Couch Potato or Tell Me A Good Story

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TK Couch takes over K-Ville before a game.

Summer is a storied time. I don’t mean that it is necessarily better or crazier or worthier, but rather, that in college it’s the time where we create the stories we tell. It’s the one time where everyone isn’t in the same place, and you can bring something new and different to the table. Who wants to hear another story about a party you were all at, when you can listen to your friend’s story about getting lost in a new city on DukeEngage?

Sometime last year, in an effort to avoid more Duke stories, some Team Kenan members were sharing summer stories. Two of them had been on DukeEngage Dublin (which everyone should apply to), and as part of their project worked on something called Intercultural Couch. The students would don youth camp-esque embroidered polos and drag out a couch onto the streets of Dublin to grab passersby. Once the guests were situated on this sofa that had appeared on the sidewalk, the Dubliners would engage them in a conversation on intercultural issues. As one could expect, plenty of great stories developed, and many were shared that day at Kenan.

Then, at some point one of the folks sitting in the room joked, “what if we did this at Duke?”

We paused.

What if we did this at Duke.

It would be weird. It would be new. It could be great.

We began to plan. We could take an inflatable couch around Duke’s campus, plop down and talk to students about the ethical issues in their lives. We knew that there weren’t enough venues for students to tell their stories, and this could be part of the solution.

TK Couch was born.

It’s been popping up around campus for the last few months to engage students on issues from downloading music to sports ethics. We want students to discuss their experiences at Duke and elsewhere. We want to know their stories, because stories are important.

This year, Kenan has been exploring our relationship to the humanities, and I’ve been particularly intrigued by the role that stories play in developing moral people. Recently researchers have found that people who read literary fiction are more well-developed people. I wonder if this applies broadly. Does experience with stories (broadly construed to include novels, folks tales, history, etc.) give us a way to strengthen our moral imagination? I think so. Sure, it’s a simple premise, but one that as a consummate humanist I find compelling. Understanding other people makes us more humane, and in a non-literal sense, human.

That’s the reason I love TK Couch. It has the ability to give insights into our own and others’ experience. I believe we can learn a lot from each other and how we think and feel and live. Kenan is trying to get people to tell the stories that often go untold, because it’s not just the summer stories that matter.

Wanna test it out for yourself? TK Couch will be at the Beyond Blue Borders event at the Nasher on 11/7.