Columns, Features, Gettin' Fresh

Gettin’ Fresh

The area of an iPhone screen is 11.249 square inches. That’s all you get. Eleven, square, middle-finger-to-the-metric-system-ing inches. Moving on to the next part of the unofficial Mac student uniform, a MacBook Pro’s screen is about ten times larger than the iPhone’s. An iMac in the library? That’s not much better either.

Okay, now I’m done. There’s a reason I’ve provided you this riveting story of screen acreage: it’s time to end the injustice of working on these small screens forever. That’s right, folks; it’s time to re-embrace the whiteboard.

Sure, Macalester might be a haven for actual social justice, but I truly think it’s worth your time to divert your attention away from real causes like AIDs, poverty and general hegemony for a minute so we can boycott some very useful modern technology for some old-fashioned chalk boards.

Here’s what I’m saying. Basically, we spend our entire academic lives at Mac working in tiny little boxes. Be it on a laptop, computer or dapperly-alternative Moleskin notebook (I’m looking at you, everyone), 99.9 percent of the time, our work is significantly confined by some small physical box.

To me, it’s not just the work that gets confined when this happens; your mind is caged in too. After all, there’s no cumbersome scroll bar in your brain. We make random associations all the time, free from constraints. For example, every time I hear President Obama’s voice, I think about Little League baseball—on second thought, though, that one might make sense given his love of ill-fitting dad jeans and sports metaphors.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that in our minds, we basically can access whatever, whenever. Having to incessantly scroll down pages of a Google Doc or flip through pages of a notebook creates a temporal and physical barrier that impedes what we see and how we see it. Facts and ideas are disconnected physically, so in a way, they are also disconnected in our heads. That’s where whiteboards come in.

I’m not really sure why I’m so passionate about this—perhaps it is to appear even cooler following my Runescape column—but lately I’ve taken to using whiteboards rather than my computer or notebook whenever possible.

The first time I tried this method out was the night before an oral argument for a case in my Constitutional Law class. I won’t bore you with the specifics of the case, but what I will say is that the case was so complex my dear old computer’s little bitty screen could not handle alllllll of dat jurisprudence.

With such an enormous amount of knowledge to memorize, I took myself, my pocket Constitution and my American flag cup—her name is The Fountain of Democracy—to Old Main and scribbled all over that wall like a convict with OCD. In my wavy, third-grade-level handwriting, I covered the entirety of the board with everything I needed to know about the case: the facts, the arguments, the rulings, the hilarious puns based on Justice Sotomayor’s last name, you name it. Then came arrows, numbers, stars and my desperate plea that my work not be erased while I was at dinner. (Side note on that last part, if you write ‘SAVE. PLEASE. I’m going to dinner and I’ll be right back,’ on a whiteboard, make sure you remember to come back and erase your handiwork. According to a friend of mine, a professor apparently took me at my written word the next day and taught a whole class on pirates with my shenanigans still on the board in the background).

Digressions aside, being able to physically see each part of that case was a total game changer. It was like having a bird’s eye view of the forest instead of getting lost in the trees. Don’t go all Office Space on your MacBook just yet, but if you have ever become tired of looking into a tiny screen all day, or if you just just want to feel like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, give it a shot. Between the group study rooms in the library and empty classrooms during the day, there are enough free whiteboards around campus to make a Staples night manager pee his khakis in jealousy, so have at it!

Because I’ve spent the last 754 words talking about whiteboards, I’m going to go kick over some trash cans or something to earn back my street cred. Peace out.

December 6, 2013

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