In Media Res in the Classroom – “We’re at ‘Now’ Now”

Curator's Note

In the 1987 comedy Spaceballs, Lord Dark Helmet and his team search for runaway protagonists by renting a VHS copy of Spaceballs–The Movie and trying to fast forward into the future. “Try here! Stop!” calls out Colonel Sandurz and they accidentally pause the tape at the exact moment of recording. Dark Helmet and Sandurz tentatively wave their arms in front of the camera and watch their own reflections wave back on the (recorded and recording) tape. As Sandurz says: “We’re at ‘now’ now.” This process of viewing, acting and recording at once seems an interesting metaphor for discussing digital media tools and the ways in which we can use them to experience culture, voice our analyses and simultaneously create archives of individual thought and critical conversation.

Recently, students in my advanced undergrad production course were assigned to create video reviews of In Media Res theme weeks. Students recorded themselves through Google Hangouts, which streams video live and posts recordings to youtube. I asked students to consider both content and delivery methods of IMR. Student presentations focused largely on the importance of critical conversation. Students compared and contrasted various voices within one theme week and highly valued discussions in IMR comment threads. Watching their videos, I considered the many forms of conversation that happen in IMR: Conversations between curator and media clip, between five curatorial texts presented each week, and in the comment threads. Digital interfaces organize and facilitate thinking, dialoging and sharing materials, and multiple interfaces can be used together. Google Hangouts allowed students to “screenshare” and “live broadcast.” Storify, like IMR, positions writers as “curators” of online media – collecting and contextualizing “media objects” (IMR term) and “voices” (Storify term). Twitter encourages brevity and immediacy, creating databases through #hashtag #use and facilitating easy shareability (RT!). These tools all put key importance on dialog. Using digital tools with critical intent, digital scholars are metaphorically standing together and collectively waving our arms in front of these (recorded and recording) media. We are viewing, curating, analyzing, discussing and archiving our “now” and we’re doing it as we do it – “now.”


Your post reminds me of the oft-quoted line from Clay Shirky, that we don't suffer from information overload, but from "filter failure." Teaching students careful and thoughtful web curation is a pro-active step toward the massive openness of the web. In the last year I've been studying connectivist MOOCs (cMOOCs) -- environments where communities of students and teachers collect, share, and build knowledge together. Curation is a central task in a cMOOC, where students are encouraged to produce media (writing, video, bibliography, whatever) that reflect their own learning AND become familiar with the learning demonstrations of others in the class. That takes curational skill. I would be excited to see the artifacts of the student learning that you describe. I've also been experimenting with Storify, Google Hangouts, and Twitter in the classroom, and, as a writing teacher, I find these tools useful in constant reminders of audience.

I agree that curation has become a significant task, as well as a useful one. I've just had students use Storify not as a journalism tool (which is what it's meant to be used as--but such intent is fairly meaningless with Web 2.0)--but as a way to explore a research topic before becoming immersed in the research literature. Curating information about a topic, whether it be articles, videos, or even Twitter posts, allows students to think about what kind of debates might be occurring--and what worthwhile question(s) they can pursue.

This is a useful strategy and can result in projects that assemble collaborative bibliographies between students, even between different sections. Awesome ideas. Another use of Twitter/Storify are the Twinterviews that we've been doing on Hybrid Pedagogy for several months. We arrange a public interview of someone related to the goals of the journal and exchange back and forth with them on Twitter, Storify the results, and publish it later with a little bit of narrative and careful arrangement (examples here: and here: ). What's most important in all of this -- for pedagogy and for revised understanding of scholarship -- is not the tools but the methods that they encourage.

I love the idea of drawing attention to the temporality of our "now." I can imagine an entire course centered on this concept. The video reviews seem like a great way to engage students in multiple modes of scholarship. I generally use a Twitter hashtag for each of my courses and archive the tag using the TAGS spreadsheet method developed by Martin Hawksey. I make the archive available to students for viewing, download, visualization or data analysis, though I've never explicitly built an assignment around it. You've made me think that interrogating our "now now" might be an interesting approach to doing this. Thanks!

Add new comment

Log in or register to add a comment.