When I returned to graduate school in 2004 I was excited to plunge back into Theory, circling back to many of the great thinkers I had missed in college.
As an undergrad I had always preferred courses which focused on one or two texts, and was skeptical of survey courses. I wanted to immerse myself in the worldview of great thinkers, not just skim the surface. I have always preferred albums to soundtracks — if I like one song by a band, chances are I will like the album.
When selecting my courses that first semester back I was deliberating between courses, including Frank and Robbie’s legendary Readings in Communication Theory and Social Thought. Though I was unfamiliar with the works of most of the theorists on the syllabus, I was still hesitant to sign up for a “Greatest Hits” course. That is, until a fellow member of my cohort made the convincing case that the syllabus to this class is essentially Frank and Robbie’s book on Comm and Social Theory!
That class deeply impacted me and permanently altered the course of my education (and identity). To this day, the seminal theorists they selected continue to appear in many of the works I read, and I feel like they have given me a foundation in social, cultural, and critical theory that few could have provided.
Over the years I have continued to study with Robbie – in both formal and informal settings. We have worked together on Studyplace.org, in an experimental course that was structured an educational design studio, and in his grand formal instructional finale, My Canon.
He has always given me wise and thoughtful advice, and I am continually blown away by his boundless energy and curiosity. His drive to learn about new ideas and technologies, his radical openness, and his willingness to take experimental risks – on ideas, on students, and on worldviews – makes students 1/3 his age seem conservative, sluggish, and slow to adopt. If we could figure out how to spread his faith in people’s autonomous agency I think we would solve many of humanity’s most urgent problems.
Good luck on the next phase of your intellectual career!