Damnable Bestialities: a Hardboiled Discussion with David Kernohan

Thanks to David Kernohan I finally got the opportunity to talk about some of the fallout of the Hardboiled class I taught last semester. It was a really fun class, and like ds106, the first time through a relatively new class like this—-I taught its proto-type at SUNY Old Westbury in 2001—is always a lot of stumbling in the dark. I’m still planning on writing about black capitalism as a theme that emerged for me in terms of research, the four Wikipedia articles the class worked on, as well as how amazing Paul Bond proved to be all semester long, but as of now the beginning of the semester has kept my pen at bay. This video is good because it begins to break that silence and remind me there is still much to write, document, and build on.

I really liked David’s interview style, four simple, hardboiled questions: What’s Hardboiled? How did social media integrate into your class? What’s next? And what advice you have for other faculty wanting to try something new?

It made the time relatively manageable at 14 minutes, and reigned in my tendency towards effusiveness and repeitition. I talked briefly about the course, which you can read more about here if you are interested. I also discussed how we used blogs, twitter, and Wikipedia over the course of the semester, and focused on the ways people like Paul Bond and Dr. Garcia made it permeable and open with their contributions. The emergence of the #emoboiled tag thanks to GNA is an excellent example of the power of an open, drive-by participant helping a class find its identity :)

All that said, Kernohan did catch me at a uncomfortable time when he asked me about future plans. Amongst other things, I’ve been thinking about Cotton Mather’s writing in the Magnalia Christi Americana, particularly Pillars of Salt, which features short narratives of the Puritan colony’s earliest criminals. The execution sermons were some of the earliest criminal narratives in the New World, and ministers like Cotton Mather made a career on them. The following excerpt is about the “damnable bestialities” of a farmer named Potter which ends in the execution of animals he violated. I also believe there was a discussion of cross-examining animals in Puritan courts when I first read Pillars of Salt, so I will look for that reference and make sure I am not talking out of school. (I included the clipping from “Pillars of Salt” about farmer Potter’s bestiality is below, if this sordid detour caught your interest.) This also feeds into a course on 300 years of True Crime I will be teaching with Paul Bond in Fall 2013 if it’s approved by the UMW Freshman Seminar review committee. ¬†Regardless, I now need to apologize to Kernohan for talking about such barbarity as part of a presentation. “The Horror! The Horror!” Also, I need to brush up on my Mather a bit because I was a bit fuzzy on the details during the video, let me know if you want me to reshoot that part, David ;)

The final bit was advice I might have for faculty who want to experiment with social media. I liked this question a lot, and not only because this one was easy and has gotten a pretty consistent response from me over the last few years: pick a part of your course to experiment with, consider how social media might make it interesting, and experiment wildly on that one, focused thing. After that, revisit what you did and see what worked, what didn’t, and iterate off that. That might actually be useful to someone approaching all the hoopla for the first time. I like that. Simple is good.

As a postscript, I think edtech in general needs to move away from Google Hangouts, they might be simple, free, and easy, but they are staggeringly unwatchable. I understand the webcam aesthetic, I’ve seen the Numa Numa video, but I think for stuff like this it really kills my interest in the image, which is a shame. I’m all about producing something that you can be proud of these days, but more on that when we do the Animated GIF Variety Show, coming soon to a blog near you :).

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