One Room (The before post)

I’m about to start my gig at Office Hours, the RISD Museum program “where invited artists, designers, performers, and other community members creatively curate, teach, and experiment through a variety of participatory events.”

That’s the official description. In the publicity, it’s “artists, designers, experts, and brainiacs.”

I’m not sure what category I’m in: I guess safest to say “other community members.” I was flattered to be asked, of course, especially since a former student was running the program.

But what to do? “Office hours” has a technical meaning for professors. You sit in your office and you wait for students to come by with questions. I thought about doing just that – advertising my time at the museum as my office hours. That doesn’t seem fair to the students, though. They didn’t sign up to be public performers. And it’s pretty dull

Teaching could work. I could give a lecture. But no guarantee of an audience, and lectures aren’t very participatory. Giving a lecture doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of One Room.

I could simply use the two hours as a chance to do what I usually do: catch up on email, work on writing. But that’s not very performative.

And so I’ve settled on using the time to play with the early stages of a research project. I’m interested in digital tools for visualizing history, and that seems somehow fitting for a museum: it produces something visual that I can show on a screen, to attract an audience and to have something to discuss. It’s very interactive – the challenge is to discover the right visualization that helps explore the history. And my topic, the history of museum collecting, seems appropriate, too.

The downside is that I’m just learning how to do this. I’m not an expert. I can’t put on a polished performance. But sometimes the most engaging educational experience comes from watching a learner learn. I’m hoping that will be the case here. I just need to be willing to perform not as an expert, the role professors like, but as a student. The idea is appealing…in theory. We’ll see.

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1 Comment

  1. One thing to keep in mind is that, when you’re absorbed in doing something with a computer, you lose track of time and what seems fascinating to you is deadly dull to someone who’s standing there waiting for you to surface (and while time shrinks for you, it stays very real for the observer). If you have a thorough beforehand knowledge of the tool and can just quickly and efficiently put up ideas so that the bulk of the time is spent looking at the ideas, or trying something from a user’s point of view, this could be really good.

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