2013-2015 Courses

In addition to fulfilling their respective graduate program course requirements, Fellows in the Learning to See Systems project will take one course per semester from our new, two-year track:

Semester One:
Learning to See Communication Systems
Instructors Sally Jackson and Ned O’Gorman
Fall 2013

Scalar Books Created For Course:
Seeing Systems: A Conceptual Resource
Seeing Systems: A Methodological Resource

One of the ubiquitous features of 21st-century life are systems. Systems also represent one of the major theoretical challenges before communication scholars. This seminar — part of a new sequence of courses in the INTERSECT “Learning to See Systems” initiative — will immerse students in approaches to understanding communication systems: theoretically, historically, and critically. Our approach will be explicitly cross-disciplinary and multi-perspectival, as Prof. Jackson will draw on communication theory and conceptions of “communication design” while Prof. O’Gorman will draw on media theory, rhetorical theory, and historical materials relevant to the emergence of “systems” in the 20th century. In addition, we will invite guest lecturers to discuss alternate approaches to “seeing communication systems.” While no comprehensive course on systems is possible, students who complete this course can expect to develop greater fluency and agility in thinking about systems.

Semester Two:
Systems of Display: World’s Fairs, Centennial Expositions, and International Biennials
Instructor Terri Weissman
Spring 2014

This seminar will examine the material culture of World’s Fairs and International Exhibitions; we will analyze the design of exposition grounds and buildings, as well as the objects and peoples displayed, the events staged, and the viewing experiences constructed. In the 19th century, Fairs promoted the assumed superiority of Western culture—what systems of display constructed and embedded this viewing position? In various ways, contemporary international art biennials, which find themselves located at the intersection of globalism, consumerism and tourism, continue the tradition of the World’s Fair. As such, this seminar will also address the technologies of display (and ideological underpinnings) at work in these events.

Semester Three:
MDIA 590 Collaboration Systems
Instructor Anita Chan
Fall 2014

Collaboration has emerged as an essential – if enormously fraught -stake for contemporary ecologies and economies of knowledge production. While it has long been central in the development of knowledge practices and data collection in the modern sciences, new information infrastructures have extended potentials for knowledge sharing and learning across communities of difference in diverse fields. This course will explore the politics of collaboration in knowledge work, considering the continuing promise and problem that surround distributed collaborations in data collection, archive building, and analysis – but that now express themselves in new inter-disciplinary ventures (including “biodiversity informatics,” “para-taxonomy,” and “big data” itself) that invite distinct forms of global participation from diverse lay-experts and publics. Key to the course will be a consideration of emergent experiments in collaborative interventions by transnational hacktivist groups, global citizen labs, and lay science networks.

Semester Four:
Learning to Create Systems
Instructor Kevin Hamilton
Spring 2015

This course will be largely design-oriented, and will focus on system-creation as a scholarly act. We’ll survey available tools within the Digital Humanities and art-and-technology fields for creating navigable collections, arguments, and distribution networks. Works will be collaborative, combining the critical frameworks of previous semesters with new methods of collaboration gleaned from design, music, and activist practices. Depending on the group’s makeup and vision, we will likely move toward the development of a new digital scholarly tool, or the extension of at least one existing platform to create a software or presentation tool that reflects a particular point of view on values, visibility and exclusion in scholarly work.

Finally, we will conclude our two-year process by holding a public symposium on the emergence of “Humanities Labs,” surveying their effects, forms and precedents. Presentations by local and guest speakers will be archived and shared online.