In Media Res in the Crowdsourced Classroom

Curator's Note

In Spring 2011, the Dallas Museum of Art announced an exhibition on the work of fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier. A picture of a Kylie Minogue dress form the exhibition reminded me of the traces on a circuit board and sparked the idea to bring together Gaultier's work with the things we do in Emerging Media and Communication at UT Dallas.

Thus the Fashioning Circuits project launched. I invited students interested in the intersections between fashion and emerging media to enroll in an independent study in Fall 2011.

Much of the course was crowdsourced and collaborative from the beginning. We met before the semester to pick readings and establish a schedule. We took turns leading discussion and published together on the Fashioning Circuits blog. We held wearable media workshops in which we made things together. I helped students with sewing and electronics. One of the students introduced us all to the Lilypad arduino.

My friend Elizabeth Swanstrom had worked with some of her students to curate for In Media Res and it seemed as though this might also work well for us. The journal's openness, collaborative nature, and commitment to alternative forms of scholarship align with many of the values that are foundational for Fashioning Circuits. In addition, curating for IMR fit nicely with the strategy of learning through making. The writing that we were doing on the group blog was another form of us making things together. Everyone writing together on one curated piece seemed like a natural extension of those principles.

We composed our proposal together. Once accepted, we sat in a room as we outlined and wrote the first draft of the Curator's Note. We edited in round-robin fashion and published our piece under the name "EMAC Research Project."

Student participation fell off a bit In the stages of video editing and discussion. I suspect this was because these activities happened during winter break, after the course had ended.

Even so, it was a very successful collaboration. Students benefitted from a really productive collaboration (as opposed to what often happens in group work) and were excited to be publishing something outside of our blog. One of them has gone on to curate in additional theme weeks. I'm on the lookout for opportunities for us to participate again!

(Higher res version of my slides available at Google drive.)


The more students can see the value of collaboration (instead of being repulsed by group work), the more they will appreciate a more realistic view of work in the 21st century. Collaboration also allows more interesting (and fun) things to occur. As it happens, next week I'm offering a take home midterm which requires each student to write by himself, but allows and encourages discussion of the questions beforehand and self-organized peer reviews before submitting the exam to me. I have high hopes for the outcome. I'm also excited to see the curriculum for Emerging Media and Communication. I direct a program called Digital Cultures and Technologies (, which is very similar. Such programs are slowly becoming more common, and that, too, is exciting.

Thanks for the link to the Digital Cultures and Technology program! We do quite a bit of collaborative work with our students in EMAC, as it is part of our three core skill sets: critical, creative, and collaborative. It's important to include degrees of collaboration, as you are doing with the take home exam. It gives students a better understanding of how critical and creative processes actually work.

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