Syllabus

CIVIC MEDIA AND TACTICAL DESIGN IN CONTESTED SPACES
NMDS 5287A / CRN 7404
Production Studio
Tuesdays 3:00 – 5:40 pm
Room I-804, 55 W. 13th Street

Instructor: Prof. Nitin Sawhney, Ph.D.
Office: Rm 1214, 2 W. 13th Street
Email: sawhneyn [at] newschool.edu
Hours: Wednesdays 3:00 – 6:00pm

Course TAs: Alexandra Kelly – kella189 [at] newschool.edu
Sara Fusco – fuscs244 [at] newschool.edu

Tech Labs: Saturdays 3:00 – 4:30pm
or Thursdays 10:30am – 12:00pm
Room: 1011, 2 W. 13th Street

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Civic media is an emerging social phenomenon encapsulating diverse forms of technology-mediated communication, civic engagement and advocacy for social change. In this course we examine the ways in which art, design, and technology can be leveraged to develop creative and tactical responses to critical ecological and socio-political issues in the public sphere. We study the role of artistic interventions, social media, and tactical tools to support civic agency and participatory action, as well as transform, disrupt or subvert changing urban, political, and social conditions in critical ways. In this production-oriented studio course students are expected to work in teams to research, conceptualize, and design novel civic media and tactical interventions in networked, urban, or place-based community contexts. The projects undertaken should critically examine principles of design, artistic practice, and ethical responsibility within the socio-cultural and institutional settings that they seek to engage or disrupt.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING

The course expects students to engage critically and collaboratively (in small teams) to research, conceptualize and produce a compelling community media or creative intervention in the form of an audiovisual work, artistic installation or performative action that tackles a specific set of contested issues. Students are highly encouraged to work with a community partner or arts/activist collective to facilitate and assess their projects.

Grading: 60% of the course grade reflects the conceptual design, production and presentation of the collaborative work, along with the accompanying reflection paper (jointly written). The remaining 40% of the grade involves an assessment of students’ individual participation and contributions to the course both in and outside of class. The following grading scheme will guide the evaluation of student work during the course:

– Class participation including discussions of readings: 10%
– Reflections on the blog (at least 6 postings) and presenting case study: 20%
– Participation in Tech Labs, outside events and conducting fieldwork: 10%
– Midterm: Project Presentation and Concept proposal (3-5 pages): 20%
– Final: Completion of Project and Presentation with External Review: 30%
– Write-up of Project/Course Reflection Paper (5-7 pages): 10%

All grades are final and are not subject to change. Incomplete or “I” grades are strongly discouraged. Please note that failure to complete a major course assignment may result in the failure of the course as a whole.

Academic Honesty: By taking this course you agree that you will adhere to the New School University’s Standards of Conduct, as well as the New School Academic Honesty policy.

Online Platforms: The course will utilize Blackboard (blackboard.newschool.edu) only to post announcements and assignments, while it will primarily use WordPress (civicmediatacticaldesign.wordpress.org) as the main online platform to provide weekly syllabus updates, events and resources. Students must use the blog to regularly reflect on readings, showcase relevant projects and report on their ongoing fieldwork. Finally, students will be expected to use Zotero (zotero.org) to contribute relevant articles in a shared online course repository. The course TAs will provide user accounts for all students after the first class session.

Participating in Tech Labs and local events: Besides the class sessions, students can participate in and lead in-depth hands-on workshops around topics of interest through weekly Tech Labs. We also encourage students to attend events and field activities on related topics around New York City during the term, often in lieu of the Tech Lab. Participation in these suggested activities clearly depends on student availability, however they will provide invaluable opportunities for engagement outside class. Later in the term students may use this time to focus on project-directed learning and to conduct on-site fieldwork and production.

Possible Topics for Weekly Tech Labs:
The Tech Labs maybe conducted as informal workshops on either Saturdays 3:00pm-4:30pm or Thursdays 10:30am-12:00pm (Rm 1011, 2 W. 13th Street). In some cases these sessions maybe conducted in the 2nd half of class as needed. The following are a sample of possible topics that could be offered by TAs, external experts and students themselves based upon interest:

– Setting up a Blog or Wiki for project communication/documentation
– Capturing documentary footage – techniques, aesthetics and ethics
– Conducting effective audio/video interviews
– Editing video footage using Final Cut software
– Working with community partners and using participatory media
– Website design and mockups using available software tools
– Programming Arduino for creative audiovisual installations and hacks
– Aerial photo/video and grassroots mapping using kites/balloons
– Using cell phones and mobile tools for SMS and location-based projects
– << Suggest a topic of interest or one you are willing to co-teach >>

Attendance: As a production studio course, regular attendance to all class sessions is essential. You will be permitted two excused absences, but you must notify the instructor of your inability to attend in advance. Any subsequent absences will adversely affect your grade. Participation in the weekly tech labs and outside activities is highly encouraged and will be beneficial for your projects.

COURSE SCHEDULE (tentative)

This studio course is meant to be a collaborative learning and production environment. The weekly class sessions will often begin with a critical discussion of assigned readings, while the second half may include a guest lecture or presentations of relevant case studies and reflections on fieldwork by students.

* Note: the class schedule and assigned readings are subject to change. We will collectively review the syllabus to adjust it to the interests and needs of course participants, and may incorporate suggested readings. Please regularly check the course blog for the latest schedule updates and Zotero for assigned readings.

Week 1: (Jan 24) – Introduction to Course: Overview and Expectations

Part I: Course overview and brief introductions among participants

– Participatory ice-breakers (collaborative exercises using post-it notes)
– Share your background, skills and interests in the course along with critical issues you seek to address
– Brainstorming on working definitions of “civic media”, “tactical design” and “contested spaces”

Part II: Overview of course topics, illustrative examples and syllabus

– Showcasing examples of civic media and tactical intervention for discussion
– Collective review of course syllabus and expectations; review of online platforms to be used

Recommended Event: (in lieu of Tech Lab this week)

Saturday, Jan 28th 3pm-6pm – Activist Technology Demo Day (http://demo-day.org)
Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, 540 W 21st Street, New York
Students are highly encouraged to attend this event and capture their reflections on the blog for discussion.

Week 2: (Jan 31) – Tactical Interventions and Lessons from Occupy Wall Street

Readings for Discussion:

– N5M, 2003. Next 5 Minutes 4: International Festival of Tactical Media, September 1114.
– Raley, R., 2009. Tactical Media, Univ Of Minnesota Press.
– Thompson, N. & Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 2004. Interventionists : users’ manual for the creative disruption of everyday life, North Adams Mass.: MASS MoCA.

Participatory Case Studies:

– Discussion of grassroots tactics and use of civic media in Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring
– Students share case studies with illustrative examples from media and interviews
– Review of Blog Postings and Discussion of Activist Tech Demo Day

Suggested Tech Lab: Capturing documentary footage and/or conducting audio/video interviews

Week 3: (Feb 7) – Community Theater and Street Performance as Intervention

Readings for Discussion:

– Bertolt Brecht. The Modern Theater is the Epic Theater (Chapter 13), Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, 1964.
– Augusto Boal, Poetics of the Oppressed: Experiments with the People’s Theater in Peru (in Chapter 4), Theater of the Oppressed, 1985.
– John Bell. Louder than Traffic: Bread and Puppet Parades. Radical Street Performance. Ed. Jan Cohen-Cruz. Routledge, 1998.

Optional Reading:

– Guillermo Gomez-Pena. In defense of performance (Chapter 2). Ethno-techno: Writings on performance, activism and pedagogy. Routledge, 2005.

Suggested Tech Lab: Understanding invisible social conflicts through participatory performance

Week 4: (Feb 14) – Interventions using Sound and Radio

Readings for Discussion:

– Douglas Kahn. Preface and Introduction: Histories of Sound Once Removed (Chapter 1), Christopher Schiff. Banging on the Windowpane: Sound in early Surrealism (Chapter 6), and Mark E. Cory. Soundplay: The Polyphonous Tradition of German Radio Art (Chapter 14). In Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio and the Avant-Garde, Ed. Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead. The MIT Press, 1992.

Optional Case Studies: Essays and interviews showcasing contemporary woman artists:

– Her Noise. Ed. Lina Dzuverovic and Anne Hilde Neset, forma arts and media 2005, pp. 7-27 and pp. 35-48.
– Bertolt Brecht. The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication (Chapter 16), Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, 1964.

Suggested Tech Lab: Using sound and audio recordings for intervention and performance

Week 5: (Feb 21) – Visual Media Interventions in Contested Spaces

Readings for Discussion:

– Miwon Kwon. One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity. MIT Press, 2004. Introduction (pp. 1-9) and Chapter 4: From Site to Community in New Genre Public Art: The Case of “Culture in Action” (pp. 100-137).
– Krzysztof  Wodiczko. Critical Vehicles: Writings, Projects, Interviews, MIT Press, March 1999. Why Critical Vehicles (Preface) and Projections (Chapter 2, pp. 44-75).
– Mirjam Struppek. The Social Potential of Urban Screens. Visual Communications. Vol 5(2): 173–188, Sage Publications, 2006.

Optional Readings:

– A Conversation with Krzysztof Wodiczko. Douglas Crimp, Rosalyn Deutsche, Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Krzysztof Wodiczko, October, Vol. 38, (Autumn, 1986), pp. 23-51.

Possible Tech Lab: Programming with flash, processing or scratch for visual/interactive interventions

Week 6: (Feb 28) – Hactivism through Creative DIY Cultures and Crafts

Readings for Discussion:

– Otto von Busch and Karl Palmas: Abstract Hacktivism – The Making of a Hacker Culture, Published in collaboration with OPENMUTE.org, 2008 (read the first 2 chapters).
– Otto von Busch: Sloyd Scenius – Explorations in Co-Craft Practices and openSloyd, Crafting Knowledge, ACSIS Norrköping, June 2011.

Possible Tech Lab: Programming Arduino for creative audiovisual installations and hacks

Week 7: (March 6) – Radical Cartographies and Grassroots Mapping

Readings for Discussion:

– Dennis Wood. Counter-Mapping and the Death of Cartography (Chapter 5) and Talking Back to the Map (Chapter 6). Rethinking the Power of Maps. Guilford Press, 2010.
– Catherine D’Ignazio, Art and Cartography. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Elsevier, 2009.

Optional Readings:

– Maribel Casas-Cortes and Sebastian Cobarrubias. Drawing Escape Tunnels through Borders and Jai Sen. Other Worlds, Other Maps. In An Atlas of Radical Cartography. Ed Alexis Bhagat and Liz Mogel, 2008.
– Giles Lane. Social Tapestries: Public Authoring and Civil Society. Proboscis, 2008.
– Benjamin Bratton and Natalie Jeremijenko. Suspicious Images, Latent Interfaces.

Suggested Tech Lab: Aerial photo/video and grassroots mapping using kites/balloons

Spring Break during week of March 12-18

Week 8: (March 20) – Midterm Presentations

Week 9: (March 27) – Tactical Design and Ecology with guest speaker Michael Styczynski, Harvard GSD

Week 10: (April 3)  Civic Media and Human Rights with guest speaker Sam Gregory, WITNESS

Week 11: (April 10) – Tactical Media and Protest in Network Cultures

Readings for Discussion:

– Ricardo Dominguez. Electronic Civil Disobedience: Inventing the Future of Online Agitprop Theater. PMLA, Vol. 124, No. 5, October 2009, pp. 1806–1812 (7).
– Critical Art Ensemble, 2004. Electronic Civil Disobedience: And Other Unpopular Ideas, New York: Autonomedia.
– Jane Hill. Digital Zapatistas. The Drama Review 47, 2 (T178), Summer 2003.
– Charlie DeTar and Benjamin Mako Hill. Blogging for Prisoners. Unpublished Paper, 2010.

Optional Reading:

– Ricardo Dominguez. Electronic Civil Disobedience Post 9-11, Third Text, 22:5, 661-670.
– Tad Hirsch. Contestational design: innovation for political activism. MIT Doctoral Thesis, 2008. http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/46594

Week 12: (April 17)   TBD

Week 13: (April 24) – Ethics and Aesthetics of Community-based Arts Interventions

Readings for Discussion:

– Claire Bishop. The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents. Artforum, February 2006.
– Miwon Kwon. One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity. MIT Press, 2004. Chapter 4: From Site to Community in New Genre Public Art: The Case of “Culture in Action” (pp. 100-137).

Optional Readings:

– Socially Engaged Art, Critics and Discontents: An Interview with Claire Bishop.
http://www.communityarts.net/readingroom/archivefiles/2006/07/socially_engage.php

Week 14: (May 1) – Design Review of Projects in Progress

Week 15: (May 8) – Final Project Presentations with External Guest Review


RECOMMENDED READINGS (tentative list)

Akšamija, A., 2009. Echo of Islam in the West: Reactions to the Wearable Mosque. ArteEast Online.

Augusto Boal, Poetics of the Oppressed: Experiments with the People’s Theater in Peru (in Ch. 4), Theater of the Oppressed, 1985.

Badger, G., 2010. Digging, Sowing, Tending, Harvesting (Making War Fair). Public: Art, Culture, Ideas.

Benjamin Bratton and Natalie Jeremijenko. Suspicious Images, Latent Interfaces. Situated Technologies Pamphlets 3: Situated Advocacy, 2008. http://www.situatedtechnologies.net/?q=node/88

Bertolt Brecht. The Modern Theater is the Epic Theater (Ch. 13) and The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication (Ch. 16), Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, 1964.

Bertolt Brecht. The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication (Chapter 16), Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, 1964.

Bishop, C., 2004. Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics. October , No. 110, 51‐79.

Catherine D’Ignazio, Art and Cartography. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, Elsevier, 2009.

Charlie DeTar and Benjamin Mako Hill. Blogging for Prisoners. Unpublished Paper, 2010.

Claire Bishop. The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents. Artforum, February 2006.

Constanza‐Chock, S., 2003. Mapping the Repertoire of Electronic Contention. In A. Opel & D. Pompper, eds. Representing Resistance: Media, Civil Disobedience, and the Global Justice Movement . Praeger Publishers, pp. 173‐192.

Critical Art Ensemble, 2003. Digital resistance : explorations in tactical media, New York ;London: Autonomedia.

Critical Art Ensemble, 2004. Electronic Civil Disobedience: And Other Unpopular Ideas, New York: Autonomedia.

Dennis Wood. Counter-Mapping and the Death of Cartography (Ch. 5) and Talking Back to the Map (Ch. 6). Rethinking the Power of Maps. Guilford Press, 2010.

Doris Sommer. Art and Accountability. Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas, Issue 71, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2005, 261-276. http://www.culturalagents.org/int/pubs/pdf/pub_review_sommer.pdf

Douglas Crimp, Rosalyn Deutsche, Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Krzysztof Wodiczko. A Conversation with Krzysztof Wodiczko. October, Vol. 38, (Autumn, 1986), pp. 23-51.

Douglas Kahn. Preface and Introduction: Histories of Sound Once Removed (Ch. 1), Christopher Schiff. Banging on the Windowpane: Sound in early Surrealism (Ch. 6), and Mark E. Cory. Soundplay: The Polyphonous Tradition of German Radio Art (Ch. 14). In Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio and the Avant-Garde, Ed. Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead. The MIT Press, 1992.

Erik Branouw. Sharp Focus: Observer, Catalyst, Guerrilla (Ch. 5). Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film. 2nd Revised Edition, Oxford University Press, 1993.

Filip De Boeck and Marie-Françoise Plissart. Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City. Ludion [4], September 2006. Preface and “Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City and the Second World: An Introduction” (Ch. 2) and “Possibilities of the (Im)possible” (Ch. 7), pp. 2-61 and pp. 224–269.

Friedman, K., Smith, O. & Sawchyn, L., 2002. The Fluxus Performance Workbook.

Giles Lane. Social Tapestries: Public Authoring and Civil Society. Proboscis, 2008. http://socialtapestries.net/

Guillermo Gomez-Pena. In defense of performance (Chapter 2). Ethno-techno: Writings on performance, activism and pedagogy. Routledge, 2005.

Guy Debord. Society of the Spectacle, Ch. 1, 1967.
http://www.sarai.net/publications/readers/04-crisis-media

Jane Hill. Digital Zapatistas. The Drama Review 47, 2 (T178), Summer 2003.

John Bell. Louder than Traffic: Bread and Puppet Parades. Radical Street Performance. Ed. Jan Cohen-Cruz. Routledge, 1998.

John Bell. The End of Our Domestic Resurrection Circus: Bread and Puppet Theater and Counterculture Performance in the 1990s. Puppets, Masks, and Performing Objects, MIT Press, 2001.

Krzysztof  Wodiczko. Critical Vehicles: Writings, Projects, Interviews, MIT Press, March 1999. Why Critical Vehicles (Preface) and Projections (Ch. 2, pp. 44-75).

McTaggart, R. (1997). Guiding principles for participatory action research. In R. McTaggart (Ed.), Participatory action research: International contexts and consequences (pp. 25–43). New York: State University of New York Press.

Mirjam Struppek. The Social Potential of Urban Screens. Visual Communications. Vol 5(2): 173–188, Sage Publications, 2006.

Miwon Kwon. One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity. MIT Press, 2004. Ch. 4: From Site to Community in New Genre Public Art: The Case of “Culture in Action” (pp. 100-137).
N5M, 2003. Next 5 Minutes 4: International Festival of Tactical Media, September 1114.

Paolo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc, 2003. (first published 1970) – Ch. 1 and Preface

Raley, R., 2009. Tactical Media, Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Ricardo Dominguez. Electronic Civil Disobedience Post 9-11, Third Text, 22:5, 661-670.

Ricardo Dominguez. Electronic Civil Disobedience: Inventing the Future of Online Agitprop Theater. PMLA, Vol. 124, No. 5, October 2009, pp. 1806–1812 (7).

SARAI Reader 04 – Crisis/Media, February 2004. (selected essays)

Ranjit Hoskote. Bearing Inconvenient Witness: Notes in Pro/Confessional Mode.

Ricardo Rosas. The Revenge of Low-Tech: Autolabs, Telecentros and Tactical Media in Sao Paulo.

Soenke Zehle. Interventionist Media in Times of Crisis.

Sawhney N., Yacoub, R., and Norman, J. Jerusalem and Belfast: Envisioning Media Arts for Urban Renewal and Cultural Identity in Divided Cities. The Jerusalem Quarterly Journal, Issue 39, Institute for Jerusalem Studies. November 2009.

Sawhney, Nitin. Voices Beyond Walls: The Role of Digital Storytelling for Empowering Marginalized Youth in Refugee Camps. International Conference on Interaction Design and Children, Workshop on Digital Technologies and Marginalized Youth, June 3–5, 2009, Como, Italy.

Socially Engaged Art, Critics and Discontents: An Interview with Claire Bishop. http://www.communityarts.net/readingroom/archivefiles/2006/07/socially_engage.php

Tad Hirsch. Contestational design: innovation for political activism. MIT Doctoral Thesis, 2008. http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/46594

Thompson, N. & Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 2004. Interventionists : users’ manual for the creative disruption of everyday life, North Adams Mass.: MASS MoCA.

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