Dissertations In the Mist

Anni Albers, Design for a Rug, 1925
Anni Albers, Design for a Rug, 1925

Back in November, I wrote this:

For the past five or six years I’ve been on various iterations of the same committee — one charged with rethinking the PhD. Our more specific charge has been to investigate what doctoral-level training should mean at an institution that regards design, artistic production, and media-making as intellectual pursuits — research-based, informed by theory, and potentially theoretically generative. While we were having our discussions, lots of other professional organizations and institutions were having similar conversations about “praxis-based” PhDs, and some schools (like Carnegie Mellon) even put such programs into place. Of course Australia and the UK (and schools in a few other places) have been doing this sort of thing for years.

Last year [ed: that is, 2013], the Provost charged me with filtering those years’ worth of experience and dialogue (including, most recently, with the wonderful Lisa Grocott, Clive Dilnot, Simone Douglas, and Joseph Heathcott) into the creation of an official formatted-in-accordance-with-state-requirements proposal for a new PhD program. I worked for a couple months with an external research organization to flesh out our committees’ “environmental scans” of the various design-, arts-, and praxis-oriented doctoral programs around the world, then set to work on the proposal. There are quite a few parts of that document — including all the stuff about budgets and faculty workload, etc. — that I’m not qualified to complete. I’ve done what I can, so now I wait for the “operationalizers” to help me workshop these ideas and address the nuts and bolts. I’m not sure when, or if, that’ll happen.

“But because I dedicated a good part of the past several years of my life to this project,” I wrote, “I kind of want some of these ideas to see the light of day.” So I posted some excerpts from the proposal. And as I very recently fielded yet another inquiry from a potential applicant from abroad regarding the status of the proposed program, and as it’s become increasingly clear to me that that status is “permanent holding pattern,” if not downright D.O.A., I figured, what the hell: why not just post the whole damn proposal. So, here’s what I got (bracketing out the long “market need” discussion at the end and all the financial and personnel issues I’m not qualified to address):

Design/Media Praxis PhD

What defines and distinguishes this program are: 1) its orientations toward praxis, that is, the integration of theory and practice in the active creation of new artifacts, processes, and understandings; and 2) its embrace of a wide variety of research methods, creative approaches, and means of dissemination.

  • At its core is the conviction that various forms of practice – including but not limited to designing, media-making, curating, art, performance, and writing – can generate new knowledge and understanding of the world, and therefore can constitute fully legitimate pathways of scholarship.
  • Forms of acting, making, and practice outside the traditional limits of doctoral research require inquiry as much as do the classic academic disciplines. This is acutely the case in the arena of complex problem-solving/possibility-seeking – of central importance in The New School’s mission – where creative, transdisciplinary practices are well suited to exploring solutions through the production of new artifacts, processes, and understandings.
  • The advanced reflection made possible through this mode of doctoral study allows the exploration of knowledgethrough creative practice, without forsaking scholarly rigor.

Students enrolled in the program would propose and pursue a project germane to any of the fields of study represented at the graduate level at The New School, subject to approval by their advisors and programs/departments.

  • All projects would be hybrid, incorporating both writing and some form of practice or action-research. The form of such projects could range from a designed object or system to a documentary film to a written dissertation with supporting media, depending upon the student’s objectives and the project’s demands.
  • The form of the dissertation in turn informs, and is informed by, the choice of methods, which might range from traditional qualitative methods to iterative and performative approaches to experimental design research.
  • The program emphasizes the careful selection of multimodal methods and means of dissemination, and the applicability of students’ experiences to fields and professions that may extend beyond, but are in meaningful partnership with, the academy.
  • The dissertation project can be designed to prepare the student to practice not only as an academic, but also professionally as an informed high-level actor in the increasingly complex spheres of action that will emerge over the next decades.

The relation of the Praxis PhD to the traditional PhD

  • Students wishing to complete traditional dissertations in the social sciences or in urban policy may pursue a PhD through one of our existing programs in the New School for Social Research and the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. The Praxis program will serve students interested in transdisciplinary projects that employ methods, and make use of modes of presentation and dissemination, that are not typically employed in traditional doctoral programs.
  • The Praxis PhD program will emphasize the process of scholarship. As part of working collaboratively, faculty will address methodologies of collaboration and team-management. Participants will consider socialization within and between various fields and professions, as well as the range of knowledge/s and practices desirable in a collaborative community. Students will of course cultivate particular areas of expertise and skill, but will also develop proficiency in various methods of inquiry, forms of production, and modes of dissemination.
  • The Praxis PhD will emulate the commitment of traditional doctoral training to doing work of breadth and depth with a small group of advisors and peers. However, unlike the traditional doctorate, which tends to frame the dissertation as its primary end-goal, the Praxis PhD program will regard the dissertation also as an exploration of the intellectual skills and competencies we want student to develop through their education. The dissertation, and the research process, will allow students to demonstrate both the expertise and understanding gained in a particular field, and the knowledge gained about what it means to be a scholar-practitioner working in a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment…..



The process of scholarship will be an emphasis of the program. As part of working collaboratively, we’ll address processes of group-building and methodologies of collaboration and team-management. We’ll consider how we socialize within and between various fields and professions. We will also consider the range of knowledge/s and practices we’d want a collaborative community to have. Students will of course cultivate particular areas of expertise and skill — they will enter the program with Masters degrees, which certify that they’ve cultivated a solid foundation in a particular area of specialization, and they’ll further develop that knowledge through elective cognate courses — but will also develop literacy in various research methods and modes of publicizing or disseminating their work.

There has been much debate over the length of time and the cost that U.S. students invest in completing PhDs. We aim to decrease time-to-degree without sacrificing rigor, by offering more flexible scheduling options, including minimal residency requirements and instructional formats that aren’t constrained by the traditional 15-week course.

The Praxis PhD program will consist of 30 credits, distributed across three years of coursework and supervision. Students are required to be registered full-time, and in residence in New York City, for the first year of study. Years two and three can be completed remotely, but students must return to New York twice each year, for two two-week workshop/conference/exhibitions. The distribution of courses is as follows:

Year One / Semester One

  • Core Studio I (required 3-credit praxis studio): A team of faculty will guide students through a case study requiring interdisciplinary investigation and engagement. In this semester, students will focus on problem definition, design research, and methodology. In the process, students will learn about collaboration strategies, including how to build international partnerships; project and team management, how to “do interdisciplinarity,” etc.
  • Methodologies and Epistemologies (required 3-credit seminar/workshop): This seminar examines how epistemologies and methodologies are mutually informed; offers an overview of methods represented within the humanities, social sciences, design, and fine arts field; and helps students develop strategies for choosing among methods – and particularly choosing from among the methods courses available at The New School – as appropriate for their own dissertation projects, and in other applications and contexts. We will also examine how the myriad media and design modalities – from documentary and data visualization to field recordings and various approaches to prototyping – can function as research tools and techniques. In addition, during this course students will begin to develop their Literature Reviews / Environmental Scans, and their Portfolios/Process Journals (about which more below), which they will maintain throughout their enrollment in the PhD program, and which will be an integral part of the submitted dissertation project.
  • Praxis Symposium (required 3-credit symposium): Each week students will meet with two faculty from across The New School, paired to highlight their common concerns and disparate approaches, or with representatives from various faculty research clusters, labs, or centers, who model the type of interdisciplinary, collaborative work that Praxis students are preparing to do. Faculty will discuss practical and ethical issues germane to their practice, lead students through close readings of texts that are central to their work, and lead workshops on methods that are likewise integral to their practice.
  • Elective: In consultation with an advisor, students can choose from among all graduate courses at The New School. Elective credits might be used to develop a cognate area or to cultivate new design or production skills.

Year One / Semester Two

  • Core Studio II (required 3-credit praxis studio/workshop): A continuation of Core Studio I. In this semester, students and faculty will employ the methods they’ve chosen in Semester I, evaluate the results, and iterate. They’ll also examine the variety of means through which students can disseminate their work – e.g., traditional or experimental publication, video documentaries, interactive platforms, curated exhibitions, designed artifacts and systems. In the process, students also explore how they can continue to uphold rigorous academic standards, including citation and peer review, in these diverse modalities.
  • Three Electives: In consultation with an advisor, students can choose from among all graduate courses at The New School. Elective credits might be used to develop a cognate area or to cultivate new design or production skills.

Years Two/Three

  • Students must enroll in six credits (at no cost?) of Internship, Applied Fieldwork, and/or Research Methods(about which more below). If the Internship/Applied Fieldwork involves intensive research that allows for the development of a strong set of research methods, students need not enroll in separate Research Methods courses. These determinations are to be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the student’s advisors.
  • Students are welcome to audit additional Elective courses to further develop their cognates or cultivate their design and production skills. If they remain in New York, they can choose from among all graduate courses offered at The New School or from any local consortium institution. If they are working remotely, students can take a graduate course at a local institution. Or they can design an independent study with a New School advisor.
  • Each semester students must participate in online Professionalization Workshops (about which more below; no credit)

Non-Course Requirements

  • Students entering the program with limited design and/or production experience must participate in a self-directed summer tutorial(?). (How will we level the playing field for students who enter the program with different skill sets? Should this be a concern — or should we simply allow students to learn from one another in the first-year courses, and to fill in their individual gaps via Elective coursework?)
  • During the second semester of their second year, students must submit an approved Literature Review / Mediagraphy / Environmental Scan.
  • During the second semester of their third year(?), students enroll in Dissertation Proposal Supervision (no credit) with their dissertation supervisors. They defend this proposal publicly during the summer Praxis PhD Conference/Exhibition.
  • Each semester beyond successful defense of the dissertation proposal, students must enroll in Dissertation Supervision (no credit) with their dissertation supervisor. The faculty member and student determine how frequently they will meet, either in-person or virtually. The student is also responsible for maintaining his/herProcess Journal, about which more below.
  • Each Fall, students must participate in the annual two-week Praxis PhD Workshop (should this have credits attached to it?), on-site in New York.
  • Each Spring/Summer, students must participate in the annual two-week Praxis PhD Conference/Exhibition(should this have credits attached to it?): Here students demonstrate their annual progress and receive feedback from their student colleagues, all Praxis PhD faculty, and a group of external critics, designers, scholars, and other professionals.

Internships / Applied Fieldwork

Students are required to complete at least three credits’, but no more than six credits’, worth of internship(s) or applied fieldwork. The program faculty and External Partnerships Administrator (EPA) will cultivate relationships with various New York-based design and media production companies, cultural institutions, not-for-profits, development organizations, etc. — all potentially eventual employers of graduates of the PhD program — and identify opportunities where our students’ particular areas of expertise and skill sets could be put to good use in addressing real-world problems. Students are also welcome to cultivate their own external partnerships and propose their own internships.

Students must submit, and have approved by both their advisor and the EPA, an extensive proposal, developed in consultation with the external organization, that offers (1) a description of the specific project(s) the students will undertake in partnership with the external organization; (2) a list of the student’s responsibilities and expected time commitment; and (3) a discussion of the cognate knowledge, research methods, design and/or production skills, and modes of dissemination the student will likely cultivate through completion of the internship. Each student’s advisor and the program’s EPA will ensure that the nature of the work is appropriate for doctoral-level students, and that it will support the student’s course of study. If the proposal is approved, external organizations must sign a contract agreeing to the nature and extent of work the intern will undertake.

Students may also propose to undertake self-directed (but faculty advisor-supervised) Applied Fieldwork, potentially involving partnerships with multiple organizations. For instance, a student might choose to investigate the design of urban interfaces for the new Hudson Yards development project in Manhattan; his or her work might involve liaising between various government agencies, design and technology firms, and the city’s data managers. Again, students are required to submit an extensive Applied Fieldwork proposal, which must be approved by the student’s advisor and the program’s EPA.

Research Methods

Students will be able to choose from a variety of variable-credit methodology courses represented within the humanities, social sciences, design, and fine arts fields – ranging from qualitative methods to iterative and performative approaches to experimental design research – based on the nature of their dissertation projects. The New School already offers a suite of such one-, two- and three-credit graduate methods courses, some dedicated to a particular method – interviewing or content analysis, for example – and others dedicated to the integration of a variety of methods for a particular application – e.g., participatory design research, or data gathering and analysis. Praxis PhD students are welcome to take these courses, provided they are offered for graduate credit. The PhD faculty will also develop new courses based on student interest and need; many will be offered online and/or during intensive summer or intersession periods. In addition, a core requirement for the Praxis PhD will be a methodology seminar, to be taken in students’ first semester, that discusses how methodologies and epistemologies are mutually informed, offers an overview of the various methods options available, and addresses strategies for choosing and mixing methods as appropriate for students’ individual projects.

Professionalization Workshops (need a better name!)

While students are working remotely throughout years two and three, the program will host monthly online workshops on various aspects of professionalization – e.g., team-building, grant-seeking, event planning, software for project management, job-seeking. The workshops will allow for asynchronous discussion and occasional synchronous presentations with Q&A.


There is, of course, much in traditional doctoral education that is worth retaining – particularly, the commitment to doing work of breadth and depth with a small group of advisors and peers. However, unlike the traditional doctoral program, which tends to frame the dissertation as its primary end-goal, our Praxis PhD program will regard the dissertation also as an exploration of the intellectual skills and competencies we want student to develop through their doctoral education. The dissertation, and the process leading up to it, will allow students to demonstrate both theexpertise and understanding they’ve gained in a particular field or practice, as well as the knowledge they’ve gained about what it means to be a scholar-practitioner, particularly one working in a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment.

To this end, the dissertation must be accompanied by an online Process Journal in which students reflect on and analyze their work process – their choice of methods and modes of representation, their integration of lenses from myriad disciplinary fields and practices, how collaboration and professional work have informed their project – throughout the dissertation development process, and after the dissertation has been successfully defended. Students are encouraged to explore various forms of writing and modes of presentation in this journal.

All dissertations will be hybrid, incorporating both writing and some form of practice or action-research. This work represents, in the words of Clive Dilnot, a “critical reflection on, and analytical translation of, enacted practice into knowledge.” The form of such projects could range from a designed object or system to a documentary film to a written dissertation with supporting media, depending upon the student’s objectives and the project’s demands. The dissertation project can be designed to prepare the student to practice not only as an academic, but also professionally as an informed high-level actor in the increasingly complex spheres of action that will emerge over the next decades. Thus, students are encouraged to partner wit external organizations – design firms, cultural organizations, etc. – in the design and evaluation of their dissertation projects.

Dissertations are intended to address significant real-world or practice-based problems, rather than focus on the students’ own self-defined design and/or creative work. As education journalist Andrew McGettigan writes in regard to the art practice PhD, “a frame has to be constructed that places the practice in relation to a significant problem and thereby escapes the solipsism that might result by beginning from one’s own work…. Research that advances knowledge goes beyond a personal exploration and requires a clear sense of how what is being pursued will be of significance to a broader community of academics and practitioners.”

During the annual Praxis PhD Workshop, in the Fall semester, students in the second year will participate in aDissertation Proposal Lab. They must submit a dissertation proposal by the end of the following semester, and thatproposal will be defended – in front of the dissertation committee and two or three external reviewers – within the two-week period of the annual Praxis PhD Conference/Exhibition. For the third – and, if necessary, fourth – year, students will enroll in Dissertation every fall, during the annual Praxis PhD Workshop and Conference/Exhibition. Students will also present their work-in-progress each spring at the Praxis PhD Conference/Exhibition, where they will receive feedback from their committee and a panel of invited guests.

Agnes Martin, The Islands
Agnes Martin, The Islands


Students will be recruited from all Masters-level fields – MFA, MA, MS, MPA, etc., programs. We see great value in bringing together students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, each fostering different methodologies and epistemologies. We see great value in geographic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, too, and will make every effort to recruit students from historically underrepresented groups. (need to specify how)

Our program’s flexible scheduling also makes the pursuit of a PhD more feasible for a wider population. U.S.-based PhDs typically require a minimum of six years, with significant year-round residency requirements, while programs in other parts of the world typically require no more than four years, and commonly make use of intensives and other flexible scheduling models. Shortening time-to-degree, and adopting a schedule that isn’t locked into the 15-week semester, would distinguish us from our US-based competition – and would allow us to better accommodate students who need to, or choose to, maintain a full-time job, or who have family obligations or other responsibilities to attend to while they’re completing the program.

The first incoming class will include five students, and each year thereafter five(?) more students will be admitted.

Students will be required to enroll full-time and be in residence for the first full year of study. For each of the two or three subsequent years (depending upon individual students’ rate of progress on his/her dissertation project), students must (1) register for supervision credits with their dissertation advisors, with whom they must schedule a one-hour on-site or online meeting at least once per month; (2) participate in monthly online workshops on topics ranging from their dissertation work, to professional development, to the planning of student events; and (3) be in residence in New York twice each year, for two two-week workshop/conference/exhibitions. The regular contact with faculty advisors, monthly workshops, and semi-annual in-person meetings will help to foster strong advising relationships, ensure students’ continual progress, cultivate a supportive student-faculty community, and thereby promote retention and timely completion of the degree.

Thirty total credits, pursued over the course of three or four years, will be required for completion of the program. Students with no design or media production background will be required to dedicate a greater proportion of their elective credits to design and production courses.


The Praxis PhD program will host a public conference and exhibition every summer, for which student attendance is mandatory. External guests – noted academics, critics, designers, media-makers, artists, and leaders from a variety of cultural, civic, and business organizations – will be invited to take part and to provide feedback on students’ work.

We have integrated external partners – potential hosts of student internships, potential grantors of student research, potential employers of our graduates – into the process this which this program was developed. These same partners and others will be invited to participate in our annual conferences and workshops, to provide feedback on student work; and if they should happen to offer internships or employment to any of our graduates, we will check on their workplace achievement and solicit feedback on how we might better prepare our graduates for eventual employment.

We will also diligently track and publicize our students’ achievements and employment and cultivate a robust alumni and mentoring network.

Faculty will be subject to annual reviews and periodic promotion and tenure reviews, during which their work will be evaluated by external peers.

Then I went on to talk about institutional need, regional competition, etc….


Another Four-Legged Goodbye

portraitYesterday, nine months after we said goodbye to our springer spaniel Rudy, we lost another beloved friend and family member. Our beautiful Roxy, yet another stray I added to the family’s menagerie, fought valiantly through surgery to treat her recently-diagnosed pheochromocytoma, a malignant tumor of the adrenal gland, but ultimately succumbed to kidney failure. The tail that wagged incessantly for twelve years simply couldn’t wag anymore — so we said goodbye to Rox yesterday morning, a gorgeous morning that she would’ve loved to have enjoyed from the front porch, at 8:27am.

Her story — at least the chapters that involve us — began on an equally gorgeous day in Philadelphia in 2003:

It was a cerulean and balmy March Saturday — the first foreshadowing of summer, the kind of day that draws everybody out of doors. At the time, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and I lived in an apartment in Center City, just north of Reading Terminal Market. I enjoyed the day with my then-boyfriend in Fairmount Park, then trekked back home in the mid-afternoon. About a block from my apartment building, we saw a shadow of movement on the far side of a dumpster. I swung wide, expecting to see a rat, but instead saw, from the corner of my eye, a much larger and more radiantly colored creature. There she was: a beautiful copper-colored, white-bibbed puppy tethered to the dumpster with a purple leash. We approached, and she cowered.

Aside from the horse stables across the street, there were no places of business along this stretch of North 13th Street. We inquired with the stable staff and other folks lolling about, but no one could claim her or account for her provenance. We then noticed that she had been sitting atop a lumpy white shopping bag, inside of which we found a ZipLoc bag full of kibble, another full of treats, and an extra leash. It then became apparent that I had found a dog in search of a home, and that this was her start-up kit.

For the next two days we set out food and water and lay on the floor near (but not too near) her, speaking to her in reassuring and encouraging tones, while she hid behind the bookshelves. By Sunday night, she allowed me to hold her, and I decided to call her Roxy. On Monday I took her to the vet on Spring Garden Street for a check-up and vaccinations, and I learned that she was likely a pitbull/boxer mix, probably eight to ten weeks old. We agreed that her imagined birthday would be January 1, 2003. It struck me that, now that a file labeled with both her name and my name was filed away in a veterinarian’s office, attesting to my responsibility for her care, she had officially become my dog.

Five-month-old Roxy
Five-month-old Roxy

I had grown up with dogs — mostly border collies — but this was the first dog for which I would assume primary care. Or so I thought: it turned out that scores of people and other animals — including another stray, my cat Pippilotti, who appeared a month after Roxy — helped to care for her and make her life the gloriously tail-wag-worthy celebration it was. This was also the first pitbull, a breed so often maligned and feared, that I would welcome into my home and introduce to my friends and family. I was so intrigued and humbled by the opportunity to allow this sweet and funny creature to decimate those unwarranted stereotypes — both for myself and for anyone else who fell prey to her charms.

I had been awarded a grant to travel the country in the summer of 2003, to do field research for my first book. I hated missing out on Roxy’s expanding repertoire of tricks and quirks, the emergence of her gregarious personality, and my integration into the weird world of urban-pet-owner socialization — but the then-boyfriend cared for her and loved her in my absence, and for that I am eternally grateful. I eventually moved to an apartment on-campus at Penn, where I served as a faculty fellow for the 2003-2004 academic year. We had a large fenced-in playground behind our building, but because there were no children in the vicinity who needed to use the swings and slides and sandbox with any regularity, the grounds belonged, for the most part, to Roxy and our only other canine neighbor, a joyous, drooling mastiff puppy. Roxy particularly enjoyed rolling her balls into the sandbox, then fervently and gleefully digging them out, stomping and furrowing her brow, and stirring up wild sandstorms in the process.

Alas, the relationship with the boyfriend didn’t last — but Roxy and I persevered. Others fell in love with her, too. Resident assistants (thanks especially to you, Endel, wherever you are!), students, and security guards volunteered to take her for walks or dog-sit during my occasional weekend trips back to New York. When I went away for longer periods — to conferences, for instance — my parents gladly drove two hours to meet me in Harrisburg — the half-way point between Philly and Central PA — to pick up Roxy and Pippi and take them back home for a stay in the country with the two canine cousins.

stickWe seemed to have a stormy spring on the east coast that year, because I recall that the sidewalks of Penn’s campus were frequently strewn with downed leaves and branches. Roxy became particularly well known around campus for her post-storm acrobatics. Sticks were too easy; our girl wanted to play with limbs. She ambitiously sought out massive eight- or ten-foot tree branches, which she’d balance between her powerful jaws and proudly display for all to see, as she trotted, head held high, down the sidewalk.

I later moved back to New York, which, sadly, my two girls hated. We missed our convenient outdoor space and our green campus, and regular visits to the park during off-leash hours simply weren’t sufficient. Rox and Pippi had become fast friends, and Rox was obviously depressed. Pip’s playful torments didn’t work their normal magic; Roxy barely responded. So, when we went home for Thanksgiving, and we witnessed a rapid and dramatic improvement in Roxy’s temperament, we decided that she and Pip needed to stay in the country, where she had lots of wide open spaces and Pip had a big house to roam, and both had a family that loved them as much as I did.

The house built by my woodworker father, with all of its hardwood surfaces, proved a bit of a hazard. Roxy’s vigorous tail-wagging — it was more than a tail-wag, actually; her whole body got in on the action — resulted in lots of whacks against right-angled joints and un-upholstered table and chair legs. As her body oscillated to express her intense excitement about everything(!!!!), all those tail-against-wood impacts ultimately produced gangrene in the tip of her tail, necessitating its partial amputation. Ah, the liabilities of uncontrollable happiness.

The wagging tail
Roxy + Dugan

Despite her obvious self-satisfaction in the branch-balancing business, Roxy initially sucked at catch. Try as she might, she missed even the softest, easiest lobs by at least four feet. Yet she couldn’t have found a better coach: Dugan, our border collie, is a world-class catcher and soccer player (now emeritus). After a couple summers of practice, Roxy developed into quite an athlete — fast and agile and tenacious. Sometimes her skill inspired feats of bravado — and sometimes those feats tried our patience. Roxy had an uncanny knack for knowing precisely what terrain you’d traverse with your next pass on the lawnmower, and she’d strategically position her frisbee directly in your path. You had no choice but to stop or divert the machine, pick up the frisbee, and give it a good toss before continuing on your way. This cunning strategy worked for her — she got what she wanted — so it was repeated ad infinitum until the entire lawn was shorn.

I lost my patience only once. On one sweltering August afternoon of yard maintenance, after three dozen frisbee tosses, I had had enough of these stop-and-go mower detours. So I, being a horrible person, ran over the frisbee with the mower, chopping it into a dozen ragged pieces. Roxy stared at the carnage with her signature furrowed brow, looked up at me, as if to say, “It disappeared!”, then she stepped aside — seemingly in defeat. I was racked with guilt for that entire loop of the lawn, but as I re-approached the scene of the crime, I saw my girl standing in wait. She deposited a sad, mangled two-inch-square piece of purple plastic — all that remained of her toy (rest assured: there were plenty more intact frisbees inside) — in my path, then inched slyly backward, assuming her standard preparatory posture. She would not be deterred. Fun would be had.


Her favorite treasures, though, were shoes. To chew and nibble on and shake and protect (playfully) from ever-present threats of theft (who knew there was such a demand?); to sleep beside and carry around, like a security blanket. Everyone’s old sneakers went into Roxy’s stockpile, which she then deployed strategically in and around the house. There were shoes in the bedroom and living room and under the kitchen table, in the front yard and backyard, and especially in her favorite spot on the lawn, just outside my dad’s workshop. She had a shoe ready for all settings and all occasions. Nearly all pictures of our girl involve a shoe (and now that she’s gone, those maimed objects, some of which we simply can’t bear to remove from their stations about the lawn, are worth their weight in gold for us).




Those shoes provided much pleasure and humor and a much-needed sense of accomplishment when severe arthritis ultimately limited Roxy’s ability to run. When Rox was a little over a year old, I noticed that she frequently held up her front-right leg and occasionally hopped along on three legs. Vets determined that a bone deformation was causing her severe joint pain — so my Christmas gift from the whole family that year was arthroscopic surgery for Rox. It solved her problem for several years, but we knew she’d suffer from arthritis in later life. Over the last few years, that arthritis has spread throughout her back hips, transforming her once-long, powerful strides into ginger steps. Thanks in part to effective pain management, those tentative steps were still, invariably, accompanied by a vigorously wagging tail and an unfailingly pleasant disposition. Footwear was part of the remedy: a gently tossed, and easily caught, shoe — or a shoe that’s pretend-stolen, which she then has to steal back — was a great source of satisfaction.

Roxy after surgery
Roxy after knee surgery


Roxy embodied cheer. I recognize the supposed naïveté of assuming that animals possess “human” emotions — but, dammit, I’m going to make such assumptions: I do believe that animals feel and express emotions, and that they’re capable of feeling and expressing love. Roxy was an exceptionally loving and convivial and social dog. She craved touch: when she sat or slept beside our other dogs, she almost always wanted some part of her body touching theirs. When she sat beside us on the couch or floor or grass, the same was true — and if you temporarily removed your hand from her back, or paused in your pats, she’d look up at you, pleadingly, as if to say: “Let’s keep going!” When she sat at your feet, she typically sat on your feet. Again, she wanted — needed — to know that others were there.

Rox + Rudy; Dugan, Roxy + Rudy
Dugan + Rox; Pippi + Rox
Dugan + Rox; Pippi + Rox
The three amigos
Why’d you stop petting me?
Roxy + 2-week-old Natalie; Natalie demonstrating “safety first!” to Rox, buckled into the front seat, and Dugan, on the floor in the back

IMG_8766And she let others know that she was there, ready with affection. Anyone’s tears brought her running and compelled her to lick your hand or face. Roxy was a lightning-fast face-licker; one second, she could be sitting calmly beside you as you read, the next second, you’ve got a tongue on your cheek. When my niece and nephew came into the world, Roxy frequently bathed them in kisses — and I honestly believe that sloppy welcome (and the ensuing years of companionship and lessons about care and responsibility) helped make them into the compassionate kids they are today.

Roxy loved us. I know she did. She relished her life. She cherished both touching and being touched by the people and other animals in her life. And we cherished — and will always cherish — her. She was a tremendous gift to us, a model for how to love and appreciate the many blessings of life: shoes, frisbees, peanut butter, potato chips, kisses, sunny days, green grass, children. I will desperately miss having the privilege of touching my girl’s beautiful face, with her vibrant, dark-rimmed eyes (our relatively make-up-less family joked that Rox always wore eye liner); floppy, expressive ears; and thoughtfully wrinkled forehead. I am certain that’s she’s left this world, and gone on to a better one, knowing that she has touched us profoundly and will continue to enrich our lives — not least for having simply given us the privilege of caring for her. I hope that we, in return, have given her every opportunity to live the best possible life she could’ve lived, too. I know we have — my wonderful Mom and Dad, in particular. Roxy’s vets have been tremendous, too.

I thank the stars that I walked past that dumpster — and that baby-Roxy’s quivering shadow led us to twelve years of joyously wagging tails. That tail, if you’ll pardon the saccharine simile, is like those beating butterfly wings that supposedly change the course of history. One little dumpster-dog’s life has made an indelible mark on the world — my world, my family’s world, and my family’s friends’ worlds, at least.

And just as I said to Rudy upon his passing nine months ago (and to Opie and Dexter before him): Goodbye, little buddy. Thank you for all the love and joy and gentleness you brought into our lives. We’ll miss you terribly, and we’ll love you forever.




Scaffolding, Scribbles, Poemfields, Garden Sculptures Ontologies: More Art

Yes, more art. In late May I saw David Byington’s The New City @ Leslie Tonkonow: etching-esque oil paintings depicting scaffolded cities of extraction and naked infrastructure.



Then Christopher Wool paintings and sculptures @ Luhring Augustine:

Christopher Wool
Christopher Wool


Cildo Meireles @ Galerie Lelong

Ceilo Meireles
Cildo Meireles (via Lelong; my own images were terrible)


Pam Lins’s “model model model” @ Rachel Uffner

Pam Lins
Pam Lins (business in the front)
Lins (party in the back)

In the 1920s, the golden age of rationalized labor and assembly lines, abstract models of all types suffused artistic and architectural culture. Soviet artists especially embraced model making, and nowhere more zealously than at VKhUTEMAS (The Higher Artistic and Technical Workshops), the school of art, architecture, and design founded in Moscow in 1920, renamed VKhUTEIN (The Higher Artistic and Technical Institute) in 1927, and dissolved in 1930. Opening three years after the October Revolution, the school was known for its radical pedagogical approach and Constructivist connections. Student models from the “Space” course, taught by the architect Nikolai Ladovskii, investigated formal and spatial relationships, but far from being useful designs to be built later, elsewhere, at a larger scale, they invoked works by Kasimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, and Vladimir Tatlin—all of whom taught at VKhUTEMAS. Aiming to replace outmoded bourgeois art forms, avant-garde Soviets turned to models: objects defying classification that promised a utopian dissolution of the categories of artistic production.

Stan VanDerBeek‘s Poemfield series + prints @ Andrea Rosen



VanDerBeek first worked on Poemfield at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey and then as an artist-in-residence at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Originally conceived as a multi-screen installation,Poemfield was eventually included in VanDerBeek’s ambitious, moving image and sound environments such as Movie-Dromeand Cine Dreams. In each individual film, powerful sequences of words gradually emerge from, and back into, kinetic mosaics of glittering geometric graphics.  The images seen within each projection are the visual manifestations of unique poems written in a specific computer language, then processed by an IBM 7094, and ultimately output onto the surface of a cathode ray tube and filmed.

As a pioneer collaboration between artists and scientists, Poemfield was realized by VanDerBeek with the Bell Labs computer programmer and physicist Ken Knowlton. One of several programs developed by Knowlton, BEFLIX (short for Bell Labs Flicks), was used to make Poemfield and is considered by AT&T as one of the first computer animation languages.

Black Mountain. An Interdisciplinary Experiment 1933 – 1957″ @ Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin

Black Mountain College @ Hamburger Bahnhof
Black Mountain College @ Hamburger Bahnhof


And away with the minutes. Dieter Roth and Music” @ Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin

Dieter Roth
Dieter Roth
Roth, Gartenskulptur
Roth, Gartenskulptur

Museum der Dinge: Werkbundarchiv, Berlin, with its gleefully mixed-up ontologies of classification: plastics, measuring tools, imitations, Turkish everyday things…

Museum der Dinge
Museum der Dinge



Superkilen Park, Copenhagen, by BIG Architects, Topotek 1, + Superflex 


Iwan Baan's much better image #1
Iwan Baan’s much better image #1
Iwan Baan's much better image #2
Iwan Baan’s much better image #2

Terry Winters @ Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen

Winters, "Influencing Machine"
Winters, “Influencing Machine”

Africa: Architecture, Culture, Identity” @ Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen



In May/June I also saw “Everything Is Design: The Work of Paul Rand” @ the Museum of the City of New York; Nina Beier @ Metro Pictures; Candida Höfer @ Sean Kelly; and Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian @ Callicoon Fine Arts (ugh). I regret missing William Larson’s “Fireflies” at Gitterman Gallery.

Upon my return from European adventure, in July, I saw Wolfgang Tillmans’s “Book for Architects” at the Metropolitan Museum. Then I visited “All Watched Over” [by machines of loving grace], featuring arts of information processing, @ James Cohan.

All Watched Over
All Watched Over
Michael Riedel, Untitled (Form)
Michael Riedel, Untitled (Form)


Hello Walls,” a group exhibition of wall painting, with fantastic juxtapositions, @ Gladstone



Angela Bulloch’s “Topology: No Holes, Four Tails” @ Mary Boone

I'd like to think that these electrical cords are the "tails" they're referring to.
I’d like to think that these electrical cords are the “tails” they’re referring to.

Objects Food Rooms” @ Tanya Bonakdar, an homage to Stein’s Tender Buttons: “All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. / The difference is spreading.”

Objects Food Rooms
Objects Food Rooms


Gordon Harrison Hull’s “Department of the Interior“: “emotional landscapes” @ Bryce Wolkowitz


Doris Salcedo @ the Guggenheim

via ArchDigest
via ArchDigest

And more recently, other beautiful things, back at home in Pennsylvania:





Middlewhere on Motherboard


My “Middlewhere: The Landscape of Library Logistics” article, which I originally wrote for Urban Omnibus, has been reposted on Vice’s Motherboard. New frontiers, man.


Maps as Media: Sketching Out the Syllabus


As I mentioned back in March, I’m transforming my old “Urban Media Archaeology” studio (2010 – 2013) into a new map-related graduate studio — “Maps as Media” — for the fall. I’ve been studying maps for quite some time, but over the past few months, in preparation for this class, I added a whole mess of new mapping-related resources to my reading list. I ended up reading and exploring tons of resources that won’t make it into the class-proper, but will undoubtedly inform our discussions and exercises. And just last week, after months of (characteristic) over-preparation, I finalized a draft of the syllabus — and I had the privilege of workshopping that syllabus with the bright and generous fellows at at the Digital Cultures Research Lab at Leuphana University, in Lüneburg, Germany, where I was a scholar-in-residence for a few weeks this summer.

I post it here, in the hopes that others will offer feedback: recommendations for additional resources, possible assignments or exercises, potential guest presenters or field trips, etc. And I’m happy to say, as of mid-July, that it’s already won some high praise from some discerning folks, for which I’m super-grateful:

**What follows is a draft syllabus. You’ll find the final syllabus on the course website, here.** 

Maps as Media

Fall 2015: Tuesdays 4 to 6:45pm
Course website address to come

Maps reveal, delineate, verify, orient, navigate, anticipate, historicize, conceal, persuade, and, on occasion, even lie. From the earliest maps in cave paintings and on clay tablets, to the predictive climate visualizations and crime maps and mobile cartographic apps of today and tomorrow, maps have offered far more than an objective representation of a stable reality. In this hybrid theory-practice studio we’ll examine the past, present, and future – across myriad geographic and cultural contexts – of our techniques and technologies for mapping space and time. In the process, we’ll address various critical frameworks for analyzing the rhetorics, poetics, politics, and epistemologies of spatial and temporal maps. Throughout the semester we’ll also experiment with a variety of critical mapping tools and methods, from techniques of critical cartography to sensory mapping to time-lining, using both analog and digital approaches. Course requirements include: individual map critiques; lab exercises; individual final critical-creative projects in a format of each student’s choosing; and small-group projects completed in collaboration with NYPL Labs and the NYPL Map Division, in support of their work on the Knight Foundation-funded Space/Time Directory (?).

Your Contributions:


We want to make sure we get the most out of our discussions, and that we benefit from one another’s expertise and experience in developing our individual projects. Thus, we need everyone to show up regularly, on time, and prepared – i.e., having both completed the assigned reading and any mapping exercises. You will be permitted two excused absences (“excused” means that you must have contacted me prior to class to inform me of your absence) for the semester. Additional excused absences – and any unexcused absences – will negatively affect your grade. More than three absences, excused or unexcused, will result in failure of the course; if you anticipate needing to miss several classes, you are advised to drop the course. A pattern of late arrivals is likewise detrimental.

I do not require you to complete weekly reading responses, simply because your work on the individual and group projects should keep you plenty busy. That said, I still do encourage you to take time before class to annotate the weekly readings, abstract them, and reflect on how they contribute to your understanding of the overarching themes of the course and to your own research and making process.


We’ll dedicate some time in most of our classes to presenting and critiquing several (canonical/ exemplary/ experimental/ overwrought/ elegant/ etc.) maps in a variety of formats, to see what they do right and wrong, what they illuminate and obfuscate, how they integrate form and content effectively and poorly, and what lessons we can take away from them and apply, or avoid, in our own projects.

Each of you will post and publicly present one map critique – ideally, of a map that pertains both to the week’s theme and to your semester project. On the course website we’ll maintain a far-from-comprehensive-but-hopefully-provocative “road map” of relevant mapping projects, from which you’re welcome to choose; you’re also welcome to go “off-list” in proposing your own case study. Please consult with the other presenters for the week to work out who’s chosen which projects.

Your ten-minute presentation should consist of two parts: (1) a critique and (2) a critical-creative application prototype. The critique should focus on a single mapping project and should employ some of the critical tools and criteria we discuss in Week 3. Your application is a critical-creative attempt to apply to your own research project the same effective and/or ineffective techniques used in the map you’ve critiqued. You might choose to exaggerate the failures of that map by creating a parody – or you might choose to blend in helpful features from some of the other maps in the atlas in order to generate mapping techniques that might aid in your own work. Be sure to identify what projects inspired you and why, and how and where we can see those projects’ influence in your map. Your application can take virtually any form and format – from a quilted map to a hand-dissected map to an audio map. Keep in mind that this is only a prototype – a rough sketch, a maquette, a “napkin drawing”; we’re more concerned in this context with the ideas behind your project than with your execution.

Before class on your presentation day, please post your 600- to 900-word text – which should encompass both your critique and the explanation of your application exercise – along with documentation of your application, to our class website. In class, you’ll have 10 to 12 minutes for your presentation; please save five of those minutes for discussion. And please be sure to have presentation media loaded/booted/hung/distributed before class begins so we can start on time. Your review is worth 20% of your final grade.


At the beginning of the semester you should begin to think about a fluid, capacious research topic that you’d like to explore through the maps you create over the course of the semester. Ideally, this topic will pertain to projects you’re exploring in your other classes or a thesis project, to a “through-line” you’ve pursued throughout the program, or to work you’re doing in your extracurricular life. You’ll need to submit a 600-word proposal for this project, via Google Drive, before class on September 15. This proposal should include (1) a topic description, problem statement, or research question; (2) a discussion of your topic’s personal relevance, larger critical significance, timeliness, etc.; (3) a preliminary discussion of how your topic might lend itself to spatial/cartographic investigation (i.e., what can you learn by mapping it?); (4) a description of the geographic area(s) and scale(s) you plan to focus on in your maps; and (5) a tentative bibliography of at least seven sources (some scholarly publications, some popular publications, some precedent maps, etc.) that will likely prove useful in your research and practice. You’ll share your proposal in class, in an informal 5-minute presentation, on September 22.

Each of the maps you then create over the course of the semester should pertain to this topic and cumulatively represent myriad ways of illustrating or investigating your subject. You’ll begin developing three of these maps in our in-class labs, and your presentation of this work-in-progress during our in-class review sessions, which typically take place two weeks after each in-class lab, will account for 15% of your final grade.

You can then continue to develop these prototypes, or generate map ideas of your own. By the end of the semester, you should have a minimum of five completed maps, in at least three different “media formats” (e.g., hand-drawn, photographic, audio-based, online-interactive, etc.). You’ll then need to compile those maps into an atlas, which you can present in whatever format you choose (e.g., a book, a website, an installation, etc.), as long as you frame the contents as a cartographic set – as five “spatial variations on a theme.” You should make sure to offer some means of narratively or argumentatively navigating through your collection; generate connective threads between your individual maps; and provide critical/descriptive commentary reflecting on the unique medial qualities of each piece in the set (see, for example, how Annette Kim addresses the distinctive features of each map in her “Critical Cartography Primer,” pp. 113-145 of Sidewalk City). You’ll submit your project at the start of class on December 15, and during that class each student will deliver a 10- to 15-minute presentation of his/her work (details to come).

Required Texts:

All readings will be provided as pdfs on our course website. However, you’re invited to purchase copies of the following:

  • John Krygier and Denis Wood, Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS, 2nd (New York: Guilford Press, 2011).
  • Shannon Mattern, Deep Mapping the Media City (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).
  • John Pickles, A History of Spaces: Cartographic Reason, Mapping and the Geo-Coded World (New York: Routledge, 2004).

The following web resources are worth consulting regularly, too:

This course draws on insights and inspiration from four years’ worth of students in my “Urban Media Archaeology” studio – and is indebted to Jeremy Crampton’s Critical History of Cartography reader; Marisa Olson’s “Media Studies: Experimental Geography Reading List” (Rhizome, March 20, 2009); RISD’s Experimental Geography Research Cluster; Matthew Wilson’s “Critical GIS” graduate seminar; and Wilson’s “Critical and Social Cartography” course. I must also thank the fellows at the Digital Cultures Research Lab at Leuphana University, in Lüneburg, Germany, where I workshopped this syllabus in July 2015; as well as Karen Gregory and other friends and colleagues for their helpful recommendations.



Syllabus Review
Getting our Bearings

  • Robert W. Karrow, Jr., Introduction to James R. Ackerman & Robert W. Karrow, Jr., Eds., Maps: Finding Our Place in the World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press & The Field Museum, 2007): 1-12.
  • Aaron Reiss, “My 5 Favorite Maps: Bill RankinThe Atlantic CityLab (September 26, 2014). See also Bill’s top-10 list.

References & Inspiration: I’ll bring these books to class so we can look through them. I’ve also placed copies of all of these titles on reserve in the TNS Library; I encourage you to reference them throughout the semester.

  • Katharine Harmon, You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004): maps of the body and spirit, maps of emotion and memory, maps of fictional places and cosmology, maps of air routes and stereotypes
  • David Macaulay, Underground (Boston; Houghton Mifflin, 1976).
  • Liza Mogel & Alexis Bhagat, Eds., An Atlas of Radical Cartography (Los Angeles: The Journal of Aesthetics Protest Press, 2008).
  • Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ed., Mapping It Out: An Alternative Atlas of Contemporary Cartographies (London: Thames & Hudson, 2014): cartographic artwork, classified by theme: redrawn territories, charting human life, scientia naturalis, invented worlds, and the unmappable
  • Seth Robbins and Robert Neuwirth, Mapping New York (London: Black Dog, 2009): maps of the city’s evolution and its services, travel maps, maps of the urban imagination
  • Rebecca Solnit, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010): maps of indigenous spaces, open spaces, post-industrial spaces, film locations, racial justice, butterfly habitats, shipyard sounds, murders, evictions, coffee, military-industrial think tanks, remembered identities, and more
  • Nato Thompson, Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism (Brooklyn: Melville House, 2008).
  • Visual Editions, Ed., Where You Are: A Book Of Maps That Will Leave You Completely Lost (London: Visual Editions, 2013) [see also the lovely print edition]
  • Denis Wood and John Fels, The Natures of Maps: Cartographic Constructions of the Natural World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008): 6-16, 26-28, 31-32.
  • Denis Wood, Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas (Los Angeles: Siglio, 2010).



Field Trip: NYPL Map Division, 42nd St + 5th Ave, Room 117 (4-5pm)
The Mapping Revolution…

…Maybe Isn’t So Revolutionary?




Tools & Techniques for Critique

  • Jeremy Crampton, “What Is Critique?” In Mapping: A Critical Introduction to Cartography and GIS (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010): 13-21.
  • Mike Foster, “The Lost Art of Critical Map ReadingGraphicarto [blog pos]
    (February 27, 2014).
  • Shannon Mattern, “Critiquing Maps IIWords In Space [blog pos]
    (September 5, 2013).
  • Denis Wood, “At Least 10 Cartographic Codes” and “It’s Not a Simple Set of Rules” In Rethinking the Power of Maps (New York: Guilford Press, 2010): 80-5, 97-8.
  • Bill Rankin, “Redrawing the MapArchitecture Boston 18:2 (Summer 2015) [on the programmer as cartographer, and maps’ continued utility as argumentative media].
  • Andrew Wiseman, “When Maps LieThe Atlantic CityLab (June 24, 2015).
  • John Krygier and Denis Wood, “Ce n’est pas le monde (This Is Not the World)” [comic] In Rob Kitchin, Chris Perkins and Martin Dodge, Eds., Rethinking Maps: New Frontiers in Cartographic Theory (New York: Routledge, 2009): 189-219 [a hinge to next week’s discussion]…


  • Mark Denil, “Cartographic Design: Rhetoric and Persuasion” Cartographic Perspectives 45 (Spring 2003): 8-67.
  • B. Harley, “Maps, Knowledge, and Power” In Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels, Eds., The Iconography of Landscape (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1988)): 277-312.
  • Christian Jacob, The Sovereign Map: Theoretical Approaches In Cartography Throughout History, Tom Conley (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006 [1992]).
  • Robert Owens, “Mapping the City: Innovation and Continuity in the Chicago School of Sociology, 1920 – 1934” The American Sociologist 43:3 (September 2012): 264-293 + Maps of the Chicago School of Sociology
  • Bill Rankin, “Mapping Social Statistics: Race and Ethnicity in Chicago
  • Rankin’s Radical Cartography

Lab: Small-Group In-Class Map Critiques

hic sunt dracones!
hic sunt dracones!


Guest: Bill Rankin (Skype 4-5pm)
Discuss Individual Project Proposals


  • Bruno Latour, “The Domestication of the Savage Mind” In Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987): 215-219.
  • John Pickles, “What Do Maps Represent? The Crisis of Representation and the Critique of Cartographic Reason” and “Mapping and the Production of Social Identities” In A History of Spaces: Cartographic Reason, Mapping and the Geo-Coded World (New York: Routledge, 2004): 29-59, 126-33.
  • Sophia B. Liu & Leysia Palen, “The New Cartographers: Crisis Map Mashups and the Emergence of Neogeographic Practice” Cartographic and Geographic Information Science 37:1 (2010): 69-90 – focus on 72, 78-82, 86-9 [Where do our data come from, and how do we render them mappable?].

Frames, Borders, Gaps, Cuts & Boundaries

  • Peter Turchi, “A Wide Landscape of Snows” Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2004): 27-71.
  • Berhard Siegert, “Exiting the Project” and “The Permanently Projected World” In Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015): 142-5.
  • Bill Rankin, “Cartography and the Reality of Boundaries” Perspecta 42 (Spring 2010): 42-45.
  • Luke O’Connell, “Dashed Lines and Dashed Hopes: The Downside of Google’s ‘Neutrality’Brown Political Review (May 9, 2014).
  • Janet Vertesi, “Mind the Gap: The London Underground Map and Users’ Representations of Urban Space” Social Studies of Science 38:1 (2008): 7-33 [a hinge to next week’s discussion]…


  • B. Harley, “Deconstructing the Map” Cartographica 26:2 (Summer 1989): 1-20.
  • Rob Kitchin, Justin Gleeson & Martin Dodge, “Unfolding Mapping Practices: A New Epistemology for Cartography” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 38:3 (July 2013): 480-96.
  • Rob Kitchin, Chris Perkins and Martin Dodge, “Thinking About Maps” In Rethinking Maps: New Frontiers in Cartographic Theory (New York: Routledge, 2009): 2-25.
  • Manuel Lima, The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2014).
  • Bernhard Siegert, “The Map is the TerritoryRadical Philosophy 169 (September/October 2011): 13-6.
  • Denis Wood, “The Mathematical Transformation of the Object” In The Power of Maps (New York: Guilford Press, 1992): 56-61 [on projections].


  • Paul Carter, “Dark with Excess of Bright: Mapping the Coastlines of Knowledge” In Dennis Cosgrove, Ed., Mappings (London: Reaktion Books, 1999): 125-47.
  • Nicholas Jackson, “15 High-Profile Sites Google Doesn’t Want You to SeeThe Atlantic (June 21, 2011).
  • Aaron Rothman, with Mishka Henner, Daniel Leivick & Clement Valla, “Beyond Google EarthPlaces (May 2015).

Data Sources:

Kevin Lynch, cognitive mapping
Kevin Lynch, cognitive mapping


Guest: ?


  • Michel de Certeau, “Spatial Practices” In The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984): 100-134.
  • Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (New York: Verso, 1991): 49-54, 413-15 (?).
  • Kevin Lynch, “The City Image and Its Elements” In The Image of the City (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960): 46-90.
  • Alberto Toscano & Jeff Kinkle, Cartographies of the Absolute (Washington, D.C.: Zero Books, 2015) [with companion website].
  • Denis Wood, Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas (Los Angeles: Siglio, 2010).

Lab: You’ll cognitively map something (TBD) pertinent to your semester project, then reconceive that map in terms of plotted “data” and re-draft the map using Krygier & Woods’s recommendations for collecting, orienting, organizing, distorting data, and considerations regarding projections. We’ll discuss what’s gained and lost in the translation process.

Bill Bunge, Nuclear War Atlas
Bill Bunge, Nuclear War Atlas


  • Jeremy W. Crampton and John Krygier, “An Introduction to Critical Cartography” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 4:1 (2006): 11-33.
  • Denis Wood, Excerpts from “Counter-Mapping and the Death of Cartography” In Rethinking the Power of Maps (New York: Guilford Press, 2010): 120-129.
  • Dee Morris & Stephen Voyce, “William Bunge, the DGEI, & Radical CartographyJacket 2 (March 20, 2015).
  • Annette Kim, “Mapping the Unmapped” In Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015): 84-149. See also
  • Nancy Lee Peluso, “Whose Woods Are These? Counter-Mapping Forest Territories in Kalimantan, Indonesia” Antipode 27:4 (1995): 383-406 [a hinge to next week’s discussion]…


  • Kate Crawford & Megan Finn, “The Limits of Crisis Data: Analytical and Ethical Challenges of Using Social and Mobile Data to Understand Disasters” GeoJournal (November 2014).
  • Lindsay Palmer, “Ushahidi at the Google Interface: Critiquing the ‘Geospatial Visualization of Testimony’” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies 28:3 (2014): 342-56.
Cempoala map, via The Appendix
Cempoala map, via The Appendix


Discuss Cognitive Maps from Week 5

Map Critiques: up to three students present their map critiques


  • Mishuana Goeman, Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013).
  • Illinois State Museum, Native American Mapping Traditions.
  • Malcolm Lewis, Ed., Cartographic Encounters: Perspectives on Native American Mapmaking and Map Use (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).
  • Jeffrey Yoo Warren, “Grassroots Mapping: Tools for Participatory and Activist Cartography,” Masters Thesis, MIT, 2010.
  • Helen Watson, “Aboriginal-Australian MapsMaps Are Territories.
  • Denis Wood, “The Outside Critique: Indigenous Mapping” In Rethinking the Power of Maps (New York: Guilford Press, 2010): 129-142.


Guest: Someone from Mapzen (TBD)

  • John Krygier and Denis Wood, “The Big Picture of Map Design,” “The Inner Workings of Map Design,” “Map Symbolization,” “Words on Maps” and “Color on Maps” In Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS, 2nd (New York: Guilford Press, 2011): 106-139, 170-243.
  • Maptime Resources + Tutorials
  • Mapbox
  • Mapzen
  • ESRI + ArcGIS + StoryMaps
  • Social Explorer



Optional, but highly recommended, field trip to the CartoDB offices in Bushwick, where we’ll take a tour with Andy Eschbacher, Map Scientist, who’ll also lead us through a mapping workshop. If this date doesn’t work for members of the class, we’ll consider Saturday October 24. Directions to come.



Guest: ?

Map Critiques: up to three students present their map critiques

  • John Pickles, “The Cartographic Gaze, Global Visions and Modalities of Visual Culture” and “Cyber-Empires and the New Cultural Politics of Digital Spaces” In A History of Spaces: Cartographic Reason, Mapping and the Geo-Coded World (New York: Routledge, 2004): 75-91, 145-75.
  • Laura Kurgan, “Mapping Considered as a Problem of Theory and Practice,” “Representation and the Necessity of Interpretation,” & “From Military Surveillance to the Public Sphere” In Up Close at a Distance: Mapping, Technology and Politics (New York: Zone Books, 2012): 9-54.
  • Alexis Madrigal, “How Google Builds Its Maps – and What It Means for the Future of EverythingThe Atlantic (September 5, 2012) [A more recent, yet less thorough, article on Google’s Ground Truth: Greg Miller, “The Huge, Unseen Operation Behind the Accuracy of Google MapsWired (December 8, 2014).]
  • Laura Bliss, “Who Owns the Digital Map of the World?The Atlantic’s CityLab (June 25, 2015).


  • Ryan Bishop, “Transparent Earth: The Autoscopy of Aerial Targeting and the Visual Geopolitics of the Underground” In Forensis: The Architecture of Public Truth (Forensic Architecture, Sternberg Press, 2015): 580-90.
  • Mei-Po Kwan, “Feminist Visualization: Re-envisioning GIS as a Method in Feminist Geographic Research” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94:2 (2002): 645-61.
  • Giorgia Lupi, Luca Simeone, Paolo Patelli and Salvatore Iaconesi, “Polyphonic Images of the Cities. Mapping New Human Landscapes through User-Generated Content,” Presented at the Northern World Mandate, Cumulus Helsinki Conference, Helsinki, 2012.
  • Lisa Parks, “Digging into Google Earth: An Analysis of ‘Crisis in Darfur’” Geoforum 40:4 (2009): 535-45.
  • Lisa Parks and James Schwoch, Eds., Down to Earth: Satellite Technologies, Industries, and Cultures (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2012).
  • Marianna Pavlovskaya & Kevin St. Martin, “Feminism and Geographic Information Systems: From a Missing Object to a Mapping Subject” Geography Compass 1:3 (2007): 583-606.
  • Aaron Rothman, with Mishka Henner, Daniel Leivick & Clement Valla, “Beyond Google EarthPlaces (May 2015).



Discuss Critical Mappings from Week 8

Map Critiques: up to three students present their map critiques

  • A. Cicero, “Deep MappingStanford University Multidisciplinary Teaching & Research (Fall 2006).
  • Skim through Karen E. Till, Ed., Mapping Spectral Traces [exhibition catalog] (Blacksburg, VA: Virginia Tech, 2010).
  • Shannon Mattern, Deep Mapping the Media City (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).


  • Ian Biggs, “Deep Mapping as an ‘Essaying’ of Place,” Presented at “Writing” Seminar, Bartlett School of Architecture; reprinted on IanBiggs [blog pos]
    (July 9, 2010).
  • Adam Frampton, Jonathan D. Solomon & Clara Wong, Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guidebook (ORO Editions, 2012).
  • Todd Presner, David Shepard & Yoh Kawano, HyperCites: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press / metaLab Projects, 2014).
  • Martino Stierli, Las Vegas in the Rearview Mirror: The City in Theory, Photography, and Film (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, [2010] 2013): 109-190 [on photographic and filmic mapping in the VSB Yale Studio]
Kate McLean
Kate McLean


Guest: ?

Map Critiques: up to three students present their map critiques


  • Stuart C. Aitken & James Craine, “Affective GeovisualizationsDirections Magazine (2006) [on film and video games as conduits for affec]
  • William J. Broad, “A Rising Tide of Noise Is Now Easy to SeeNew York Times (December 10, 2012) + National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Cetacean & Sound Mapping.
  • Tom Conley, Cartographic Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007).
  • Jonathan Flatley, “Affective Mapping” In Affective Mapping: Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008): 76-84.
  • Gillian Rose, Feminism and Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993).
Joyce Kozloff
Joyce Kozloff


Guest: Nina Katchadourian (4:00 – 5:30)

  • Ricardo Padrón, “Mapping Imaginary Worlds” In James R. Ackerman & Robert W. Karrow, Jr., Eds., Maps: Finding Our Place in the World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press & The Field Museum, 2007): 255-287.
  • See OpenGeofication
  • Catherine D’Ignazio, “Art and Cartography” The Encyclopedia of Human Geography (New York: Elsevier, 2009): 190-206 or – Denis Wood, “Map Art: Stripping the Mast from the Map” In Rethinking the Power of Maps (New York: Guilford Press, 2010): 189-230.
  • See Nina Katchadourian’s map-based work


  • Denis E. Cosgrove, “Maps, Mapping, Modernity: Art and Cartography in the Twentieth Century” Imago Mundi 57 (2005): 35-54.
  • Denis Wood, “Map Art” Cartographic Perspectives 53 (Winter 2006): 5-14.

Lab: Sensory Maps + Deep Mapping – more info TBA





Field Trip: NYPL Labs?

  • Daniel Rosenberg & Anthony Grafton, “Time in Print” Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010): 10-25.
  • Timeline Maps” in the David Rumsey Map Collection (March 29, 2012).
  • Johanna Drucker & Bethany Nowviskie, “Temporal Modeling” In Drucker, Ed., SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009); reprinted in Chicago Scholarship Online, 2013.


Lab: Work with NYPL Labs’ Space/Time Directory?



Discuss Sensory Maps + Deep Maps from Week 12

This week, for the second half of class, we can explore topics or practice skills of your choosing. We’ll dedicate the remainder of our time to an open lab, during which you to work on your final projects and solicit feedback from your classmates and from Shannon.