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APRIL 5, 2008   

Massaging Media 2 conference

Today was the main event for the AIGA Massaging Media 2 conference in Boston. I had proposed a panel discussion called Teaching Design, Teaching Technology: Time to Rethink our Approach. So this was it—time to find out if I could moderate a session that wouldn't be the snooze-fest many turn out to be.

To prepare, I of course googled "how to moderate a panel discussion" and found several useful articles. One of the best was by Derek Powazek. He advised—as did others—that you research the hell out of the topic and the presenters, encourage conversation, and fiercely stand up for the audience, even if that means cutting off panelists and pressing them to answer the question.

Notes for panel discussionI stayed up late last night looking for new insights and/or questions on the web, ending up with about a half-dozen that I hoped would move the discussion along. I also asked audience members at the start of the session to write the one thing they hoped to learn from the session, and I used several of these questions as the panel moved forward.

Panel members DeAngela Duff (The University of the Arts), Laura Franz (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) and Jason Tselentis (University of North Carolina, Charlotte) kindly abided by our ground rules and did a good job of explaining their views on the topic. [see update with links]

By and large the panel went well, and at least of couple of audience members told me afterwards that they appreciated the conversational format as opposed to the typical "read-paper=with-slides, read-paper=with-slides, read-paper=with-slides, OK, any questions?" format.

Somehow, though, despite the fact that I started by quoting Meredith Davis from last night: "If I hear one more person say 'the computer is just a tool' I'll shoot myself!" I'm afraid we didn't get much beyond the somewhat stale debate about how much time to spend in the classroom teaching software vs. design principles. At conferences like this the mantra is "Teach Principles" and I'd hoped to challenge that, at least a bit, but even the panelist who said that teaching technology must be totally integrated into the class backed off and joined the it's all about design principles camp.

It wasn't until the day's final presentation by the founder of the Barbarian Group that teaching technology got some respect. He said that they need people who were equally strong in both areas, and asked for help from us (design educators) to provide these folks.

Harvard Square

Free Tibet demonstratorsI've never been very good at making friends at events like this, so left the last session with no plans for supper. I decided that with the little time I had left in Boston (I'll leave tomorrow before noon) that I'd go to Harvard Square and walk around until I found an interesting restaurant.

The first thing I encountered after leaving the subway was a small group of "Free Tibet" demonstrators. I took some pictures, signed a petition, and enjoyed the chanting led by two monks, joined by many in the crowd gathered around. The sound immediately calmed me—I could have happily stayed for a long while but my stomach was urging me on.

I was disappointed in the lack of small interesting restaurants nearby. There were more national chains on the streets than I expected. I thought it would be like Berkeley, where in the streets around the university's main plaza there are dozens of ethnic restaurants of all kinds. In Cambridge the selection was limited, but I found a tiny crepe restaurant and had a very nice California crepe: avocado, smoked turkey, bacon, walnut pesto sauce, tomato and field greens. Not exotic, but good.

Cece Bell's bookOn the way back to the T station I visited a couple of student installations in the visual arts building, and was overwhelmed by the selection of books in the Harvard Bookstore. I bought a couple of remaindered books that looked interesting, and saw one by a former grad school classmate, Cece Bell. Pretty cool to have your book published, but less cool to find it in the remainder section.

Strangely enough, when I checked my email when I got back to the hotel, there was an invitation from Cece to become a Facebook friend. Odd coincidence.

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APRIL 2008