This COPLAC digital humanities class itself, coupled with taking it in my final semester of my undergrad education was such a gift, to say the least. It was the perfect way to culminate my years at Augustana.
It was such a pleasure to meet people I’ve never met before, and to work alongside, to discuss, to agree and disagree with all of you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated our conversations, how honest everyone was when we were all asked about how our weeks were going, and the profound knowledge and wisdom that was shared. I absolutely loved logging on to zoom everyday. It felt like I was walking through a portal into another world, whilst staying in my room (kind of like Oculus Rift) and having the honour to hear your opinions, your perspective, your vast wisdom and knowledge, and your individual, unique personalities of everyone as they shined through while you were giving us a glimpse into the networks of your own mind and life.
The unique aspect of this particular kind of class is that I feel like I know all of you more deeply and more honestly than I do the people in my other classes, the people I’m face to face with physically in the “real” world.
Perhaps the reason for our honesty was because in “reality” we were just sitting in our rooms talking to a computer screen.
But that’s a little pessimistic in my view. I’d like to think it was because we were all looking at each other, instead of all facing the front of the room, looking and focusing solely on the teacher figure. Perhaps that’s a major hindrance for conventional classes: that most of the time, students have their backs to each other. How are we supposed to engage whole heartedly with one another when we’re so disconnected in the classroom? Who came up with that scheme? Is it really fruitful for fostering learning if we’re not even engaged with the surrounding people who are learning with us? It’s the reason why most of us are hesitant to speak up classes, in the most important classes, especially in the classes that are based on controversial topics: it’s a fear of being shut down, a fear of one’s opinions being disagreed upon.
In a COPLAC class like this, the profs are on the same level as the students. Right alongside with us, they’re not placed on a pedestal, and not transcendent in the conversation, but immanent. Instead of focusing on the teacher as the sole source of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, we focus on one another. And I’ve come to realize that profs — no offence to Yvonne or Janet in any way, shape or form — are not to be my only focus in class. The students right alongside of me are equally as knowledgeable, equally as valuable as anyone else. I’ve come to realize writing this reflection, that the position of the teachers alongside the students is one of the most powerful and counterintuitive assets a digital class has. It’s certainly why I had such an attachment to everyone in the class, it’s why I not only felt like I knew you all personally, but felt this genuine, selfless respect and curiosity of what other people were saying, instead of just focusing or emphasizing my thoughts and opinions. And whenever someone did share their opinion, regardless of whether we agreed or disagreed on it, there were waves of respect, not of tolerance, but of acceptance, and frankly of love. It sounds ridiculous and cheesy, but that is what respect is. Love is not a sentiment, but a willing the good of the other, as Bishop Robert Barron always says. That person’s right to speak and have their voice heard was certainly respected, but more than that. Our entire class was based on conversation. We learned from each other. There was no other way than to will the good of the other, if anyone wanted to learn anything.
I am so going to miss our conversations. Everyone brought to the table their wide perspectives on life, their understanding, their acknowledgement of their own imperfection and finiteness, but their wisdom. Oh my goodness, the wisdom. It was such a pleasure and an honour to be in the company of such uniquely wise people.
When Mike and I started this blog, at first, I had no idea where it was going to go, and how it was going to end up. Writing the learning contract was difficult, because I know that things fluctuate, things change throughout the course of time: so to kind of guess in a way, how this blog was going to pan out was hard for me. It massively resembled the class itself. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, taking an online class – especially considering my lack of experience with technology in general – but delving into it, and saying things that I wasn’t so sure how they’d be received, throwing my opinion out to the void, while others did the same thing, piece by piece it came together. Like a puzzle, Mike and I had a fuzzy image of what our project was going to look like. But we had to find the pieces, the right pieces that would fit together to slowly and gradually form the image of what we wanted our blog to look like. The pieces did inevitably come together in the end, but what we want to emphasize is that the picture, the image that the puzzle renders isn’t and cannot be confined to the four corners of a square confinement. Despite having, more or less, almost the pieces of the puzzle of this blog put together, the picture by its very nature is subject to change. In fact it’s too big to be confined to a 500 piece puzzle. What this metaphor is attempting to represent is this: our blog is not finished. It’s certainly no where near being complete. And it never will be, and that’s the beauty of it. It will keep growing, new ideas will constantly be coming to the forefront. Something like this on a topic such as strangeness and familiarity within video games and art, can never really have a due date (and yes, this is a slight jab at again, another conventional aspect of the education system). Our work is never finished. There will never be a day when all of us say “our work here is done”. There is always more to do, more to say, more to accomplish, more people to meet, more conversations to have. And now I’m talking about life itself.
This is what I want to take away from this class and from its main blog project. It is why there is a “to be continued” statement at the end of every blog post. I considered the blog a projection of mind into digital form, and each blog post, a stream of consciousness: jumbled and intermingled, not exactly organized, and not always distinct from other thoughts. In fact, many of our posts intertwine with one another. They’re not so clear cut. Like puzzle pieces, they overlap sometimes in a very complimentary way, and sometimes they cancel each other out.
The blog was my mind’s eye along with Mike’s, in what felt to be, physical form. I felt attached to our blog. It was constantly lurking in some corner of my mind, even during other classes. Someone would make a comment, and instantly I would think “that could go in the blog!!” The blog was constant, like a stream that ran through the entire semester. Conversations, other classes, wanderings on social platforms, and the blog and its theme was present, waiting on the chance to pinpoint and remember something that I could potentially form a puzzle piece with, to perhaps place with the others.
This project reminded me that just because my undergrad is technically done and over with, I will still carry it with me: the important and personal conversations, the streams of consciousness that have taken shape in the form of final papers, the eureka moments that happened more so outside of class than in, and possibly most importantly: the people. There are no due dates, there are certainly expiration dates, but nothing is complete. I will carry what I’ve learned with me in undergrad into the next season, knowing that there is always more to learn, always more classes to take, always more people to engage in conversation with. There is no finality, just a myriad of more possibilities.
Wow! Super cheesy! But I just want to say a very heartfelt thank you so much to Yvonne, Janet, Mike, Donovan, Annika, Margaret, Brendan, Mana, Don, Sarah, and Dominque. Seriously, you guys are the best. To everyone else who made this class possible, thank you so much. And finally to everyone else who will be in the near future, involved with a digital humanities class: enjoy every moment of it.