In-class and online interaction

This is an interactive and generative course that will be run much like a studio. In fact, the design of major course assignments will be left up to the students, who will develop new practices as research-creators. Students are expected to attend each class, be punctual, participate in discussions, and contribute to the blog.

NOTES – 10%
Weekly writings – Due Three Times During the Term. No later than April 1.

The readings in this course are not meant to be forgotten at the end of the term. You should leave the course with key concepts that you can employ in writing, design, and thinking for the rest of your life. To this end, you will should take notes on every reading covered in the course. You are required to submit FOUR sets of notes for grading, including a set to accompany your in-class presentation. It is highly recommended that you submit your first set of notes early in the term to get a sense of the professor’s expectations.

Note-taking method:

1. Do the reading.
2. As you read, underline or outline passages that you feel are of significance. What is significant? Anything that will help you explain the reading to others, anything that reminds you of other readings, anything that coincides with popular culture and current events.
3. Open a new text document and, at the very top, copy the complete and accurate bibliographical information about the article or book.
4. Transcribe the significant passages from your reading and include page numbers.
5. Under each transcribed passage, write a comment about why it is significant (see #2, above).
6. On average, you should write one note for each page of the book or article.

You will be graded primarily on the substance of your comments, but the form of the notes (bibliographical information, proper transcription) will also be taken into account. Typical grading is as follows:
1/5 – a few random summary comments about the text
2/5 – random summary comments with page numbers and bibliographical information
3/5 – direct transcriptions, a few comments, and bibliographical information
4/5 – same as above, but with thoughtful comments that reflect class discussions and other course readings (cross-referencing)
5/5 – same as above, but with comments that quote other course readings and additional research materials (extensive cross-referencing)

Post portions of your notes to the blog if you want feedback from your colleagues (and a better participation grade).

Oral/Audiovisual Discourse on a Text

Each week, a student will be responsible for leading the seminar discussion on a specific reading. Students will prepare a presentation based on the reading(s) for that week covering key points, terms, and points of contention or discussion. The presentation should be as attentive to stimulating discussion as it is to the theatrics of powerpoint. This is not simply a summary of the reading, although it must provide a comprehensive overview of the text; instead, the goal of the presentation is to “translate” the weekly reading so that it is relevant within the context of previous and future course readings and assignments. Presenters should make use of audio/visual materials of their choice to enhance the quality of the presentation. Seminar leaders should not just present the text (and most especially, they should not just read notes from a page) — they should engage their colleagues in a discussion of the issues.

Grade Breakdown:
Comprehensiveness (did you cover the most important parts of the article?): 5%
Relevance (did you relate the reading to other course readings or current events?): 5%
Discussion (did you make an attempt to engage your colleagues in a lively discussion?): 5%
Design (did you make effective use of A/V materials or other interactive methods to enhance the learning experience?): 5%

“CHORA” – 20%
Photo-Essay – Due February 25

What is chora? Where might we find it today? What does it mean to engage in “choragraphic writing”? Based on readings about “chora” covered in class (particularly Ulmer), assemble a photo-essay of 8-10 pages (not including images) in which you explore the concept of “chora” in the context of Kitchener and your own personal spatial history. Students will have access to photo archives for the City of Kitchener (Kitchener Public Library), and a local heritage planner will be available for consultation. The essay should resemble a “generative space” in which a specific Kitchener location merges with an historical event, pop culture, critical theory, and autobiography. Write the paradigm. Additional details will be provided as students collectively design the project.

“THEOCACHING” – 40% total (group + individual essay)

Group Project 20% – Due April 1
Urban explorers go “geocaching.” But students in this class (critical/cultural theorists) go “theocaching.” What does that mean? Students will determine the answer as they work in groups to flesh out a project that combines GPS coordinates, local spatial curiosities, hidden containers, and online spatial theorizations. Theocaching is a form of detournement, an appropriation of space and a repuposing of geocaching tactics. Students will coordinate real and virtual spaces toward the invention of a new mode of critical/cultural theory that is embodied in physical space and conspicuously mediated. Working as a design group, we will configure this project for use by local residents and visitors to the city.

Individual Essay 20% – Due April 8
In addition to the THEOCACHING group project, each individual student will write an essay of 10 pages that documents the project and explains it for an educated audience (not for the professor) by drawing on theoretical readings from the course. This essay should be suitable for use in a short presentation at an academic conference.