This week I grew even more frustrated with the rambling conversations. As I mentioned last week, I dislike having seminar conversations about such broad topics as "human rights in China" without any sort of preparation. Everyone sounded like they knew more than next person about so many thorny issues. I always feel so empty after these kind of conversations where sweeping generalizations are made. I am not saying that we should not talk about these issues, but I like a more humble approach, where speakers recognize that there are many sides to an issue. The first thing I realized when I lived abroad was the extreme bias in American journalism. I had thought I knew "facts" about a certain country, but quickly realized things were not always so clear. I still believe that the "camera on the speaker" caused an intensity in the conversation that made it even more irritating when someone made strong definitive statements on topics I felt were not so cut and dry.
I really miss the lecture format. I know that we are trying to have a de-centralized seminar type of class, but I think it is getting a bit too unstructured. I have always respected instructors and expected them to know more about a topic because they have done more research and have more experience than the students. There is so much I thought Prof. Besser was going to share with us, like how museum officials react to digitization, why he feels they react in such a way, what copyright issues come out of this growth in digitization, etc. I would much rather have at least an hour lecture on his area of specialization; two hours of discussion is plenty. I agree with the guy that said it is not right to read Debord without some background. I can handle heavy readings, but I would have liked a bit more "framing of the issues" and guidance in the discussions. I also get frustrated that the class spends time reading and then in our discussions, there is barely any talk about the readings. We could have spent 2 hours talking about the readings, but instead we just rambled on and on about every topic under the sun. Again, that TV monitor makes all this even more annoying.
Now for the positive stuff. When I stop to think about it, it is not just the TV monitor that makes this distance learning possible. The WWW, email, Internet, etc. play a very important role. Homepages of students help us learn about each other. Links to works from past courses give ideas. When the newsgroups get going, I think it will be another important communication space.
Finally, I think we are all excited about getting to know the Berkeley side. I like that they are all studying different subjects, not just library studies. I look forward to starting a rapport with the Berkeley students.