Skip to main content

CAT 3

CAT 3 courses (six units, spring quarter) are writing and research intensive, focusing on collaboration, research, and art-making by speculating on how the relationships between culture, art, and technology will be transformed in the future. Students must have passed CAT 2 in order to enroll in CAT 3.

Learning Objectives

Building off what you learned in CAT 1 and CAT 2, in CAT 3 you will:

  • Understand and practice effective research, including developing research questions.

  • Use research to make an effective multimodal argument towards a specific audience.

  • Engage with cultural products, including art and popular culture, as the result of research but also as legitimate objects of research.

  • Develop an independent research project: find and evaluate appropriate sources, compose research genres (such as annotated bibliographies and literature reviews, etc.), and practice revision.

  • Effectively collaborate with peers in the process of research and development of a multimodal project.

Core Concepts

By the end of CAT 3, students should be able to understand and define the following terms and ideas:

  • Resistance/revolution.

  • Interdisciplinarity.

  • Art as argument.

  • Research as a process.

  • Interpersonal communication.

Fall 2022 Courses

CAT 3: Surviving or Thriving: Narratives of Apocalypse and the Aftermath

Liz Popko

Lecturer, CAT
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10:00-10:50 a.m.

This CAT 3 course will ask you to consider the ways that our future has been imagined, specifically in narrative and rhetorical strategies. From climate crisis to religious prophecies, we will look at how authors compose stories about the end of humanity and then imagine any life that persists post-apocalypse. Through an examination of the rhetorical and narrative choices of fiction, journalism, activism, etc., you will develop your own stories of apocalypse and the aftermath. In particular, you will conduct research on threats to human life or civilization and then produce your own narrative arguments about surviving or thriving beyond such threats. While much of our discussion will examine catastrophic rhetoric, we will also explore more nuanced rhetoric and evaluate the efficacy of such choices in argumentation. By the end of this course, you will be able to break down narratives of disaster, threat, and humanity—not to dismiss risks, but to better evaluate and respond to such risk and imagine the future.


Spring 2022 Courses

CAT 3: Our Future Climate: Envisioning Our Collective Future

Adam Burgasser

Professor, Physics
Tuesday/Thursday 9:30-10:50 a.m.

Global climate change is a reality, manifesting in extreme weather events, droughts and fires, rising seas and disappearing glaciers, and massive loss of biodiversity. But a trend is not inevitability, and there are ways we can collectively "bend the curve" to shape our future climate if we are willing to make significant changes in our personal lives and in our societies. In this course, we will collectively imagine our future in a changing world—as individuals, as cultures, and as a species—in the context of different climate change scenarios. This exploration will be anchored in the scientific literature and the consensus findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; social science studies of cultures and communities experiencing climate crisis; the psychology and politics of climate change; art, literature, and popular media reflecting different views of our future climate; and the social and technological challenges and opportunities that shape how we address our future climate.

CAT 3: Futurism: Histories and Political Aesthetics of Tomorrow

Babak Rahimi

Associate Professor, Literature
Tuesday/Thursday 11:00 a.m.-12:20 p.m.

This is a course about speculative imaginings of future and how being (or becoming) modern is reimagined through the future. Futurist imaginaries under study range from artistic movements that celebrate the power and speed of the machine to speculative fiction that envision black futures in Afro-diasporic realities. The course also examines futurism in relation with minoritarian politics, climate change, gender, algorithm, and surveillance. While various themes are studied through assigned academic readings, much of this course will revolve around cinematic and literary works of fiction such as Binti, I Hope You Get This Message, Frankenstein, and Ex Machina.

CAT 3: Environmental Futures: Community-Engaged Learning

Phoebe Bronstein

Assistant Teaching Professor, CAT

Bill Robertson Geibel

Lecturer, CAT
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10:00-10:50 a.m.

Disclaimer: This course will require students to volunteer 3-5 hours per week at environmental nonprofits around San Diego. Students will arrange their own transportation.

This small, seminar-style CAT 3 course will examine how popular culture—magazine/newspaper articles, literature, film, and television—has and continues to imagine the environment,with particular attention to the climate crisis. From contemporary films like Okja and Weathering with You to Hollywood's The Day After Tomorrow, we will examine how mass media promotes, questions, and reinforces environmental politics. Paired with our course content, this course will foreground community engagement by having students volunteer with local environmental organizations like the Birch Aquarium, the Solana Center, and the San Diego River Park Foundation. Through discussion and reflection on both the course content and your volunteer experiences, we will ask how these stories we tell help shape and propel environmental change. For instance, how can these future worlds help us understand and engage with our past, current, and future relationship to the environment? How do these films shape our own relationship with the planet? How do these visions sooth or exacerbate anxieties about topics like global warming? Potential topics we will cover include (but are not limited to) the climate crisis; capitalism and the environment; race, gender, and the environment; technology and the environment; and the politics of food.

CAT 3: Subversive Speculation: BIPOC Genre Fiction

Jennifer Marchisotto

Lecturer, CAT
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10:00-10:50 a.m.

Speculative fiction creatively reimagines the world we live in, using fantastic elements to play with alternative versions of history, the present, and the future. This CAT 3 course will examine the ways BIPOC authors have used genre fiction to challenge traditional white patriarchal narratives. From science fiction, to fantasy, to horror, we will think about the ways authors of color employ the fantastic to imagine new futures not bound by the marginalizing and alienating assumptions that underpin contemporary American and Eurocentric societies. We will read and watch texts from a range of perspectives illustrating the ways speculative fiction has been used to confront issues like immigration, cultural appropriation, state violence, and more. We will also read contemporary scholarship on this topic to understand the ways in which speculative fiction is discussed in academic contexts.

Possible authors and texts include Nnedi Okorafor, Rebecca Roanhorse, P. Djèlí Clark, Black Panther, Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, Mohsin Hamid, and others. These texts will serve as inspiration for your own research projects. In keeping with the goals of CAT 3, students will be required to pursue and apply their own research for both individual and group assignments. These assignments will build toward a collaborative research project in which students craft a "Choose Your Own Adventure"-style text that is informed by course readings and research.

CAT 3: Futures Through Music-Making: Videos, Virtuality, and the Bop Gun

Joe Bigham

Lecturer, CAT
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 2:00-2:50 p.m.

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 operative signing 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 Janelle Monae's Dirty Computer. Sonifications of data allow us to hear the change across multiple domains and imagine where that change might evolve toward.

This course synthesizes contemporary musical practices with futurist and speculative perspectives. As a writing course, we will research, analyze, and critique short essays about cutting edge and futurist musical perspectives. Our materials will include chapters in the fields of Sound Studies and Ecomusicology, examples of virtual reality and music-making (Jarrod Lanier's work), and other futurist music-making examples. The ideas we develop from our writing will then form the basis of a collaborative sound project aimed at representing a future world. Through our own music and sound-making experiences, we will perform and critique where we are in the present moment and where we might go.