By: Hailey Temple
When Star Trek fans gathered in Las Vegas, Nevada to attend the Official Star Trek Convention last weekend, Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) Assistant Professor of Practice Anthony Rotolo was invited to share how he is using the culture and technology surrounding the show to teach his class, “Star Trek and the Information Age.”
The “Star Trek and the Information Age” course, referred to by the hashtag #TrekClass on Twitter, explores issues related to current technology, societal challenges, and leadership problems as seen through the lens of the sci-fi television franchise. Rotolo uses Star Trek episodes as launching points for class discussions, where he engages students through social media and collaborative blogging. This fall marks the fourth semester that the class is offered at the iSchool. While students do not have to be Star Trek fans to take the class, Rotolo says “I can’t promise you won’t be a huge Star Trek fan by the time you complete the course.”
Rotolo had the opportunity to speak on the main stage at the convention, where he treated thousands of enthusiastic Star Trek fans to a sample of a Trek Class lesson and discussion. Though Rotolo admits speaking to this large crowd was intimidating, the passion and excitement the crowd had during the presentation and at the convention made his experience unforgettable. “The Star Trek fan base is so inspired by the culture, so it was exciting to speak to an audience about the topics I cover in class,” says Rotolo. “It was incredible looking into the audience and seeing people dressed as Star Trek characters, and it was especially great that they understood all my Star Trek jokes and references without having to explain them.”
As Rotolo starts his class this semester, assisted by his teaching assistant and “First Officer” Meghan Dornbrock, who also attended the conference, he hopes to introduce the concept of the “Geek Girl” to his students. “Most students think Star Trek has a small female fan base, but in reality it is about half and half,” says Rotolo. “I would like to encourage more female students to get involved in Trek Class and see the role women play in Star Trek and in the world of technology as a whole.”
The Official Star Trek Conference, which was held at the Rio Suites in Las Vegas from August 9 to August 12, gathered fans and vendors to speak about and share their mutual love for Star Trek. The conference featured several other speakers who focused on Star Trek culture and the future of space exploration. Attendees were also able to meet the actors from the series, as over 70 celebrities, including William Shatner, Kate Mulgrew, and Avery Brooks spoke and took photos with fans.