The Bubble Bursts
by Erik Gomez, Major: English
by Jacob Parkins, Major: philosophy
Both myself and Jacob Parkins (graduating seniors, Class of ’02) originally submitted a project proposal to the King Creativity Fund Program in October 2001, entitled, “The Bubble Bursts.” In it, we suggested creating an explorative, short documentary film that would attempt to discover and document various perceptions and experiences of Southwestern University’s “identity” (specifically that of its campus and student body) as they were formed/shaped in the talk/opinions between members of the school and the outside community of Georgetown. We advanced this proposal primarily because we each observed the following conditions within our own student experiences: 1) a type of “distance” existing between the university and the outside community, and 2) the formation of a “bubbled” atmosphere described in our proposal as “the experience of feeling closed off and ‘air-tight’ from culture(s) exterior to the campus.” At the beginning of this project, we hypothesized that the “distance” between the school and the community occurred as a result of insufficient (or absent) communication, socialization, and mutual identification between both populations. Additionally, we felt that the “bubble” metaphorically encapsulating Southwestern’s campus presented an inherent risk regarding its organizational identity by allowing popular stereotypes/heresay about the identities of the students and local residents to separately remain where actual conversations and interactions could happen. Therefore, we prescribed a documentary film as way of providing a visual, boundary-crossing investigation into this issue, placing on-camera stories, experiences, and faces from both the university and the community in dialogue with each other. We anticipated creating a half-hour, digitally-shot documentary video that drew upon statements and insights from various civic authority, business, and organizational representatives in Georgetown, as well as those from members of the university’s staff and student body. With funding graciously provided by a $3000.00 KCF grant, we were able to purchase a Canon GL-1 broadcast-grade digital video camera and professional accessories. We also utilized additional sound and editing equipment at no extra cost from the university’s Audio-Visual Services Department at the Smith Library, as well from the Southwestern University Independent Filmmakers Association. With these combined resources, we were able to proceed forward in our field research and solicitation of interview subjects by early January 2002.
Since our shooting began in late February 2002, we have encountered and interviewed multiple subjects from both the local community and the university. Community subjects presently include members from Georgetown’s City Council, Police Department, locally-owned/operated businesses, Georgetown Heritage Society, the Williamson County Sun office, and patrons at city-sponsored events. University subjects presently include current members of the administration, as well as students who are off-campus residents and/or are involved in activities/organizations outside the campus. Among our interviews, we have discovered common threads of description and identification concerning the university and Georgetown from both sides. Many of our subjects unanimously celebrate the efforts of the university in providing a space for learning and diverse education, suggesting that Southwestern is considered an invaluable (and desirable) part of the larger community as a reputable institution. Likewise, many subjects concur upon the appeal of Georgetown as a small town whose history and rural environment are appreciated and desired by all. Interesting to note, however, is the somewhat uniform questioning of Georgetown as a “college town” by our subjects (implying Southwestern’s non-dominating role in the community). Also significant are the range of features and characteristics used to describe identities of the “other” (i.e., students’ descriptions of residents as “townies”), and citizens’ experiences of the university primarily according to the arts events it promotes. Questions which probe the sentiments both citizens and students possess towards each other yield favorable opinions, yet also cite the need for greater communication, networking, and positive socializing between them. The documentary film is in its final shooting stages, then will proceed to post-production editing where a final product can be completed by late April/early May for a campus-wide viewing. Copies of the documentary will be given to the university for their own archives. Ideally, the information presented may prove useful for marketing and public relations research purposes in the near future, as well as inspire continuing related studies of the university’s identity and its presence in the larger community of Georgetown.