Study-Away in Media Studies

Learning to Speak Fireworks

As this was my first year as a full-time instructor, my observations of need in my program come from only a few courses, but are also informed by conversations with other teachers in the department about their dreams, hopes, and observations for our students.

In our Media Studies courses, rather than focusing on churning out another batch of Adobe-brilliant techies each year, we work hard to focus the classes in the idea that technology is the tool for their creative expression and story-telling. We encourage students as they learn to speak their own stories, look for stories around them, and seek out the place in their work that potentially connects to the viewer. For us, the “how-to” of Photoshop, Muse, Premiere (etc) comes after the ideas. These tools are there to support the focus rather than to become the focus. For example, in our Nonfiction Film and Video course, students

  1. Study documentary filmmakers throughout history;
  2. Discuss themes such as truth in storytelling, ethics of documentary,  & modes of storytelling;
  3. Choose their own topic and create a documentary of their own;
  4. Learn to use media as a tool for creativity and communication.

With story-telling at the heart of the way we teach in this program, a study-away could give students in this concentration an opportunity to connect their ideas to a larger context. I could see students benefiting greatly from mere observations, but also from having the chance to see themselves in the context of a new place.

If students, for example, did a study-away in NYC there is potential for growth in their ability to observe working story-tellers practicing via museums, University doc talks, & professional offices. This would all strengthen their own ability to tell their own stories with more cultural and emotional sensitivity, and perhaps more connection to a broader context.

fireworks
Art by Addam Yekutieli aka Know Hope, found in 2009

Once I ran into a poem taped onto the window of a storefront in New York, and I had no idea who made it, but the words stuck in my mind, “speak fireworks”. Recently, I learned that the words are written by Addam Yekutieli, an Israeli artist based in Tel Aviv, who states on his website that his intention is to set-up scenarios that, “allow the viewer to see themselves in the larger context of their surroundings simply by recognizing each other.”  He also says a goal is to, “document the notion of a collective human struggle”.

His statements about his work articulate what I hope for the students through a study-away experience: that their own understanding of themselves is expanded to include a larger context, and that they see the commonalities between themselves and perhaps someone that they would tend to “other”.

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