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Wrongness at its Finest

tomahawk's picture

There is something nice about being wrong. In the past, I have been ashamed of my “wrongness;” I have been embarrassed after I write a flawed essay or define a word incorrectly. However, throughout the past couple of years, I have felt more and more comfortable with “wrongness.” There are two ways I could look at it; I could worry that I am not as intelligent or as capable as everyone else or I could revel in the fact that I do not know much. The latter is not only kinder to my ego, it makes me more open to learning. 

When I chose to take this class, I was completely wrong about what it was. I believed that it was a series of trips into the city paired with written reflections on the physical structure of the city. Although we have discussed this, I slowly realized that this course is not based off of topics, but lenses. I am not merely describing experiences, but using class discussions and papers as ways to interpret the city. This is not easy, but it helps me to play with ideas. Taking these influences into the city (Simmel’s, Flanagan’s, Zetkin’s etc.) and combining them with startling discoveries (for example, that there is a place that sells sparkly penis headbands) is the recipe for “wrongness.” My interpretations may be wrong and my further revelations may be wronger. But, this is where the fun is. 

As Zadie Smith told us, she sits with her ideas. I do not mind that we do not sit with our ideas, that we write them up the next day. To me, those papers are merely records of my thoughts. They sit on serendip, but they, along with my writing, are meant to be challenged. I play by turning them over. After I left Condom Kingdom, I claimed that “critical play” is impossible. Then, I found that it is possible when I went on the ghost tour; I just needed time between playing and being critical. Now, as I am reading NW and playing while observing problems in our status quo, I think that both can happen at the same time. Perhaps I was wrong sticking to Flanagan’s definition of critical play, instead of developing one of my own. ESEMs are meant to make us better writers and better thinkers. Play in the City is meant to make us better players. So, what were the rules when we went into the city the first time? 

  1. Get to the glass lobby on time.
  2. Get off the train at the right place.
  3. Go to the library.
  4. Come back to the library when you are scheduled to.
  5. Either get back on the train or tell the professors that you are staying in the city with friends.

Weeks later, what are the rules?

  1. Go in the city.
  2. Play.

The point that I am trying to make is not merely that I have been given less rules. More than that, I am pushed to be a player, to make my own. Because of this, I put two lists of rules into my essay. Furthermore, I am comfortably making another rule: to be wrong. In the past, I argued that Simmel’s “civic nuclei” exists. Was my argument flawed? Yes. Do I regret that? No.

In the future, I would enjoy being wrong more. I would also like hearing my classmates tell me I am wrong, and I would like to tell them they are wrong. However, it is hard to tell people they are wrong if you have not fully mulled over the topic they are addressing. I am not sure if this is a good recommendation since discussions are often spontaneous, but I would like for us to be given discussion points before class. Then, we could formulate opinions before we went in. For example, when Professor Dalke told us she wants to know what we think of the ending of NW, she gave us a discussion point. If she had not asked that, I would not be thinking about my opinion on the matter and trying to back it. If we knew we had to have opinions on several concepts before we came to class, we could argue for these ideas or against them better. I would like to be wrong more and for all of us to be wrong more. Currently, a lot of our discussions seem to be in agreement with critics and with each other. Although constantly challenging ideas would be unproductive, some dissent would help us play with our notions of the city and play. We could help each other to be better writers, better thinkers, and better players.


Anne Dalke's picture

getting it less wrong...

you might enjoy this essay--Getting It Less Wrong?--written 20 years ago by a BMC
bio prof (and good friend of mine): it certainly resonates with your claims!