Daniel Barnes

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Creativity and Logic: Block 1

I just finished my first block of class at Colorado College! While FYE classes last for two blocks, the end of this block marks a cadence in my class where we take a short break and get a few days off to relax. I'm fortunately spending the weekend visiting Denver and seeing my friend Hunter, going to her tango class and trombone choir at DU (and hopefully getting a chance to visit my brother at CU Boulder).

This class was so expertly designed, I feel like there's so much that happens behind the scenes in order to keep us questioning what will happen next-- every day was a new development and a new keener sense of awareness of the world around us.

I'd like to talk about the project we did during our second weekend during this block.

The people in our class were split up into groups of three or four (and were arranged by how "different" our thinking styles are, according to a screening we did at the beginning of the block. We learned a lot about how people tend to work with people most similar to them, which is most comfortable but least productive. Working with people who think differently than you gives you a much broader scope of ideas to work off of.)

Anyway, the project was this: WITHOUT using research, we had to answer a series of questions in a quiz game.

Simple as that. But allow me to elaborate more.

Research is looking up information of any kind. This includes:

  • Internet resources (not including texting/e-mailing people with personal connections)
  • Printed Resources
  • Recordings
  • Directories (for example, a phone resource)

The quiz questions were not related to class, but rather, random, very specific trivia. Examples are:

  • When does the first train leave from New Haven to New York on Monday morning?
  • Translate this: Jaldī se ṭhīk ho jāo
  • On what day of the week was John Maynard Keynes born?
  • Identify the origin of the object pictured here:

Our first question: how could we possibly figure these things out?

It became apparent that the only way to follow the rules was to leverage personal connections in order to find the answers to these questions. Basically, we had to find someone who had taken that bus, or spoke that language, or knew a lot about John Maynard Keynes, or had read that book.

We were to submit any answers and documentation of finding answers on Canvas in a group, which was named "6-degrees team C". This was clearly a reference to the "6 degrees of separation" theory, which indicates that every person in the world is connected to every other person by six or less common connections.

Back to the task-- we got to work on figuring out these questions and spread out in different directions based on who we knew.

I'll share a couple personal favorite stories:

  1. To find the time when the train leaves from New Haven to New York, I contacted my dad, who grew up in downtown New York. He told me to ask my mom, because she had family in New Haven. Sure enough, she did-- she got me in touch with her cousin, Howard, who got me in touch with his brother, Allan, who lives in New Haven. Allan walked over to his neighbor's house, and asked, and his neighbor called a friend who gave us the correct answer.
  2. To find what that text translated to, I basically walked around the dining hall staging it as a "trivia game". I asked several groups of people if they knew what the text meant, and I luckily ran into one person who told me it meant "Get well soon!" in Hindi.
  3. To find when John Maynard Keynes was born, I contacted a friend named Joel, who graduated from Basalt two years before I did. He goes to UNC now, and I asked him if he had any friends studying economics. He fortunately did, and he asked his friend who knew his birthdate. I plugged the birthdate into a custom python program which gave me the day of the week.

Now, something that was very interesting to me was the level of investment from random people in trying to solve these problems. People actively wanted to see through to the end of this seemingly meaningless task.

Whenever I asked someone to help me, I would always have to explain the rules-- I need to know the answer, but you can't look it up and neither can I. This immediately sparked some sort of interest and investment, where people felt challenged by the rules and wanted to challenge the rules back. People would ask about loopholes-- "can I look up the answer and then tell you?" (no). And people always wanted to see the questions through to the end.

When I asked my mom's cousin Allan if he knew the answer, he didn't off the top of his head-- and that could have been the end of my path. However, he took the initiative, without my knowledge, to walk over to his neighbor's house and seek out the answer himself. This was endlessly fascinating to me-- that he would take enough interest in my homework to take it on as his own assignment.

Everyone from close people who I contacted (like my parents) to random people (like students in the dining hall) all seemed to be brought together by this strange task, and I feel as though it built some sense of temporary community through solving this task.

It was a lot of fun and I really appreciated all the help I got-- but I feel like this could be indicative of something deeper, something that explains why we want to help people and when. This could be an interesting thing to study in the future, but I feel like I've gotten a cool glimpse into something that I hadn't thought of before.

What a cool assignment.

By Daniel, on September 21, 2017, 11:17 am