A year ago, two of my colleagues approached me to ask if I would write something short for a special issue of the North Dakota Quarterly they were editing on digital art. But there was a catch — I’d have about three weeks before it was due. I agreed — I was frustrated by the growing corporate logic of the university (according to which the point of education is mere skill-acquisition) and the recalcitrance of some of my students when it came to engaging with thorny questions. I wrote “Pedagogy and Digital Aesthetics: A Manifesto.” It’s not the most polished thing I’ve written (I had only three weeks, and it was the end of the semester), but it’s held my fascination since then. In it, I ask how the liberal arts in the digital age can help us prepare students with technical skills (an important goal, even if it coincides with the corporate logic I dislike) by thinking about the nature of technology itself.

A week ago, a student approached me to ask if I had research he could help with as part of the TRIO program. He had already shown himself to be engaged and, more the the point, genuinely interesting. Even better, he liked questions of speculative philosophy, he spoke multiple languages, and he wanted to talk about pedagogy.

In my manifesto (I’m pretentious enough to really like the phrase “my manifesto”), I argue that teaching is as much a form of inquiry as research. I also link questions of translation to questions of media and technology. So I asked my student whether he’d be interested in a speculative form of research — an effort to turn my hastily written manifesto into, say, a syllabus, something to engage with someday in an actual classroom with actual students. He agreed.

My plan is to chronicle our work here. I have other projects, but none have captured my fascination quite the way this one has, in part because it’s still so open-ended — it’s a project that exists in the form of pure potential.

We’ll see how it goes.

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