I’ve always been very skeptical of lectures. Somehow, they all came across as bland, sometimes pretentious, and even strangely authoritarian. In my mind, they were a kind of relic passed on from, who even knows when. Again, in my mind, the letter ‘k’ came to mind (poor letter ‘k’, it’s always associated with the negative image of …) : harsh, overbearing, a format that rests on, perpetuates, and establishes a certain relationship between ideas, the world and humans – and by extension, between the lektchurer and the participants. Even the ‘tch’ sound seemed overbearing and aggressive and over the top: put’ em together and you have a pretty darn unwelcoming event: lektchur. Ouch. Gotta get out fast.
So how did I end up doing so many lectures? Hundreds in the past few years. Across the country too! How did this happen. When I tell, during same said lectures, that I am actually much more of a loner and a silent type, much more of a seeker through silence, and that in fact, I don’t like to talk much, rarely does anyone believe me. How did it happen, I wonder, and the truth is, I know the answer: it happened for economic reasons. I was invited, I did them, then did more, and more, and got paid over and over and, soon enough, not only am I a Lecturer with a capital L – as in, title of a job – but an ur-Lecturer: invited all over the world! Until recently where I had to reign myself in.
The merit was that it allowed the exploration of what a lecture is, what the parameters of this exchange and interaction are, and how it could best be transformed – without losing any of its quality, luster, or prestige – but still being more inviting, more memorable, and perhaps even, more effective.
Traditional lectures – that is, one person in front of a multitude, with little interaction other than oral transmission by lecturer and aural listening by audience – champions certain modalities of learning, and on certain forms of interaction towards epistemological transformation. Okay, big words, but they do make sense. The notion that knowledge is being transferred through these parameters can still be coherent, but it’s doubtful that this is the best way to transmit knowledge, not to mention the fact that a different format for interaction, a different FORM, I should say, would allow exchanges and interactions and modalities of participation that could potentially put doubt into, or shed light on, or change the very assumptions or foundations or paradigms on which we assume the knowledge is being transferred.
We’ve come a long way – in certain circles at least – in rethinking the merits and the potential of lectures. Interaction – again, a coherent form of it – and participation are now encouraged in many circles. The authoritarian lektchurer has in many places been replaced by a gentler wiser, legshurrer inviting response, inviting the DISCOVERY of facts that the legshurrer knows about, inviting the exploration and subsequent finding of answers to questions and insights through the guidance, prodding, and inquiring proposed and set by the legshurrer. Asking questions – inquiry based techniques – and being very much in the present, and theatrical – a bit of performance theory: knowing a whole lot, and leading folks to the information, in a relevant way – and thus a memorable way, and thus an enjoyable way. That’s the new lecture. All good.
But then, the truth is that I often enjoy non-participatory lectures too. And enjoy the fact that I can sit back and not intervene and not be a participant other than an attentive listener. I know how to learn, I know what to do with information, I know how to pars out bullshit from insights and discoveries, and I enjoy not being part of silly attempts from some wannabe performers to involve the audience or have an ‘interactive’ experience. There is something classical, in this realm, about sitting back, giving the room to the lecturer and … This is, the softer version of the lecture. A classical appreciation of the relationship between learner and learnee, teacher and teachee.
And there are more changes to come. The parameters are there to be explored and exploited. The interactions to be transformed. Ideas about forms of participation and exchange always being elaborated. To the point where, as we know, we don’t even speak about lectures as the only forms of learning dioramas, but a menu of new types of learning environments and strategies are now common place: open source discussions, facilitations, workshops. Still, there is merit to the lecture – from the lektchur to the legshurr, and all points in between. As dinosauric and fossilized as it may one day become, there is something comforting about one person telling and leading, knowing and holding, enlightening, really – in an elaborate way. Lectures shouldn’t disappear, but a poetics of lecturing should always be at play, should be in the process of being developed through the praxis itself, always – an elaboration of the ways, an enchantment with the process, a theory/praxis of lectureship.
I got into it by accident—but as always, it’s mad cool to explore the parameters of the form. A lecturologist, through the process and act of designing and delivering – not just content, but as always, form also.
(When though, does it end. When does the lecturer/lecturologist ‘retire’ – or rather, leave the trade/art (which?). Does it make sense to ask the question? Do the Alefa not spell the end of it? Aren’t the lectures, within the alefa, akin to writing poems, within an overall oeuvre that creates new forms. Yes, sort of, except that there is always room to transform, to reinvent, the poem itself, and thus the lecture itself. Aesthetic preoccupations all, I admit, design principles at work though, here, with functionality at play. When does it end? Maybe when it has to. Or, when it’s time…)