A Problem of Coherence

Almost two weeks ago (is it really two weeks already?) I attended the Domain Incubator at Emory Unviersity wherein we had a focused discussion about several of the possibilities and issues surrounding Domain of One’s Own. As a quick aside, isn’t it cool this initaitve has already had it’s own dedicated conference? 🙂  Last week I wrote about the many faces of domains, and Clay Fenlason and Pete Rorabaugh have been on a blogging tear in the wake of the incubator. Whereas I still haven’t blogged about the presentation I gave on Saturday afternoon framed around Domains and the problem of coherence, so I figured I should write a bit about that before it’s gone.

I’ll start by saying this wasn’t one of my best presentations, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a self-deprecating way. Truth be told I didn’t even really give this presentation,  Jon Udell did. I spent 20-25 of the 37 minutes of the presentation playing clips from Udell’s 2007 presentation “The Disruptive Nature of Technology.” I’ve been retuning to this gem again and again when trying to conceptualize Domain of One’s Own, and I thought this would be the perfect occasion to suggest the ideas driving Domain of One’s Own are far broader than just education.

In fact, the clips I included during this talk were part of another talk I gave for Campus Technology almost a year ago. I was trying to making the argument that Domain of One’s Own repositions the question of coherence to the individual scale rather than the enterpirse—and syndication helps provide the glue. It’s a move to the idea of faculty, staff, and students becoming a node within a broader network that ideally moves well beyond the limited, and often arbitrary, frame of education.

Having said all this, I’m not sure I was entirely successful with this approach. Udell made his points brilliantly, and I think they re-inforced many of the discussions we had as part of the incubator. His articulate presience is remarkable. But the awkwardness of playing eight or nine 2-3 minute audio clips changes the sense of energy I’m used to feeding off while presenting. In some ways that was good because it switched the attention from me as performer to Udell as thinker, but in other ways I felt I was playing them something they could just as easily have listened to at home. I punctuated his points within the context of the conference, but I’m not sure I had the rhythm and delivery to make it not seem awkward.

What’s more, I was actually letting Udell give the talk, which might have been better dealt with by trying to build on his work from seven years ago with my own ideas. It was an experiment born out of the fact that I felt the “Domains in the Afterglow” talk I had orginally created with the Incubator in mind back in January had run its course after Sloan-C. I referenced that idea in the beginning of this talk by running through my original slidebeck and then throwing it out, which points to a larger tension in my talks recently. Giving a talk a few times is really good for it’s flow and rhythm, but not always so good for my relationship to it. It quickly begins to feel rote. I depend on the energy of not knowing what I’m gonna say next, so having an extemporaneous conversation, if you will, with a 2007 talk with Udell was my way at this. Not sure it worked, but then again I’m not sure it didn’t either. The fact I remain so uncomfortable about it may be telling, or maybe it isn’t. Either way, I’m gonna try this one again in one fashion or another because I now know it’s not rote yet 🙂

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One Response to A Problem of Coherence

  1. Pete says:

    This: “I depend on the energy of not knowing what I’m gonna say next, so having an extemporaneous conversation” is how I always feel, and I am glad someone else is saying it too. The running through of the original presentation was hilarious, a great way to begin.

    Ultimately, the problem of coherence is not one that I was seeing, or at least putting it in those terms, before your talk. It is related, though, to the tension I’m getting at in my last post. Regardless of platform, there is an inherent engagement difference between single author sites and communal spaces, and it’s analogous the coherence problem you’re identifying (though it’s not the same thing).

    Your talk’s (or Udell’s 🙂 referenced life bits and lifelogging. I think you and your community would find Ted Chiang’s short story “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” really amazing. We’re using it as our central reading in the Georgia Tech Project One initiative that I’m helping to build. It’s a good one hour read; let me know what you think:

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