Monday, January 7, 2013

Animation for teaching philosophy

Last semester I used several of the "Three Minute Philosophy" videos available on YouTube, as part of the Introduction to Philosophy course I was teaching. They're quick, funny, and summarize key points for the students, as well as add a visual interpretation of some of the more abstract points in philosophical arguments. I also used Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal or other comics which had philosophical narratives: for example, this Utility Monster allegory.

Of course, there aren't such videos available for everything I was teaching, and if you Google for animations on philosophical topics, you'll often come up with a combination of: 1) shoddily made animations, 2) very lengthy videos, and 3) inaccurate interpretations. So I've decided to start making my own videos. I asked for, and received, some Christmas presents to help with this process:

A Bamboo Splash pen tablet means I don't have to draw on paper and then scan the results into my computer. I can also use the tablet for note-taking and marking on PDFs.
Anime Studio software lets me create short cartoons from my own art (or by importing characters that come with the software).

There's a steep learning curve with the software, so I don't know that this semester (especially given dissertation-writing responsibilities) will see a lot of animations. However, drawing for philosophy gives me a way to get back to one of my favorite hobbies while still being productive. I'm a teaching assistant this spring for Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, and I'd like to animate Anselm's Ontological Argument (and Gaunilo's response). I haven't seen a good, short version of these online yet. That's in progress. In the meantime, I drew up a quick little cartoon explaining the concept of theodicy:
I've got a lot of ideas for cartoons, with the goal that they're accessible for intro students and at the same time are an accurate representation of the philosophical views. Perhaps a philosophy webcomic is in the future?