Saturday, April 8, 2006


Reading from Technicolor yesterday (for 651), I ran across this bit on Juan Atkins, producer with Cybotron and key figure in the emerging techno scene in the early 1980s. From an essay by Ben Williams called "Black Street Technology: Detroit Techno and the Information Age":

Davies and Atkins had met in a "future studies" class at Washtenaw Community College in Ypsilanti, which Atkins attended in order to study data processing after reading a Giorgio Moroder album sleeve that describe d the sequencers the Italian producer had used to create his metronomic disco epics. After realizing he didn't need to be able to program computers to use electronic instruments, Atkins dropped the course, but not before encountering the work of Alvin Toffler. In his book The Third Wave, Toffler articulated America's impending transition to a postindustrial, high-tech economy in a distinctly utopian manner; in the process, he also popularized many of the most enduring myths of what is now known as "the new economy." (157)

What holds me about this is the matter of school's temporal economy: timing. Atkins read Toffler and only later on, according to Williams, does Atkins acknowledge a tinge of influence, a generalized impression he felt when he recognized the second wave machinations of Detroit's three-shifts-per-day labor cycles and Toffler's foresight. This is not to say Atkins wasn't influenced by Toffler immediately in the WCC classroom. But I think it's reasonable to imagine that the influence was different later on, that it wasn't constant. Perhaps such things as memory, learning and uptake never level, never stabilize. More about school time: The temporal orthodoxies of the academy persist despite composition's post-process crisis (had the po-pro era dissipated so soon?). As our own processual-temporal enigmas grind against the larger clock's slots, especially at this time of the semester, I'm reminded about the burden of the institution's march, the academy's variation on the five o'clock whistle. My slow or fast doesn't matter; it's un-self-regulated many times and instead, differed or shifted.

But more than my own pace and workload, the excerpt from Williams reminded me of how this works for other students, FYC students let's say, particularly at evaluation time. Formal evaluations turn up on the institution's timer, always inviting critique only at the terminal moment, the semester's end. Why should this point in time be the most lucid for reflection and valuation of experience? Efficiency. I can't argue with that (presence is a precondition for filling in the encumbered spaces with no. 2 leaded pencils). But, as with Atkins, tinges of influence often aren't realized until later on. Learning, of course, is both an now-effect and an after-effect; it's a during, an after, and an after after. But the temporal economies of schools can't tolerate open futures; sure, just try to get alumni to fill out a questionnaire. This is not surprising nor is it particularly insightful.

Before CCCC, I sent a WRT302 promo email to former students chosen from the 80 I've had in class at Syracuse in these two years. Sign up for Digital Writing in the fall, I insisted. Just checked enrollments, and four lucky somebodies have registered. One student responded to say he regretted that he wouldn't be able to take the course. He was an early admit to law school, starting in the fall. But he went on to say how taken he'd become with network studies, the loose theme of a research writing course I taught a year ago. He expressed gratitude and acknowledged that he didn't much appreciate the fullness of our study at the time (now, his project: network studies to understand political conceptions of unity). Heh, perhaps I didn't either. Again, time. A semester ends and only later, perhaps many months or years later, we realize that we were getting somewhere. And though it eludes the formal institutional recognition, it's reassuring when the echoes of a few good moments long-ago taught turn up--unabated by the arrhythmia of school time.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at April 8, 2006 10:40 PM to Dry Ogre Chalking