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Locating ourselves in our environment(s): Notes Towards Day 1 (Tues, Aug. 30)

Changing Our Story 2016 Tags


print off copies of the Latour quote ahead of time
bring all copies of Writing with Sources
call up Serendip;
pull chairs into a circle

put on board:

a big moment, your first college class-->
close your eyes: remember your room @ home-->
turn to person next to you: tell her your name, just 3 words to describe that room;
introduce one another with single sentences using those words (write these on board)
again, close eyes: call up your dorm room,
write down 3 words to describe it-->
read around, one word/time, 3x (write these up also)

what are we noticing?
how do the two sets of words compare?
how is this second set different from the ones
describing the room you left behind?
look around here--> get up and write 3 words on the board
that describe this room (or check a word that you would use)

what are we noticing?
how are these words like/similar/different
from the words describing both our rooms?

if you were writing a short story, about your first college class,
what would your first sentence be?
what could you say about this 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...?
pay attention to what's tactile and emotional, not just visual...
"read" the room:
what does this space invite us to do?
how does it invite us to be...?
(make some notes of what you notice/think/associate...)
what meaning is inherent in the spatial arrangements of this environment?
what history is embedded in this room? what layers were laid down in 1885,
(when this was the first building on campus), that are still apparent today?

in a course called "Changing Our Story,"
the next (inevitable!) question is:
how revisable are those meanings, those layers?

what does the room suggest about what might happen here?
what does sitting in a circle do? 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 how our environments shape our identities,
how (vice-versa) we can re-shape our environments
(this environment, for ex, was created for a
different form 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 several/different/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 just a couple of years ago
by a well-known sociologist named Bruno Latour.
volunteer to read it aloud--slowly?
and again...

"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, warnings, norms, and duties are all mixed up in 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 now is how do we tell such a story?"

read it a third time, 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?

take some time to mark up the passage: circle the words you don't know/want to explain/have explained
turn to your partner and discuss...

III. 12:15: Jody's section comes to join Anne's in Taylor F, to discuss logistics....
Our overfull "syllaship" is on-line @
you should bookmark this, and check it in preparation for every class;
we are nothing if not responsive to what's happening amongst us!--
it will change as the semester goes on,
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 all 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,
Suzan-Lori Parks' novel, Getting Mother's Body.
you can purchase three others @ the Bookshop:
Ozeki's novel, All Over Creation,
Jensen and McMillan's graphic novel, As the World Burns, and
Oreskes and Conway's sci-fi "view from the future," The Collapse of Western Civilization
(all these books are also on reserve; and/or you can buy copies together and share....).

There are a number of good on-line references that cover grammar and mechanics,
as well as citation and documentation formats;
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--until the week after fall break--
will be available via active on-line links from the syllabus.

Besides meeting in our classrooms twice a week w/ our sections
(and sometimes, as now, with both groups),
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.

There's one other important date you should get into your calendars:
on Tues, Oct. 25 we will cancel this morning class and take an afternoon field trip,
from 3-7 p.m., to a Latino Culture, Youth and Gardening Center, the
Norris Square Neighborhood Project in North Philadelphia. This will
mean some re-scheduling for most of us: you may need to miss another
class, or lab, or athletic practice; you will need to let you other profs/coaches
know ahead of time; if they have a limited # of excused absences, you
should take this one into account. Many details to follow, closer to the
time, but put this date, 3-7 p.m, Tues, Oct. 25th in your calenders now.

ANNE: 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
on Friday you 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.)

Think carefully about both the username and the avatar which will appear w/ each of your postings:
After logging in, you can click on "my account" and change your username.
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.
(I use my name; Jody uses her e-mail address; past students have called themselves
Cantelope, Rhapsodica...)

Your avatar is 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.
We 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)--

JODY: 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 will 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....

ANNE: Immediate assignments:
By 5 p.m. tonight, customize your Serendip account: password, username, avatar.
By 5 p.m. tomorrow night, log on to our on-line course conversation
scroll down to "create content"-->"post,"
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 "GROUP AUDIENCE" IS SET as "Changing Our Story 2016." 
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 in Jody's classroom, next door: Taylor G.

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 this Sunday, 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…(the way we
did w/ that passage from Latour a little while ago...);
mark any moments you think are worth our attending to--
and certainly mark any spots you don't understand, that you want us to clarify.
Also think about how this essay speaks to your experience,
whether what you know experientially affirms-or-questions what Jordan 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).
to discuss: computer usage in class...

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.

JODY: 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...)--
are available as links from our course home page.