It's a little sad to realize that, roughly 15 months since I switched my website over to Drupal, this is only my 66th node... which includes several static pages, some backdated entries from my livejournal, and some unpublished and deleted posts. I really need to blog more, both here and at gnovis.
Anyway. Following up on these three old posts, I guess I should give a much overdue update. I know these personal updates are totally "Blogging 1.0," circa 2002, but I get a kick out of reading those old posts, because of both their contradictions with each other and with my state of mind in the present... so I might as well do another so I can laugh at myself even more in six months. So, here's my life.
Grad school, year 2
As I expected, I cut my course load down a bit. In the fall, I took a condensed Micro/Macroeconomics course, with an emphasis on Latin American economies. I'm glad I took it, but I was stretched too thin to either do well or get a lot out of it, although I managed to salvage my grade in the end. My second course was on Sustainable Development Trends in Central America and the Caribbean. I was really excited about this course, but I should have listened to the little voice in my head on the first day of class, telling me to get out. The class was poorly structured and poorly executed, so I didn't learn much and retained even less. For my final, I wrote an acceptable but disappointing paper, in which I attempted to show how knowledge management practices could be applied to sustainable development. However, since I'm lacking a strong background in either area, the paper was highly speculative, poorly sourced, and very ambiguous.
One reason I was stretched so thin in the fall is because, in addition to the two courses, I was also the TA for an undergraduate course on documentary history and production. My primary asset was technical skill, particularly editing, but I also brought some theoretical background to our discussions. It was a small class, with only 8 students, and they produced two films: one on the Phillips Collection, America's first modern art museum, and the other on the legacy of Georgia Douglas Johnson, focusing on the weekly gatherings of poets and writers in her home in DC just before the Harlem Renaissance. Though they had their flaws, I was very pleased with both films, especially given how far the students came in a mere four months, with little previous experience in film production.
In the spring semester, I again took two courses. The first looked at the role of new media and globalization in relation to social activism. My final project extended some prior work I had done (Do hippies make good websites?), focusing first on the failures of the US Green Party to leverage Web 2.0 technology to bridge structural gaps and create network effects, and then proposing a toolkit to help address this failure. The second course considered national identities through the framework of communications theory. For my midterm, I looked at two memorials in South Africa, as well as the Vietnam Wall, and argued that, despite their status as state-approved narrative markers, memorials are subject to vehement contestation over public memory and official history and, as such, are important sites of political debate. For my final, I resumed this work but took it in a new direction, focusing on the Lincoln Memorial and showing how memorials are used, by both political figures and protest movements, to usurp national mythology in order to attach a particular figure or issue to the national narrative. This was the best work of my academic career, and I'm exploring options for publication.
Throughout the year I continued my work with gnovis and am thrilled with the progress we made, pushing both the journal and the website further than they have ever been. I'm looking forward to another year, though I admit a great deal of nervousness about passing it off to a new staff before too long.
I also continue to work at the Middle East Institute. My role has been largely as a webmaster, though it is now beginning to shift towards media production. I'm also preparing some workshops on Web 2.0 technology and digital research, to present to our interns.
The (planned) lull (in the plan) and the plan
Having completed my coursework, but not writing my thesis until the semester, I've taken a semester of academic leave and now find myself with about 7 months to kill. I plan to split that time fairly equally between...
- the much needed rest I've been seeking for roughly 48 months
- pre-reading for my thesis, including both preparatory background reading and a little fun, tangential reading
- rounding out my film production background with classes at DC's public access television station, and volunteering on set there and other places
- experimenting with healthy living, which includes growing my own vegetables, becoming a better cook and a healthier eater, and trying to find that magic balance of yoga, basketball, and cardio that gets my body back where i want it to be
- earning a little more money and having a lot more fun
The reason I'm looking at film production is because, besides finally scratching an old itch, it will give me the right background so that, when I describe myself as a "media specialist," I can easily make the case that I'm a specialist in creative media production, not just media technology.
I don't want to get ahead of myself quite yet, but in general terms I expect my thesis to relate to technology education. Some call it media literacy, others electracy... I'm not sure what to call it, but my interests hinge on the fact that I believe education too often approaches technology as a support tool, not a learning tool or -- even better -- a learning outcome. This results in narrow thinking, reinforces the psychological barriers that keep people away from technology, and teaches bad learning habits.
I'll be blogging about this at great length, in the future, so I'll cut it short there.
One final note: Obviously, looking back a few posts, I upgraded the site recently to Drupal 6, completely broke my layout, and have now patched together something usable. I like the direction it's going, but it's far from finished. Soon, I swear...