Welcome to the on-line conversation for Ecological Imaginings, an English, Environmental Studies and Gender and Sexuality course @ Bryn Mawr College in which we are re-thinking the evolving nature of representation, with a focus on language as a link between natural and cultural ecosystems.
This is an interestingly different kind of place for writing, and may take some getting used to. The first thing to keep in mind is that it's not a site for "formal writing" or "finished thoughts." It's a place for thoughts-in-progress, for what you're thinking (whether you know it or not) on your way to what you think next. Imagine that you're just talking to some people you've met. This is a "conversation" place, a place to find out what you're thinking yourself, and what other people are thinking. The idea here is that your "thoughts in progress" can help others with their thinking, and theirs can help you with yours.
Who are you writing for? Primarily for yourself, and for others in our course. But also for the world. This is a "public" forum, so people anywhere on the web might look in. You're writing for yourself, for others in the class, AND for others you might or might not know. So, your thoughts in progress can contribute to the thoughts in progress of LOTS of people. The web is giving increasing reality to the idea that there can actually evolve a world community, and you're part of helping to bring that about. We're glad to have you along, and hope you come to both enjoy and value our shared explorations. Feel free to comment on any post below, or to POST YOUR THOUGHTS HERE.
...and how are you dealing w/ the difference? We agreed to take turns being responsible for where we will meet (and if we move midway, etc.) --AND that each of us will post a short reflection here, on the day that we chose, about our decision: what it was like, watching the class and the world in which it is operating, inside or out…what seems foreground/background/essential/not? How distracted were you/what did you do about it?
Do you have any ideas about how to incorporate the "distractions" of being outside (or inside) into our curriculum? What are you coming to understand of the relation between "reading the word" and "reading the world" that the word represents, about foregrounding much of what is usually backgrounded in literary studies, asking what we might lose by seeing the world only as mediated by the word....?
hey everyone- this is rather late posting but if anyone has been still lurking around serendip over winter break, here is a link to my soundcloud account, which I uploaded all the recordings I had taken over the semester. There are some you haven't heard, so if you had liked the sound recordings you should check them out!
It's no secret that I had a strange semester this fall. It started out mostly normal, and just as I was getting used to my new schedule, everything changed. I missed a ton of class to the point at which I wasn't even really sure how to make up for it in the long run. I ended up spending the rest of my semester mostly alone, fluctuating between having too much work to see friends and not feeling well enough to do my work. I think this class more than my others was affected by that.
I am a usually introverted person, but when removed, as I was this semester, from social interaction for a long time I tend to get quieter and more apprehensive to participate in discussions. Seeing as this class was a mostly discussion-based class, this was not a good semester to have experienced this. The bare minimum that I ended up successfully accomplishing in all of my classes was really, in retrospect, not enough for this class. The sensation of participating in an out of class online discussion while not having too many out of class real discussions of my own was incredibly offputting and I realize I probably should not take a class like this under these conditions again as I had the constant sensation of feeling inadequate in my level of contribution but not feeling like I knew how to contribute at all, so I didn't contribute more. I guess I would like to say that ever posting at all and especially making comments on others' work was a big step outside my comfort zone in itself this semester, and I think that doing so was a good exercise for me.
For my final project, I want to reflect on a big part of the way I think a lot of us think about the environment (occasionally without admitting it to ourselves). To do this, I have to examine something that we haven't touched on so much in class: fear. One thing I kept coming back to this semester but never really found the time to talk about was the fact that I was having a hard time fully embracing the attitude of "love your environment, go outside and frolic in it" and the occasional "...or you're a bad person" that some of our readings seemed to imply. This is mostly because my journey to familiarize myself with the outside world contained a great deal of fear that I had to overcome, and I don't believe that I could be one of the only ones that experienced this.
(With my extension for my final work, my teach-in participation was at this point a while ago. However I think I still remember it well enough!)
My contribution to the teach-in was to discuss the subject that drove me to take this class in the first place. My journey in connecting with my environment was greatly helped along by working with a marine animal hospital and this peaked my interest in this class as an elective, so I thought I would share something about these experiences with the class as part of the teach-in.
The point of my demonstration was to peak people's interest in further exploring the world around them, but from some of the reactions to my question about which animals they could identify, I feel like I instead made some people feel like they hadn't done enough exploring of their own environment. This was accidental but I feel like it was also a good thing. I liked the fact that people felt like the absence of their ability to identify common animals meant that, generally, they had more exploring to do in order to fully understand the world around them, and I liked that I ended this class in a way that opened further reflection instead of clsed our earlier reflections.
I have been an active listener, and an average comment-maker. I have been actively working on talking more in class though, without being too careful about whether what I had to say was "good enough."
On-line, I got really into my site-sit responses. Out-of-doors in our excursions I was very excited to be part of the activities. In-class, I could have worked more on having points to make, but did try to comment building off of other people's points and bring another perspective into use.
The site-sit experiments were very personal, as were my ways of approaching them. But after class, a friend and I would always dissect what had gone on in class and we would talk about postings on Serendip. Some of these conversations might have been mentioned once or twice in a post, but could have been mentioned more.
I hoped, especially in my Web Papers, to contribute by choosing different topics, especially in Web Paper 3 my wish was to expose to poetry in a differing cultural context. I wanted to bring a part of South Asia into the very (and perhaps understandably, since its what we know best?) U.S. based discussion.
Final Web Paper # 4
My experience in this class this semester was very interesting. I was constantly comparing my experience in the class with Sara Gladwin's, who felt entirely different about the course than I did. To me, I felt as if all the class members were getting incredibly close. This was my smallest class this semester- by about two or three people. Maybe because of this, I felt as if I got to know everyone incredibly well, more than I did for any of my other courses. Yet I know Sara felt as if she didn't know anyone, which was frustrating for me. I kept wishing she could appreciate the closeness I felt to the other class members. But I also completely understood where she was coming from. That didn't stop my experience from being tinged by her experience, though, just as I'm sure my experience effected hers.
As for the readings, I often felt as if the class discussion totally changed my entire perception of the text. I would often read articles on my own and feel and feel completley fine with them- I agreed with the author's statements, I understood what they were saying. I had little critique. But then I would come to class and during the discussion, somehow find problems I hadn't picked up on. Or, I would become frustrated that we were just reiterating the same arguments over and over again. I guess part of my frustration was good- it means I was critically thinking about the text. But sometimes discussing the same issues repeatedly tested my limits. I particularly felt this with Terry Tempest WIlliam's work, for some reason.
Both Sarah and I agreed that we do not have linear thought processes, but in an effort to indulge in divergent thoughts we recorded a very unstructured conversation about our ecological project, which including some of the sounds we have recorded while working together. For our project we both led each other on a blindfold sound tour, and led one another to a place of our choosing while recording. I was torn because I ended up needing to cut at least 20-30 minutes from the conversation because the entire recording was over an hour long and it was just too long to listen to. When I have the opportunity I will upload the rest because I think it is an interesting conversation, but I kept what I thought was the most relevant.
I was thinking about my process for the "Teach In" when I read the objectives of this "diffracting" assignment - I think that I was already starting to diffract, trying to understand my process of learning in this class. So, with that as a background, I'll consider the specific areas of review.
Group work/Participation - I think that I have been very "present" in class. Participation for me, sometimes is just critical thinking and note-taking - I have to wait for a while before I start to see connections in the material. Sometimes, participation meant that I had to work through those connections out loud. I think I was more focused on my own learning in this class than on others' learning, though I did make an effort to ask questions and encourage other people's writing online. Over time, as we got to be more comfortable with one another, I felt that I could be more vulnerable, in some ways - especially during the final teach-in.
For my final project I made a Prezzi presentation that will take you on a virtual tour of the Bryn Mawr campus via everyone's observation sites. The tour moves cylclically through campus, beginning on the outer edges of the campus and resolving right in the center. However, feel free to move about it in any directino and order you wish. This is meant to be my personal interpretation of the campus and the semester, but that does not mean you have to limit yourself to my view.
At each location on the map, I have included one of the images each class memeber used to visualize their sites to the rest of us, as well as two photos I took. One is from very far away from the spot, and the other is much closer. I would sit in each spot until I found a shot I could take that i believed captured an element of this specific location that had previously been unseen. By doing this, I hope I challange your preconcepts of the observations spots we've come to know so well this semester.
Here's the link to the Prezzi. Please view before continuing to read!
For our final teach-in, I played Blue Mind, by Alexi Murdoch. Rather than focussing specifically on the content that interested me in this course, I wanted to demonstrate how my own learning process has developed.
I think the lyrics of this song compliment my personal trajectory really well. The first stanza is somewhat vague - what does it mean? no time? sleeping? I feel some confusion (though calm) when thinking about these lyrics. At the start of the semester, it seemed as though we were trying out a lot of different things, and just getting immersed in the content. I struggled with that immersion.
In the second stanza ("go free of time") - This represents the moments in class when I started to let go, let learning happen or not happen. I had to hibernate, gel, that sort of thing - I had to stop trying to control the outcome, something that I am still struggling with.
The chorus, "slowly slowly I am drifting," keeps coming back to me. In class, I felt as though I was drifting at times, and I could do this either by choice or by need. I want to choose to drift, especially if it's going to happen anyway. This feels a lot like "wandering" to me -
When do you need a guide? When do you guide yourself?
My "guides" are available online in magazine formatting at: http://jil.st/vVZTyB
If you'd like to download some of the images, they are available in this dropbox folder: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/sstmzd4b742lmeg/-Ctwt0BuxR (it might be easier to view them this way?)
Joining this class was one of the biggest risks I’ve taken with my education. I was already taking an introductory language course, which required meeting every weekday for class, and I was taking a 360 course cluster that required an intense amount of attention and dedication. I had just come from taking three courses the previous Spring semester because I had been on academic probation upon my return from a required semester away from Bryn Mawr. I had been required to take time off because I was unable to complete several of my courses freshman year. From a very early point in my life, I’ve been identified as notoriously unable to finish everything I touch. From a plate of food, to drawings, conversations, papers- to quote my mother, I’ve never been able to “cross the finish-line.” As I’ve grown in my learning, I’ve come to appreciate some of the ways in which I allow myself room to grow, to add, to change and edit myself. However, adding a fifth course, in addition to my course load and my history seemed ludicrous to most of my friends. I persisted because there was something about the idea that I couldn’t let go of in my head. The reasons I spoke about were because I have many requirements to make up because of time off and because I was very interesting in the course subject. Looking back now though, I think I also took this course because I had something to prove- to my friends, my family and myself. I had to push the limits of my capabilities for once, and stop playing safe cards. I needed to know how far I could go, and if I could go further.
I had more trouble working on this class through Serendip than I have with any other classes I’ve used Serendip for. I think that was because most of our class postings were so personal that they were hard to comment on. Yes you can discuss someone else’s experience, but there is only so much talking back I feel you can do because even reading about experience cannot place you there the same way the author was placed there. You can read, you can learn, but it won’t ever fully be yours. I’m not sure if other people felt the same way, but I definitely saw less discussion on Serendip, and I know that I engaged in less.
The exact origins of the dream catcher are unclear due to the destruction of oral Native American tradition by white settlers, but it seems that the dream catcher originated with the Ojibwe people, who refer to themselves as Anishnabe, meaning “first people.” As the most powerful tribe in the Great Lakes region, heir territory covered what is now Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ontario, and Manitoba.
The Story of the Dream Catcher
Sarahj and I met to discuss our interest in sound. We met for a while, and finally decided that we would structure a discussion around the idea of creating an auditory map of Bryn Mawr. We wanted to find differing ways to represent the world and the places we inhabit, with the understanding that in Anne’s words, all representations would be “thin and inadequate” and with the assumption that in whatever representation is produced, there will always be something lost in the final product. We wanted the class to both create this map and listen to sounds of Bryn Mawr. The presentation began with us explaining our individual interests in sound and then asking the class to contribute in trying to recreate different sounds that we hear across campus. Our peers were either allowed to describe the sounds, or attempt to represent them any way they choose as long as it was through making some kind of noise. Sarahj and I agreed ahead of time that we wanted to document this map in someway. We decided that we would record these sounds that students make, in an effort to keep the representation an entirely auditory one, and not have the visual of writing on the board or on paper. In addition, we realized that if students chose to represent a sound in a way that was not descriptive, it would be almost impossible to recreate this in writing/visually. We then played a recording of a spot on Bryn Mawr’s campus and asked students to try and figure out where the sound had come from. We originally recorded two places to share, but in the interest of time, where only able to play one sound.
A few of my most favorite readings from this course include Terry Tempest Williams, Thoreau, The Lives of Animals, Nature Writing for Women (article), as well as Solnit, Laduke, Bohm, and Berry. I found these pieces to be incredibly insightful and eye-opening. I found many of the other readings to be interesting, but either not particularly intriguing or too dense. I found Waring’s essay to be a bit too dense – especially because I am not very fond of economics - and LeGuins science fiction piece to not be particularly interesting for me (I prefer nonfiction or realistic fiction). So the challenge came here then – being able to pay attention and try my best in understanding the pieces I found rather difficult or uninteresting to read. I certainly grew as a reader in this course – through the wide variety of pieces we have read from various fields, I found that I was exposed to numerous different types of writing and readings. I also was able to find a balance between noticing the sections of a reading I should pay close attention to – enough so that I had understood the main points - and those that I could skim – whereas traditionally in an academic course I used to read every passage word for word. Of course there were those pieces however (Tempest Williams, Sonit, Berry, Lives of Animals) that I could not resist reading every word.
When we first began this experiment of Ecological Imaginings, I came in with the mindset of an Environmental Science student. For me this entitled having my head filled with ideas of doom and gloom in regards towards environmental collapse and the uphill struggle environmentalists had to fight socially and politically if they wanted to enact change. I came into the classroom then seeing the issue of the ecology in a scientific and polices-based point of view. Over the course of the semester though, I feel as though my viewpoint and this mindset began to change so that instead of obsessing about and analyzing the environmental issues , I started to place more emphasis in my learning in the class on trying to understand the concepts that I, as an environmentalist should be protecting. Namely, these concepts are nature itself, but also my general surroundings.
In the last couple weeks I have put a lot of thought into how we can teach our class, the student body of the Tri-College Consortium, and society in general to be more ecologically aware of the environment. I have spent most of my time talking about this in my last couple of web papers. In Hurricane Sandy, the Rotunda, and Thomas Berry, I contemplated our class’ reading of Thomas Berry and his idea of restructuring college level education to prioritize awareness of the natural world. Having felt a close proximity with nature while standing in the Haverford KINSC rotunda during a blackout, I concluded that having unplanned real world experiences like this outside of the classroom would be very useful for increasing environmental awareness. As Berry stresses how the entire system needs to be reworked, I started to wonder how his reforms for environmental-awareness education could be implemented for the best results. This came in the form of my next paper, Ecologically Reworking American Politics and Its Dynamics, where I tried to merge Berry’s proposal of a complete educational overhaul and my own idea real-world experiential education. Using Haverford College as a template, I proposed making every student take an environmental studies course as a graduation requirement so as to try and make all of the student body ecologically aware in some form or another.