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One of the new Big Questions courses offered at AUC beginning this spring is called Big Questions in Time. In this course, students are asked to examine the central question “what is time” from a variety of different disciplinary perspectives.

The course begins with a series of expert lectures and is typically followed by an excursion. For their final assignment, students are challenged to create “art objects that materialise different aspects of time”.

What is time?

Time is a central concept in our thinking, but has profoundly different meanings in different disciplines. During the course Big Questions in Time, students are encouraged to explore how these perspectives are different and focus on developing interdisciplinary skills to understand these differences and work on a number of case studies to apply this understanding to practical problems. Topics include measuring time, the historical development of the time concept, deep time, space-time, time and age, the reality of the present, past and future, time as a cultural concept and time as a social construct.

Unexpected issues with time

AUC lecturers Anco Lankreijer, Joost Krijnen and Dora Achourioti, in close collaboration with the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, developed this course for teaching interdisciplinary skills. Needless to say, the course ran into some unexpected twists due to the sudden outbreak of the coronavirus, which made teaching and learning about time into an adventure for both staff and students: trespassing into other disciplines, working with very different people, and of course teaching and learning online.

As time progressed, staff and students started experiencing time in new ways: students found themselves in different time zones, teachers had to be in two places at one time (at home and at work), and the flow of time itself was felt to be different. Time started becoming a pertinent issue.

Adapting to change

In order to allow coursework to proceed as planned, the lecturers started developing creative ways to adapt the course, lessons and assignments. Students adapted with them, accepting the challenge and using new technologies to develop imaginative solutions to fit the circumstances. One could say that they adapted to the challenges of their time, moving lectures to virtual spacetime and learning a lot in the process. One of the most prevalent, physical components of the course, the excursion to Zaanse Schans, was instead transformed into a digital visit to the Museum of Time in Tehran which is rooted in the Persian tradition of timekeeping.

Visit the virtual exhibition

To add a ceremonious ending to the atypical first edition of the course, the lecturers and students were inspired to create their own museum with their self-produced installations manifesting time. If you can't join the official opening, visitors are invited to have a look at the digital museum and read more about their unique and artistic manifestations of time by following the link below.

Big Questions courses at AUC

Part of the Academic Core, all students take at least one Big Questions course during their time at AUC. These courses approach 'big questions' in science and society by examining theories and methods from the sciences, social sciences and humanities. By taking a Big Questions course, students transcend their major and develop interdisciplinary skills, such as the ability to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams and to recognise and integrate different disciplinary perspectives.