Requirements + Assignments

Attendance and Participation: 15%
Reading Response / Discussion Prompt: 10%
Design Justice (Auto-)Ethnography: 15%
Project Proposal and Presentation: 15%
Student-Led Lesson: 20% 
Final Project and Presentation: 25% 

Via Present & Correct

ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION

Our class is a mix of seminar and workshop, and its success depends on your regular attendance and reliable participation. What does it mean to “attend” and “participate in” an online class? It means showing up on time to scheduled class, group, and individual meetings; completing the readings, screenings, and design exercises in advance of each class session; contributing to group discussions and workshops; and being prepared to engage constructively and respectfully with one another. See below, under “Policies and Procedures,” for more on our commitment to inclusion and respect. 

I’m required by The New School to take attendance each week. For our synchronous classes and group meetings, I’ll do so at the beginning of each session. If you arrive late, I could miss you; thus, your timely arrival is appreciated! And for our asynchronous sessions, I’ll look to make sure you’re contributing in accordance with the guidelines spelled out for each activity or assignment. 

While I hope you’ll all be able to join us every week, everyone gets two free absences, no questions asked. I simply request that you please notify me of your absence in advance, if you can, so I can plan group activities accordingly. Any absences in excess of two will impact your attendance grade. If you miss five or more classes, I’ll advise you to withdraw in order to avoid a failing grade. Please note that absences include missed individual and small group meetings, as well as those days you might miss at the beginning of the semester because of late registration. 

I strive to create an inclusive, accommodating classroom – one that’s responsive to students in different time zones, students dealing with tech or connectivity issues; students with specific access needs, etc. –  that should enable (and, I hope, incentivize!) all of you to attend and engage. I surveyed everyone before the semester began in order to assess and respond to your needs and wishes. If additional obstacles or personal challenges arise for you over the course of the semester, please feel free to bring them to my attention; we can work together to discuss alternative means of engagement. I’ll be recording our plenary sessions and saving the chat transcripts, and I’ll make these resources available through a shared Google Drive folder. If you’re unable to join us live, I encourage you to review this material. 

While I’m 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 any challenges you might 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. Please see my deadline policy below. 

Early in the semester we’ll work together to develop a community agreement regarding the principles and practices that will shape our interactions. I’ll post this agreement on our class site for continual reference. 

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

READING RESPONSE / DISCUSSION PROMPT 

In order to ensure that our discussions are responsive to your interests and needs, I invite each of you to sign up for a single session during which you’ll share a discussion prompt / provocation. 

I’m not asking you to draft traditional reading responses. Instead, we’ll “design” our responses in the form of a slide deck, a rhetorical mode / pitch strategy commonly used in the design, tech, and all-purpose grifter worlds. We’ll co-opt the form, have fun with it, elevate the discourse. For your chosen week you’ll create a single slide that crystallizes your response to the week’s readings, collectively, and invites your classmates into dialogue. 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 montage or short video of a case study or personal experience that enacts some of the key concepts from the readings, etc. Ideally, you’d encourage us to think across the various texts we’ll have engaged with for the day, even if through the lens of a single text. Choose a format that aesthetically embodies the spirit of your ideas, and be sure to include your name

Why a single slide? First, because of time constraints: we’ll have several folks sharing each week, and we want to limit the time needed to present these prompts so we can maximize our time for discussion. Second, because the slide format allows you to incorporate multiple media forms – to design your contribution. And third, because constraints can be tremendously generative! Writers are regularly asked to distill complex arguments into 150-word abstracts or blurbs. Artists concentrate their messages and aesthetic sensibilities within spatial and temporal frames. Designers are beholden to design briefs. My partner, a lawyer, is commonly asked to condense convoluted legal principles into single-slide presentations for stakeholders with limited tolerance for legalese 🤪 Compression requires us to abstract, distill, and crystallize – and its occasionally frustrating limitations can prompt us to productively push its boundaries. You’ll find some examples of inventive/subversive uses of slide decks on this Arena channel.

Please post your slide on our shared Google Slide deck before class on your chosen Tuesday. Your slide and short, informal in-class presentation are worth 10% of your final grade.

DESIGN JUSTICE (AUTO)-ETHNOGRAPHY 

In the latter half of September you’ll start to apply the ideas we’ve explored thus far through the creation of a set of multi-mediated fieldnotes. You’ll find our project brief here. Please post a link to your project on our class Slack, in the #design-justice-ethnography channel, by 4pm on Tuesday, October 6. This project is worth 15% 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. You might choose to write a paper using secondary research, conduct a mini-ethnography, or create a research-based design project. See “Final Project,” below, for more information about possible formats, and check out our previous students’ work here

I’ll ask you to share a proposal, via Google Drive (in editable form), by 5pm on Friday, October 16, so I have sufficient time to read and respond before our in-class workshop on the 20th. 

Your 900- to 1200-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

Some past students have noted that this proposal is a bit longer than they’re accustomed to writing. Exactly! I’m hoping you’ll use this opportunity to begin gathering your thoughts, finding connections within the existing literature and among precedent projects, and drafting some text that might actually find its way into your final submission! 

Then, in class on Tuesday, October 20, you’ll each take no more than two minutes to (informally) share your plans (no need for slides!). I will have already split you into three thematic groups, with whom you’ll then organize one of our November classes (see below). For the remainder of our October 20 class, you’ll break into those groups, share your individual plans, and start identifying points of intersection that could provide a structure for your November lesson. 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. 

I’ll organize you into loose thematic clusters (e.g., “designing care,” “designing bureaucracy,” “designing surveillance,” or whatever) based on your final project plans. This is ideally how conference panels and edited collections work: you take several folks’ individual, and often idiosyncratic, interests; and you build a (semi-)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 (less is fine!) – 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 (max!) presentation, live or recorded, in which you share your own research interests with the class while connecting them (loosely) 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 a week prior to your assigned presentation date. You must have finalized your reading assignments one week prior to your date so we can distribute them to your colleagues; please send me a comprehensive list, formatted to match our syllabus “house style,” with links to / copies of all materials, so I can post everything to our website. 

I created a little slide show that offers more context and direction. 

Given all the disruptions and traumas of 2020, I want to ensure that this project is not a burden or a source of stress! It’s meant to be self-validating and generative, an opportunity to share your expertise and interests. I hope it’s fun, too! If “group work” is too burdensome, please focus on your own individual — informal! low-pressure! — presentations, and imagine the “group” part as a means to make connections to, to build community with, your classmates around that work. Certainly a useful skill in these times. If your group members are distributed across time zones, we can be creative in devising asynchronous formats. And while I do hope that everyone contributes reliably and constructively, you will not be held responsible if a particular member of your group proves unresponsive. Please feel free to consult with me regarding any problematic group dynamics. 

Your lesson is worth 20% 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. 

You can find last year’s students’ projects here!

Projects are due by 11:59pm on Thursday, 12/10, and are worth 20% of your final grade. You’ll find submission instructions below.

We’ll dedicate our class on December 8 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 discussions; 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. Sharing your work in our end-of-semester presentation is worth 5% of your final grade.

Submitting Your Work

Projects are due by 11:59pm on Thursday, December 10Your mode of submission will depend upon the format of your project: some of you might email me a pdf; some of you might direct me to a Google Drive folder; some of you might send me a link to a website; etc. To facilitate my review, I ask that you please try to consolidate all parts into a single file, folder, link, email, etc., and if there are multiple parts, provide clear instructions regarding how I should review the material.

Please indicate, too, if you’re willing to share your projects publicly. As you know, I typically summarize students’ final projects in a blog post on our class website. The NSSR dean’s office is also interested in featuring our work on social media. Please indicate if you’d be willing to make your work fully accessible via our class website; if you’d be willing to have me share a couple screenshots or some other clip / snippet / glimpse; if you’d rather not show the work, but you’d be willing to have me briefly describe your project; or if you’d rather I/we not mention your work at all!