The importance of the works under discussion lies not in the works themselves, but rather in their interrelationship with our discussions and other media that you and I encounter in our daily lives. This means that class participation is vital to the success of this course. Simply attending class will not be enough to earn full participation credit. Instead, you must be an active participant, someone who comes prepared and engages with all aspects of the class.
30% weekly posts
Each week, students will post a brief update (~300 words) to the CourseWorks blog by 7:00am on Tuesday. These posts can take the form of, among other things, a) an explanation, questioning, or complication of the week’s readings, b) an interesting document or resource that you’ve found related to them, or c) an update on the progress of your midterm or final project. This is simply a means of checking in with one another as we work through the ideas of the course.
25% “Re-design” assignment
One of the aims of this course is to explore the relationship between theory and practice. To this end, you will construct a “re-design” of an existing media system, due March 9. These interventions can range from micro-level (e.g. proposing a particular tweak to the infrastructure of the Internet and tracing its consequences) to whole-cloth (e.g. envisioning an alternate peer-to-peer messaging system). You will situate this re-design amongst the readings read to this point, using the texts to help imagine the implications of your re-design.
The final form of this assignment should be a paper of 5 to 7 pages, properly referenced, and with additional media as necessary or desired. Virtually any medium could work: paper prototypes, clay, painting, video, etc. You will additionally give an informal presentation of your re-design to the class (plan on approximately 5 minutes for the presentation and questions from the class).
You will choose your re-design in discussion with me two weeks before the assignment is due (i.e., by Feb 23rd). More details on this project will follow. For inspiration, see:
- Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2013).
- “Forecasts” published by The Long + Short magazine
25% final project
For your final project, you will select a specific digital device and trace the lifecycle of its manufacture, use, re-use, and disposal. This is a very big task. A single smartphone, for instance, contains over two hundred chemical compounds, and the scale of its production truly global: from rare-earth metal mines in Baotou, to data centers in Iowa, to grey markets in Jakarta, and electronics scrap yards in Delhi. So, there are many different methods for going about this, many different pieces of the puzzle you can choose to focus on, and no two final projects will look alike. Options include any or a combination of the following:
- Create a supply chain map for your device using Sourcemap.
- Express the composition of your device using a symbol system like Otto Neurath’s Isotype from the 1920s, a font called the Pictorial Communication Language (PICOL), or a design structure matrix.
- Photogrammetry using the 123D Catch app, which allows you to upload photos from your smartphone to the cloud, where they’re transformed into a textured 3D model.
In addition to the above, you will write a paper of around 10 pages that situates your artifact within the contexts discussed in class. The paper should have a clear argument supported by evidence. I expect you to draw from the readings we considered, as well as secondary research from sources we did not cover.
I ask that you submit a brief proposal of your project to me in class on April 18. The final project is due May 8. You will also present on your artifact during the final two class sessions for around 10 minutes.
Summary of assignment due dates
- 7am Tuesdays: weekly post
- March 9: Re-design paper and presentation
- April 18: final project proposal
- May 8: final project due