Spring 2017 CAT 3 Courses


CAT 3A: Art of the Protest: Youth Movements, Technology, and Civil Disobedience

Phoebe Bronstein

This writing and communication course will focus on the rhetoric, technology, and art of American protest, with special attention to youth movements and understanding the role of technology (from the printing press to twitter) in civil disobedience. We will examine everything from the early role of pamphlets, writing, and music--like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” through Cesar Chavez’s United Farmworker’s Union and to contemporary feminist writing in Teen Vogue, hashtag activism, or protests at Standing Rock and The Women’s March. At the same time, we will consider the difference between propaganda and protest art, defining, thus, what it means to protest and to what end. This course insists on the importance of historical memory, asking how the history of American protests aids in and informs the formation of contemporary movements, demanding that we all think about how we engage, remember, and honor the past while speculating on how we create our collective future. We will end hte class by asking, for example, what causes will matter to us in five or fifteen years? How will deal with racial injustice? Or, access to clean water? For this course, you will write papers, perform research, and ultimately work towards crafting a collaborative social justice campaign that aims to shape, speculate on, and cultivate a better future. 


CAT 3B:  Shared Futures: Sci-Fi, Dark Comedy, Horror for Speculative Design

Ash Eliza Smith

In this art research course we will draw inspiration from films, stories and current events to design fictional projects that will re-imagine the future of self, place and the dreaming collective.

 We will search for hope and possibility in the Anthropocene, the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.  We will draw from sci-fi to prototype speculative design projects that think critically about the future and simultaneously shape our world to come. The future is now!

Drawing from the world of start-ups, incubators and think tanks we will begin a quarter long experiment in design thinking that will combine the disciplines of science, engineering, art, design and technology in order to focus on UCSD’s grand research theme: Understanding and Protecting the Planet.  We will use Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institute of Oceanography as a research partner and resource. 

We will build worlds and generate possible shared near future scenarios, systems, experiences, provocations and extrapolations. We will use techniques of defamiliarization, uncertainty scenarios, ethnography, psychogeography and humor to stimulate conversations around both seductive and repulsive futures-and all that in between. You will be introduced to the composition languages of design fiction, prototyping, and video-making as a way of writing and putting forth research questions. You will participate in the creative process of visual composition through creating speculative design projects, videos, and sketches that will form the basis for your own research questions and writing. Play is an important component in this course as is the flexibility and willingness to try out new platforms and to work inter-disciplinarily in-between science, art and design where creativity and collaborative innovation will be our driving force.

*No prior design, video, engineering, science, coding or art-making experience required; an open mind is encouraged.


CAT 3C: Are We Alone?   

Adam Burgasser

Are We Alone? explores one of our most fundamental questions as a species and as residents of the Universe. For over 2000 years humans have considered the existence of extraterrestrial life, and philosophers, scientists, theologians, writers and filmmakers have examined the characteristics and consequences of exolife, and whether or not it can/must/may exist. With recent advances in astronomical technologies, the discovery of thousands of other planetary systems, and new understanding of the origins of life on Earth, are we poised— and prepared—to answer this question?

In this course, students will compare and synthesize scientific theory, literature, images, popular media, and self-reflection to explore how “Are We Alone” has guided journeys of geographic, scientific and religious discovery; shaped our relationships with and ethical responsibilities to other lifeforms; stimulated searches for the origins of life on Earth and extraterrestrial life on other planets; molded our representations of aliens in literature and popular culture; prompted thought on the technical, judicial and moral implications of we as an interstellar species; refined notions of "self" and "other"; reflected our approaches to race, gender, class, sexuality, age, status and ability; and stoked the tension between hyperconnectivity and isolation, man and machine, in an increasingly networked and crowded planet.                 

The goal of this course is to explore the making of knowledge around this question from multiple sources and many cultural perspectives. Building from CAT 1 and CAT 2, you will continue intensive writing instruction, with an emphasis on the production of an independent research project integrating multiple creative modalities.             

Grades will be determined through a combination of weekly and in-lecture writing, active participation in discussion sections, and midterm and final projects. There will also be the opportunity for extra credit through special event assignments (see syllabus for schedule).  All reading and video materials will be provided on the course website.


CAT 3D: Futures through Music Making: Videos, Virtuality, and the Bop Gun

David "Joe" Bigham 

As an intersection of technology and social interaction, music making can be an effective tool for imagining potential futures. Science fiction has often used examples of music performance to make the future audible, such as Max Rebo’s bar band in Star Wars or Diva Plavalaguna’s operatic singing from The Fifth Element. Musicians have also engaged in “sounding” the future by placing their music in futuristic contexts, as in Funkadelic’s “Bop Gun: Endangered Species” and Prince’s ArtOfficialAge. This course synthesizes contemporary musical practices, from learning an instrument to recording and releasing musical works, with futurist and speculative perspectives.

As a writing course, we will research, analyze, and critique chapters about learning music through video games and Youtube (Kiri Miller’s Playing Along), examples of virtual reality instruments (Jarrod Lanier’s work) and “modeling” technology, and other futurist music making examples. The ideas we develop from our writing will then form the basis of a collaborative musical project aimed at representing a future sound world. Through our own music-making experiences, we will perform and critique where we are in the present moment and where we might go.


CAT 3E: Speculating Selves, Creating Worlds

Joseph Hankins

Every day offers practice at being the self you want to be. You bump along through the day, in classes, at work, among friends, in arguments, and by yourself, eating, traveling, thinking, working. You engage the world and respond to the demands it makes on you, each day building on the last as you rehearse and re-rehearse the self you are becoming.

In this course we will critically examine the worlds in which we live and the demands they place on us. From the disciplines and institutions in which we work and study, to the friends, families, and strangers we encounter throughout our days, we are constantly navigating sets of demands and opportunities that help shape who we become. Together, we will think speculatively, creatively, and rambunctiously – like an engineer, an artist, an organizer – about how we might intervene in these worlds to shape them and, in the long run, ourselves, collectively. Along the way, using a series of group exercises, we will dismantle the division between culture and nature, pull apart race as a technique of control, and show how something as simple as buying a piece of gum connects us to people on the other side of the globe.


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