and radio.
It pulls the sheets up and pulls the sheets down.
It wraps and unwraps the cadaver of the body.
Beware the thud of 6 and thud of capital.
What is ready to topple sooner or later topples,
sooner or later revives into disparate parts.
(What is ready to topple has the consistency of glue.)

Cuadrante morado - abierto ropon

(((purple quadrant - open gown) from Frida Kahlo, Diary))

Generated by Mnemosyne 0.12.