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 our understanding of materiality.
Because our final project will be an online exhibition, we’ll spend some time at the beginning of most classes reviewing and critiquing some exemplary exhibitions, both onsite and online, encompassing the world of art, history, and science exhibition. Each student must present one review over the course of the semester. For the first few weeks of the semester, I will identify particular exhibitions that are pertinent to the week’s reading and discussion, but in later weeks, I’ll offer some options; you’re encouraged to choose an exhibition that both raises practical questions that we’ll need to address as we curate our own exhibition and pertains to the readings for the week.
Start by quickly strolling through the site to get a sense of its overarching theme or objective, its general aesthetic and presentational style, the types of individual exhibits it includes, as well as how they’re positioned in relation to one another. Then take some time to closely examine each piece in the exhibition. Ask yourself these questions: What seems to be the overall mission of the exhibition? Where and when is/was it hosted, who curated it and funded it, what contributors are/were involved – and how does all of this make a difference? How is each piece introduced, analyzed, and contextualized? What linguistic registers, styles of communication, rhetorical and pedagogical strategies, and modes (media) of communication are used? Who are the exhibition’s audiences? How is each piece materially presented: what lighting, framing, cropping, and other display choices were made? What are the relationships between the material and immaterial dimensions (e.g., the physical object vs. its photographic or textual representation, the concretization of an abstract concept, the material exhibition of immaterial artworks, etc.) of the exhibition? What practical lessons, both positive and negative, can we learn from this exhibition? What is this exhibition saying about the (im)materiality of media?
Before class begins, post your ~1000-word review to our class website. Please incorporate relevant media (with appropriate captions) and proper citations. In class, you’ll have 10 to 12 minutes for your presentation; please save five of those minutes for discussion. You’re encouraged to show photos, videos, audio, catalogues, guides, maps, etc., but please be sure to have this material loaded/booted/hung/distributed before class begins so we can start on time. Your review is worth 15% of your final grade.
As the weeks progress, and as we explore more and more exhibitions 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 our own projects at the end of the semester.
Individual Exhibit Proposals
You should begin thinking about potential topics early in the semester, and you’re welcome to explore project ideas on our class 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 problem statement, research question, or topic description; (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 your proposed research methodology, including primary resources you plan to consult; and (4) a tentative bibliography containing at least ten sources, half of which must be scholarly sources. You’ll be expected to deliver a two-minute 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 15% of your final grade.
Individual Research Dossier
Ours is ultimately a group project, but each student is expected to do his or her part in researching one or two media artifacts (or “things” or “objects”) or material systems (or “infrastructures” or “apparatae”) and analyzing it/them in relation to the critical concerns of our class. Throughout the semester you should maintain a dossier of the secondary and primary research you conduct on your chosen topic(s). It’s essentially your “multimodal” notebook or research database; it shows me all the “behind-the-scenes” work you’ve done that either has or hasn’t manifested itself in your exhibition. The dossier should contain abstracts of relevant secondary sources you’ve read/viewed/listened to; scans of original documents you’ve discovered; clips of relevant time-based media you’ve either collected or created; etc. Each item in your dossier should be thoroughly cited and annotated, and the contents should then be organized into units (thematic, formal, chronological, etc. – whatever organizational scheme makes most sense for your particular project(s)).
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 (i.e., screenshots of your research database? links to an online scrapbook? a Google doc?). 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.
Because we’ll be meeting and talking about your dossiers in-person, you needn’t prepare any explanatory text – but 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 “argumentative” or “contextualizing” text you’ve included in the exhibition itself.
Dossiers are due before/in class on November 16, and are worth 30% of your final grade.
Students will form groups based on shared topical (e.g., media objects in the workplace, forms of recorded music, filing technologies) or theoretical (e.g., obsolescence, miniaturization, immaterial labor, reuse) interests and collectively curate and “install” an online exhibition. Groups should decide upon an institutional identity (are you an arts organization featuring creative work, a science education organization, a history museum, etc.?) and choose a site platform (e.g., blog, Flash site, Omeka site, etc.) with a physical and symbolic architecture that suits your purposes. Consider how your exhibition’s form and content support one another. 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 the group. (Please make sure to label or tag your posts appropriately, so we can associate them with your project.) Exhibitions will be presented in our final class, on December 14, and all students are expected to be present and to participate in their groups’ presentations. I will provide more details on these presentations as the end of the semester draws near. The exhibition is worth 35% of your final grade.
In addition, by Friday, December 17, at 5pm, you are expected to submit, via Google Docs, a 300- to 600-word group and self assessment. You should assess your group exhibition’s success in meeting our class’s evaluative criteria, discuss your work process, and address the contributions of each group member, including yourself. Your assessment is worth 5% of your final grade.
Submitting Work Via Google Docs
(1) Please sign up for a Google account if you don’t have one already. (2) At the Google homepage, click on the “more” drop-down menu at the top of the page, and choose “Google Documents.” (3) Once in Google Docs, click on the “Create new” button in the top-left, and choose “Folder.” Create a new folder named “MM_Fall2010_LastName_FirstName” (to change the name, simply click on the words “New Folder” in the blue bar). (4) Now, under the name of your new folder, click on “Share,” then select “share this folder.” (5) In the pop-up window, under “Add People,” type my email address, and set my status to “can edit.” Click the buttons that allow you to send a copy to your self and send email notification. Then click “Share,” then “Close.”
Please create all written assignments as Word, Pages, or basic text editor files. I need to be able to edit your text and add comments, so please don’t submit pdfs. Please include your last name and “MM” somewhere in your file name.
When you’re ready to upload your assignment, (1) return to Google Docs, and choose “upload” in the upper-left corner of the page. You’ll be directed to a new page, where you can (2) click “Select files to upload” and choose the name of your file. Please unselect both “convert” options. In the “destination folder” pull-down menu, choose “MM_Fall2010…”; make sure the privacy settings are set to “Private,” so only I can see your document; and click “Start Upload.”