UCSD Sixth College
Upper-Division Practicum Proposal
Shlomo Dubnov and Jose Ignacio Lopez Ramirez-Gaston

The following is a proposal for the generation of a 125 CAT class for the 2007-2008 academic period, starting the summer of 2007. This course is offered as part of an Arts-Humanities-Social Sciences collaboratory led by Prof. Shlomo Dubnov (Music) , Prof. David Goodblatt (History) and Prof. Eli Berman (economics). The proposed course will be taught under the supervision of Professor Dubnov, and with the assistance of Jose Ignacio Lopez Ramirez-Gaston and Benjamin Kay.

Collective Reconstructions of Meaning and Narratives of New Media / Post-Talmudic Readings and Meaning Generation Machines.

General Description of the project:

The proposed project involves the use of technology for the development of alternative readings of a culture-specific story, presented in a form of an interactive new media performance that combines narrative and debate as a new art form in a contemporary environment.

The story investigated is the Kamza and Bar Kamza of the Babylonian Talmud. This story describes the events surrounding the destruction of the second Temple, Jewish wars under Roman Empire and the resulting exile. The story has been used for generations within the Jewish communities for the discussion and confrontation of basic social issues related to community, sense of belonging, multi cultural confrontation, nationalism, alienation, communal responsibility and more. It deals with questions of governance and corruption, ideology and cultural preservation, emergence of extreme groups, role of God, etc. The traditional reading of the story involves debate and commentary, known also as communal study or “seasoning” (Pilpul). Similar ways of debate and commentary exist in other cultures, like historical political debates in the US or debates by Budhist Monks in Tibet and etc.

The goal of the project is to develop tools for debates that exploit modern approaches to research about human condition, as developed in Social Sciences and Humanities, and their application to a mytho-historical text. The issues presented by the story have many parallels with problems present in contemporary society in general, and in the local condition as a border City and a center of immigration. The unique multi disciplinary approach developed by the collaboratory researchers would allow generating particular and unique answers to some of the universal problems suggested by the story. Moreover, it will serve as an educational tool that will permit the students participating in the practicum to develop creative approaches and personal expression for their particular abilities and academic interests in such diverse fields as history, philosophy, rationality, computing in the arts and more.

Format of the project:

The tools developed in the project include new multimedia environment for collection and recall of archival, documentary and commentary materials, interface for real-time management of audio-visual contents and integration of debate with an interactive experimental theatrical / operaic performance. These tools will provide new ways for sharing, controlling, contextualizing and challenging the information presented by the story, confronting it with multiple meanings within a larger framework of contemporary thought.

One of the tasks for the students participating in the practicum will be developing new ways of utilizing scientific results in creative ways, so that particular aspects of the text could be explained in different contexts, resulting in alternative readings with different meanings. The students will need to discover how contemporary understanding of human specific situations and the way humans react to them become a rich source of information for answering universal as well as their own personal questions.

Possible Areas of Work for Practicum Project:

We are seeking students who are interested in combining research in the humanities with contemporary multi-sensory ways of presentation, staging and production of stories. The project is a collaborative effort that includes the leading assistance of graduate student from the Music Technology, Economics and History departments at UCSD.
Some possible areas of applications are:

(1) Historic archival work: developing mechanisms for archiving information in alternative ways, including the generation of interactive libraries and random access / searching engines for the managing, retrieval and manipulation of meaningful data;
(2) Development of user interface: the generation of interactive mechanisms that allow the user/public to change the nature of the traditional ways of accessing information through the linear reading of a story;
(3) The visualization/artistic representation of historical, social and game theoretic situations;
(4) Networked collaborative environment – developing tools for a debate space and information sharing over the web.
It is expected that the project is completed at the end of the class, and could be presented to the ‘public’. This is to say that the project should have a physical or visual realization. The writing/ reflection component: the writing element for this class should include, besides all standard requirements, an explanation of what aspects of the story are relevant to the development of the project and in what way the story gives us meaningful information that relates to the problems present in contemporary global or our regional area.

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