Thursday, November 2, 2006

Open Gallery

The open gallery introduces variation--a lift!--to the withering paces of the semester. I'd never tried anything quite like it before, and to be honest, even though I listed it on the course schedule for WRT302, I considered a reversal of plans right up until two days before. The open gallery emphasizes circulation, conversation; whatever the compositional pieces, there's a gathering, music, movement, laughter. A lightness.

Eleven students are now enrolled in the course. They'd been working on their "combinatorial scenes" (imagework and logics of association and juxtaposition) applied to arrangements of image and text (other conceptual hooks in Barthes' studium and punctum). Tabblo, Flickr, Wayfaring, and Flash. We meet in the computer cluster (a lab, basically). Guests passed through much like they would at any other sort of gallery, browsing, taking in glimpses, chatting informally: "What have you done?". And there was a bowl of Halloween candy for ramping up the blood sugars.

To be fair, I agreed to do what I could to encourage attendance provided everyone else brought a guest. Many students arrived with guests; a few did not. My own emails to the department and graduate program listservs persuaded a few colleagues to drop by (although acknowledgements were off on my listserv account, and I was unconvinced that the invitation had been distributed, so I re-sent it...for some it poured, like a good sp&m, into their inboxes three times, and still, they didn't attend the gallery).

We planned to hold the open gallery for just thirty minutes, 1-1:30, although our class ordinarily convenes for 80 minutes, from 12:45-2:05. The narrowed time-frame allowed us to meet for a few minutes before people started showing up, and it left us time at the end of things (around 1:40) to talk about how it had gone, what would have been better had we done it another way. We could have promoted it more aggressively by chalking the quad and posting fliers, but too large a crowd might have upset the cadence in the room. In other words, with just 20-25 people (including class members), everyone was able to move at a reasonable pace from station to station and take it all in without being hurried.

I would do this again. I like the idea of opening up the classroom, especially opening it to students who might be interested in taking a course or the proximate but distant colleagues who have only a vague sense of what happens in a course called "digital writing." Because it went well, I want to continue to look for other ways to generalize the open gallery to other courses, other occassions to feature what we do.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at November 2, 2006 11:45 PM to Dry Ogre Chalking

What a great idea. I'd love to borrow it at some point. I do hear you about the herculean generation of faculty interest, but even the chance for classmates to get a feel for others' work seems worth it.

Posted by: Dan at November 3, 2006 6:48 AM

Good to hear, Dan. I imagine there are a number of ways one could carry off something similar. I might have generated more interest from faculty had I announced it earlier.

The Writing Program at SU has a new minor and soon-to-be-unveiled major. Given that many of the courses in the curriculum have only been taught a time or two, this kind of thing is especially useful--many others haven't taught a course or worked with students who took a course, so it's one more way to demystify a nascent curriculum. Plus, it's fun.

Posted by: Derek at November 3, 2006 7:59 AM