Syllabi Stories?

4 November 2015/11:30 AM
Last week, I woke up in the middle of the night with a fragment of an idea about how to structure the second volume of my Undisciplined stories: Syllabus. What does that mean? I’m still trying to figure that out. What I do recall from my 1 am, or was it 2 am?, musings was that I like/d the process of crafting the course syllabus. I imagined it as a form of storytelling. A form in which I provided a guide for exploring ideas/theories/authors, where students didn’t just passively consume a Narrative about the course topic, but engaged with my story and challenged it, built upon it and transformed it through assignments, in-class activities, readings and discussions.

In my new book project, I’m not interested in offering up any straightforward account of my experiences as a teacher. Instead, I want to explore and experiment with how I might be able to continue being a teacher beside and besides the academy. What do I do with all of the stories (in papers, blog posts, syllabi) that I crafted within the academy? What do those stories mean to me? Who do I share them with and how? I think incorporating syllabi and/or using the syllabus as a way to structure this project could be key.

Does this make any sense? I’m struggling to make my thoughts coherent. That’s okay because this struggle is a huge part of the writing, thinking, feeling and troublemaking process for me. 

To help with my struggle, I’m researching other people’s stories that involve a syllabus, or things found on a syllabus, like a reading list or workbook/writing assignments. I’m hoping this research will inspire me, providing examples of creative (and effective) ways of using the syllabus to structure my story.

This morning I started reading Lynda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor. Wow. I’ve just read the first three pages and it inspired me to write this post and provided me with another interesting source, Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice.

I just requested this book from the public library. At one point in the video, he suggests that his book, which was originally a course syllabus, is a how-to manual. I do not envision my current book to be a how-to manual. I want to offer some guidance about life beside/s, but I don’t want to frame it as how to do this, or how to be this. I’m reminded of the first part of the title of my presentation with KCF years ago: This is not a how-to manual, but an invitation to engage. What might that look like?

More on Good Luck Soup

Good Luck Soup is a transmedia documentary project on the journey of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians before, during, and after World War II.

Told through both a traditional film and an interactive documentary, the feature film tells the story of one Japanese American family, while the interactive film tells the stories of many.

Description from Project Site

I’m particularly drawn to this project for several reasons. It originates from the desire of the filmmaker, Matthew Hashiguchi, to document his family’s stories. It functions as a space for his family, and other Japanese Americans, to easily share their stories and images. And, it offers a model for supplementing and providing additional perspectives to Hashiguchi’s own telling of the story through his documentary.

For my The Farm project, I’m interested in collecting and sharing stories from people who visited, lived or worked at my family’s farm. I’m hoping to use those stories to supplement/complement my own narrative/s about the Farm. I’m always looking for models for how to do that online.

Since the full version of this site won’t launch until October 6th, I can’t write a lot about how it works online right now. But, I wanted to mention Hashiguchi’s method for collecting stories:

  • Oral histories collected through “interview gathering sessions” conducted in select cities
  • Online submissions
  • Submissions e/mailed to Hashiguchi

I look forward to checking out the full site and how stories are submitted and displayed online. I checked out the Kickstarter video and I like how the stories will be mapped and how submitters can provide a name and stories/photos about their birthplace, internment camp and current location. Will that still be possible in the final version? I hope so.

In addition to collecting stories and photos from family/community members, Hashiguchi is also using archival footage:

The historical footage and photographs used were available, royalty free, through the National Archives. I’d say a majority of the historical footage comes from WWII propaganda films. Photographers Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange also made much of their work from the internment camps available to the public and for educational purposes, which is certainly what we’re doing.

Matthew Hashiguchi

Is footage like this available for the UP/Amasa?

More Running Stories

Yesterday I discovered a new narrative form (or genre/sub-genre?): my running story. I’m fascinated by how many different people have posted these stories on blogs, tracing their journey as runners, and how many similarities these stories share. There’s a formula to this type of narrative that frequently begins, “I was never an athlete/runner growing up” and ends, either triumphantly (a PR at a big race) or with hopeful determination (the will/desire to run again after injury). Usually I don’t like formulas, but I’m finding “my running stories” to be enjoyable and stimulating to read.

These stories make me curious. And they make me want to research and analyze how people tell their running stories online. What forms do these stories take? Why do people tell them? What sort of “truth” is being expressed, “authentic self” being performed? I’m thinking that part of my “marking the occasion” of my anniversary should involve this research; it seems fitting to remember/practice my academic-intellectual self.

My Running Stories: a preliminary list

sidenote: In my post yesterday, I mentioned that I found out about the genre though an offhand reference in Running to the Kitchen’s “My Running Story.” I was wrong; it was in a story by Loving on the Run. She writes:

This past weekend I was doing my normal blog reading, and came across Michael’s post about his running story. As I was sitting there reading I realized that I don’t think I have ever really shared my running story.

Loving on the Run

In addition to reading/analyzing “My Running Stories,” I also want to look at other ways in which runners tell their running stories and express their running selves online like, the Running Manifesto.

Running Manifestos

Other Sources on Running and Writing

Academic Articles

Running Stories

As I continue to think about my upcoming running anniversary (4 years! on June 2nd), I’m archiving interesting running stories/sources. Here are a few more:

Running Toward Boylston: 8 Runners Take on the 2014 Boston Marathon
Tumblr, NPR

I haven’t had a chance to really look through this Tumblr blog, but I like the idea of a collaborative project with more than one runner. I don’t have time to do anything like this for my current project, but it’s something to think about…

My Running Story
Blog Narrative, Running to the Kitchen

I liked reading this narrative. Somewhere on the blog (which I read last week but can’t find now), she mentions that she’s never written her version of the “my running story.” This statement made me curious: Writing a “my running story” is a genre/story form? Yep. I googled it and found a bunch of versions. I think this might be the way I mark the occasion! But, how to write it and what to include? I’ll think about it some more…

Video Games and Empathy: Some Sources

Yesterday, I was curious about the relationship between interactivity and empathy. As I continue to be curious, I thought I’d post a few resources that I found about empathy and video games:

Pixels and Pathos: Video Games and Empathy

An academic presentation by Dr. Alf Seegert. Seegert argues that some recent video games, enable players to experience empathy, not just by inhabiting other’s worlds, but by participating in them (and as them?). I like Seegert’s conclusion:

I think the empathy-evoking potential of video games is summed up best by my student Jackson Myrick. When asked what differentiates video games from other media, he answered that it’s not the ability to inhabit multiple perspectives, “but to enact them—not only bear, but bear responsibility.”

Alf Seegert

I’d like to put this idea of not just bearing witness, but bearing responsibility, in conversation with Nina Freeman’s suggestion that her game is aimed at making players feel what she felt:

I’m not interested in making players feel like they are in the story. I’m interested in making players feel the way I felt in that moment.

Nina Freeman

In Gaming: A Shift from Enemies to Empathy

An NPR online article about a recent shift in video game development, from “mechanics to storytelling”. This article was mentioned in Seegert’s talk. In describing the shift towards emotional engagement with the characters and story in a game, the article discusses three games: Gone Home; Papers, please and That Dragon, Cancer.

That Dragon, Cancer

A video game by Ryan Green and team. Here is their game description:

That Dragon, Cancer is an adventure game that acts as a living painting; a poem; an interactive retelling of Ryan and Amy Green’s experience raising their son Joel, a 4-year-old currently fighting his third year of terminal cancer. Players relive memories, share heartache, and discover the overwhelming hope that can be found in the face of death.

Ryan Green, et al.