• Process Blogs: 20%
  • Map Critique/Creation: 15%

Mapping Project

  • Individual Project Proposal: 10%
  • Individual Research Dossier + Draft Map: 20%
  • Final Map: 30%
  • Self and Group Assessment: 5%


Attendance and Participation

We need everyone to show up regularly, on-time, and prepared to ensure that we have sufficient time for discussion and that everyone is contributing meaningfully to the class exhibition project. You will be permitted one excused absence (“excused” means that you must have contacted me prior to class to inform me of your absence) for the semester. Additional excused absences – and any unexcused absences – will negatively affect your grade. More than three absences, excused or unexcused, will result in failure of the course; if you anticipate needing to miss several classes, you are advised to drop the course. A pattern of late arrivals is likewise detrimental.

I do not require you to complete weekly reading responses, as I do in most of my other graduate courses, simply because your work on the individual and group projects should keep you plenty busy. That said, I still do encourage you to take time before class to annotate the weekly readings, abstract them, and reflect on how they contribute to your understanding of the overarching themes of the course and to your own research process.

Process Blogs

We’ll be thoroughly and publicly documenting our process — the break-throughs, the triumphs, the frustrations, the dead-ends. This documentation is in keeping with the Digital Humanities’ mission to promote transparency – not only for the benefit of our collaborators in this class, but also in an attempt to welcome other publics into the scholarly process. Our class will be helping to develop, in collaboration with Parsons designers and several other urban-themed classes and projects around the university, a new mapping tool, the Urban Research Toolkit; we intend for this map to serve as a platform for future urban-related faculty and student work at The New School. Therefore, we need to think of our work as laying a foundation. In our project documentation we can not only explain how we’ve developed the tool throughout the fall semester, but also make recommendations for those who come after us, encourage others to conduct new research on specific topics that will bridge existing student projects; direct our successors to promising collections we found in local archives, but just didn’t have the time to review; make recommendations for future tech developers to add new features to the platform so that it’s better able to accommodate the methods we want to employ; etc.

Each student will contribute to our collective “process blog.” If you already have your own blog, you’re welcome to post your UMA work to your own blog, but we’ll need to work out how to aggregate all relevant external blog posts to our central UMA blog. All other students are welcome to post directly to the UMA blog.

If you have an epiphany, if you stumble upon an amazing special collection or interview subject, if you find yourself questioning your topic selection or your mapping techniques, if you have a cartographic break-through, if you hit a brick wall – if anything significant happens that you think offers an occasion for “critical self-consciousness” (Johanna Drucker 2004) or an opportunity to “illuminate the shadowy process of critical thinking, encouraging readers not only to digest finished works, but also to learn from and evaluate the mechanisms of their creation” (Avi Santo and Christopher Lucas 2009) – blog it, please. Each student will be expected to post regularly – at least five times throughout the semester, and at least once every three weeks (starting October 5, when your proposals are due); at least one post should reflect on your finished, or near-finished, semester project. Your posts should be substantial (roughly 300 words) and, if appropriate, should include relevant media. Make sure to keep the tone professional – not confessional. Please make sure, too, to address the relevance of the class readings and in-class discussions and activities. Your blog contributions are worth 20% of your final grade.

Map Critique and Creation

Because our final project will be an interactive map, we’ll dedicate some time in most of our classes to presenting and critiquing several (canonical/ exemplary/ experimental/ overwrought/ elegant/ etc.) maps in a variety of formats, to see what they do right and wrong, what they illuminate and obfuscate, how they integrate form and content effectively and poorly, and what lessons we can take away from them and apply, or avoid, in our own projects.

On the course website we’ll maintain an “atlas” of relevant mapping projects, from which you can choose one project to critique. You’re also welcome to propose additions to the collection. You’re encouraged to choose a map that both pertains to the critical issues raised in the week’s readings and raises practical questions that we’ll need to address as we create our own map(s). Please consult with the other presenters for the week to work out who’s chosen which projects.

Your twelve-minute presentation (including time for questions! you should be prepared to speak for no more than seven or eight minutes!) should consist of two parts: (1) a critique and (2) a critical-creative application prototype. The critique should focus on a single mapping project and should address some of these issues. As the weeks progress, and as we explore more and more mapping projects and hone our methods for critical evaluation, we’ll generate a list of “best practices” or an evaluation rubric (see this) with which we can critique and refine our own project at the end of the semester. Your application is a critical-creative attempt to apply to your own research project the same effective and/or ineffective techniques used in the map you’ve critiqued. You might choose to exaggerate the failures of that map by creating a parody – or you might choose to blend in helpful features from some of the other maps in the atlas in order to generate mapping techniques that might aid in your own work. Be sure to identify what projects inspired you and why, and how and where we can see those projects’ influence in your map. Your application can take virtually any form and format – from a quilted map to a hand-dissected map to an audio map. Keep in mind that this is only a prototype – a rough sketch, a maquette, a “napkin drawing”; we’re more concerned in this context with the ideas behind your project than with your execution.

Before class begins, post your 600- to 900-word text – which should encompass both your critique and the explanation of your application exercise – along with documentation of your application, to our class blog. In class, you’ll have twelve minutes for your presentation; please save five of those minutes for discussion. And please be sure to have presentation media loaded/booted/hung/distributed before class begins so we can start on time. Your review is worth 15% of your final grade.

Individual Project Proposals

Everyone will be responsible for completing an individual research/production project — but you should frame and execute your project in light of how it might eventually “speak to” the others. We’re building a group map; not a platform hosting 15 atomized mapping projects. In the end, we’re looking for synergies, for convergences and divergences, between the projects; for projects to form into thematic clusters; and for a “larger story” that the collective class project can tell. You’ll also need to choose and frame your project in lights of how it will lend itself to presentation not in a traditional typewritten text, but in a multimodal, online, spatial format. Ask yourself: what kind of arguments can an interactive map help me make, that I couldn’t make in another format?

You should begin thinking about potential topics early in the semester. You’re welcome to explore project ideas on the UMA website or in conversation with me and your classmates. Before our class on October 5 I’d like for you to submit via Google Docs a formal 600- to 900-word project proposal (you’ll then post your revised proposal to our course blog). This proposal must include (1) a topic description, problem statement, or research question; (2) a discussion of your topic’s relevance, significance, and/or timeliness (in other words, why is it worth studying, and why now?); (3) a discussion of why your project lends itself to spatial argumentation (i.e., why map it?); (4) a tentative bibliography containing at least ten sources, half of which must be scholarly sources; and (5) types and formats of media or artifacts you anticipate gathering or creating and posting to URT. You’ll be expected to deliver a short, informal presentation in class on the day your proposal is due. You’ll have an opportunity to revise and resubmit the proposal if necessary. Your proposal is worth 10% of your final grade.

Individual Research Dossier & Draft Map

Don’t think of these two components as separate responsibilities. Instead, consider the dossier the collection of secondary and primary research material from which you’ve drawn to construct your map. It’s essentially your “multimodal” notebook or research database; it evidences all the “behind-the-scenes” work you’ve done that either has or hasn’t manifested itself on your map. The dossier could contain abstracts of relevant secondary sources you’ve read/viewed/listened to; scans of original documents you’ve discovered; clips of relevant photos, videos, audio recordings, etc., you’ve either collected or created; etc. It’s up to you to determine, depending upon the types of material you’ve been collecting and what system you’ve been using to collect it, how to best share this dossier with me. The dossier you submit need not be comprehensive; you can choose a representative sample of material that demonstrates the breadth of your research and that illustrates the emerging themes in your critical understanding of your research topics.

Ideally, you will have been maintaining your dossier throughout your research process. You should be thoroughly citing and annotating all your material. And you should be experimenting with various organizational schemes (thematic, formal, chronological, etc. – whichever schemes make most sense for your particular project and advance the “spatial argument” [you think] you want to make on the map).

With your dossier, you’ll be presenting a draft of your individual project map. This could be a sketch, an outline, a photo of your paper prototype — any format that reflects your thinking regarding the “spatialization” of your project. We’ll decide in class how to best provide feedback on your work so that you can both refine your individual project and create possibilities for connection with other students’ projects.

We’ll be meeting to talk about your dossiers in-person. You should be prepared to (1) briefly summarize and critically reflect on what you’ve discovered through your research – in particular, how your research topic(s) pertain to the themes of our class – and how you’ve sifted through and organized your research material; and (2) how that research informed the cartographic arguments you’ll be making. You’ll be signing up for 20-minute meetings during the week of November 16. The dossier and map are worth 20% of your final grade.

Final Map

As we learn more about one another’s projects, and as we add more material to URT, patterns, we hope, will start to emerge, and opportunities for synergy will present themselves.

If all goes well, we’ll form “clusters” based on shared topical (e.g., locations of mass entertainment, telecommunications infrastructures, paper-based media networks, sites of public gathering and protest), geographic (e.g., various media networks’ histories in the East Village or the Bronx, the mediation of Times Square) or theoretical (e.g., uneven distribution of media resources, alternative media and grassroots politics, the “remediation” of communication infrastructures) interests. We’ll then work collectively to link together our individual projects, to explain their convergences and divergences, to tell the “larger story” of New York’s media history that our individual maps, considered altogether, show. Again, we’ll need to consider what kinds of arguments a map platform allows us to make, and what modes of argumentation would best serve our purposes. How can we use the maps form and functions to support our intellectual “content”?

You should make sure to document your decision-making process – and apply our collectively designed “evaluation rubric” – on our course blog; this documentation work should be shared by all members of your cluster. (Please make sure to label or tag your posts appropriately, so we can associate them with your project.) The map will be presented in our final class, to which we will invite a group of external critics, on December 14 one of our final two classes. All students are expected to be present and to participate. I will provide more details on the final presentation as the end of the semester draws near. The final map is worth 30% of your final grade.

In addition, by Monday, December 19, at 5pm, you are expected to submit, either as a final Process Blog post or via Google Docs, a 300- to 600-word group and self assessment. You should assess your own and the class-at-large’s success in meeting our evaluative criteria, discuss your work process, and, if applicable, address the contributions of classmates with whom you worked closely. Your assessment is worth 5% of your final grade. These may seem like small stakes, but remember that 5% can make the difference between a B+ and an A-.


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