digital geographies

this spring i'll be teaching an offshoot, of sorts, of the adolescent literacies course from last year which will be titled, "digital geographies and virtual spaces." i'm so excited to explore this topic with students and, like earlier this year, am seeking suggestions for texts to include. the brief, in-process course description is as follows:

Course Description:
Youth are traversing increasingly complex digitized terrains with the advent and growing access to new media and technologies. Young people’s social and cultural practices reflect a heightened engagement of new forms of communication and learning that occur in newly developed spaces. However, the voices of youth continue to be largely missing from current debates around the implications of these emerging technologies. In this course, we will explore these spaces and consider how the evolving relationship between new technologies and new modes of communication and literacy are making these spaces possible. Using texts that put youth voices at the forefront, we will look at how youth are using these digital geographies for a variety of purposes as well as how they engage a variety of digital and non-digital resources to create new geographies in order to accommodate the emerging practices around meaning making, including: video games, blogs, video documentaries, and more. Finally, this course will be a space to explore what it means for youth to represent in this increasingly digital age.

i await your suggestions! :)


harry potter and the ever-growing todo list

it's the 20th of november and i still haven't paid my $10 to sit and watch the cinematic representation of the fourth Harry Potter book. i am utterly entranced when i read the books - most attractive to me are the spells that rowling conjures up and which then i wish actuallly worked.

at any rate, i recently came across some movie reviews written by seattle youngsters who had just viewed Goblet of Fire. their enthusiasm is contagious and their attention to detail is exciting, but perhaps most entertaining is the use of language, imagery and persuasion by 9-13 year-olds. the take home message: go see the movie!

i'll report back after i do. in the meantime, i need to fit in rereading the book between an upcoming conference paper and an article revision. sometimes it's so much more fun to engage with adolescents and their literacy explorations rather than merely composing texts about them... hmmm...


mirror, mirror...sitting in front of me

i've been thinking a lot about the role of interviews: their purpose, the social dynamics, the physical interactions and linguistic jockeying... i recently interviewed two young men who i had only for a very short time prior to engaging in this rather intimate exchange. in this setup, i, a stranger, asked them to share with me aspects of their lives, how they felt about learning in their lives, and asked them to reflect - out loud - about these big ideas while being recorded onto minidisc. what was most surprising to me, however, was the enthusiasm with which each participated in this event. after each interview, as we engaged in an impromptu debrief of our conversation, both young men described the time that had just transpired as cathartic and enjoyable.

shortly following these interviews i was talking with a woman about a different project and we were settling on a time for me to interview her. i have known this woman for a little while now and so the background for the interview is different, yet she said something that made me wonder about my conversations with the two young men: she remarked that she was happy to do an interview and said that she, like anyone else, would welcome the chance to talk more and reflect on everyday goings on. in saying so she hinted that an interview would almost be a luxury.

this got me thinking about the role of interviews in how we gather data with young people. if interviews are so out of sync with their usual discourse patterns, what role do they really play in research with youth? linguists and linguistic anthropologists have wrestled with this question in other ways, noting that the interview itself is a peculiar speech event. thus, the information gathered must be engaged with the proverbial grain of salt. but this line of thinking strengthens the case of those of us who are seeking new ways to engage and include young people's perspectives, positionalities, and imaginations in our work. i would argue that the peculiarity of "the interview" demands that we rework and re-imagine methods that create opportunities for youth-full reflections...

with that said, there seems to be something valuable and significant about "the interview" in talking with and learning from young people, particularly in honoring the historical importance and tradition of oral history. ... and in collectively creating still more spaces for more voices to be heard oustide the construct of interviews.

when i asked one of the young men to expand on his remark that he had really enjoyed our conversation, he paused... and then noted that this was the first time he had had a chance to talk about "some of that stuff" and that it felt good to do so. it is my/our responsibility to make sure that his "stuff" is handled with respect.


creating to the point of stupidity

last week i attended a conversation with frank gehry, hosted by kelvin shawn sealey. the conversation was held at columbia's low library as part of the citizen project, whose previous guests have included bell hooks, gloria steinem, and cornel west. gehry's visit was titled "architecture in the public imagination." i had little knowledge of gehry's work beyond the guggenheim extension in bilbao, spain and the experience music project in seattle, wa. (i later learned he was the architect behind one of my favorite buildings, located on the mit campus.)

during the course of the hourlong conversation i gained more insight into what i have written about earlier as trying to "break my eye open" - according to gehry, he tries to find ways to create movement through inert objects, hence the fluidity and almost falling-like nature of many of notable buildings. (there's also the significance of the fish as a source of design and inspiration, but that is a slightly longer story better told by frank, himself.)

in a clip that was shown from a recent documentary that his friend sidney pollack made about gehry, his life and his work, we see gehry note that a design he is working on is "so stupid looking it's great." he laughs to himself and the camera and at the cardboard mock-up of a building that has since been built.

as a young man, gehry was taken by his ceramics teacher, who, he noted at the talk, "must have seen something in me," to a house that he was working on and soon afterwards, seeing gehry's face light up with a mix of awe and enthusiasm, the teacher enrolled him in an architecture class. as he put it, "that must have been the beginning of that."

"that" turned out to be some of the "stupidest" looking buildings that make people stop, talk, listen, wonder, and question. if that's stupid, we should all be so lucky.