Doctoral Student Adam Tramantano Launches New Digital Journal

by Timothy Ignaffio

"Charlie Parker" by Adam Tramantano

“Charlie Parker” by Adam Tramantano

I recently had a chance to chat with Adam Tramantano, a doctoral student in English Education as well as a part-time instructor in Arts and Humanities. Adam is also a full-time teacher at The Bronx High School of Science, and has recently launched an open-access, peer-reviewed Journal of Improvisation in Professional Practice. You can read more about the journal, and access the call for papers here: http://improvpractice.cdrs.columbia.edu/.

How long was the Journal in the making?

I’ve been working with the folks at Columbia Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS) since about the beginning of September, 2014. They’ve guided me through every level, from the statement of the scope and focus of the Journal, to outreach and website hosting.

What caused you to start the Journal?

The practical reason I started the Journal was to create a central forum, a discourse community surrounding improvisation in the work place. My research is on how improvisation works in the English classroom. As I’ve been working with the idea of improvisation, I’ve reflected on some of the other work I’ve done, and I’ve thought about how relevant improvisation was to those jobs.

I think we want to talk about what we do for a living. We often ask the question “what do you do?” when we meet people at social gatherings. The question comes from a good place, but we can improve it.  The Journal’s mission is to capitalize on that inclination to talk about our work by shifting the question to a much more challenging and interesting one to ask about work: how do you play?  We have certain maxims of common wisdom about work, and we sometimes overlook their implications. Implied in the phrase “all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy” is the idea that work isn’t play. But, what if we shifted that slightly with the idea that some work is play?  And then we shift that even more with the notion of serious play. We arrive at the question, how do you seriously play in your work? Improvisation is serious play that, I believe, in most work is necessary.  It’s necessary not only to get things done in a practical sense, but more importantly it’s necessary as a sustaining force in making work relevant to who we are.

What do you hope for it to achieve?

My vision for the Journal is that it publishes scholarly research on improvisation in work that contributes to the complex inquiries surrounding both of the terms “work” and “improvisation.” I also hope to expand the definition of “professional practice” to all types of work, including work that students do, such as internships and extracurricular activities. These kinds of activities are crucial in shaping our professional selves, and our experiences with this early work ought to be part of the dialogue. While the Journal seeks scholarly work, the narratives section creates a space for reflections and first-person narratives that serve as testaments to individual experience with improvisation in work. The narratives section recognizes that we all have something to say about this topic, whether we’re researching it academically or not.