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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

After completing CAT 1 and CAT 2, CAT 3 students should be confident in their ability to do the following:

  • Understand and practice effective research, including developing research questions and finding and evaluating appropriate sources.

  • Use research to make an effective multimodal and/or creative 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.

  • Develop independence in the composition process and effectively collaborate with peers in the process of research and development of a multimodal project.

Writing Skills

CAT 3 fosters the following skills:

  • Intersectional approaches to research.

  • Writing with research and developing a voice.

  • Respectful and responsible collaboration (interpersonal communication).

  • Multimodal/creative composition.

Core Concepts

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

  • Resistance/revolution.

  • Interdisciplinarity.

  • Art as argument.

  • Research as a process.

Common Readings

All CAT 3 students will read these texts:

  • Walter Benjamin: "Thesis on History."
  • Octavia Butler: "A Few Rules for Predicting the Future."

Spring 2023 Courses

Subversive Speculation: BIPOC Genre Fiction

Jennifer Marchisotto

Lecturer, CAT
Tuesday/Thursday 12:30-1:50 p.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.

AI Narratives

Romain Delaville

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

From ancient tales of automata to contemporary discussions of robot takeover, intelligent machines have and continue to capture the imagination of artists, intellectuals, and tech enthusiasts alike. This CAT 3 course is an interdisciplinary examination of the stories told about, by, and with artificial intelligence. We will focus on the ways in which AI has been represented in various forms of popular media, including film, television, literature, and video games. We will analyze how these representations have been influenced by historical and socio-cultural factors as well as how they shape our understanding of the technology itself, its development, and its (un)ethical use. This course will also offer an incursion into Digital Humanities as we leverage the power of AI tools to perform text analysis and critically examine the impact of language model-based automation on what it means to tell a story, to be an author, and even to write.

How to Survive the Future

Liz Popko

Lecturer, CAT
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 9:00-9:50 a.m.

In this CAT 3 course, you will use your research and analysis skills to speculate about a post-apocalyptic dystopian future. Specifically, you will use your own areas of expertise to imagine what possible futures await us and offer insights into how we might manifest or avoid those destinies. We will look at the ways the post-apocalyptic dystopia has been imagined in fiction, film, and other texts, particularly in their use of signs, symbols, allusions, and rhetoric. Some questions that this class will consider include: What does it mean for the world to be considered a dystopia? What does it mean for something to be considered an apocalypse? How will the work being done in my field of study contribute to or destroy the world? What could be done now to prevent future disaster? What does ethics look like in crisis and catastrophe? How can we prepare others and ourselves for disaster?

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

Joe Bigham

Lecturer, CAT
Tuesday/Thursday 11:00 a.m.-12:20 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.

Environmental Futures: Community-Engaged Learning

Phoebe Bronstein

Associate Teaching Professor, CAT
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10:00-10:50 a.m.

Disclaimer: This course will require students to volunteer three to five 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 for Environmental Innovation, the San Diego River Park Foundation, and the Nature Collective. 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.

Writing Support

There are a variety of writing resources around campus for students to take advantage of. In addition to CAT TAs' office hours, students may visit the Writing Hub in the the Teaching and Learning Commons for help with their writing assignments. The Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services (OASIS) also offers a variety of tutoring programs, including the Language Arts Tutorial Services (LATS).