Writing and Revising "America"

April 3, 2017
 Writing and Revising "America"

Who decides what stories we hear and what are the implications? How does the process of constructing narratives impact group behavior?

For the past 10 weeks, I had the good fortune of exploring these and other timely questions with a small cohort of students enrolled in The Evergreen State College's Grays Harbor Program. I was hired as an adjunct faculty to teach a course I designed called Enduring Stories. While not an official part of my work here at Window Seat Media, it’s hard to separate my teaching experience this winter from our work and mission at Window Seat Media.

The opportunity arose from a creative collaboration with a faculty who teaches a year-long course on the Harbor called Community Connections. His students were engaging in oral history projects during winter quarter; offering an elective that focused on story added depth to student learning and complemented the Humanities Washington grant project we were working on this year.

Each week in Enduring Stories we read ethnographies, watched documentaries, and listened to podcasts. We thought and talked about the power of listening, and students practiced listening skills by carrying out a story gathering project of their own in their community. About half way through the quarter, one of my students asked, “Are we ever going to answer these questions?” I empathized with her need for clarity and closure. I too struggle living in the grey areas. Part of my goal was to help students look at life through the lens of subjectivity. Our perception, which leads us to act, is based on who we are in the world – our ever shifting individual and group identity.

It’s amazing how much my own thoughts on these qustions have changed over the past few months. It seems we are in the midst of yet another struggle to define “the American story.” Who is an American? Who is not an American? What values and qualities define "America"? Who decides the answers to these questions? Of course, this is not a new struggle. Yet, we do seem to have entered a time of disruption, and we are all authors of this collective story.

As we spring back into action at Window Seat Media (after a bit of a hiatus as I focused on my teaching), we will continue to engage in this conversation through the various facets of our work. We have an exciting line-up of Resilience Project events, new video projects, and more. Stay tuned!

​Until soon,

Elaine Vradenburgh
​Founder + Curator
Window Seat Media