CRN 6912, PSAM 5550I
Thursdays 3:50 – 6:30 at 6 E16th St. rm 1202
Melanie Crean
Caroline Woolard

Course Description
Though collectivism and collaboration are certainly not new to fine art or political resistance movements, the practice has evolved significantly with the growth of networked culture, appearing to broaden and underscore Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic statement from 1967, “Teamwork succeeds private effort.”

This course will investigate a range of practices and aesthetics that contribute to structures of collaboration, how they have been affected by economic, political, technological and artistic phenomena, and the impact they have had on culture.  To consider the future of collaboration, we will begin by looking at the history and methodologies of other practitioners that have looked into that future. Students will meet with a range of groups who produce together, from anarchist collectives, community cooperatives, artist collectives, hacker spaces and commercial design start-ups, to consider how structures of organization, decision making and power affect collective creative practice.  Working with the support of diverse range of mentoring groups, students will produce projects that experiment and test the process of collaboration and collective action.

In the first half of the semester, students will investigate new collaborative formats each week via site visits and advising sessions with members of a collectively run activist archive (Interference Archive), a cooperative film company (Meerkat), and an open science collective (Pubic Labs), a collectively run theater space (WOW), the Free Software Movement, and practitioners of Human Centered Design (IDEO). In the second half of the semester, students will utilize these collaborative methods to collaboratively design working methods and self-directed portfolio projects.

Course Components

Readings: each week students will read 1-2 text(s) which they will respond to on the class blog. Students will alternate moderating a discussion of these text(s). Please see the blog’s reading page for more information.

Participation and blog: all students must contribute to discussions (in class and on the blog). You must speak each week in class, responding to our readings or informing others about your own research concerning collaborative forms, processes, and outcomes of collaborative work. You should post material of interest to the blog. The blog will act as a collaboratively authored document / discussion, becoming both a living record and an archive for future inspiration.

Midterm group project: Project Proposal

For their midterm presentation: students will write a one page proposal describing a collaborative project that they would like to work on from November 14 through December 12, the form this collaboration will take, and the case studies they imagine learning most from in the coming weeks. The proposal must include the resources (tools, people, books, spaces, and materials) the student currently has access to, as well as the resources s/he will need to access, to produce the final work. The proposal will be uploaded to the class blog, as well as presented verbally in the form of a 1 minute “elevator pitch” to members of WOW, a collectively run theater space in the East Village on October 10th.

Final group project: Collaborative Project

The Collaborative Final Project is a month-long effort to research, develop, and implement a collaborative project. This open ended assignment can focus on any topic, but must demonstrate an understanding of practices of participation (informing, consulting, collaborating, empowering), forms of collaboration (informal group, collective, cooperative, movement, partnership), approaches to decision making (straw poll, consensus, shared power), and critical reflections on encounters with contemporary, collaborative case studies throughout the course. A successful project could be produced by 3 students (forming a temporary collective) or by a single student engaging a million participants in a collaborative process online (forming a collaborative tool), so long as a clear and rigorous engagement with practices and forms of collaboration is demonstrated.

Learning Outcomes:
By the completion of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Articulate a number of methods, structures, and rationales for collaboration, such as crowdsourcing or forking
    and be able to cite examples of groups or situations in which they were employed.
  2. Translate an experimental method of collaboration or collective action into a project based response
  3. Be able to critically discuss and write about personal and contemporary collaborative work
  4. Give and respond to constructive criticism, in order to iterate and improve their own and others group projects.

Criteria for evaluation
Students in the course will receive feedback on the following areas:

  • Critical Thinking: To what degree has the student demonstrated and developed critical thinking skills over the course of the semester? Is critical thinking evident in the visual work, in critiques and presentations, and in written assignments?
  • Design Process: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s design process? Is the student able to evaluate the work at different points in the process and to identify areas in their work for future development?
  • Contextualization and Connection: To what degree has the student been able to connect the themes and core concepts of the course to their work? Is this clearly demonstrated in their class participation, project presentation, and written work?
  • Integration and Appropriate Use of Technology/Medium: Is the student making good choices about the form and type of technology or medium they are using to express their design concepts?
    Communication: How well is the student able to express their ideas, both verbally and in written form?

Final Grade Calculation

  • Participation /Attendance: 25%
  • Blog: 25%
  • Midterm project: 10%
  • Final Project: 40%

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *