Requirements + Assignments

ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION

Our class is a mix of seminar and workshop, and its success depends on your regular attendance and reliable participation. We need each other to show up on time, having completed the readings, and prepared to engage constructively and respectfully with one another. See “Policies and Procedures,” for more on our commitment to inclusion and respect.

[I apologize for the pedantry of the following. Yet recent semesters’ experience has demonstrated that such specificity is unfortunately necessary.]

If you must be absent, please notify me in advance. One absence will not affect your grade. Two absences will result in a “one step” reduction in your final grade (i.e., from an A to an A-). Three absences will result in a “two-step” reduction. Four absences will result in failure of the course; to avoid the ‘F’ on your transcript, I’ll instead advise you to withdraw from the class. Please note that absences include those days you might miss at the beginning of the semester because of late registration.

I am required by The New School to take attendance at the start of class. Students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will be marked absent. Your timely arrival is appreciated. 

While I am happy to work with you to tailor the class’s content and assignments to your interests, and to help you develop strategies for project planning and time management – and while I aim to be sympathetic to the challenges students face both inside and outside the classroom – I ask that you please also respect my time and acknowledge my heavy load of responsibilities. I cannot allow expectations for accommodation to compromise my own health.

Attendance and participation are worth 15% of your final grade.

READING RESPONSES 

I don’t ask students to complete assignments if I won’t have an opportunity to thoroughly review them and offer meaningful feedback. Because all of my classes this semester are new, and all will thus require extensive weekly preparation, I unfortunately won’t have time to review traditional reading responses.

Instead, we’ll “design” our responses into a weekly slide deck, a commonly used rhetorical mode / pitch strategy in the design world. On four occasions throughout the semester — roughly once every three weeks — I ask you to “design” a single slide that crystallizes your response to the week’s readings; your slide could include a passage of text you found resonant or problematic, a list of questions you’d like us to address in our discussion, a self-made diagram or sketch that illustrates concepts you found most salient, a photograph or short video of a real-life experience that enacts some of the key concepts from the readings, etc. Choose a format that aesthetically embodies the spirit of your ideas, and be sure to include your name! If you’d like some examples of inventive/subversive uses of slide decks, check out this Arena channel!

Please post by 4pm on Tuesday before class. Your four slides are collectively worth 10% of your final grade.

GROUP MINI-ETHNOGRAPHY: WAITING

Instead of meeting in the classroom on October 22, you’ll meet in small groups, anytime between October 15 and 28, to observe a site where people, other creatures, or things wait: to check out at the grocery story, to check in at the airport, to be fed, to drive through the Lincoln Tunnel, to see the doctor, to talk to a customer service agent on the phone, etc. You’ll find more detailed guidelines here. Each group should come to class on October 29 prepared to share an informal five-minute presentation summarizing their findings. You’re welcome to use slides and other media, share collected artefacts, etc. Your participation is worth 10% of your final grade.

PROJECT PROPOSAL + PRESENTATION

By mid-semester you should choose a topic that you’d like to explore through your final project (this topic will also inform how we organize our student-led lessons in November; more below). You might choose to write a paper using secondary research, conduct a mini-ethnography, or create a research-based design project. I’ll ask you to share a proposal by 5pm on Friday, October 11, so I have sufficient time to read and respond before our in-class workshop on the 15th.

Your 1200- to 1500-word proposal should include the following: 

  • A description of your proposed research topic and the critical issues or larger debates that are at stake;
  • A brief discussion of your topic’s significance (to your discipline, to a broader public, to you), timeliness, relevance, etc.;
  • If applicable, a description of your ethnographic site, why it’s appropriate for your investigation, how you plan to gain access, and what ethical or safety issues you might encounter; 
  • A description of your desired mode of publication or dissemination: do you plan to write a research paper, propose a (hypothetical) online exhibition, curate a selection of designed fieldnotes, make a documentary film, create a work in hybrid form, etc.?
  • A discussion of your target audience(s): who would you like to reach with this work, and how are your proposed modes of publication appropriate for these groups? 
  • A tentative bibliography of at least 10 sources, including at least five scholarly publications

Then, in class on Tuesday, October 15, you’ll each take no more than three minutes to (informally) share your plans (no need for slides!) — and we’ll use our remaining time to identify thematic clusters among your projects. We’ll ultimately choose three themes, which will become the foci for our student-led lessons in November, during which you’ll have much more time to share your work. Your proposal and presentation are together worth 15% of your final grade.

STUDENT-LED LESSON

There are so many different topics, themes, objects, sites, and systems we can explore through the anthropology+design lens. Rather than trying to predict which would be of most interest and relevance to you, I figured we’d allow the class to evolve in response to your individual and collective curiosities. And given that our group represents a wide array of disciplinary backgrounds and experiences, I also figured we should take advantage of that diversity by giving each of you an opportunity to shape our pedagogical environment.

We’ll organize you into loose thematic clusters (e.g., “designing care,” “designing bureaucracy,” “designing surveillance,” whatever) based on your final project plans. This is kind-of how conference panels and edited collections work: you take several folks’ individual, and often idiosyncratic, interests; and you try to build a coherent framework around — and draw connections between — their individual contributions, putting them into dialogue with one another, hoping that the ensemble becomes something more than the sum of its parts. Building such connections is a form of intellectual generosity and creativity. 

Your group will lead the class, with my assistance, on one day in November. Each of you will be responsible for the following:

  • Choosing a reading / listening / screening assignment — anything that takes a half-hour or less — for your colleagues to complete before class; this could entail a ~15-page article, a ~30-minute podcast, excerpts of an online video, media in other formats, or some combination of the above. 
  • Offering an individual, ten-minute presentation in which you share your own research interests with the class, while connecting it to the week’s theme;
  • Working with your group to (1) “design” some form of intellectual and creative “scaffolding” that ties your individual presentations together and (2) determine how you’d like to use the remaining class time — e.g., open discussion, small-group activities, a design exercise, etc. 

I am happy to contribute both to the lesson and its preparation. In fact, I ask that you meet with me (ideally as a group!) at least two weeks prior to your assigned presentation date. You must have finalized your reading assignments two weeks prior to your date so we can distribute them to your colleagues; please send me a comprehensive list with links to / copies of all materials, so I can add it to our syllabus and website.

Your presentation is worth 15% of your final grade.

FINAL PROJECT + PRESENTATION

Your final project could take the form of: 

  • a (4000- to 6000-word) written research paper, 
  • an illustrated ethnographic report of similar length, or 
  • a research-based creative project with a 600-word support paper in which you address the critical, methodological, and design/aesthetic issues you aimed to explore through your work, explain how your chosen format aided in that exploration, and provide a bibliography listing the critical resources that informed the project. 

Projects are before class on December 10 and are worth 20% of your final grade. Sharing your work in our end-of-semester presentation is worth 5% of your final grade.

We’ll dedicate our class on December to sharing your final work — but we’ll collaboratively “design” the format in which that sharing happens: it could be a series of concurrent roundtable discussion; a “pin-up,” like those we’d see at a design critique (but much friendlier!); a “poster session,” as we’d find at a conference; an underwater salon; or something entirely different.