Course Materials

Online:

Course materials are available in our course Box folder. Please read and study all of the material in the folder for the relevant session prior to our class meeting–in addition to artworks, this material may include short video clips, interviews, and reviews. 

For communication, please use our course Slack instead of email to contact instructors or fellow students.

To purchase:

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140
  • Richard McGuire, Here

Films (available through streaming/rental platforms):

  • First Reformed
  • Snowpiercer
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild


Schedule

1: Images and Objects

Week 1: Introduction: What is a medium? What is design?

1/6    

  •  Course Introduction
  •  Introduction to MADD Facilities

1/8    

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140, pp. 1-36
  • In-class climate cases

Week 2: Design and the Anthropocene

1/13

  • Jeremy Davies, The Birth of the Anthropocene, pp. 1-68
  • Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, Polar Diamond
  • Amy Balkin, et al., A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting
  • Isabella Kirkland, Descendant (1999), Ascendant (2000), Gone (2004)
  • USGS Repeat photography project
  • Justin Brice Guariglia, Topographies

1/15

  • Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Speculative Everything (various chapters, PDF pages: “Chapter 1: Beyond Radical Design?” pp. 16-21, “Chapter 3: Design as Critique” pp. 43-52, and “Chapter 5: A Methodological Playground: Fictional Worlds and Thought Experiments” pp. 70-82)
  • Benjamin Bratton, “On Speculative Design” (online)

Week 3: Graphic Novels

1/20

  • NO CLASS – MLK 

1/22

  • How to read a comic or graphic novel
  • Richard McGuire, Here

❖ 1/24

  • Exercise and assignment: Create an object from a future of climate change that is evocative of a climate-changed world.

❖ 1/24

  • Special Screening of Snowpiercer (2013) at Doc Films

2: Narrative

Week 4: Film

1/27

  • How to read a film
  • Discuss Snowpiercer (2013)

1/29

  • First Reformed (2017, watch on your own)
  • Paul Schrader, The Transcendental Style in Film (excerpt)
  • Installation room and alternate reality lecture 

Week 5: Games and Interactive Art

2/3

2/4

  • Meet with your group to play your board game (before Wednesday’s class)

2/5

  • Present board games and design techniques: Climate Catan, Spirit Island, Photosynthesis, Terraforming Mars, Evolution Climate, and Planet

 2/7

  • Optional but Recommended: Critical Inquiry Climate Change Theory Event

Week 6: Literary Fictions

2/10

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140, pp. 37-298

2/12

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140, pp. 298-375
  • Amitav Ghosh, “Stories,” The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016) pp. 7-24

2/14

  • Exercise and assignment due: Create a card/board/tabletop game in a small group that explores the futures of climate change, exchange and playtest it in class

Week 7: Literary (and Collective) Fictions

2/17

  • Exercise: Play Dread and/or Heartwood tabletop storytelling/roleplaying game in the MADD lab

❖ 2/17

  • Final project abstract due

2/19

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140 pp. 376-613

2/21

  • Screening/Listening session 

3: Sound and Space

Week 8: Sound Art

2/24

  • John Luther Adams, Become Ocean (score)
  • Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, performance of “Dear Matafele Peinem” at 2014 United Nations Climate Summit
  • Chris Watson, “Vatnajökull,” Weather Report (2003)
  • R Murray Shafer, “The Soundscape” 

2/26

  • In-class final project workshop of key concepts, narratives, and experience design

Week 9: Galleries and Public Spaces

 3/2

  • Eve Mosher, HighWaterLine (2007)
  • ArtSpot Productions and Mondo Bizarro, Cry You One
  • Maya Lin, Pin River

3/4

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012, watch on your own)

Week 10: Final Project Experiences

3/9

  • Final presentations 1/2

3/11

  • Final presentations 2/2

❖ 3/15:

  • Final projects due: Collaboratively create a climate change interactive room in groups of 4-5. The room should include works in at least 3 different media. Etc.

Assignments

Blog Posts and Responses

Over the course of the quarter, you will contribute to a class blog (located on this site) through original posts and responses to your peers. These posts are intended to influence and extend the conversations we have during our shared meetings. You are required to post at least 4 entries over the course of the quarter. Each entry should respond to that week’s media or theoretical reading, expand substantively on an ongoing topic of class discussion (without simply reproducing or documenting an exchange), or call our attention to articles or media about related phenomena. The 4 minimum entries can be posted anytime over the course of the quarter but you may post no more than one post a week for credit (so plan ahead!). Each post must also comment on a topic from the week in which it is posted (so you can’t, for instance, return to a topic from Week 2 on Week 9 unless it is in some way related to a current discussion). While the content of these entries can be wide-ranging and a touch less formal than an academic essay, you should observe formal citation standards and be mindful of your prose. You are also required to read posts by your classmates and respond briefly to at least one entry per week.

Object Making Assignment (Individual)

It is 2050. Use the materials and medium (or media) of your choice to create one object that belongs to this future world and animates a rich tension, conflict, problem, or possibility about the status of climate change 30 years into the future. The idea is that you should not create an entire world or detailed narrative. Rather, your object should be evocative of that future world, its ways of life, and forms of action within it. Your object might suggest some of the historical events that have happened between 2020 and 2050. As you create your object, review and draw on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Summary for Policymakers (documents here and here), which describes the expected impacts of climate change between 2030 and 2052. Along with your object, you should turn in a one-page, single-spaced artist statement that discusses your key concepts and themes. Feel free to use materials from clay to code to create your object. You can also draw on the myriad and freely accessible 3D printers at the Media Arts, Data, and Design Center.

Board/Card Game Assignment (Collaborative)

In groups of 4-5, you will write the rules for a board game that your peers will subsequently play in class. The game (think of this as an interactive formal system) should be playable in roughly 10-25 minutes. Moreover, the written instructions should be clear and concise for players to understand without additional explanation. In addition to a set of rules, you should include a name for the game, its objectives, its estimated time (which means you should play-test it in advance), and any games that may have served as inspirations for your design. Since we will actually play these games in class, you should also include the necessary game board and pieces, which need not be artistically elaborate and may include pieces taken from already-existing board games. Your game should engage with themes and problems related to climate change. As you design your game, think about the medium-specific dimensions of games, including rules, mechanics, and objectives. How can you use the qualities of games to create a resonant experience about climate change? As you design your game, be precise about your learning objectives. Are you trying to raise consciousness, change behavior, inspire creativity, or something else? You have either the option to modify a simple, already-existing game (which we can provide you with) or to create your own.

Final Group Project (Collaborative, Variable Length)

Collaboration is an increasingly vital skill in a cultural landscape dominated by digital technologies and one that is facing climate change challenges. For your final project, you will not write a traditional research paper, even as there will be an analytical dimension to your work. Instead, you will create a transmedia room (which can take numerous forms) in assigned groups of approximately 4-5 participants each. Your room can take the form of an exhibition, an escape room, a short alternate reality game, a performance art experience, or something else. You are required to include works in at least three different media, though can of course include more. Your experience can exceed the allotted time of the final presentation, but a version of it should be fit into or playable within the time of the presentation.

In order to create a compelling work, you need NOT have substantial or indeed any technical knowledge. We are interested not only in the creativity of your project but also the quality of the associated writing and your engagement with theoretical concepts we have been exploring throughout the quarter. Rather than a complete departure from academic work and reading about climate change and media aesthetics, we would like you to engage in a process of what Walter Holland, Henry Jenkins, and Kurt Squire have called “theory by design.” In other words, instead of working through ideas in an expository fashion, you will do so through creative development. While we are not specifying a page count (given project variations), the effort and production should be substantial. 

Final Group Project Abstract (Approximately 1 page or 300-400 words)

As a group, write a brief abstract for your final project that is due approximately a month before the project deadline. In this abstract, introduce your project and comment upon the type of research and technical knowledge that will be necessary to complete your work in the final month of the quarter. Moreover, how do you foresee the division of labor within your group? Finally, what are the narrative, formal, social, and artistic innovations of the project? You can adjust this as you continue, but it’s useful to have a starting point, well in advance of the deadline. You may also find it useful to write a brief outline of your narrative or description of your interface and core gameplay.

Final Project Walkthrough

During the final week of the class, as a group, you will have 20-minutes to walk us through your final project. Given limited time, this presentation will be timed.

Reflection (Individual, 2-3 pages)

Along with your actual group project, we would like each of you to turn in a brief (2-3 pages) individual reflection about your project that does two things. First, offer a summary of your analytical project or an artist’s statement on the significance of your project. This is your chance to assess the formal significance of your analytical project or to reflect on the theoretical dimensions of your game and to give the readers a frame for encountering your work. Second, comment on the collaborative experience. Collaboration is a difficult process but it can produce astonishing results. In writing this response, consider the following questions: What was it like working with peers from other disciplines? What were the benefits and challenges of collaborating on this kind of design project? What did you contribute to the group? What was the balance of work like in your group?


Course Policies

Technology           

Cell phones must absolutely be turned off in class. While laptops are permitted, we recommend that anyone tempted to check in with social media, email, and other sites unrelated to class should stick to pen and paper for note-taking. If you have a compulsion about emailing, messaging, or checking social media during class (and cannot control yourself), you should absolutely refrain from bringing your laptop to class.

Assignment Guidelines    

Please use MLA or Chicago style.

Please contact us  immediately if you anticipate turning in late work.

Grading                  

  • Attendance, Preparation, Discussion, and Participation: 15%
  • Blog Posts (4 posts and short weekly responses): 15%
  • Object Making Assignment: 15%
  • Board/Card Game Assignment: 20%
  • Final Group Project: Group Abstract (300-400 words), Group Project (variable but substantial), Walkthrough, and Individual Reflection (2-3 pages):  35%

Exceptions              

Please contact us immediately if there are extenuating circumstances that prevent you from attending class or completing work on time, and we will develop a plan to help you get back on track.

Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism

It is your responsibility to ensure that all of your written work conforms to the University’s standards of academic honesty. Plagiarism is not only copying others’ work; any improperly documented use of ideas can constitute plagiarism. Please consult the discussion of plagiarism and academic honesty in Doing Honest Work in College: How to Prepare Citations, Avoid Plagiarism, and Achieve Real Academic Success. If you have not been given this book, please let me know and I will obtain a copy for you. It is crucial that you are familiar with these standards, and it is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with them. If these standards are in any way unclear to you, please consult with me. Any undocumented use of another person’s ideas constitutes plagiarism. This includes copying another text word for word. It also includes summarizing and paraphrasing a source without citation, or presenting as your own an argument that you heard elsewhere. Please note as well that copying non-copyrighted material (such as Wikipedia) also constitutes plagiarism. Academic dishonesty includes buying papers online, outsourcing your academic work to someone else (paid or unpaid), and submitting the same paper to more than one course. This is not an exhaustive list of the acts that constitute academic dishonesty and plagiarism. If you are uncertain about how or whether to cite your sources, please contact me. Academic dishonesty is a very serious offense, even if it is unintentional. Any form of plagiarism may result in immediate failure of this course and disciplinary action.


Accessibility

Your success in this class is important to us. If the setup our learning environment or activities present any barriers to your full participation, please let the instructors know as soon as possible, and together we’ll develop strategies to meet both your needs and the requirements of the course. To this end, we invite you to discuss accessibility measures with us as soon as possible. We will maintain the confidentiality of these discussions. 

If you have a documented disability, we encourage you to register with Student Disability Services. If you need official accommodations, you have a right to have these met. Here is their contact information:

Address:    5501 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL  60637

Phone:      (773) 702-6000

Email:       disabilities@uchicago.edu   

Web: https://disabilities.uchicago.edu/

Disclosure of disability status is always up to you, and that choice is protected by federal law. If you prefer not to disclose your disability status, we can still have a productive conversation about what specific adjustments might make our meetings and interactions more accessible.