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Final presentation: the mystery basket

ib4walrus's picture

My group for the final presentation consisted of Vivien, Kerlyne and myself.  During out meeting to decide on what we wanted to discuss and the manner in which it should be carried out, for the most part we were stumped.  During our brainstorming period, we decided it would be best if we could come up with the topics in which our presentation would be based.  Randomness, science vs humanities, Library of Babel, adaptations... Basically we wanted to discuss the major topics that was brought up through the course of this class.

However, now comes the real task, deciding on how the material should be presented.  Of course we wanted what everybody else would want for their own project: creativity, entertaining, informative and hopefully influential.  We suggested many ideas to one another: a powerpoint presentation (too boring), a storybook of sorts (too time consuming), an open classroom discussion (too undirected). Nothing at the time seemed to work.  We wanted above anything for the activity to be interactive, so that the class will not get bored and will be intrigued and have some investment into the presentation.

After a moment of silence (like true a Quaker institution) decided to simply pull topics from a hat (or in our case, a basket).  We picked our favorite topics from the class:  agency, randomness, library of babel, adaptation, Generosity/Plague, memes, "your choice", foundational/emergent/narrative stories, algorithms, science vs humanities. 

Where "your choice" was up to the choice of the picker what topic they wanted to hear about.  The class was going to end up telling us what topics we were to present.  We did no real preparation for the presentation because we simply could not know what combination of topics will end up being picked (okay it can be argued that we could use probability in order to find out the total possible combinations that could happen and then come up with preset stories for each combination of topics but that was not the purpose of our presentation).  In this project we were to simulate how we would teach a class on evolution (like one of the discussions of "how you would run your own class"). We wanted to emphasize the randomness as a factor and how we as humans (and also every other being on earth) had to be adaptive enough in order to cope with randomness.  Coming into the class, we had about as much of a clue on what we were going to end up presenting as the rest of the class did.

On the day of presentation, we had Professors Grobstein and Dalke pick 2 numbers each from 1-34 (the amount of students other than ourselves in the class) and we had the students count off from 1-34.  The students who had numbers matching up to the ones each Professor had chosen were to pick out a topic from the basket.  The topics which ended up getting picked were: Generosity/The Plague, algorithms, "your choice" and foundational/emergent/narrative stories. "Your choice" ended up being memes as the topic for discussion.

The story I chose to tell was more chronological in nature and started first with my own background and cultural influences.  I discussed the topics in the order of when the topics were introduced into my life (or whenever my realization of it was) and how it impacted and managed to change my perspective.

What we wished to achieve with this presentation was not that there was a single true or right story but that there could be an infinite amount of stories possible, and the outcome of the story is dependent on a multitude of factors from who the individual telling the story is to the point in the life of the individual in which they are telling the story.  The Library of Babel-esque depiction of randomness also allows us (the storytellers) personal agency in the sense that it is us who determine how our story will be narrated.  With this personal agency, I feel that even with the presence of randomness, we are still able to direct our lives as we wish, to carve out our own stories rather than having a set rutted-path which we have to follow.


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