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Locating ourselves in our environment(s): Towards Day 1 (Tues, 9/1)

Changing Our Story Tags


set up Taylor F & G, w/ chairs in rows, podium up front


a big moment, your first college class-->
so: look around this space: what do you see? (hear? touch? smell?)
get up, walk around, take notes:
use a paper and pen (or your computer--
some writing implement; borrow, if you don't have one)
and describe this environment, as minutely as you can:
if you were writing a short story, about your first college class,
what could you say about the setting?
what traces of history do you see here?
what do you notice about the architecture?
about the other details-and-organisms in the room...?
"read" the room: make some notes of what you see;
pay attention to what's tactile and emotional, not just visual...

while they wander: A&J shift the chairs from a grid to a circle...
gather back into the circle; turn to the student next to you:
tell her your name, and one thing you noticed about this space

now: let's go around, say our names, and something about
what has struck each of us about our environment:
what does this space invite us to do?
how does it invite us to be...?
what meaning is inherent in the spatial arrangements of this environment?
what history is embedded in this room? what layers were laid down in 1884,
(when this was the first bldg on campus), layers of history that are still apparent?

how revisable are those meanings, those layers?
while you were looking over this space, I re-arranged the chairs:
how does this change what's happening here?
what does it suggest about what might happen here?
(it asks us all to participate in the space,
w/ less freedom to abstain from doing so-->
there's no hiding! is this more oppressive?
requiring more shared responsibility?)

what sort of learning "arrangements" do you prefer?
shall we keep this one? and (if so),
change it back for the next group…?
(having violated the norm--or created a new one?)

why'd we do this exercise?
an experiential introduction to this ESem on "Changing Our Story,"

which is about identity and environment, identities in environments: asking the questions of
how our environments shape our identities, and how we can (vice-versa) re-shape our environments
(this environment, for ex, may have been created for a
different sort of education than the one we'll be engaging in...
we've started to think about how it affects our behavior,
& how can we change it up, to suit ourselves....

II. one of the important ways we'll be getting @ these questions is through texts...
so let's turn now to a close reading of the epigram for our course; it's a passage from an essay called
"Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene,"  published this winter by Bruno Latour, a well-known sociologist:
"There is no distant place anymore …. gone [is] … the very notion of objectivity ... totally subverted by the presence of humans in the phenomena to be described …. The many important nuances between facts, news, stories, alarms, warmings, norms, and duties are all mixed up …. those new emotions with which the Earth is now agitated …. through the highly complex workings of many enmeshed living organisms .… Gaia, a very ticklish sort of goddess … now become an agent of history … of our common geostory. The problem for all of us ... how do we tell such a story?"
read this again, silently: what attracts or interests you? is there a particular phrase here that has some "heat, or energy" for you?
that draws you, that you want to talk more about? what puzzles you? what words do you not understand? what questions do you have?

III. 12:15: join sections in Taylor F to discuss logistics....
Our overfull "syllaship" is on-line @

you should bookmark this, and check it in preparation for every class;
it will change as the semester goes on--
we are nothing if not responsive to what's happening amongst us!--
so be sure to "re-fresh" each time you go back.
We're going to review a lot of material now that you'll be using for the course;
and/but aall of it is available/verifiable from this homepage.

For instance: you’ll have reading-or-viewing to do for each class:
you are now receiving one book, a manual about Writing With Sources;
this is a gift from the ESEm program; in a few weeks we'll bring you another,
Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
you can purchase two others @ the Bookshop:
Ruth Ozeki's novel, All Over Creation, and
Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway's sci-fi "view from the future," The Collapse of Western Civilization
(all books are also on reserve; and/or you can share....).

The ESem program also recommends The Pocket Style Manual,
but it's very expensive, and we don't expect you to buy it now;
as we start talking about your writing, and figure out where you need to focus your attention,
we might suggest that you get hold of a copy (there are also some of these on reserve).

All other readings will be available via active on-line links from the syllabus.

Besides meeting here in Taylor twice a week w/ the whole class
(and sometimes, as now, with both sections),
you will be having a writing conference every other week with Jody or Anne
(we'll sign up for these on Thursday, once your schedules are pretty well set;
come knowing what times you will be available each week...).
There is a writing center (which will open soon in Canaday Library), staffed by upperclass students
who have been trained to help you w/ your writing; we will encourage you all to visit them.

We will also be meeting virtually twice each week in an inbetween space: our on-line/class forum @
We will do this on a website called Serendip: a "digital eco-system," an open site.
It is not Moodle, where most of your courses are housed;
IT IS ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB:  not a closed space, so readable-by-the-world,
and discussable in class (starting point for most class meetings....).
This is all about learning to be a public intellectual, thinking out loud in public...

From the link to the Posting Instructions:
you have already been given an on-line account, and received an e-mail from the site administrator, with an assigned username and password.
Use those to log in to the course website. (If you can't find that e-mail, go to the login screen, and click to "request new password."
If you logged in once already, and didn't change your password, you will also need to request a new one. If you can't login, send an email to
/exchange/contact-serendip, and we'll take care of it quickly.)

Give careful consideration to the matters of the username and avatar which will appear w/ each of your postings:
After logging in, you can click on "my account" and change your username to something of your choice.
Think about whether you want your words associated w/ your (full/partial/symbolic/pseudo-) name, 
and whether you will want it so associated in 1, 2, 5 years....the content will remain on-line long after you've left the College.

To upload your avatar--a picture of yourself/symbol of your way of thinking/habit of being
go to "My account" --> "Edit" --> "Upload picture," and follow the instructions there.
Jody and Anne have both selected photographs we took, in the city, where we live:

TONIGHT, you should log on to Serendip and customize your account:
pick a password you can remember, select an avatar or image to represent yourself,
and decide what you want your username to be: how do you want your intellectual
self to be represented on-line? 

By tomorrow evening, and then by 5 p.m. on every Monday thereafter,
you will post a short (paragraph-long) comment in that space,
reflecting on our discussion from the week before, or anticipating what's upcoming 
(more deliberate than speaking in class, less formal than written work: 
excellent place for showcasing revisionary thinking). Sometimes we'll give you a prompt,
sometimes we'll just ask to you think out loud, muse about what's been going on here...

Although you can check the course homepage, and all the postings, any time, w/out logging in...
always log in before you post, so that what you have written will appear automatically and immediately
(otherwise, due to the need for spam control, it will need to be individually vetted, and so delayed)--

This informal writing is background/preparation/warm-up/frequent source
for your more “formal” writing assignments, which will also
take the form of 3-pp. essays, due by 5 p.m. every Friday
(these are real deadlines, which we picked so that we can read what you write
by the time we meet you in class or conferences. If they don't fit your working schedule,
there is never a penalty for posting earlier! But the deadlines do matter, not because
we'll drop your grade if you don't meet them, but because if you don't, we can't draw
on what you've done, and you won't be contributing to our ongoing conversation--
which is the most important thing you are doing here...helping us all think along together...

What is (probably) also distinct about this course, along w/
our using Serendip as our on-line meeting space, is the form of evaluation:
we will respond to all of your work, but we will not grade any of your individual papers.
At the end of the semester, you will review the on-line portfolio
of your work that Serendip has assembled,
and evaluate yourself, in terms of process and product.
We have put a checklist of our expectations up on-line; they are
not the least mysterious/what you would expect:
come to each class and conference,
prepared to contribute to our discussion;
post on-line twice/week (3-pp. paper by Friday @ 5,
a paragraph by the same time Monday evening),
be responsive to our conversation/instruction...
If you do all those things, "something will happen,"
and "how much happens" will determine the grade you get @ the end.
But (please!) don't worry about that now....

Immediate assignments:
By 5 p.m. tonight, customize your Serendip account: username, password, avatar.
By 5 p.m. tomorrow night, log on to our on-line course conversation
scroll down to "create content"-->"post"
(later we'll explain about "webby posts" and some other options...)
introduce yourself to the group by explaining the image you've chosen:
what does it say/tell us about who/how/where you are in the world?
about who/how/where you want to be?
BE SURE THAT YOUR "GROUPS AUDIENCE" IS SET as "Changing Our Story 2015." 
Also: if you use Word to compose your post, please copy and paste it using the "W" icon;
otherwise you may end up displaying lots of wierd formatting.

We'll start Thursday's class by using our postings to introduce ourselves to one another (again);
and to do that we'll all meet together here, in Anne's classroom.
By classtime on Thursday, also read/view a 10-page story by June Jordan,
available on-line: Report from the Bahamas, 1982, Meridians 3, 2 (2003): 6-16.
It's about the surprising dis/connections among us, and we'll use it jump start your first
essay, due on-line on Friday, reflecting on the relationship of your own identity to others'.

This is an argument, in the form of a story. So: read the story first: enjoy it, revel in it,
pay attention to the details, mark any that grab you, or puzzle you…
any moments you think are worth our attending to--and certainly
any spots you don't understand, that you want us to clarify.
Think, too, about how this essay speaks to your experience,
whether your own experience affirms-or-questions what she says....

It would be a good idea to print off the essay, so you can underline the
parts that speak to you, or that you want to question--
(can also do this w/ on-line marking tools,
but then bring your computer to class: always come w/ an accessible text).

THEN! WRITE down, in the form of a single sentence, what you think the argument is…
this could be one of Jordan's sentences, or one of your own (based on what she says).
We’ll start discussion by going around and reading these statements of her argument.

Questions about any of these details of "course-keeping"?
Reminder that links to all these pages--on-line course forum, 
syllabus, instructions for posting, a growing file of our "notes towards
class discussion" (you are free to check these before class, if you
don't like being surprised; and of course to consult them afterwards,
if you want to verify something that's been said...)--
all these are available as links from our course home page.

If there's time left, pair off w/ someone in the other section,
and talk to each other about the past 1 1/2 hours: what's been happening?
Return to the large group: what do we have to say, about what's happened so far,
and what it looks like is going to take place...?