Some days I have absolutely no idea. But after attending Ben's dissertation defense, it's easier for me to see why I do want to go back to school.
First let me describe how this dissertation defense worked. Described as a "public defense" and later as a "defense performance," this was not like the standard dissertation event. As I mentioned in previous posts, it was held at the New Bedlam Theater in St. Paul, a wonderful space with brick walls, wooden beamed ceilings, and an almost black-boxy feel with a collapsible stage and workshop-esque design. Then again, that was aided by the chairs set up in semi-circular pods of no more than four in which we the attendees were seated in which to discuss parts of defense (yes, a discussion-focused, interactive, collaborative defense. All ofter dissertation defenses shall forever be ruined for me). And the posters explaining main themes from the dissertation topped it all off, as well as reminding me greatly of the CSCL classed I had that utilized such visual aids.
What was most brilliant about this event was its own self-awareness and self-reflection that took place over the course of the evening. At one point during the defense, a man walked by the windows of the theater, peered in, and knocked on the glass. He walked on towards the front doors and came in. At first, I thought he was a late arrival. But from the way he hovered near the back, it seemed he wasn't. The look on his face is what I remember most - an awed sort look, the kind I imagine I have if I'm floored by a play I'm witnessing. When the other attendees noticed he was there, there was a sort of change in the atmosphere, especially as he walked forward into the seating area, closer towards the stage. During theater performances, I sometimes sense a shift in the air that I struggle to describe, something that happens collectively influenced by the actors onstage and the perceptions of the audience. For instance, a shift between a moment of levity to grimness or darkness onstage isn't felt just by me but apparent in the audience and is intensified by the feeling of those around me (either in their intakes of breath, gasps, or other general reactions, as well as just a change in the atmosphere). A shift of the nature - one that could be felt and seen - occurred as people noticed the man, wondering who he was, what he was doing, if anyone else knew him or not. The man, intrigued by the defense, began replying to Ben's statements, talking about the have and have nots. I think we were all thrown off by the man's unexpected interaction and Ben tried to keep the show going as he'd planned it while trying to interact with the man (which showed that this was not at all planned, unlike I'd initially wondered, as it seemed an interesting articulation of the issues at stake and a moment of improvisation). However, the man kept trying to speak though Ben said he'd get to his questions and comments later, which to the audience likely felt like interruption (I know it did to me, even though I was curious about what the man wanted to say). Eventually, an audience member tried to give the man some materials on the defense and explain what was occurring, then took him outside the theater to talk. I don't know what occurred between the two, but the audience member returned without the man as the event continued onward.
I've spent three blog posts writing about these because I felt compelled to write about it. It was a super important event for me, perhaps because it finally gave me the distance and also the closeness I needed to see what I'm hoping to achieve in my blogging adventure, my writing, and my application to grad school. As I nervously, anxiously, impatiently wait to hear back from King's, I know what I'm hoping to do, what others are hoping to do, and that I've got wonderful people to collaborate and work with, no matter what.
Also, almost all the photos in this post are from Adventure Time because they just seemed to work. Thank you, Adventure Time, for existing.