purple square, return  projected_space:

arrivals and departures, learning and learning again

I lean back in my chair to be closer to the clanging heater, and I look up at the basement window, a pile of leaves and snow smooshed against its glass. In a minute, Joe will lean back in his chair, and he'll say something smart about Gadamer, or The Smiths, or Minneapolis's hip-hop scene. This will lead to a conversation and then a collaborative project about which we're both excited. The project will inform our pedagogy in general, our classrooms in particular, and I will spend a significant amount of time being grateful for Joe's camaraderie and partnership.

This collaborative reciprocity must be related to my growing sense of personal accomplishment. The first few months of graduate school were shocking, and I was certain I would never learn to read or write or think the way my instructors wanted. But I will work on these future projects with Joe, and I'll find a compelling project to work on alone, and at some point, the graduate experience begins to make sense. I can do this, and I can do it well. Arrival.

purple square, section 2
Where did this paper come from? I remember the histories, the critical texts, the seminar discussions about central questions and lines of argument, but my paper is a ghost, a figment I hardly recognize. The ideas are mine, and I remember writing them, but in following this process through, I found myself saying things I'm not sure I understand or with which I probably don't agree. But the semester is over, and I depart.

purple square, section 3
How many times have I washed these bottles? Zora nurses at least eight times a day, every two hours, but she has a bottle or two in the evenings, and I wash them. I scald my hands trying to get them clean, and I think about the next paragraph I'll write when I get the chance.

Nurse, write, nurse, write, settle into a nap, and write. But I can never start where I left off. There is always some retracing of steps, and I am certain the path as well as my point has shifted more times than I can remember. In writing one essay, I write a thousand unfinished essays.

purple square, section 4
We are supposed to get somewhere. Arrive, at the end of the semester, at a destination. But where we end up is unfolding into the future, the reverberations to be felt like sonic booms or rowdy laughter or quiet pauses in the projects, relationships, and adventures we will imagine. I consider myself lucky to have participated in so many exceptional graduate courses where my professors, in developing evaluations, considered the hopeful potential of a project as well its present actuality. The tension between the real and the imagined reveals a realandimagined point of departure and possible transformation.

When I read through this section of the hypertext ("hello/goodbye: project introduction/conclusion") I regret that I did not have time to engage more directly with the theory I reference. Mary-Louise Pratt, Edward Soja, and Lev Manovich were with me throughout the design of my project; at each rhetorical moment — from composing code to composing prose — I wrapped myself in theory. But how is this invention to be assessed, graded, and rewarded? I feel this concern during my own teaching. How will I assess the student who spends several evenings dreaming of and contemplating her project's possibilities, the student who spends hours debating the merits of her project with trusted peers, or the student who writes and deletes and writes and deletes and writes as she works toward the final product I must grade?

Moreover, how will I assess the ideas she wanted to pursue but rejected in the face of fears I did not mean to inspire? If I work with students to shape our class into a contact zone, there is the possibility that people will get hurt, that hearts and spirits will be broken, if only a little. There is the possibility that I will not be able to handle or engage with awkward criticisms levied by students, and, not knowing what else to do, I fear the silence I might run to.

I have, after all, run to this silence in my own work. As I was developing my hypertext project, I was also continuing to develop an increasingly radicalized feminist identity. But in this new academic environment with new colleagues and seminars, how much could I engage with and discuss the "F" word? Would eyes roll, would snickers follow? I felt myself regressing and turning too easily to a hiding place. In hindsight, I am bolder because of this moment of fear, but at the time, I felt betrayed by progress, by my own failure to move always quickly forward.

thirdspacing the university: performing spatial and visual literacies hello/goodbye: project introduction/conclusion bringing svr to fyc: video responses and experiences orientation: svr, theory, and invention thirdspace: mapping svr at the university of arizona references: all text sources used in my project
Return bar menu Home Crump and Verzosa Fodrey Archer Haley-Brown Holmes Juarez Martin Vinson

project introduction/conclusion

In this space, I present a few key terms that can either orient you in your journey through my project or (re)frame the spaces you've already visited in the project. Each term is accompanied by an excerpt from an academic text and a bit of reflective writing in which I tie the excerpt to some of the questions I considered while designing my project.

contact zone
narrative, interactivity, and space


contact zone

from Mary Louise Pratt (1991), "Arts of the Contact Zone"

"I use this term to refer to social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today. Eventually I will use the term to reconsider the models of community that many of us rely on in teaching and theorizing and that are under challenge today." (p. 34)

In her article, Pratt discussed the extent to which classroom spaces are contact zones where "rage, incomprehension, and pain" can exist productively with "moments of wonder and revelation" (p. 39). As a graduate teaching assistant with only a few years of teaching experience, the prospect of working with students to reshape our classroom into a contact zone where "all the students saw their roots traced back to legacies of both glory and shame" and "experienced face-to-face the ignorance and incomprehension, and occasionally the hostility, of others" (p. 39) — is at once exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating, the possibility of change and growth. Terrifying, the possibility of exposing students to a kind of violence I do not know how to — or cannot — heal.



from Edward Soja (1996), Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-And-Imagined Places

"My objective in Thirdspace can be simply stated. It is to encourage you to think differently about the meanings and significance of space and those related concepts that compose and comprise the inherent spatiality of human life: place, location, locality, landscape, environment, home, city, region, territory, and geography." (p. 1)

In light of what he saw as a growing awareness of the spatiality of human beings (p. 1), Soja (1996) discussed thirdspace as a critical place we need to imagine and actively create in order to engage with what we might refer to as the spatiality of social justice. For Soja, thirdspace harnessed spatial thinking as a way to uncover and challenge problematic, binary thinking — the kind of binary thinking that, among other things, limits our perception of space to what we can see and what we can imagine. Instead, Soja argued for a trialectics of spatial awareness that includes "realandimagined" spaces — spaces that are both/and or "both and also" (pp. 10-11). These spaces, thirdspaces, are the margins, places of Otheredness and the possibility of radical transformation (p. 12). Pratt's contact zones and Soja's thirdspaces echo each other. Perhaps the recasting of community spaces as contact zones is the same as re-seeing the margins as thirdspaces?


narrative, interactivity, and space

from Lev Manovich (2001), The Language of New Media

"Many new media objects do not tell stories; they do not have a beginning or end; in fact, they do not have any development, thematically, formally, or otherwise that would organize their elements into a sequence. Instead, they are collections of individual items, with every item possessing the same significance as any other." (p. 218)
[ . . . ]
"As a cultural form, the database represents the world as a list of items, and it refuses to order this list. In contrast, a narrative creates a cause-and-effect trajectory of seemingly unordered items (events). Therefore, database and narrative are natural enemies. Competing for the same territory of human culture, each claims an exclusive right to make meaning out of the world." (p. 225)

Is this hypertextual environment that I created a database or a narrative? Can online collections of digital information — like videos, texts, images, maps — be organized to create narratives, complete with actors, motives, beginnings, and ends? I wanted to explore these questions with my project. Moreover, is this project interactive? So often we see the word "interactive" used to describe our experiences on Internet sites, but frequently the navigational choices that we make are situated within a larger context of control. We can click on links and search for information at will, but what we find isn't (usually) of our own making. In other words, we select from a set of choices that someone else has already made. Choices that are rhetorical — designed to tell a story, even if the storyteller is not aware of the narrative.

As you wander through my project, I invite you to reflect and to question the extent to which websites can truly be interactive, can truly operate without an already designed story that users encounter but do not create. Of course, this site is modest in its architecture, so the experience is a "thought exercise" (I imagine). Maybe Michel de Certeau (1980) can clarify some of this for me.