I am still at an initial stage of designing my project and thinking about what kinds of choices that I can make.
I teach speech communication course at Baruch College which is a mandatory course for all students. In the course, students have an opportunity to deliver four to five public speeches. My role as an instructor is not much about teaching “skills” like a speech consultant, but more about fostering students critical thinking and academic research. I consider public speaking as a form of power. Thus I emphasize the ethical responsibilities as we know what happens when the power is abused. I want my speech communication course can help students empowerment beyond the classroom, and I am thinking about how digital technology can help this process. By delivering several speeches in class, students engage in the process of production and circulation of knowledge rather than remain as a passive learner. Can students engage in the production of knowledge beyond the classroom and can digital platform help it? VOCAT is a good assessment tool to document and analyze students speeches, but can we go one step further? All the Baruch students are taking or will take the speech communication course. How about creating a web/archive of topics that the students chose to present on in their classes to see what their interests are and to potentially take actions with the group of students with similar interest? But my question is: do students need this kind of platform? If there were willing to do so, students have an option to upload it to other social media platforms. Would the educational platform different from it? What are the risks of this idea? Unlike writing in digital platforms, the stake of uploading the recording of one’s vulnerable self is different. I also thought about social annotation for speeches, not for the evaluation/assessment of speech skills, but more about the ideas/contents of the speeches.
On a different note, I have been thinking about what “public speaking” means in the digital age. One of my research fields for the Theatre Program’s Second Exam is about the notions of the public (regarding space and people), and my interest in public or publicness also drives me to think about what “public” means in my speech communication course as well as for the ITP project. Is the traditional definition of public speaking from textbooks or from guidelines of the department (which is speaking in front of public and sharing ideas) still valid in the twenty-first century when almost everything is technologically mediated? Can I create a different public speaking assignment that is on the digital platform, speaking to the air, but still to public? If public speaking means sharing your ideas public, what kinds of public/digital activities students can engage with? After all, is public (regarding information and openness) always good?
I am also thinking about how I can make this project more towards my research. As I am still developing three distinct fields of study for the Second Exam (I can think about dissertation only upon completing it), I hope I can get clearer ideas later. One rough idea is to visually historicize how our perception of the body on theatrical stages has changed with the new technological developments (i.e. printing press, photography, interactive media, etc.) and how that change (if any) complicated our notions of what is corporeal-natural-biological and what is mechanical-artificial. I plan to delve more into the premodern perception of the body (as opposed to the modern notion of it) and thinking how the different epistemology can help understand discussions around the posthuman.