Next question’s A.V. Club project is a nostalgic yet critical look at educational technology. The installation in Alfred University’s Fosdick-Nelson Gallery presented next question’s collaboration with students and faculty from Alfred University’s Studio Art Foundation classes as well as the group’s unofficial history of educational technology.
The collaboration with the Alfred art students employs the medium of the filmstrip, a once-popular educational technology. Though intended to focus our attention, the filmstrip instead invited free association. As the narration plodded along the dusty highway of the lesson, spurred on by the occasional beep, our minds tended to wander down other more alluring pathways in the frozen image. In the end, the medium served only to highlight the contingency of relationship between the explanation and the image.
Taking advantage of this surreal gap of meaning, first-year students in Alfred’s art program worked with imagery and sound from found filmstrips to create surprising narratives of their own. After consultation with the first-year classes, next question assembled the final pieces from the students’ work. The resulting collaged filmstrips are educational in a new way, as the students’ different voices and visions enhance, redirect, and contradict one another.
Along with these filmstrip collaborations, the exhibit also presents the “history” of educational technology, as interpreted by next question. Next question drew on scholarly accounts, interviews with Alfred students and faculty, and their own memories of school to concoct a new story of instructional technology. Presented in filmstrip and overhead form, this alternate history highlights the power of narration, both official and unofficial.