Requirements + Assignments

ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION

Our class is a mix of seminar and workshop, and its success depends on your regular attendance and reliable participation. We need each other to show up on time, having completed the readings, and prepared to engage constructively and respectfully with one another. See below, under “Policies and Procedures,” for more on our commitment to inclusion and respect.

Lang Statement re: Advising: This course includes advising as part of the curriculum. Each student will meet with Greta and Shannon at least once during the semester to discuss concerns such as this seminar in relation to the student’s other classes and academic endeavors, the student’s overall course of study, plans and opportunities for the following semester, and future goals beyond college. More information on scheduling and preparing for these advising meetings will be introduced during the semester. These meetings are primarily occasions for faculty to mentor students on broad and far-reaching matters; they are separate from any appointments students may have with assigned student success advisors or faculty advisors.

[We apologize for the pedantry of the following. Yet recent semesters’ experience has demonstrated that such specificity is unfortunately necessary.]

If you must be absent, please try to notify us in advance. Two absences will not affect your grade. Three absences will result in a “one step” reduction in your final grade (i.e., from an A to an A-). Four absences will result in a “two-step” reduction. More than six absences will result in failure of the course; to avoid the ‘F’ on your transcript, we’ll instead advise you to withdraw from the class. Please note that absences include in-class advising and those days you might miss at the beginning of the semester because of late registration. If you need to miss class, please consult the lesson documentation on our website, check in with a classmate, and, if you need additional guidance, make an appointment to speak with us. 

We are required by The New School to take attendance at the start of class. Students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will be marked absent. Your timely arrival is appreciated. Students who are consistently late disrupt their classmates and impede our class progress.

While we are happy to work with you to tailor the class’s content and assignments to your interests, and to help you develop strategies for project planning and time management – and while we aim to be sympathetic to the challenges students face both inside and outside the classroom – we ask that you please also respect our time and acknowledge our heavy load of responsibilities. We cannot allow expectations for accommodation to compromise our own health.

Attendance and participation are worth 20% of your final grade.

READING RESPONSES

Because this is a class about networks, we’ll experiment with networked forms of writing and networked platforms to enhance our engagement with and our discussion about the assigned texts. While we do expect you to read/watch/listen to all the assigned texts for each session, we invite you to choose two sessions during which you’ll use any of a variety of platforms to critically and creatively respond to those weeks’ readings. You can sign up for your two dates — one in each half of the semester — here. For your chosen sessions you’ll need to post your response to the date-appropriate section of our Reading Response Slide Deck (please try to compress your response into a single slide!) by 11:59pm on the night before class.

You’re welcome to respond in any of the following formats: 

  • A 150-word (please: keep it brief!) synopsis of the readings;
  • A link to a series of solo tweets — or a Twitter conversation between / among you and at least one other classmate (your individual tweets should total ~150 words),
  • A link to or screenshot of a similar conversation on another messaging app (again, with each of you offering ~150 words total), 
  • A screenshot of a Slack conversation wherein you and at least two of your classmates engage in a conversation (again, your individual posts should total ~150 words), 
  • A collaborative composition on a networked writing platform, like Twine, 
  • A screenshot of, or a link to, an Instagram photo and ~100-word caption that makes an argument about the readings,
  • A screenshot of or link to a PowerPoint / Keynote / Google Slide in which you distill the readings,
  • A digitally or hand-rendered “concept map” or illustration of the key themes for the readings,
  • Any other format that you discuss with us in advance.

Regardless of the format of your response, you should make sure to:  

  • Identify yourself on the doc, so we know who’s posting! 
  • Think across the various texts, rather than choosing the shortest one and ignoring the others :), 
  • Highlight key themes and arguments,
  • Balance criticality and creativity. Have fun with this! 

…and try to do the following: 

  • Briefly summarize passages that struck you, 
  • Identify areas of confusion or disagreement that you’d like us to discuss in class,
  • Describe how the texts resonated for you — how they connected to your own intellectual or creative interests. 

In class each week we’ll discuss the content of your responses, and we’ll periodically reflect on the affordances and limitations of your various tools of engagement. Your two reading responses will be worth 15% of your final grade. 

NETWORK DIARY

We invite you to apply the readings and discussion from the first several weeks of the semester in examining your own networked existence. Document — via textual notes, photographs, diagrams, videos, audio recordings, etc. — the various networks in which you find yourself embedded or entangled over the course of any 24-hour period. 

  • What digital and analog communication networks did you use? 
  • What social networks and care infrastructures did you rely on?
  • What technical infrastructural networks — electricity, water, Internet, etc. — did you rely on?
  • What transportation networks facilitated your own movement, and helped to bring goods and services to you
  • What information technologies were likely running in the background, monitoring and ensuring the smooth operation of these other systems? What hidden networks might have been tracking your movement, acknowledging your presence, monitoring your behavior?  What objects or artifacts might you have worn on your body, carried in your bag, etc., that rendered you identifiable and trackable to those networks? 
  • What are the forms / typologies and politics of these various networks? Are any incompatible? Do those incompatibilities create frictions? Did any additional frictions arise through the entanglement of your networks with others’ networks? 
  • What other network questions are pertinent to your life and important to you?
  • Important: What did you learn about yourself and your networked world through this documentation exercise? Try to think about your own experience through some of the critical themes we’ve discussed in class.

Now, we invite you to “write up” your field notes, along with a brief reflection, using a networked writing platform: Twine, Trello, Miro, Mural, Whimsical, or another platform that you discuss with us in advance. You’ll find a Twine tutorial video here (and here’s more info on adding images), and a Miro tutorial here. Such platforms are commonly used in interaction fiction / hypertext literature, and in collaborative software development. Thus, these platforms are both a product of, and a participant in, computational practices, a central concern for Code+ classes like ours.

How can you use the networked affordances of these tools to convey the networked nature of your own existence? How might you use textual form to evoke the infrastructural forms of the networks you’re describing? How might you link together short passages of text, photos, sketches, maps, videos, and other media, to communicate the qualities of these networks and their role in your everyday life? Your network diary, which must contain at least 600 words of text, is due by end-of-day on Wednesday, March 11, and is worth 20% of your final grade. Please email a link to your project to both Greta and Shannon.

FINAL PROJECT PROPOSAL

Note: as we all know, the pandemic is changing our lives. It is also changing our social networks and our relationship with (and reliance on) on the Internet as critical infrastructure for our day-to-day activities. We invite you, as anthropologists of networks, to use your final project to examine how this is happening, what the consequences might be, and how we could collectively inform the transition with the values of equity, social commitment, and care.

Your final project could take a number of forms: 

  1. A 1500- to 1800-word addendum to the NYC Internet Master Plan to address community digital needs. This could include recommendations for community-led infrastructure like community wireless networks, or other concrete methods for achieving equity goals. Use the opportunity to talk with community broadband leaders like Silicon Harlem and The Point to understand community needs and source recommendations.
    • What needs are becoming more clear in the face of the pandemic? What kinds of policy or grassroots actions could create digital equity for NYC communities (for example, for kids to be able to get online to do schoolwork, for people to be able to telework)?
    • Note: You are welcome to produce a set of recommendations for the City as a group project, as long as each contributor provides a clear contribution to building the recommendations. Please speak to Shannon and Greta about how you would put together recommendations as a group and who would do what;
  2. A 1500- to 1800-word proposed set of social-impact and performance metrics for new network infrastructure,
  3. A speculative network — whispernet, sneakernet, offline network, samizdat — designed to achieve social or community goals, using existing or future technologies (scale depends on format; please discuss with Greta and Shannon!)
    • How would you design and build a network to help communities survive and rebuild from the pandemic? This could be an online (Internet) or offline network;
  4. Build your own network to share internet and organize mutual aid: If you want to share your internet connection, or know a local organization or business who can do so, you have the option to build a Portable Network Kit with the support of Community Tech NY (Greta’s organization). The kit would enable a local WiFi hotspot, creating internet access and allowing folks to locally organize mutual aid. This option requires purchasing equipment. Depending on demonstrated community need and ability to follow through, CTNY can support the purchase of one or two kits.
  5. Another format that you discuss with Greta and Shannon in advance

Your 600- TO 900-WORD PROPOSAL should include the following:

  • NYC Digital Master Plan Equity Addendum:
    • A description of your key areas of critical concern; an explanation of how the master plan, in its current form, fails to fully address these issues, and an explanation of how it would be enhanced by more fully addressing those concerns,
    • If you are focusing on network/digital needs due to the pandemic, a description (with sources) of those needs,
    • A list of key stakeholders, and a discussion of how your critical concerns matter to them,
    • A discussion of the historical, political, economic, cultural, and ecological factors that must be taken into consideration,  
    • A discussion of the methods — secondary research, interviews, “virtual” fieldwork, etc. — through which you’ll develop your addendum, 
    • A list of at least six potential references, half of which should be scholarly sources
  • Evaluation – Social-Impact / Health Metrics:
    • A brief discussion of why evaluation is important for the NYC Master Plan,
    • A list and explanation of what you regard as the plan’s key markers of success,
    • A discussion of how you might “operationalize” each of those variables (i.e., make them measurable, trackable, evaluatable),
    • A discussion of the historical, political, economic, cultural, and ecological factors that must be taken into consideration,  
    • A brief discussion of precedent projects — other metrics — from which you can draw inspiration,
    • A discussion of the methods — secondary research, interviews, virtual fieldwork, etc. — through which you’ll develop your addendum, 
    • A list of at least six potential references, half of which should be scholarly sources
  • Speculative Network Design:
    • A discussion of the population(s) your network will serve and the functions it will perform,
    • A discussion of the core values you want your network to embody, and what typologies (refer to our slides from our first class!) and other material qualities might best embody those values, 
    • A discussion of precedent projects — either real or speculative,
    • A discussion of the form in which you’ll present your network: a physical model, a pitch deck, a white paper, etc. (feel free to include sketches and other graphics),
    • A list of at least six potential references, half of which should be scholarly sources
  • Build Your Own Network:
    • A discussion of your own local context — where you live in New York, your hometown, or some other place you’re attached to — and why/how a community network would prove beneficial, 
    • A discussion of the local community groups or types of individuals who would or could derive benefit from your community network — and why, and how, 
    • A discussion of the historical, political, economic, cultural, and ecological factors that must be taken into consideration within your local context,  
    • A discussion of the values that you’d want your network to embody, in light of all the issues you’ve addressed above,
    • A brief discussion of the challenges you might face in designing, building, and maintaining your network,
    • A list of at least six potential sources, half of which should be scholarly sources

Your proposal is due, in editable form (i.e., no pdfs, please), to both Greta and Shannon, via Google Drive end-of-day on Wednesday, April 8. This will give us some time to read and respond to your work, and develop a list of helpful resources, before we meet for one-on-one, half-hour consultations the following week.

Your proposal and participation in the meeting are together worth 15% of your final grade. 

FINAL PROJECT

We’ve described above potential formats for your final project. You’ll submit an editable draft of your final project via Google Drive on Monday, May 4, by 4pm. Your draft should be nearly complete: formatted, illustrated, edited, spellchecked, etc. We’ll respond with comments by Wednesday, May 6, and you can then use those comments to revise and resubmit your final draft on Monday, May 11, before class at 4pm. In our final class we’ll present our work to various stakeholders — including representatives from many of the organizations we visited and engaged with throughout the semester.

Your final project is worth 20% of your final grade, and your presentation is worth 10%. A half-hearted, careless first draft will compromise your grade — so, please, take the draft seriously and try to maximize the value of our feedback!