English 207: Intro to Cultural Studies
English 207: Intro to Cultural Studies
English 207: Intro to Cultural Studies
English 207: Intro to Cultural Studies
English 207: Intro to Cultural Studies

English 207: Intro to Cultural Studies

Autumn 2008 (39 Students)

Course Site No Longer Live

The Syllabus


Project-Based Course (designed and taught with approval from the University of Washington English department)

Full Course Title: “Introduction to Cultural Studies: Technoculture and the Senses”

Course Description

It’s rather easy to get distracted these days, and we have the keywords to prove it: “on demand,” “hyperattention” and “multitasking,” to name but a few. Of course, these keywords aren’t empty. They are associated with practices—embodied practices, cultural practices, technological practices. That’s quite a complex mix, the analysis of which demands an array of texts and contexts.

In this course, we will attempt such an analysis by, first, historically locating Cultural Studies and learning how it emerged as a critical framework. We will then follow a series of trajectories, unpacking how technology is culturally embedded and unfolding its effects on sense experience. These trajectories will explore conversations about animation and what is implied by “being animated,” in tandem with inquiries into technology-enhanced perception, human-technology relations, the senses and consumer culture, and digitizing race, gender and sexuality.

Along the way, we’ll also consider how Cultural Studies, which tends to situate and make sense of bodies as socially or discursively constructed, might address some more transitional aspects of embodiment (including sensation, movement and affect) that are difficult to pin down. But for now, one thing is certain: we’ll entertain—and even get distracted by—matters in excess of thought.

Project-Based Approach to Cultural Studies

Students were asked to pursue a quarter-long inquiry into a particular topic, through a cultural studies project that allowed for feedback, revision, and attention to process. They were asked to choose between one of three prompts: (1) a multimodal proof of concept related to the use of technologies for cultural inquiry and critique, (2) a proto-print essay researching the histories and social conditions of technologies, and (3) a proposal for the application of humanities methods toward technology-focused, community-based research.

What I Learned

Outside of teaching English composition, this course was my first opportunity to teach technologies and media through a cultural studies framework, namely frameworks from Birmingham and Australian traditions. Since the course was not writing-intensive, I opted for a project-based approach that allowed students to select how to practice and mobilize the course material. While a majority of them selected the essay-based approach (to the histories and social conditions of technologies), the class nevertheless became a space for discussing what it means to produce alternative forms of scholarship, for whom, and to what effects. To that end, I enjoyed speaking with students about their own investments in the course material and how they found technoculture studies applicable to their everyday lives.

Course Evaluations

Available upon request.

(The third image on the left is a screen shot from Andrew Battenburg’s final 207 project, which responded to prompt #1 with a proof of concept for a multimodal, electronic book. Image used with permission. All other images are screen shots of the course site and blog, which I designed.)