Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Preliminary Notes Concerning Architecture

Ok, in terms of interactivity, I think the best thing to do is look for pre-existing or emerging social network/architectures, things like MySpace, etc. I don't have much experience with these actually; they've basically been floating at the periphery of my radar.

Here's the advantages of a route like this:

We don't have to put our main energies into the creation of an interactive space from scratch.
Ease of use, ease of tapping in.
Built-in networking/PR capacity : others in the social space/whatever could see what is happening.
In terms of US doing the actual development of this first thing, it would just be easier...

BUT, beyond that, it makes strategical sense for two reasons:

1) Anyone could then see how we've tapped free social spaces, then do the same for their own projects. Yes, I know people are already doing things like this, creating their own webrings, group blogs, groups within things like MySpace. This could just be a more explicit statement of the possibilities. And provide a clear, open, viral blueprint for adaptation: a process for interacting with the "architectures" that are out there.

2) The problem with "a web site" only approach is that it to a certain extent duplicates the boundedness of a traditional academic program. THIS school is where you go to get a normal MFA. THIS online web-school is where you go to get a free MFA. Part of my interest in this project is, as i've been indicating in my sign-off, is to push things "OUTWARD!" To make poetry go outside and play with others a little more. To make "the academy" more prone to flux, more plastic, more porous, more soft. So, I think it would be a tremendous benefit to the program to have it integrate itself into other structures "out there in the world" so to speak. So that the very architecture of the program/space REFLECTS the concept of being open to the outside, not just being open, but going OUT there. Also, the classes that I'm developing all involve materiality and interaction to a certain extent: "Viral Poetics," "Open Source Poetics," "Soft Concept Production Lab," etc. So, the bigger the playground, workspace, lab, the better....

Because now it's not a matter of "opening the field," but of truly opening ourselves to the field, then going out in it....

Outward!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

More Preliminary Notes: Part B: (Practical) (?) (Read Part A First)

first thing's fist:

we should start developing some sort of category scheme (with links on the side) to shuffle certain ideas to, for ease of discussion, reference, having lots of similar things in one place. mel the thing on your site, is that a place to start, or was that more for possible blueprint for the site/program itself? i guess those two things (this process, the eventual site) will become closer to each other and eventually become some "one", eh?

i'm just thinking in terms of tracking our discussion, so if, say, i throw out 7 ideas here from all over the place, two months from now those will be easy to find and to point others to, and we don't have to waste time searching through old posts to find one reference, you know? not quite sure how wiki's work, but something that has built-in a flexible organization scheme would work nicely. but maybe we can do that with this blog? i'll spend some time checking out other blogs using this system....

what do y'all think 'bout that?

ok, now to the actual practical ideas i had meant to talk about, har har....

incidentally, listening to sam cooke, who's singing "living in a foooooooool's paradise..." har har...

where to start?

ok, i'm going to open mel's site in another window and jump off those categories, to give myself some focus:

ok, well, before i do that, just some general things i've been keeping in mind as core concerns, that we should discuss:

i am for pushing the democratic/decentralized/de-controlled aspect of this AS FAR AS POSSIBLE. of course, how to do that and still create something that is a good space/tool/program?

i think let's consider a scale between control and lack of control to be going on behind pretty much every element of this, and how to calibrate that scale in any one element and in all of the overall relation amongs the elements.

a very provisional suggestion: let's say we arbtrarliy (for the moment) say the program has a two-year, four "semester" life span, what might be very interesting would be to have a system in place to decrease control per semester. so, say, the first semester has a limited number of course offerings, syllabi, requirements, etc, that we put in place, classes we teach / "approve" of, projects we "require" etc etc etc. next semester, say, opens more people up to being teachers/posting syllabi, etc. by the last semester, democracy/chaos? i don't know what exactly this would look like, but it seems like an intriguing possibility.

also, in any particular area, let's think about the idea of "seed" or "source" that could be adapted over time by others...

one of the things i personally DON'T want to see reproduced (from the current iteration of the academy) is this "genius professor" / "receptacle student" model. THESE SHOULD BE PLAYGROUNDS NOT WORKSHOPS....

increase: collaboration, play, adventure, taking the piss, skepticism of systems, disintegration of artificial barriers between modes of experience, etc etc etc

ok, so (finally) back to mel's list, keeping some of those concerns in mind:


Reading List:

how composed?
by whom?
how to make it open / how open to make it?
make a "seed" reading list, to be added on to by others?
should this be a component of the thesis/"exam"? if so, how so?

(nb. : in terms of clarity, PR, we need a prominent page that describes "our program" and what (ha!) is unique about it, this could contain elements of parody (ha!))

(nb. : how about this in terms of title: The Zero Degree Writing Program co-sponsored by the Blank Mountain School and the Group for Applied Culture's Project to Open-Source Everything) (or, for short, TZDWP(csb)tBMSatGfACPtOSE)

(nb. : for memetic efficiency something with cultural resonance would be helpful. let's remember the somewhat limited scope of people (read: potential students) already aware of Barthes and Black Mountain School. on the other hand, maybe let's not remember that. i dunno....)

Lectures and Readings

I think this one is relatively straightforward, as mel described. Links to useful references.
Maybe also:
"current faculty/student favorites"
______'s Essentials
What courses use what materials, or something like that....

Exam

Whew, this is gonna be a tricky one.

who's giving "the exam" / should there be just one?

Let me throw this out: For each class, the author of the syllabus (teacher?) states the "requirements"
To "graduate," we come up with some two or three things, including something like a thesis, but not really...?

I don't know, really, this is quite tricky, b/c one of the reasons people actually go into a grad program is to get a sense of validation and approval and yes, grades. now, you know what i personally think about those concerns, but the fact is that they are real concerns, and we need to think hard about how to strike a good balance. one of my main concerns is: i want to MAXIMIZE the EFFECT of this, which means i would hope we could start this thing in such a way that it brings people in who aren't already "hardcore avant-garders." this could be a whole sub-committee in itself, and maybe it really should be: OUTREACH COMMITTEE.....

I'm going to jump over to SYLLABUS EXCHANGE b/c it will sort of cover a couple different areas of thought:

ok, so two things main things that happen (so i've heard) in MFA programs: you read poetry, you write poetry.
is that about right? so, in terms of reading, easy: "professor" (root: to profess, can we do better here linguistically?) gives reading list, links to secondary material, maybe some notes, some background, etc.
ONE) there needs to be interactivity here amongst, you know, the peoples.
and TWO) that is even more apparent in the whole, you know, WRITING part. we need a structure that will allow students in a particular class (and in the program overall) to interact with each other's writing and ideas....
OTHERWISE, we are JUST ANOTHER PROVIDER/CONSOLIDATOR OF INFORMATION.
of course, these are very useful, UBU, PENNSOUND, etc, are wonderful wonderful wonderful.
but we are not trying to be thems.

so, how do we both decentralize and have a coherent structure in place to allow people to interact???


....


ok, damn folks, it just recently became tuesday and i have totally run out of steam. (of course, listening to neil young (the chill neil young)) will do that to you.

the i ching talks about "difficulty at the beginning." at the beginning of all good things. in bringing up all these concerns and tough spots it's only out of the desire to see this thing become the amazing amazing gift that it has the potential to be.

one final thought, for the final "graduation party" at the end of the program. one here in DC, of course, since we love to party. but also, an open-source blueprint for throwing your own graduation party! hahahahhahaha!

we're gonna have a goooooooooooooooood old time....

outward!

Monday, December 12, 2005

More Preliminary Notes: Part A: (Theoretical)

Ok, this post will be part rave/rant, part list of possibilities that emerged during the course of the evening, some of which were clearly still being debated. In other words, just throwing things out there.

I wanted to start a bit with how this project intersects with various aspects of my own current thoughts regarding the possibilities for a new type of cultural enaction. I may have come across at the bar as a bit...well, ZEALOUS, about this project. I will only get more so as it progresses. Just wanted to give a heads up about that. See, when the talk started emerging about the free MFA, several things clicked with various abstractions I've been working through for awhile, and it seemed, in addition to being a supremely necessary and ACHIEVABLE project in and of itself, also to have the good fortune of clearly illustrating certain "root" aspects of an emerging strategy for cultural engagement.

so, let's get to it:

the "root" aspects.

the program should be 1) open and 2) viral.

open in the sense of transparency to the greatest extent possibile. everyone sees the workings, from start to finish. hence the necessity for a public development forum from the absolute beginning. (this blog, then...?)
also open in the sense of "open source," meaning that, since everyone can see the "code," anyone can tweak any particular part of it and develop it for any other reason they may wish to. mutation over time = key to evolution, right?
two things that could ultimately emerge from this MFA (and which i am constantly keeping in mind when thinking of any particular part of it): 1) people create their own online mfa programs to continue when this one self-destructs (more on this later)
2) people use this whole process AS A MODEL for production/propagation of a wide variety of situations. ultimately, this is MUCH MORE than an MFA program. it is also a code and also a tool. someone might "hack" the code to create an open, free psychology program, etc etc etc. good for them and all the thems to come...

which brings us to 2) viral.
which is actually quite close to being "open" except that it is a little more proactive. "viral" in the sense that it actively tries to propagate itself (via reproduction and mutation) in a wide variety of ways. the clearest way (the most open) to achieve this is to have a clear "reproduction sequence" hardwired into any particular program. in the case of the MFA program, part of the thesis might be a "reproduction aspect." not necessarily to say "you must create your own MFA program just like this one," but at the very least to keep pushing the ideas OUTWARD in some form or another: an online program, a free public poetry class, public art, etc etc etc. AND that those ideas have within them the same code for propagation: adapt, spread, adapt, spread etc etc etc. like a chain letter. like a virus.


ok, i think, for ease of reading, archiving, and referencing, i will split this post into two: this one (obviously) the more theoretical. the next one, more practical.


outward!

more notes

a simple outline of some of our discussion at biddy's, in the form of a web site in a temporary location:

http://mason.gmu.edu/~mnichol6/zero_degree/

notes in advance of preliminary notes

So we were at Biddy's again after the Saturday readings. Kudos to Ryan & Lewis for a fine show. & right now, I was about to try & recover the table-talk that has led to me writing this, but uuh, nevermind --

But the concept that finally came together was that a group of people interested in volunteering on such a project could create an MFA program or its functional equivalent that would be tuition-free. A curriculum, volunteer faculty, and plan of study would have to be devised. Then willing students could learn a lot about poetry without having to shell out thousands of dollars for an indulgence of a degree.

I think some of the other people who were there (and remember stuff) will be posting more notes here later. At some point, then, we will have a "preliminary notes" about the Zero Degree Writing Program (or whatever it gets called.)