A Series of Epistolary Romances (the CODE|WORDS experiment continues)

Late last week, we quietly announced that CODE|WORDS–the experiment in online discourse that Ed Rodley, Rob Stein, and I kicked off in 2014–is back. It has a new format and a new set of instigators, plus new authors and new topics. I’m happy to see its return.

When we started CODE|WORDS, our aims were to pilot a new approach to the creation of theory ‘in public’ through the use of online, collaborative platforms, with a print publication to follow. We hoped the project would offer considered commentary as well as responsive dialogue, but the format we chose enabled less discourse than intended.

Which brings us to A Series of Epistolary Romances... Our second CODE|WORDS experiment is designed to privilege the discursive, conversational element that the original project was unable to generate. Each month, a new pair of authors will correspond about a topic related to museums for a series of weeks (or longer, if they choose). Ideally, this approach will allow us to investigate how a discussion rolls out over time, and to see how a more personal approach to correspondence impacts a dialogue. We’re also interested in learning how people play with the epistolary format. Will all posts be long form communications, or will we get videos, audio notes, or scans of postcards and letters?

Our first romance is between Bruce Wyman and Daniel Meyers, and investigates Interstitial Spaces in Museums. Already, there are wonderful moments.

From Bruce:

I had fallen in love with the early work of Imagineering and the early planning of Disneyland and Disney World. The early imagineers had made *amazing* experiences and it was all this attention to detail and thinking through what the overall experience of a thing would be. And it wasn’t just superficial treatment, but every component that would touch the visitor. I read everything I could about those design sessions and development and reveled in their tweaks and tricks to add just 10% more magic to every experience.

To which Daniel replies:

But I have to tell you, my first experiences of Disney attractions were profoundly disappointing! Perhaps it was just a failure of my imagination, but even as a youngster I found myself unable to suspend disbelief. Rather than feeling immersed in story, I was interested in understanding the mechanisms behind the silicone curtain, as a way to pass the time.

I love these personal explorations of bigger ideas related to museums and technology, and can’t wait to see how this format shifts the tone of the conversation.

Do you want to get involved with CODE | WORDS? Sign up and register interest in being one of our contributors. Think about the topics you’d like to cover, and the person you’d like to talk to, and one of our instigators will get back to you soon. 

2 thoughts on “A Series of Epistolary Romances (the CODE|WORDS experiment continues)

  1. I’m going to take the gamble that leaving a comment here is something like an off-shoot or branching from the original conversation, as conversations can be taken up in many hands and are not simply observable and finite but living and expansive.

    I have an experience that seems relevant to both Bruce and Danial’s tales. I grew up reading fiction as a passion, and was delighted to get lost in the imagined worlds of its authors. Eventually my imagination turned to why people are they way they are and I began studying Anthropology in school. I soon saw that many of the concerns of anthropologists had been thought through by philosophers, and my imagination turned to why these beliefs held special value. I became so serious in figuring things out that I began to lose the sense of wonder I had started with. I no longer read for passion’s sake but to establish truth as best I could. And then one day I awoke to find myself in crisis. The truths I had found all seemed hollow. They seemed pale versions of the rich tapestry I had once held dear. And I also found I couldn’t trust them. Why was I bothering with deep and unanswerable questions? Every answer opened more questions and doubts than I started with. What was the point?

    The crisis lasted longer than I might have hoped. And when I came out of it, or as a way of finding my way back, the first thing I could think of doing was grabbing a copy of Alice in Wonderland and giving myself back to the unserious use of language. I had discovered that for me there was a limit to peering behind the curtain: I also wanted to behold the wonders of OZ. Occasionally what stands behind the curtain will be fascinating in its own right, but not always or to everyone. Perhaps its a temperament of mind as well. Perhaps its an added layer. Sometimes, unfortunately, its a distraction, if only a distraction from the distraction…..

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