How will the course be structured, and how do you see the environment playing into lectures and themes in the course?

The environment is carefully integrated to play into the theme of the class. Parts of the 2020 program will be structured similarly to the 2019 summer class. With the updated program, the first 3 days students will be immersed in the local culture, with each other, and the instructors through various activities: lectures and discussions in the morning, museum visits, and group activities in the evening, such as film screenings and games. Afternoons will be open to siesta or swimming. It is hot in the summer in Crete and rest or cooling is appreciated in the afternoons.

The 4th day is a full-day field trip to a place of cultural and historical significance (Spinalogka) and a time to reflect and debrief at the beach. The 5th day is a Sunday and is unscheduled but students will be encouraged to explore on their own. The 6th day is another field trip to a place of cultural and historical significance (Arkadi) with some time planned in Rethymnon. The next three days will have invited speakers from the University of Crete and discussions on our topics of interest. The final six days will be structured as needed for individual or group projects and mentoring, culminating in presentations and a debrief on the last day. Students may also plan trips to nearby locations, including Santorini.

Is there a specific reason why you chose Greece, either because of the history or the atmosphere there?

The lead instructor of the class is a dual citizen (Greek/US), born in the US and raised in Athens with roots from the Peloponnese. Gotsis fell in love with Crete when she was traveling there as a college student in 1999. A veritable Odysseus herself after 20 years of being gone from Greece and in search of a return to an “Ithaka”, Gotsis vowed to find a way to teach a class in Crete five years ago and the rest is history. She sought and built local partnerships and continues to prep the class all year long so that students can have a unique experience. Cultural immersion is a great way to foster a transdisciplinary environment and Gotsis found that it was hard to explain many of the philosophical and experiential values she holds close to heart while away from her “home”.

Crete is an exceptional place to explore complex topics. It is an island with rich and dense history (Minoan, Roman, Orthodox, Venetian, Ottoman, Modern). It contains the urban and rural in close proximity, and it is home to the University of Crete, which is a high-ranking university. Gotsis spent her sabbatical there in 2018 in order to design the course.

Far away from Athens, Heraklion is a smaller but bustling walkable city where locals, students, and tourists co-exist. It is a place where history has left its mark, for better or worse, and the impact of the austerity and financial crisis are still visible. Lastly, Cretan hospitality is legendary. This is the island of Zeus who demands that strangers are to be treated like family. Prepare to be spoiled and loved if you are willing to open your heart.

How will this differ from the first iteration?

The first iteration was focused on Compassionate Technologies. We sought to explore and describe principles and concepts that could lead to the design, implementation, and evaluation of technologies with an emphasis on compassion and vulnerable populations. Connecting the past to the present via lectures, films, and experiences helped students connect the dots, articulate these issues coherently, and bring them back into their own practice. A publication is in progress from the results of the 2019 class.

In 2020, we have completely new themes. Some of the cultural experiences are the same, but we will seek out what is relevant to this year’s theme. Finally, the course has been optimized to have fewer lectures and more interactive experiences, and group activities, as well as even more time with the instructors.

What is it about technology that lead specifically to rituals of transition, and metaphysics?

The instructors will lead lectures and discussions to help students think about these things. We don’t want to give everything away, but watch out for the preliminary readings and recommended films and games, and you will start connecting the dots 🙂

What is expected of each student in terms of a final project or just assignments throughout the course?

Students are expected to do some of the preliminary readings and also prepare a presentation on their work (to present themselves) and on their topics of interest. Students will be asked to interview each other in pairs at the end of the experience using a semi-structured interview protocol provided by the instructor. Finally, they will be asked to present as individuals or in groups new ideas they wish to pursue relevant to the topic, speculative or planned. Some work is to be done before and after the class (some meetings for prep and some brief reflective writing).

While it is not expected to produce a project, the sharing of new ideas that advance each student’s creative, scholarly, or professional practice will be encouraged. The hardest part of the class is being there: critical yet curious, compassionate yet measured, self-caring yet pleasure-seeking. Giving your full presence daily and processing everything new will be demanding. A final deliverable in the material sense is not required and it tends to come much later after the course is long done with.

Students who took the class in 2019 described it as “life-changing”. That is far more satisfying to the instructor than any deliverable that can be produced in two weeks. USC students have enough classes where they make things and write plenty. Gotsis has a simple agenda: giving students an opportunity to evolve their mind and spirit in an intentional manner through a focused practice. This is the most important deliverable and if you are successful at it, you will bring that with you wherever you go in your life.