More Thoughts on Canons

Monday, May 18th, 2009

George Landow concludes this about canons:

Doing away with the canon leaves one not with freedom but with hundreds of thousands of undiscriminated and hence unnoticeable works, with works we cannot see or notice or read. We must therefore learn to live with them, appreciate them, benefit from them, but, above all, remain suspicious of them.

The canon in academic settings has always been a problem and a subject for hot debate. Some of you remember the various ruckuses. But it’s a good problem and a practical question.

More specifically, and practically, what works of new media should our students experience in the two, three, four years we will have with them? If we were to generate a list of readings/experiences (on top of those in a foundational literary and other discipline core), what works should we suggest? This, again, is a practical question which is, I believe, Dr. Landow’s point. Even though we may argue with a current canon, we can’t really get buy without shared texts, common references from which to generate ideas. On the NMC website, we’ll probably have a suggested reading list and expect our students to show evidence that they’ve covered a certain number of the works since we can’t cover them all in schola. The body will be a “canon,” regardless of our opinion of canons in general. But the lists are long and several core ideas of enormous aid have already been generated.

We will be offering an interdisciplinary, foundations program. Students will be expected to transfer to university and pursue bachelor and graduate degrees when they complete their time at the college. This an additional issue. So, for these students what will be the new media canon?

On the one hand, the “competencies” are easier to define than the material. Introductory, and not too complex, Actionscripting provides solid programming framework, as does Inform 7 and other languages we teach, such as Java and C++. Even students who aren’t inclined to developing deeper skills with programming will have enough scripting frameworks for programming contexts. It works the other way too. The computer programming or engineering minded students will have opportunity to go fairly deeply into science and literature an to gain a certain amount of perspective in other disciplines. Critically, problem solving and coherence of expression are significant pieces of the puzzle.

So, it’s a simple question: what would be your list of essential new media reading for students working through a foundations program in college?

Notable submits:

Hopscotch

Elephant (van sant)


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