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In the Fall of 2011, Wendy Hsu and Shanna Lorenz decided to link their students’ work and connect it to the public though the creation of Oxy Music Connection, “a celebration of the diverse soundscape of Los Angeles, features performance and venue reviews and showcases articles by Occidental College students intended to inspire the Oxy community to listen beyond the boundaries of the campus.”

Oxy Music Connection Banner

The portal is a mash up of venue and concert reviews conducted by Lorenz’s ethnomusicology students and Hsu’s Race, Gender and Popular Music CSP students. According to Hsu, the site is still in “beta-testing phase,” but the end goal is to create an on-line venue guide that showcases student work in a way that requires students to get out into Los Angeles and to collaborate with one another to critically analyze and report on their experiences.

Hsu and Lorenz chose the on-line publishing platform WordPress as their site of collaboration. WordPress is similar to other blogging platforms like Blogger, Tumblr, or even the Blog feature in Moodle (in fact, WordPress is what powers this Knowledge Base). The advantages of WordPress are that it facilitates the integration of audiovisual media from other on-line sources (like Blogger or Tumbler) and it privileges text (like Moodle or traditional newspapers). The WordPress format, in conjunction with Hsu and Lorenz’s assignments, compels students to display relevant media and create in depth textual commentary about that media, as Hsu describes:

WordPress allowed “students to juxtapose course concepts with the kinds of things they already do in their daily lives like YouTube. WordPress’ omnipresence and linkability to cultural platforms like YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes made it easy to ask students to create the content they wanted to talk about while framing it in a way that is most productive to our discussion of concepts from class.”

WordPress, unlike Moodle’s blogger feature, is public, which highlights the necessity of clear, polished writing, as well as the need to conceptualize an audience for that writing. The publicness of WordPress also lead to some unplanned interactions between students and scholars at other institutions, as Hsu describes:

I have used the hashtag #racegenderpop [on Twitter] to talk about the students’ blog and that instigated a number of responses from my Twitter followers, one of which is this woman who doing media studies at George Mason. She said this [CSP] course has transformed her life. She took time to look at each students’ work and made a few comments in a Tweet about how impressed she was about the ways in which my students were transforming what seems to be ordinary media — pop music content — to the level of having a critical lens. So I really think the students got a kick out of it and it really reinforced the importance of being responsible and serious and respectful writers.

Oxy Music Connection is an open forum for collaboration across music related courses at Oxy. Hsu and Lorenz solicit additional faculty and student collaborators. Contact hsuw at oxy.edu or lorenz at oxy.edu to get involved.