Blogging more, or not

February 10, 2014 | | Leave a Comment

syllabus grumpy catI’m trying to turn off my inner copyeditor, who dies hard, to try and write more here and elsewhere outside of the academic default mode that tends to take over once my fingers hit the keys. Most of this writing has been happening on Twitter, which I’ve added to this page even if after 1000 tweets I still don’t entirely understand well how it’s structured. It strikes me as a perfect platform for literary and critical experimentation–the theme of my seminar this semester, the 140-character limit serving as a creative constraint akin to those employed by many of the artists we’re studying–so I’m trying to tweet more, more creatively, and to record some of the things I’m doing in the seminar here on the blog.

Here’s an early attempt at some linked tweets, cf. folks on my feed who do this right like Teju Cole and Jeet Heer, or a project like Roland Barthes’ Mythologies. (Apparently, TweetDeck would make this look prettier, but I can’t be bothered yet, much less figure how to embed TweetDeck into WordPress… what’s the deal exactly with all of these doubly capitalized portmanteau tech words?)

1. Pondered as tweet: “@Pharrell, what’s so #happy about ‘a room w/out a roof’? Unprotected, open to the elements.”

2. Which got me to thinking, the indigent and homeless are everywhere in @Pharrell’s ambitious, infectious 24hr video for #happy

3. They’re barely registered throughout @Pharrell’s video, but they’re visible in the margins as #happy dancers wend through the streets of LA.

4. It’s a fantasy to think that @Pharrell’s convenience store clerk or worker folding linens is always #happy, about to burst into song.

5. Music videos like @Pharrell’s #happy, of course, trade in fantasy, smilingly disarm whatever critique might be aimed in their direction.

6. But a straight line exists between @Pharrell’s #happy and the DWYL critique of @MiyaTokumitsu, Ehrenreich & others:

7. Also, my 18-month-old busted out some new moves when it was being blasted on a car stereo outside daycare, defying cultural critique.

8. Because I know many of you were letting the ideological dimensions of @Pharrell’s #happy trouble you on a Sat. night. You’re welcome Twitter

Side note: Pharrell seems like a pretty thoughtful guy, despite his unwillingness to respond to any of this foolishness…

I’m also trying to more regularly blog what I’m doing in seminar, as one of many pedagogical experiments I’m testing out while on leave. In the first week I tried to concentrate on developing academic community from the outset, replacing the usual go-around-the-table-and-say-your-name drill with something more creative and memorable. I had students introduce themselves to a neighbor they didn’t know for 5 minutes then asked them to write a limerick about that person to present back to the class. This gave me an opportunity to also talk about why we have limericks in the first place, and how generative devices (here, metered and rhymed poetry with certain generic expectations… helpfully one with a genealogy in experimental literature) can impel creativity, aid memory, etc. Students then posted these to the class website (alongside self-designed memes they created to describe themselves), which will serve as a record of a series of these creative exercises I’m assigning throughout the semester.

I’d done the limericks icebreaker before in an earlier, more historically minded, less visually focused version of this seminar, and this group really did a great job with these. The memes are funny, some of the limericks are quite good (although, notably, not in the least ribald… unlike the example I provided in class), and I had their (admittedly, only nine) names down by the second class. I think I’m putting this into heavy rotation in future classes, perhaps with changes based upon the course material. Not that all of the experiments will be as successful… I’m doing something wrong if I don’t fail a great deal this semester. I’ll take the wins where I can get them, though.


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