Cathy Davidson: Reflections on the Launch: Disciplines and the Futures of Thinking
10.20.06 | I was stunned by this ensemble of humans, machines, and plant, my paradigm of consciousness turned inside out. An engineer in our group was amazed by the new dimensions of technology that had suddenly opened up for him. And a vegetarian expressed the moral quandary posed by the plant’s expressions of ecstasy and distress. Did the plant have feelings?
What we learned that night was transformative, disturbing, and unforgettable. In what discipline did this evening (and dozens of subsequent conversations, online and off) happen? To comprehend its meaning required our collective training in art, music, technology, engineering, ethics, ecology, animal behavior, botany, sound theory, gender theory, race theory, species theory. The average age of this audience was probably 30. What if the average age had been 10? What questions would the kids have asked? How would they have interacted with the performers? (I bet they would have wanted to pet the aspidistra.)
I begin my blogging for MacArthur’s exciting new Digital Media and Learning initiative with this vivid anecdote to underscore that technology matters when it expands our imaginings. Our challenge as educators, parents, and co-learners is to figure out together how we can make the most of this digital moment for creative, inspiring, and engaged learning. Our institutional challenge (and I’ll take up this topic next) is to figure out how existing institutions can promote—not impede—the futures of thinking.
* This performance took place August 2006 at technoSpheres: FutureS of Thinking, a two-week Seminar in Experimental Critical Thinking (SECT) held by the University of California’s Humanities Research Institute (flatiron.sdsc.edu/projects/uchri/index.php). It was part of “In|Formation 06|07,” a year of innovative, distributed programming co-sponsored by over eighty non-profit educational institutes that comprise the voluntary HASTAC (“haystack”) network. Events throughout the year are being webcast free on the HASTAC website (http://www.hastac.org).
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