30th Aug2012

Course Syllabus

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American Studies 628 N —

Space, Place, and Identity in the Digital Age


Thursday 4:00-6:40pm

Dr. Jason Farman

Email: jasonfarman@gmail.com

Office: 2107B Holzapfel Hall

Office Hours: Mondays and Thursdays, 1:30-3:30 or by appointment

Office Phone: 301.405.9524


Our bodies and identities are intimately bound to the spaces we move through. It is impossible to conceive of a meaningful space without considering it alongside embodiment and the practices that tie our identities to our bodies. Throughout this course, we will investigate the relationship between the production of space, practices of place, and embodied identity. The relationship between these categories has taken on a new level of importance with the emergence of digital technologies, as seen in both academic studies and in the broader cultural climate. We will study several topics that are situated at the intersection of space, place, identity, and digital technology such as mapping and power, location-aware and pervasive technologies, surveillance, virtuality, telepresence, empire in the digital age, transnational identity, and diaspora in an age of global connectivity.

Required Texts:

  • Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso Books, 1983/2006). ISBN: 978-1844670864
  • Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992.  ISBN: 0631181776.


Assignments:  Reading assignments are listed on the day they will be discussed in class.  You are expected to arrive to class having read the works listed.  All written assignments are to be turned in via e-mail before the beginning of class.  Computer problems are not an excuse for late work.  You must cite all of your sources accurately according to MLA, APA, or Chicago style and type all work in Times New Roman, 12-point font.  Any plagiarized work will receive an “F” and may lead to a failing grade for the course.


Presentation 1: Lead the class in a discussion driven analysis of the assigned reading for a particular day: 10%

Presentation 2: Present a short analysis of a particular space that has been impacted in some way by digital technology:  10%

Book Review: Present a review of a relevant, recently published book: 10%

Questions/Definitions:  Students post three well-developed questions and connections based on the assigned reading to the course website. Along with these interrogations of the readings, you will create on-going definitions of the key terms in the class and how the readings have augmented your definitions: 15%

Participation: 15%

Research Prospectus and Presentation: 10%

Final Research Paper (15-20 pages): 30%

—Please Note: This syllabus is subject to change at any time according to the professor’s discretion.  The assignments below may also include readings handed out in class, which each student is responsible for completing.


Week 1 – Intro: Defining Space, Place, and Identity

Aug. 30

  • Watch: Requiem for Detroit (2010, Dir: Julien Temple)



Week 2 – The Production of Space

Sept. 6

  • Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space Ch. 1-2
  • Simonsen, Kristen. “Bodies, Sensations, Space and Time: The Contribution from Henri Lefebvre,” Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography 87.1 (2005): 1-14.
  • Tuan, Yi-Fu, Space and Place, Introduction and Ch. 5 “Spaciousness and Crowding”



Week 3 – Embodiment, Identity, and Space

Sept. 13

  • Thrift, Nigel, Non-Representational Theory: Space | Politics | Affect, Ch. 3-4
  • Farman, Jason, Mobile Interface Theory: Embodied Space and Locative Media, Ch. 1: “Embodiment and the Mobile Interface”
    • Discussion Leader: Felix Burgos



Week 4 – Practices of Representation: Mapping and Pervasive Computing

Sept. 20

  • Sletto, Bjørn Ingmunn, “We Drew What We Imagined: Participatory Mapping, Performance, and the Arts of Landscape Making,” Current Anthropology 50.4 (2009): 443-476
  • Manovich, Lev, “The Poetics of Augmented Space.”
  • Sassen, Saskia, “Unsettling topographic representation,” and de Waal, Martijn, “The urban culture of sentient cities: from an internet of things to a public sphere of things,” in Sentient City (Mark Shepard, ed.)
  • Farman, Jason, Mobile Interface Theory: Embodied Space and Locative Media, Ch. 2, “Mapping and Representations of Space”
    • Discussion Leader: Jessica Vooris
    • Digital Space Presentation: Alyssa Neuner, “From Tabletop to Desktop Gaming”



Week 5 – Maps, Representation, and Power

Sept. 27



Week 6 – Panoptic Spaces

Oct. 4



Week 7 — Identity from Imagined Communities to Virtual Communities

Oct. 11

  • Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities, Ch. 1-5 and 10.
  • Sengupta, Shuddhabrata, “I/Me/Mine: Intersectional Identiteis as Negotiated Minefields,” in Signs 31.3 (2006): 629-639.
  • boyd, danah. “White Flight in Networked Publics,” in Race After the Internet.
  • Surveillance Map Due
    • Discussion Leaders: Justin Sprague and Avery Dame
    • Book Review: Alyssa Neuner, My Life as a Night Elf Priest
    • Digital Space: Cassy Griff, “Fashion Blogs;” and Jessica Walker, “Kitchens”



Week 8 – The Virtual and the Actual

Oct. 18

  • Adriana de Souza e Silva and Daniel Sutko, “Theorizing Locative Technologies Through Theories of the Virtual.”
  • John Rajchman, “The Virtual House,” in Constructions
  • Therese Tierney, “Formal Matters: The Virtual as Generative Process,” in Abstract Space
  • “Virtual, adj. (and n.),” OED Online, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/223829
  • Class will meet virtually
    • Discussion Leader: Melissa Rogers
    • Book Review: Avery Dame, The Googlization of Everything
    • Digital Space: Jessica Vooris, “Chiapas, Mexico”



Week 9 — Liveness, Telepresence, and Embodied Connectivity

Oct. 25

  • Dixon, Steve, Digital Performance
  • Stone, Allucquere Rosanne, “Split Subjects, Not Atoms: or, How I Fell in Love with my Prosthesis”
  • Sobchack, Vivian, “A Leg to Stand On,” from Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture
    • Discussion Leader: Alyssa Neuner
    • Book Review: Robert Jiles, The Young and the Digital
    • Digital Space: Avery Dame, “Transition Support Groups Online”

Week 10 – Connection and Disconnection

Nov. 1

  • Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together, Ch. 8: “Always On”
  • Fischer, Claude, Still Connected: Family and Friends in America Since 1970, Ch. 1-3.
  • Ito, Mizuko, Daisuke Okabe, and Ken Anderson, “Portable Objects in Three Global Cities: The Personalization of Urban Places,” in The Reconstruction of Space and Time, ed. Rich Ling and Scott W. Campbell
    • Discussion Leader: Jessica Walker
    • Book Review: Alex Carson, Access Contested; Justin Sprague, Online Territories
    • Digital Space: Tatiana Benjamin, “Black Churches and Webstreamed Services”

Week 11 – Life in the City

Nov. 8

  • Sassen, Saskia, “Why Cities Matter.”
  • De Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life, Part III.
  • Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation
  • Watch: Los Angeles Plays Itself – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SNc41zyLJ0 -or- Urbanized
    • Discussion Leader: Robert Jiles
    • Book Review: Melissa Rogers, Teletechnologies, Place, and Community; Jessica Walker, Fitting into Place?
    • Digital Space: Robert Jiles



Week 12 – Empire and National Identity

Nov. 15

  • Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities, Ch. 6 and 10
  • Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. Empire, Part 1
  • Dourish, Paul. “Postcolonial Computing: A Tactical Survey,” Science, Technology, and Human Values 37.1 (2012): 3-29.
  • Mezzadra and Neilson, “Border as Method”: http://eipcp.net/transversal/0608/mezzadraneilson/en
    • Book Review: Felix Burgos, Rebel Cities; Cassy Griff, Networked
    • Digital Space: Emily Warheit, “Triathlons”



Week 13 – No Class Scheduled: Thanksgiving Break

Nov. 22



Week 14 – Transnationalism and Diaspora

Nov. 29

  • Basch, Linda, et al. Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation-States, Ch. 1-2
  • Georgiou, Myria, “Diaspora, Mediated Communication, and Space,” and Bailey, Olga G., “Reconfiguring Diasporic-Ethnic Identities: The Web as Technology of Representation and Resistance,” in Online Territories: Globalization, Mediated Practice and Social Space
    • Discussion Leader: Tatiana Benjamin
    • Book Review: Jessica Vooris, Race After the Internet; Tatiana Benjamin, Digital Diasporas; PJ Rey, Liquid Surveillance
    • Digital Space: Alex Carson



Week 15 – Presentations of Final Research

Dec. 6


Weeks 16/17 – Finals Week

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