It feels as though every week in cluster development is busy but this past one (and a half) has been so busy that it’s been difficult to find time to write about everything that’s going on. I’ve had lots of really provocative conversations about clusters with people from all over the University. All of these conversations are helping me to clarify for myself what the cluster initiative is about. Ultimately, this initiative is about students. More about that in a future blog post. For this post, I want to explain what’s going on in the Arts and Technologies cluster specifically.
One of the things that’s been happening is that the Arts and Technologies cluster guides have held a series of social gatherings to talk informally with people who are interested in our cluster. Notice that I wrote Arts and TechnologIES rather than Arts and Technology. We have changed the name of our cluster because of a brief conversation about what we mean by “technology” and a longer conversation about our mission statement. In one of our social gatherings, a faculty member asked what technology we meant when we named the cluster Arts and Technology. For example, he said, at one time, a pencil was cutting edge technology. Is a pencil acceptable technology for the cluster? We guides immediately acknowledged that this is an excellent question but that yes, a pencil is a kind of technology. This made us start thinking about the fact that we had changed Art to Arts to illustrate the fact that there is not one “Art.” But of course, there are many technologies even if you just look at electronic technology. So we decided to change the name of the cluster and think it better reflects what the cluster is about.
The conversation about technology sparked an additional, longer conversation about our mission statement. One of the attendees of the social gathering said to me that our draft mission did a great job of explaining the role of art in our cluster but didn’t mention the role of technology in the cluster. As a result of that conversation, we revised our draft mission statement. An entirely different conversation about purpose and goals and the idea of “uselessness” (more about that in a future blog post) caused us to add an additional clause to the mission statement. So our current draft says:
The Arts and Technologies cluster focuses on the processes of effective story-telling and making things. We intentionally choose the specific tools and technologies we use and carefully consider how they impact the creation, sharing, and reception of our work. We value communication, collaboration, creative problem-solving, and learning for the sake of learning.
We’re pretty happy with the mission statement so far and look forward to even more conversations and revisions when more faculty and staff are back on campus in August. In the meantime, if you have some feedback about this draft of the mission, let me know.
The social gatherings have been great fodder for thinking about and discussing what we’re trying to do with clusters. We cluster guides are planning some University Days activities that we hope will get the people who are interested in our cluster thinking about ways that they can begin to find connections and possible collaborations with other members of the cluster, especially with regards to curriculum and teaching. We’re focusing these activities on student involvement because, as I’ve written before, we think the student experience should be the focus of the cluster initiative. There will be a two hour session during University Days in which participants engage in these activities so if you’re interested in Arts and Technologies, find that session on the schedule. And if you think of it, bring your laptop. We’d like several people to have some computer technology available as we engage in the activities.
We cluster guides are also working on a “cluster inventory” which will be a list of resources that are available to the cluster as we move forward. Of course, the faculty and staff associated with the cluster are one resource in the inventory. We’ve read through the URSA reports of all of the programs currently in the cluster and made a list of the resources, like lab spaces, classrooms, equipment, and so on, that were described there. We will be figuring out ways to inventory less tangible things like individual areas of expertise, projects people are working on, existing partnerships with businesses, schools, non-profits, alumni resources, and so on. If you are interested in this cluster and know of something that might be a resource to the cluster, let us know about it.
We’re also thinking about ways to keep the dialog going once the fall semester starts. We think some amazing things happen when people from different disciplines get together in a room to just talk. People discover shared interests and begin to think about ways that their work crosses disciplinary boundaries into other people’s work. People realize that we’re teaching some similar things in our classrooms even though we’re in different disciplines. We are thinking that we’ll probably have some regular meetings of anyone who is interested in the cluster. Some of those meetings might be social gatherings to allow informal conversation. But some will likely have more specific agendas to generate and move forward ideas about curricular revisions, cluster projects, external partnerships, etc.
If you aren’t already on the Arts and Technologies cluster email list but would like to be, contact me and I’ll add you. I am still really excited about the possibilities with the cluster initiative in general and the Arts and Technologies cluster in particular.
I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.