Saturday, January 13, 2007

Henry Jenkins the Third

Henry Jenkins was in Singapore! Who is Henry Jenkins you might ask. He's a well known academic from MIT who heads their Comparative Media Studies programme and writes prolifically about all things media including Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I first heard him speak at Melbourne University and he was indeed speaking about Buffy. This was in the aftermath of Columbine and he was showing the impact of Columbine on the American psyche and how it affected young people and everything related to young people including youth oriented television shows like Buffy. It was where I learnt that the episode "Earshot" had been banned because it had a kid (Jonathan) who had a high powered rifle in the clocktower overlooking a town square. Apparently, Henry Jenkins had to appear in front of Congress to actually explain how it was okay to air the episode and by not doing so, it was building a greater climate of fear than to actually air the damn episode. Eventually, it was aired the following summer, as that was deemed enough time to get the teenage homicidal tendencies brought to the surface by Columbine under control.

So, when we heard he was in Singapore we were somewhat upset that we didn't get to listen to him speak. So like the digital geeks he refers to us as, we did the next best thing, we looked up the web for hopefully a transcript of what he said or anything close to that. Well, the man lived up to his reputation and blogged extensively about his insights on Singapore and anecdotal accounts of the lectures and interviews he gave here. Upon reading them, I was left with one overwhelming thought. How do I bring this material into class and how can I use it? I pondered this for over an hour before coming to the very obvious conclusion that I couldn't.

My reason is this. At their first lecture this week, when posed with the question "Are the poor an inevitable feature of society?" the immediate answer that was given with utmost confidence was "yes they are because there are always lazy people in every society who are too lazy to work and that's why they're poor" and when probed further, it was added that "the other group that is contributes to society being poor are those who are sick, because they cannot find jobs." Yes, those answers jolted me back into a reality where I was the one who had to teach them that those answers were too simplistic, too general and too much an answer a six year old might give.

So, fat hope if I want to introduce a 3000 word intellectual commentary on the socio-political landscape in Singapore to the same students?

Cannot. I'm stuck. And sometimes, that's why I feel I need a change.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 23:22

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