Thinking about space, CAS’s 2012 Spring Colloquium approaches

So you think you know what space is, what it means? Begin putting your brain to the task of thinking about what the word actually means and plan to spend several days in March having those concepts and definitions challenged by the students faculty and staff of SIUE’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).

This is the 8th year for CAS’s Spring Colloquium. The purpose of the Colloquium is to provide a platform for students, faculty and community members to talk about specific topics from a wide array of perspectives. Past years’ topics included “Thinking about America,” “Thinking about the University,” “Thinking about the Environment,” “Thinking about Religion,” “Thinking about Masculinity,” “Thinking about Empire,” and “Thinking about Evolution.”

This years Colloquium will focus “Thinking About Space,” according to Larry LaFond, associate professor of English language and literature, associate dean of CAS, and member of the Colloquium Steering Committee.

“One of the concepts behind the colloquium is to come up with a topic that is broad enough that all of our different departments can participate, if they choose,” said LaFond. “This year, we dedicated the SIUE Observatory, so we have been thinking about outer space, but realized that ‘space’ in general would be a good topic that would be broad.”

LaFond stated there are so many definitions for the word space that it really opens up the possibilities for topics for presenters and attendees to challenge their ideas of how space is defined.

“If you go to the dictionary, you’re going to find a couple of dozen different definitions of space. You can start to think about outer space–which is what some folks do–some of our friends in the Physics Department will be doing some things related to that,” said LaFond. “There’s outer space, but then there’s all sorts of different ways to understand the word space–outer spaces, inner spaces, space as a sort of expanse where there is an emptiness or a void. You can talk about space in a closet or space in your garage, talk about being out of space. In music, space is talked about as the intervals within a stave. In mathematics, they talk about Hilbert’s space, metric space. In journalism, they say watch this space for new developments– there’s lots of ways to think about space.”

This year’s colloquium will have 166 presenters from across the university, but mainly from CAS, according to LaFond.

“We had people from across the college–and across the university–submit proposals to participate in the colloquium. We have them from 16 different units. We have about 166 different people involved in one or more presentations as a part of the colloquium and around 80 of them are students,” said LaFond. “We’re very happy with the level of participation as far as presenters. We’re up from last year. Student participation remains robust.”

LaFond stated that presentations would range from posters to exhibitions, an art therapy session, star gazing, using digital media to reshape scholarly spaces, space in traditional Chinese philosophy, papers, performances, a bus tour to East St. Louis, featured presentations, construction of a separation wall, just to name a few presentations.

LaFond stated that some of the ways of thinking about space may be challenging for the participants because of the variety and history of some of the topics.

“A different kind of understanding of space, Lani van Eck is going to be coming. You might think about this more in terms of contested national spaces. She’s an anthropologist who co-founded in Wall, South Dakota the Wounded Knee Museum back in 2003. What she’s going to be doing on the 28th is a two-hour multimedia presentation. She talks about Wounded Knee because it was the last major military action of the U.S. against the native peoples of this country.”

The first night of the Colloquium, at 7:00 p.m. will have a feature presentation by Story Musgrave, a NASA astronaut for over 30 years who flew on six spaceflights, performed the first shuttle spacewalk on Challenger’s first flight, was a pilot on an astronomy mission, conducted two classified DOD missions, was the lead spacewalker on the Hubble Telescope repair mission and on his last flight, operated an electronic chip manufacturing satellite on Columbia, according to the Colloquium call for papers.

According to the call for papers, the second night, at 7:30 p.m., will feature the combined orchestras of SIUE and SIUC presenting “Out of this World.” The orchestras will feature a performance of Gustav Holst’s stellar musical depiction of the solar system, “The Planets” along with world famous Philadelphia Orchestra’s phenomenal concertmaster, David Kim, performing Saint-Saëns’ 3rd Violin Concerto.  Out of this World is a ticketed event, contact Arts and Issues at 618-650-5774.

“What’s really interesting this year for me is the great variety of kinds of activities–the star gazing, the separation wall, art therapy, traditional presenters, multi-media presentations,” said LaFond. “There is a lot of varied and interesting things going on and I look forward to seeing it.”

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