Wednesday, September 14, 2005

opening

"The implosion of electric energy in our century cannot be met by explosion or expansion, but it can be met by decentralism and the flexibility of multiple small centers. For example, the rush of students into our universities is not explosion but implosion. And the needful strategy to encounter this force is not to enlarge the university, but to create numerous groups of autonomous colleges in place of our centralized university plant that grew up on the lines of European government and nineteenth century industry." - Marshall McLuhan "Introduction" : _Understanding Media_ (1964).

first: this passage, from McLuhan's most recognized work, appeared in my assigned reading for another class to provide me with the perfect starting link between pedagogy, modernity, and new media. McLuhan's "decentralized university" is more or less the same thing that progressive pedagogical methods address, n'est pas? as teachers, it seems like our challenge is to "create numerous groups of autonomous classroom spaces" to address the implosive logic of postmodernity as well as to address the very concrete and practical concerns of new generations of students, many of whom have never before had access to the university system. indeed, it is precisely these students who will play an instrumental role in the formation of the "new university"; they begin, frequently, in our writing classrooms. are these students the differentiated "spray" of the postmodern self, individual manifestations of the fragmented and fragmentary subject borne along the lines of the post-industrial landscape, who give the lie to the image of the "traditional" university student, the one who grew up inside the university discourse, who maintains the illusion of the modern learning subject (the receptacle)? Erik Davis, in "Acoustic Cyberspace," calls "the world we're moving into" "a world full of cultural viruses, memes, decentered subjects and unfolding para-spaces." And this is the world we need to teach (in both senses of the word).

"numerous groups of autonomous classroom spaces" sounds difficult, doesn't it? i don't mean to suggest a classroom divorced from the university, but rather one that unfolds the logic of decentralized learners, that doesn't rely on a modernist logic of the teacher as the authorial "I" representative of the real and textual authority of the university. McLuhan would argue that this happens in an acoustic space, that is, one determined not by linear causality but by resonances. and i think one way to engage this idea might be on its most oversimplified level: consider it a listening space, where writing becomes not an exercise in truth-proving but instead one of cooperative hearing and telling.

disclosure: i spent my high-school years in a progressive private school; round tables, democratized learning space, seminars and collaborative writing projects. i purposely chose, 3 times so far, large state universities for my later education. maybe i am fascinated by implosion, by the implosive energy that comes from watching the "new university" form. prep school, maybe, can practice sort of an ideal pedagogy, but is it not already dead there?

on a more banal note: i have spent years engaged in the search for the perfect alarm clock. in the process i have owned upwards of 20 of these gadgets at a time. turns out that my cell phone is the best alarm clock of all. so now i am onto a new quest: i realize now, as i am starting to study for the fall term in earnest, that i do not have, nor have i had in any of my recent dwellings, a fucking comfortable place to sit. seriously. i have: a bed, 4 hard wood chairs, and a $100 futon (i'll let you imagine how comfortable that is). most of my non-electronic work i do in the bathtub, which is why, i guess, that it is while computering that i suddenly feel the need for an armchair. with an ottoman. maybe i'll check the mail for my student-loan check and set the alarm for an early morning trip to the la-z-boy store.

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