Humanities for the Net Generation

Many of our “traditional” aged students already have the tools to compose multimodal compositions, multimodal pieces of art, right in their cell phones. They do not eschew the humanities, they just need someone to help make the explicit connection between what they are currently doing, and humanistic traditions of the past. Shows like Battlestar Galactica and the broadway play Spring Awakening have demonstrated a manner in which we can help our students make these connections. Not only do they engage the narrative across multiple media, like Spring Awakening‘s music videos for the iPod as well as MySpace and Facebook page and BG‘s short internet webisodes that connected seasons 2 and 3, they also ask their fans to participate in continuing the narrative themselves (in true Star Wars fan fiction fashion, one of my favorites being Troops). Both narrative franchises invited fans to remix pieces of material into their own storylines. BG worked through their website at; SA used Eyespot.

I’m excited to see these types of tools and “official” activities to engage students in multimodal competitions. I think traditional humanities instructors need to learn from these examples to help make connections to their contemporary students. For example, I love showing The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to my intro to film students and then show Rob Zombie’s music video for “Living Dead Girl.” Being able to discuss how and why he did this gets students to think about why knowing the history of horror films is important to Rob Zombie, both as a musician and a filmmaker.

Ultimately, this gets me thinking about how I’m about to start teaching my early American literature survey class. I was already planning on using wikis to have students publish their reports and interpretations about the material they read; however, I’m not thinking it might be useful to have them really think about the work rhetorically. What was the purpose for some of these early American writers. If they had the same purpose today, what different modes of media might they write and publish in? Why? How would it fit their purpose and audience needs? Could be fun!

Thanks to a Webware post for prompting this post!

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