Course Information

Today’s city is layered with screens of all shapes and sizes and stitched together with a web of wireless networks, but woven into these modern media spaces are other, older urban media networks and infrastructures – many of which have laid the foundation for our newer media. This project-based course is dedicated to excavating and mapping – both theoretically and practically – the layers of mediation that have shaped urban forms and informed urban experiences through several key epochs in communication history, from the oral culture of ancient Athens to the television age. Each student, alone or in pairs, will conduct an urban media excavation – exploring, for example, how pneumatic tubes facilitated the delivery of mail in late-19th century New York, how the rise of the film industry shaped early 20th-century Los Angeles, or how television cables served as the nervous system of new mid-20th-century suburbs. Rather than presenting this work as atomized individual projects, however, everyone will plot their sites and networks, and post relevant archival media, to a collaboratively designed interactive media map. Part of the class will be devoted to designing the platform by analyzing which presentation format is best suited for effectively displaying these layers of urban mediation and exploring the synergies between individual students’ projects. The class will lay historical and theoretical groundwork for examining media and the urban environment, and also introduce students to the fields of media archaeology and the digital humanities.  While students will participate in the creation of interactive media maps, this hybrid course will have a strong theory component.


Academic Dishonesty: All students are expected to familiarize themselves with the University’s academic honesty policy; see “Academic Honesty” on the Media Studies department website. Because our semester project is a collective one, any acts of academic dishonesty reflect poorly not only on the perpetrator(s), but also on the class and the instructor. Academic dishonesty will result in automatic failure of the course.

Late Work: All assignment deadlines are listed on the syllabus. Because we are working collaboratively this semester, it is important that we all move at the same pace. Late work will be penalized, and extensions will be granted only rarely, and only after consulting with me well in advance of the assignment deadline.

A student who has not submitted all assigned work by the end of the semester does not receive an “Incomplete” by default. “Incompletes” are assigned only in extreme circumstances, and require that the student consult with me before the end of the semester and sign a contract obligating him or her to complete all outstanding work by a date that we agree upon.

Submitting Work Via Google Docs: You’re welcome to either create your documents in Google Docs, or to create them as Word or pdf files and upload them to Google Docs without converting them to the GD format. I prefer working with Google Docs and Word docs, because I can add margin comments on particular passages and type summary comments at the end of your document. Please title your documents so they’re easily identifiable: UMA_[YourLastName]_[AssignmentName] (e.g., UMA_Mattern_ProjectProposal). When you’re ready to “submit,” click on the “share” button in the top-right of the screen, make sure the access settings are set to “Private,” and add my email address in the “add people” field. Note that Google Docs displays your submission date and time, so I can ensure that your work has been posted in its final form by the assignment deadline!


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