I don’t think I’ve yet talked about my teaching this semester. I’m currently teaching “The Process of Composition,” which is the first of our two-semester FYC sequence. Our current project is creating audio tours of campus, which is a new assignment for me. The class has divided into groups and each group chose a theme such as resources useful for new students and biographies of the people for whom various buildings were named.
After choosing a theme and a target audience, each group decided upon locations and then they conducted research — the University Archives, interviews, literature from the Web and flyers, etc. I had them use a Wiki to organize the work, share information, and write and edit scripts for each location. They then conducted live walk-throughs of the tour with their group and revise the scripts again. We’re now in the process of doing full class walk-throughs of each tour. They will take the scripts through one more revision and then turn them in to me for comment. They’ll revise again and then record their scripts. The DIY media lab has the necessary equipment and it’s easy to use.
We’ll have to talk about recording strategies such as recording in short takes, pausing and repeating fumbled words and sentences, and the like. Digital audio editing software makes cutting and splicing easy, which makes the process of producing a good quality product feasible for a FYC class. While the revised scripts are due next week, I’m giving them the rest of the semester to hand me a CD with their tour. By mid-December, I should be walking around campus listening to their tours on my iPod.
Now that we’re in the live walk-throughs, we’re really getting to deal with many of the specific issues I’d hoped this assignment would highlight. Providing usable directions, for instance, requires a level of specificity many students aren’t used to providing, and because the tours are of physical, tangible, spaces and things in those spaces, we’re discussing attention to details and using concrete examples. And, of course, there are issues of audience. But the issue I’m finding the live walk-throughs most foregrounding is that of organization: There’s nothing like starting on the first floor of the Student Center in front of the bookstore to hear an introduction to the building, then walking down a flight of stairs to the basement and down a long hallway to visit the second location, then back up the hallway to visit the third location, and then back down the hallway to a fourth and then back up the hallway and up the stairs to the second floor, and then, finally, returning to the point at which you began on the first floor to finally learn about the bookstore to get the whole class to start thinking about importance of organizing information rather than including each idea as it comes to mind.
The second half of the course is going to incorporate visual rhetoric and design. We’ll be using Geoff Sirc’s “Basic Box” assignment in Writing New Media to discuss both document design and the combination of the visual and the verbal, and we’ll end with a large two-part project I’m calling “Realms of American Memory,” which is inspired by Pierre Nora’s massive project Lieux de mémoire. (While I disagree with Nora’s claim that lieux de mémoire [sites or realms of memory] are a modern phenomena, it’s an important concept for my dissertation and there’s much overlap with commonplaces, sensus communis, and ideographic criticism.) Any way, it’ll be another group project and each group will choose a different site of American memory and will create both a visual exhibition and a series of essays (or one large essay) exploring their particular subject. The visual exhibition assignment, I should note, is a modified version of Cindy Selfe’s “Making a Visual Exhibition” in Writing New Media. I thought about having the Realms project be done as Web sites, but since some of the images will likely be copyrighted (we will discuss issues of copyright, fair use, and proper documentation), I’ve decided to have them create poster exhibits which will be on display in the library next spring. More as the semester progresses.