Over on my Twitter page and on my personal Facebook account, I’ve been soliciting recommendations for a film to be watched in my Comp 2 course this spring. The course is themed on privacy–perhaps privacy and identity. (The most vote-getting film right now is The Truman Show. I’m going to watch several of these films over winter break and then make a choice–thank you, Netflix, for allowing me to make a last-minute decision–but right now I’m leaning toward We Live in Public. I had to rule out Erasing David because it’s available only for purchase, not for rental or (gasp!) open source.) The students and I will be reading and researching about definitions of the term privacy and about how privacy issues are currently represented in a variety of media–film, television, scholarship, magazines, blogs, newspapers–
Itsa gonna be fun.
Part of the fun is that I won’t be bringing any special expertise to the topic. I do have an interest in privacy issues just now–I don’t think I know anyone who, rightly or wrongly, doesn’t. I’ve been reading a bit about it, pretty much every day, things brought to my attention mostly through the not-so-random venue of Twitter. The topic was picked, though, by some of the students who will be in the course, students who are right now in my Comp 1 and are signing up for my Comp 2. After class on the last day of classes this week, I asked them to talk with me for a few minutes. I told them about the possible topics of inquiry that I was considering for the spring course, and I explained why I thought each of those possibilities was (or at least could be) important, interesting, or both. (Over on Facebook, Bob says he can guess what choices of topics I gave them: “plagiarism, plagiarism, or privacy.”) They listened, asked questions. Then I asked them which of the topics they wanted for the umbrella topic of inquiry in my spring course. They enthusiastically chose privacy, a little for its inevitable attention to social media (along with Google Earth and GPS technologies), but overwhelmingly because of their interest in Wikileaks. Some had heard about it; others hadn’t; all wanted to know more. Now, if you’re one of the students-as-ignorant-scum intellectuals (and surely we all are or have been, at one time or another, to one degree or another), you will find proof here that students are contemptible ignoramuses. (“HOW could they not know about Wikileaks!”) Yet you might also, if you allow yourself to, admire the intellectual curiosity that prompted all these students to be fascinated by this new phenomenon that was unfolding as a global issue, this phenomenon that seemed important and complex. Right there, at that moment, my students and I held a quick exchange about the mindboggling principle arising from hactivism (a term I had learned just a few days earlier, on Facebook, from Joyce I think): that with hactivism there is no “us” and “them”; we all win and lose simultaneously in the struggle over governments’ rights to
privacy confidentiality, and none of us in this conversation has agency or even knowledge of the terms and methods of this battle.
I asked my students to pick the topic of inquiry for the course because I thought they would enjoy having some agency in the decision. (I had to limit the choices to things I thought were (a) worthwhile–it’s my job to make that judgment–and (b) teachable by me.) I also thought it would be an easier course to teach if a quarter of its denizens had already bought into the topic of inquiry. I also thought it would be a more interesting course to take if its topic of inquiry were one which a quarter of the students had declared worthy. And I also just plain wanted to know what my students’ ideas and interests were. As this semester has unfolded, I have not only been wonderfully jumpstarted as a teacher by the fantastic group of students in my section of Comp 1, but I have also come to have an interest in the individuals in the class, have come to regard them as people from whom I can learn.
More about that in another post. As I begin drafting that Nuther Post, I’m taking a deep breath, holding my nose, and reading the current scholarship on the decline of education, the decline of literacy, and the demise of civilization precipitated by what are described as the immoral, illiterate, internet-poisoned, unteachable arrogant louts in our classrooms. The Nuther Post will be along soon, I suspect, because it’s something I feel quite compelled to write about at last. I’ve been in such a lather just to pen this preliminary post (while simultaneously beginning the drafting of the Nuther Post) that I’m sitting in a dark room with all the blinds still up: I haven’t taken the time to turn on the lights and lower the blinds. And my fingers and nose are freezing: I haven’t taken the time to get up and turn the heat up in this popsicle box. My stalwart companion, Miss Teakettle, has several times been compelled to trudge back and forth across my keyboard, yowling for my attention. Given how much I think about this topic–the topic of how instructors represent their students–and how much I talk about it with the Beloved Partner, students, and friends, though, it was high time for me to begin committing pieces of it to public writing.
The near-half moon is riding in a clear sky over deep snow that tomorrow will become mush. It’s a lovely Saturday night here in the Frozen North. Nancy just called, “just to hear my voice,” breaking the spell of composing these posts, so at last I can stop, take a break, turn on the lights and turn up the heat.
I blame Amy for making me consider threading personal commentary through this post.
P.S. To demonstrate the ubiquity of that course theme of privacy: I was challenged, as I wrote this, for how to represent conversations that take place on Facebook. Those are to me private conversations, taking place in most cases between people who have each chosen to be my FBF. I don’t want to violate the boundaries of that relationship. Yet I do want to disclose, at least to some extent, the way not only my course but my thinking is being crowdsourced, in a wide range of venues. So I compromised by just using first names. That way other FB friends will know who I’m talking about and what conversation I’m referencing, and my FB friends’ privacy won’t be violated, because my readers here who aren’t FB friends won’t be sure who “Bob” and “Joyce” are. I’m not happy with any of my citational choices here, but this seems to me best (or only most self-serving?) of the choices I can come up with. Carrying on a conversation across technologies means that citation might not be so much “crediting” my sources as violating their privacy. Given that this post “feeds” to Twitter thence to Facebook, at least my friends will know that I’ve cited/outed them. You see what I mean about the ubiquity of complex privacy issues in contemporary culture? Itsa gonna be lotsa fun.