I went to Swindon today. It’s not the first time it’s happened, but it doesn’t happen often. I was invited to give a guest lecture to two mixed groups of Music Technology and Media Studies A-level students.
The teacher had been careful to prep me with the curriculum and the kinds of questions the students would be tested on in the exams, but of course, I had slightly different ideas. Not that I told them the wrong sorts of things, but I took a step back from it all and asked them to question the whole premise of their research.
They were looking at the impact of the digital world on the music industry, and had been allocated two case studies and given the freedom to pick a third. The two shared case studies were Beyoncé and Take That. Examples I was given of third choices included Radiohead and Amy Winehouse.
But these case studies aren’t indicative of anything. They’re outliers. Extreme cases. It’s like trying to learn how people go about making a salary by using Bill Gates and the Sultan of Brunei as case studies. It’s like trying to learn about the housing market by examining the White House and the Houses of Parliament.
I introduced the students to a little Media Ecology, explained to them why MySpace was not a digital company but an electric one and other tales.
I think it might be wise for the two groups to compare notes. I seem to recall saying completely different things and telling completely different stories to each. I think the core messages were the same, but it would pay to check.
But it was such a luxury to get two packed, attentive young audiences. I’ve been used to groups of 4 and 5 MA students and individual postgrad supervision tutorials. Between 16 and 19, and still at a point where they’re there because they’ve chosen to be for the first time in their academic lives, there’s an energy and interest that is such a joy to teach.
Plus, I got to tell them things that a) they were interested in; and b) had NO IDEA about. Had a few “wait… but that means… NO!” moments visible on their faces. Lots of fun.