Three and a Half Thoughts on Open Access Publishing

This afternoon, I’m moderating a panel titled “Remodeling Academic Publishing: New Tools, New Challenges, and a New Culture” at something called the Grand Challenges Symposium with the Dean of the Libraries, Stephanie Walker, my colleagues David Haeselin (English) and Eric Burin (History).

To kick things off, I’ve asked each participant to prepare 3-5 minutes on some aspect of academic publishing ranging from their experiences to considerations of archiving, advocating, and curating academic publishing.

For my part, and speaking as a historian and archaeologist, as a publisher at The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, and as editor of North Dakota Quarterly. I have three and half things to say, in my five minutes. Here they are:

1. Publishing in an Ecosystem. For the publishing enterprise to remain vital and dynamic and to continue to serve the needs of students, faculty, and researchers, we must cultivate the diversity of the ecosystem. This means that there isn’t a single solution or model that will ensure the dissemination and engagement with academic knowledge. Massive commercial publishers, small regional presses, academic publishers, buddy presses, and open access operations all fill niches in this ecosystem and provide opportunities for writers and readers to do what they do.

2. The push for OER, Open Education Resources, is strange. For OER publishing to make a significant impact in academia, universities need to support both their adoption and production. The former is an easy sell, we can save students money by using free books. The latter is a more difficult enterprise, because it involves inverting the prevailing trend in public higher education toward outsourcing key function to the private sector because the market produces both efficiencies and profits that benefit everyone. My feeling is that once folks recognize that OER is free “as in puppies” rather than “free as in beer,” the enthusiasm will wane.

3. Open Access Academic Publishing also involves a change in academic culture. Scholars tend to regard publishing as quite separate from the creative work of research and writing, and the publishing industry has tended to reinforce this. A completed manuscript is sent off to the publisher and it comes back a book which is then sold, reviewed, and celebrated. There are, of course, alternatives to this rather hands-off approach to publishing including closer cooperation between authors and publishers or even the blurring of lines between writing, production, review, and dissemination. After all, authors already collaborate with publishers as reviewers, they can also work as typesetters, copy-editors, cover-designers, marketers, and distributors without compromising the academic or intellectual integrity of publishing. 

And finally, and this is a coda, the changes in the culture of academic publishing can happen on the grass roots level. We don’t have to wait for administrative fiat or the authority of our academic and professional organizations. We can just do stuff and see if it makes our world better. 




The University of North Dakota’s Writers Conference

The first week after spring break every year (well, at least for the last 49 years), is the University of North Dakota’s Writers Conference. It’s an annual gathering of writers and readers from around the world and around the state.

This year’s theme is “Truth and Lies” which seems both intriguing and contemporary. The features authors include Molly McCully Brown, Nicholas Galanin, David Grann, Marlon James, Lauren Markham, and Ocean Vuong who offer readings, speak on panels, and show films that inspire and excite them.  

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The complete schedule is here.

This year, there will be a parallel event called the Grand Challenges Information Symposium. It features panels that intersect in some way with the Grand Challenges articulated by the visionary president of the University of North Dakota. Two editorial board members, David Haeselin and Eric Burin, and yours truly will be at a panel on Wednesday, March 21, from 2-2:45 in the Lecture Bowl of the Memorial Union to talk about the future of publishing. 

So if you’re in the region, please plan to attend the Writers Conference and our panel at the Grand Challenges Information Symposium! 

Cyprus is Everywhere

Last week, Annemarie Weyl Carr asked if anyone could offer a summary of a recent publication that they might share with the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute’s newsletter.  I thought it would be fun to share my most recent book on the Bakken, which in very real ways had its origins in the Eastern Mediterranean and on Cyprus, in particular.

So here’s my little write-up. It’s another attempt at writing in a more breezy and accessible style.

The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape
Or Cyprus is Everywhere.

My first season excacating on Cyprus was in 2008. At that time, I had completed four seasons of intensive pedestrian survey at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria, a coastal site located some 10 km east of Larnaka and just inside the British Base at Dhekelia. I was carrying the controller of a differential GPS unit across slopes of loose soil at the coastal height of Vigla while an unlikely colleague, Bret Weber, dutifully held the rover in place and leveled it as I recorded the point. We did this thousands of times on our way to making a high-resolution DEM of our site. It was boring work but gave us plenty of time for conversation.

Bret Weber was the project’s cook and camp manager, and he’d help out in the field almost every day. He also had a PhD in Western History and had almost completed his Masters in Social Work. He was deeply active in issues surrounding housing both in our home town of Grand Forks, North Dakota and in his scholarship in 20th century urbanism and social welfare. As we took point after point, we discussed the Bakken Oil Boom that had just started to rumble in western North Dakota and the growing rumors of life in the temporary “man camps” that had popped up across “the patch” to accommodate the influx of works. Those who couldn’t find room in a hotel or in a man camp ended up squatting in the Williston Walmart parking lot, and in various make-shift camps across the Bakken counties. At the same time, our work at the site of of Vigla where we clicked off point after point, revealed what we thought was probably a 4th-century mercenary camp, housing soldiers who occupied this prominent fortified height on the Cypriot coast during the tumultuous early Hellenistic era. We wondered about life in an ancient camp and whether the mercenary camp was similar to the encampments and short-term settlements that for millennial served miners in the Troodos mountains. Our field work, the history of settlement and extractive industries on Cyprus, and important work of archaeologists and historians to unpack the relationship between the two, framed our discussion of what was going with settlement and extractive industries in western North Dakota.


When Bret and I returned home we continued to reflect on our fieldwork conversations, we read extensively on the organization of settlement and extractive industries in a global context, we recruited a range of colleagues to our project, many of whom were Mediterranean archaeologists, and, finally, in 2012, we inaugurated the North Dakota Man Camp Project. The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape (Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University Press 2017) is the first book-length publication from this project.

This book used the genre of the tourist guide to present the bustling and sometimes ephemeral landscape of the Bakken oil patch. The decision to frame our work as a tourist guide once again drew on my experience as a tourist in Greece in the 1990s and then Cyprus in early 21st century which indelibly shaped my view of the landscape. The language of my trusty Rough and Blue Guide for Greece and Cyprus suffused the language of The Bakken, which, like these handy guides, is divided into routes and sites. Our goal was to evoke the modern experience of tourism created, in part, by such iconic guidebooks as Baedeker’s and the Blue Guide which became synecdoches for the informed tourist. More importantly, my summers in Greece and Cyprus as both an informed tourist and an archaeologist reinforced the parallels between these two deeply modern experiences of landscapes. The spaces and places defined and described by both tourism and archaeology are profoundly modern. In short, my time on Cyprus made me aware of my modern way of seeing the world.

In a 1982 essay, the poet Tom McGrath used the phrase, “North Dakota is Everywhere” to reflect on the influence of the prairie state on writers, artists, and readers around the world. In writing The Bakken: An Archaeology of an Industrial Landscape, I hope readers familiar with my other archaeological work will see in its pages that maybe “Cyprus is Everywhere” as well.

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

The trailing weekend of spring break always reveals the futility of my ambitious plans to “get work done.” That being said, I have recharged my batteries, done some fieldwork, and chipped away at a long-delayed project. So I can’t really complain too much.

On Monday, I spent about 5 hours completing the drawings of Corwin and Larimore Halls at Wesley College at the University of North Dakota.

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On Tuesday, I worked with my old buddy Mike Wittgraf to document the sound of the Corwin/Larimore Hall, and we posted a video of the concert on the ole blog on Wednesday

On Wednesday, I drove out to Minot State University on a brilliant spring day in North Dakotaland with the sun shining off the snow-filled fields and the crystal blue sky overhead. The biggest treat of the trip was a visit to the new gallery spaces in the library at Minot State. They were stunning and a remarkable reminder that despite all the hand-wringing about the death of the arts and humanities on college campuses, there is still great work going on that will undoubtedly fortify these programs, their students, and the community into the future.

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Finally, on Thursday, I did get back to work, despite being distracted by the very short, shorts of the University of Rhode Island basketballing team, but I’ll admit that my little list of quick hits and varia is slightly more impoverished than usual, but here it is:

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NDQuesday: A North Dakota Quarterly Reader

When I first became interested in North Dakota Quarterly about five years ago or so, I floated the idea that we mine the back content of NDQ to create a series of readers on various topics. I figured that this might be a way to show off the “best of the best” from NDQ’s storied history and perhaps to generate a little cash flow if we sold them online as print-on-demand volumes. Aside from a few trial balloons, including a little volume on North Dakota and the Great War which attracted a handful of downloads, there wasn’t too much real interest. 

The other day, while hanging out in the NDQ offices, I decided to shelf-surf a bit and stumbled across a few paper bound volumes that were collections of past NDQ articles edited by Elizabeth Hampsten and Stephen Dilks and published in 1997.    

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The entire volume is re-set and re-paginated into columns. I offer the table of contents for the first of the three volumes below. It would be possible to link to each contribution because they’re now available online, but I also wonder whether folks might like a paper copy of the reader for a nominal price (i.e. <$20). There would be some production time and effort, to be sure, but it would seem worth it if folks see a volume like this as a suitable way to celebrate the legacy of NDQ.   

Let me know in the comments and in the meantime, here’s the table of contents: 

North Dakota is Everywhere
A North Dakota Quarterly Reader, 1910-1996


Frank Allen, “The Two-fold Function of the University” (September 1910), 1
Luther C Freeman, “The Problem of the Teacher” (September 1910), 8
Frank L. McVey, “Syndicalism and Socialism and Their Meaning” (April 1914), 11
James E. Boyle, “Notes From an Agricultural Field Trip Across North Dakota” (January 1917), 17
VeraKesey, “Free” (play, July 1917), 21
Albert Tangeman Vollweiler, “Roosevelt’s Ranch life in North Dakota” (October 1918), 24
Luther H. Lyon, “Choosing a Name for The Product” (November 1928), 34
Elwyn B. Robinson, “Lewis & Clark-the North Dakota Phase” (Winter 1956), 38
Robert P. Wilkins, “Middle Western Isolationism: A Re-examination” (Summer 1957), 46
John F. Kennedy, “The Obligation of a Society to Preserve Its Natural Endowment” (Summer 1963) 52
Wynona H. Wilkins. “The Idea of North Dakota” (Winter 1971), 56
Rodney Nelson, “Politics in North Dakota: A Short Story” (Autumn 1976), 69
Max Westbrook, “Story Telling as a Way of Thinking” (Spring 1979), 72
Peter Nabokov, “America as Holy Land” (Autumn 1980), 81
Thomas McGrath, “Journey by Sled to Midnight Mass in the 1920s” (Autuman 1980), 89
Dale Jacobson “Review of Thomas McGrath, Letter to an Imaginary Friend: Parts III & IV” (Winter 1987), 94
James H. Rogers, “Vision and Feeling: An Interview with Thomas McGrath” (Winter 1985), 96
Thomas McGrath, “North Dakota Is Everywhere” (Summer 1982), 104
Dale Jacobson, “For Thomas McGrath” (poem. Fall 1982), 105
Valentina Borremans, “Appropriate Technology and the Modernization and Feminization of Poverty” (Winter/Spring 1984), 107
Deborah Fink “‘Mom, It’s a Losing Proposition’: The Decline of Women’s Subsistence Production on Iowa Farms” (Winter/Spring 1984), 113
J. M. Coetzee, “Michael Kin the Camp” (Spring 1983), 117
James Summerville, “Rural America: An Index” (Fall 1985), 123
Kathleen Norris, “Gatsby on the Plains: The Small-Town Death Wish” (Fall 1985) 128
G. Keith Gunderson, “Letter: A Reply to ‘Gatsby on the Plains’” (Fall 1985), 134
Mark Phillips, “An Introduction: ‘Creativeness and Social Change’” (Fall 1985), 137
Derek Savage, “Creativeness and Social Change” (Fall 1985), 138
Catharine R. Stimpson, “Needling” (Summer 1987), 142
Brian Swann “‘The dusky body of IT underneath’: Some Thoughts on America and Native Americans” (Winter 1987). 146
Ron Vossler, “The Last Casualty of Shipka Pass” (Fall 1988) and “The Last Survivor of Shipka Pass,” 158 and 162
Patricia Sanborn, “An Odyssey Through Schools: Notes of a Learner and Teacher” (Winter 1988), 167
Robert W. Lewis, “Introduction: Gleanings” (Fall 1991), 175 and “Declaration of Quito” (Fall 1991), 180
Lise McCloud, “Heart of the Turtle” (Fall 1991), 182
Claude Clayton Smith, “Red Men in Red Square” (Fall 1991), 187
Susan K. Martin, “Go (Further) West Young Man: The New (True Blue) Frontier of the American Imagination” (Winter 1992), 196
Robert Sayre, “Rethinking Midwestern Regionalism” (Spring 1994-95), 205
John Tallmadge, “Moving to Minnesota” (Spring 1996), 214
Lennart Pearson, “Feeding Pork to the Pig: Swedish Proverbs and Wellerisms” (Spring 1996), 222


Bill Caraher is the editor of North Dakota Quarterly. He is a historian and archaeologists at the University of North Dakota who specializes in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine Eastern Mediterranean and contemporary America. He blogs at Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

Celebrating Wesley College’s Corwin Hall

I’m on the road today delivering boxes of North Dakota Quarterlys to the Magic City, but I figured folks might enjoy a video from yesterday’s send off for Corwin Hall. Here’s a blog post on that.

We’ll release a far higher fidelity recording of the music next month, but for now, here’s a Facebook video.


Hearing the Past in Byzantium and North Dakota

It was a happy coincidence that I read Sharon Gerstel and co.’s recent article in Hesperia on the acoustics of two well-known churches in Thessaloniki on the same week that I’ve arranged for a little concert in Corwin Hall at the University of North Dakota as part of my Wesley College Documentation Project.

I’ve been lucky enough to chat a bit with Amy Papalexandrou about ideas very similar to those Gerstel and her crew sought to document at the Acheiropoietos church and Hagia Sophia in Thessaloniki. The goal of the project was to determine whether the architecture of these buildings functioned to promote (or more likely co-create) certain soundscapes in these buildings throughout their long histories. The evidence is suggestive, if a largely inconclusive. The buildings themselves have changed since the Byzantine period and their acoustic character is likely significantly different than it was in the past. Painted plaster wall instead of marble revetting, the removal of parapet screens between columns, and the absence of fabric wall coverings, rugs, and other damping in the buildings promoted different conditions that transformed the sound of these churches. As significantly, human bodies absorb sound and large congregations on feast days, for example, would have transformed the signature of the building as well. 

None of this is to diminish the significance of the acoustic research into these spaces. After all, most architectural and art historians can look beyond later modifications of these spaces to understand and “see” the original structures and their visual impacts. My own work, for example, considered the role that the columnar screens between the aisles and the central nave played on the visual experience of a processional liturgy. The impact of sound on both the experience and the shape of the liturgy in long-lived buildings would have almost certainly been as significant as the visual experience of the Christian rite. 

Later today, we’ll be recording the acoustic properties of the turn-of-the-century Wesley College recital room in Corwin Hall on the campus of the University of North Dakota. Rather than trying for a kind of rigorously empirical recording that seeks in frequency response and other quantitative measures to document the sonic signature of a room, we are attempting to capture the essence of the space through performance. We are fortunate to have a willing collaborator in Mike Wittgraf, from UND’s music department, who is an accomplished musician as well as a specialist in electronically mediated music that takes advantage of multiple speakers, microphones, and other acoustic devices to create new sounds.

We’re doing this with the full understanding that this room has been modified in rather significant ways. The most significant modifications occurred in the late 1970s where the north wall of the room was moved forward some 8 feet and drop ceilings were installed around the edge of the room to hide ductwork. The windows have been partly filled in with more efficient aluminum windows and the room lacks damping drapery or other window treatments that almost certainly would have featured in the original building.  

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All the same, the room clearly possess some of its former acoustic properties. The high vaulted ceiling, for example, creates what Mike Wittgraf called a distinctive “ring” to the room. Performing in the space today, however, will tell part of the story of the building’s history. While we don’t have original recordings from the space (at least that we know of), our recording in the building will offer a perspective from which a savvy ear or just a curious mind might imagine what the room sounded like in its original configuration just as an experience or imaginative eye can see through various renovations to the space and visualize its original form.

Finally, I’d like to imagine that this is part of an archaeology of care. Corwin Hall is scheduled for demolition this spring and the space surely witness more than its share of nervous and exuberant performances over its first 50 years of life as a recital hall (from 1909 to 1965 or so). Wesley College originally served as the music department for UND and Mike Wittgraf’s parting concert – featuring Wesleyan hymns appropriate for a funeral – serves as fitting send off for the room and the building.

Tune in to my Facebook page at around noon today to catch a broadcast of the concert. We’ll also release the various recordings with some explanation in the future.  

Universities and Patina

Over the weekend, I re-read Shannon Dawdy’s book Patina: A Profane Archaeology. I blogged briefly about how this work shaped some of my views of the accelerated culture of the Bakken oil patch. But having read it again, and more closely, in preparation for a formal review, I was really struck by her description of New Orleans as a space of contest modernity where a pervasive interest in patina represents both a challenge to commodity capitalism and a willingness to complicate the conventions of linear time. In Dawdy’s analysis objects with patina are valued not simply because they’re old, but because they show signs of habitual use over time and the stories associated with that use remain embedded in their fabric and add value. This value emerges only in the space of the contemporary world where these objects circulate among individuals who recall, communicate, and add to the object’s story, and in the right time and context, these objects acquire far greater value than their utility or antiquity alone would suggest. Dawdy notes that the fetishization of these object “resists compulsive obsolescence and thus slows down consumption and discard.” In short, these objects have a kind of situated value that produce in collaboration with individuals who possess or know about them. Objects with patina continuously produce and depend upon various individual and broader social relations that provide them with meaning. 

I got to thinking about Dawdy’s definition of patina in the context of my work with the Wesley College Documentation Project on the campus of the University of North Dakota. One of the things that my exceptional class of students have encouraged me to see is that universities represent distinct spaces within American society where time and space work differently. On the one hand, this makes sense as university life continues to represent a rite of passage where students exist in moments of communitas, encounter liminal space, and negotiate one of the most obvious examples of heterotopia (and, Dawdy might add, chronotopia, where distinctive experience of time exist often fused to the distinctively heterotopic space of the university campus). Like New Orleans universities often prize and value patina whether officially celebrated in the old buildings or monuments on campus or associated with the traces of the collective experiences of students in less public, official, and obvious ways.  

Patina on university campuses embodies the kind of conflicted temporality that Dawdy saw in New Orleans as they oscillate between being the engines for social and economic progress and places of memory, tradition, and social cohesion. The tensions between functionality and tradition on college campuses goes beyond the simple practice of “invented traditions” which have a particularly visible place on college campuses. Traditions embodied in architecture, rituals, and practices (that sometimes defy official administrative efforts to suppress them) range from the persistent, monumental expressions of past aspirations to the gradual or even abrupt accumulation of meaning in unexpected places and spaces across campus.

Public universities much like New Orleans, also experience booms and busts, that leads to the uneven accumulation of buildings, objects, and experiences. At UND, a campus monument celebrates the the experience of students and faculty during the Great Depression and the post-War boom has left indelible marks in the buildings and spaces across campus and the persistence of certain familiar objects across campus – from desks to flickering florescent light fixtures – speaks to the various occasions of renovation and innovation. 

The Wesley College Documentation Project has observed various aspects of this kind of temporal mixing as students are both saddened to know that the university has plans to demolish Robertson/Sayre and Corwin/Larimore Halls. They are old – largely dating to the first decade of the 20th century – and have a distinct architecture and patina and for some have acquired a kind of right to exist on campus. For others, of course, these buildings are outmoded and obsolete. This embodies the tension between the functionality of the university and how it generates meaning to the university community.

At the same time, booms and busts are present throughout these buildings with the persistence of older furniture and even older technology either kept in reserve or actively in use suggesting a conscious effort to curate and extend the life of particular tools. What is curious in the 21st century on the campus of University of North Dakota is that the availability of surplusing is greatly reduced. This reflects both the limited market for older furniture, for example, on campus, and the growing preference for new furniture and the appearance of modernity on campus. Moreover, the new furniture, which is frequently particle board and fairly flimsy especially in comparison to mid-century steel desks is less likely to survive multiple moves across campus. Ironically, the absence of surplus space means that older furniture might be more likely to remain in circulation because at present, facilities does not have a convenient strategy for removing and recycling unused furniture.

The ability to recycle furniture is a more functional observation on the material culture of campus than the decision to preserve or destroy older buildings, but both of these approaches to campus space demonstrate differing concepts of time at play across a university campus. For the former, older office furnishing or technologies that haver persistent use value might be curated and recycled – especially in light of the boom/bust funding cycle provided by grants – but a preference is for newer furniture not because of its superiority in a functional sense, but because of its appearance of newness and contemporary professionalism. Campus buildings sometimes reflect these priorities as well, but thread-worn and patinated buildings likewise have value in that they embody traditional aspirations of universities with ancient practices and habits. Whereas old furniture might exude negative connotations associated with lack of resources or even unprofessional workspaces, old buildings represent the persistent values of a campus and respect for the past. These are not, however, accidental manifestations, any more than deliberate efforts to curate objects of persistent value, but decisions grounded in a strategy designed to shape student, alumni, and even faculty and staff appreciation of campus. Campus patina, then, emerges from multiple places ranging from administrative priorities, curation strategies, informal rituals of every day life, and various accidents that etch experiences into the physical fabric of the university in various social, spatial, and chronological contexts.  

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

It’s the Friday before spring break here in North Dakotaland and we’re bracing for the massive influx of spring break revelers who will come to the Red River Valley to enjoy flat countryside, cold weather, and soggy snow. 

To avoid the rush, I’ll be staying busy on the Wesley College Documentation Project, some college basketballing games on the old TV, some cricket (of course), and some books and writing that need to be attention. Plus, dogs.

If you have to go out into the mob of celebrating students, here are some quick hits and varia:

Teaching Thursday: Using a Building for Unstructured Teaching

This semester I’m teaching two very different classes to a similar (and somewhat overlapping) group of students. The student response to the two different classes is pretty different and I think I have a grasp as to why (although one can never entirely isolate the variables!) and I’m not sure that it’s entirely “fixable,” but it is at least intriguing enough to me to warrant a little blog post.

As a bit of preface, I have always benefited from structure. When structure is absent, I tend to create it. I’m a creature of routines, self-imposed deadlines, and arbitrary, but deeply held goals. Academically, I always sought out structured educational environments and gravitated toward languages which required daily discipline and history which conducted a syncopated rhythm of writing and reading. I have generally tried to bring this sense of structure to my classes, but over the past decade or so of teaching, I’ve found that, in some cases, my love of structure has produced a kind of compliance culture among students who see the structure less as an opportunity to systematically explore a topic and more as a series of tasks to be completed for points and, ultimately, a grade. As a result, I’ve gradually backed off from some of the more structured aspects of classes and now even build open days into my classes so that we have more flexibility to approach a challenging concept or skill or just get a breather. 

This semester, I’m teaching a three-credit honors class on the UND budget and guiding students through the complexities of a large institution with a large budget to get them to understand where various decisions and structures impact their lives. I’ve tried to balance the need for structure and the need for more conversational and exploratory time in the class. Over the semester, though, I’ve probably tipped the balance more toward structure lately. The results have been a bit predictable as the class has slowly slid into a kind of sleepy malaise as the students look to me to frame the next challenge. This isn’t bad, but as we have six weeks left to the semester and the larger project of completing a small book on the budget for students is going to require creativity, energy, and independence. I hope I haven’t stifled that.

Some of the same students are taking another, one-credit, class focused on documenting two buildings associated with Wesley College on UND’s campus and what we’ve called the “Wesley College Documentation Project.” This class is completely unstructured. Aside from causing me some late-night anxiety and following a loose set of practices – for example, we’re systematic in how we document the modern spaces and objects left behind in the building – but the goals of the activity remain pretty open ended. What’s remarkable is that the students are more engaged and enthusiastic.

Of course, the class isn’t even bound by the structure of the classroom, much less the tyranny of the contractual syllabus or a set of well (and narrowly) defined education outcomes. In fact, the class is much more like play than my typical classes. The time in the abandoned buildings is filled with music, laughter, as well as pondering, serious conversations, and unanswered questions. While this isn’t a profound observation, I wonder whether students don’t actually get more out of such an open-ended, play-oriented class.