The White Board Blues: Objects and Environmental Phenomenology in the Composition Classroom

Allyn West


We have what Alain de Botton calls a "projective proclivity" and are inclined to see ourselves in the objects that surround us. This is true in the composition classroom, where students encounter objects—such as the white dry-erase board—that do not necessarily welcome them. Sometimes, these objects and the spaces they are in can strike us as hostile, preventing the pedagogies we value from happening.

This essay elaborates some of the "projections" we might make on a white board. This essay also discusses recent findings in environmental psychology that have inspired universities to examine their architecture and design practices in pursuit of a more student-centered aesthetic, transforming unused areas into "learning spaces." Finally, this essay tries to decide whether a classroom is a place or non-place, relying on the phenomenological theories of Marc Auge and Michel de Certeau, and in so doing suggests the necessity of an increased sensitivity about the objects in front of which and the spaces in which we find ourselves teaching and leanring.


Place, Non-place, Auge, De Certeau

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