Politics of Design
Prof. Langdon Winner
Tues. & Fri., 10-11:50, Lally 102,
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Spring 2004
Dept. of Science and Technology Studies
Office hours: Friday. 12-1:30 in Sage 5709
tel: x8498; email: email@example.com
This class studies the relationship of the design of useful artifacts to the quality of social and political life. Our inquiries are interdisciplinary, blending materials and approaches from social science, philosophy, engineering, industrial design, architecture, urban planning, and information systems.
We begin with the recognition that the world in which we live is, to a large extent, the product of deliberate planning and construction. The built forms that surround us strongly condition our actions, experiences, and sense of personal and collective possibilities. Relevant forms include material things: buildings, towns and cities, tools, instruments, technological systems, and other furnishings of everyday life. But other significant forms include such intangible "things" as patterns in social rules, roles, relationships, institutions and political constitutions. For our purposes the concept of "design" includes the deliberately chosen, enduring forms of both material and intangible entities that affect human relations.
Goals. Our purpose is to explore (1) social, cultural and political origins of the designs we find around us; (2) ways in which political ideas are represented in design; (3) how design affects people's orientation toward power, authority and freedom; (4) how an understanding of the significance of design might influence future attempts (especially your own) to build humane, sustainable, democratic structures to aid human activity.
Required readings: These are for sale in the campus bookstore.
James Howard Kunstler, GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE
Jonathan M. Woodham, TWENTIETH CENTURY DESIGN
Other readings: Additional required articles and book chapters are indicated on the syllabus. Please note that other readings not listed here may be assigned as the course proceeds. These will announced in class and will be posted on the updated syllabus on Mr. Winner=s web page: http://www.rpi.edu/~winner/PolDesign04.htm
Meetings. We will meet twice a week. Everyone should come to class fully prepared to discuss the readings assigned for that week and their own ideas about them. Regular, active participation is required and is an important part of your grade. All of the written and project work in the class will feed directly into course presentations and discussions, enabling you to join the instructor in the process of educating the group. The classroom is organized in round table fashion with plenty of media capability. We will use these facilities to enhance our deliberations.
Weekly writing. Each week you will have the opportunity to clarify and express your ideas on three written pages: (1) one page for each session on the readings for that day and (2) one page on the design exercise for the week (due each Friday). These writings should be thoughtful, neat and legible. But they do not have to be literary masterpieces. The point it to make sure you keep up with readings and ideas, making sure that when asked about the readings (which I will do) you will have interesting things to say to the group. These weekly writings will be collected at the end of class on Friday, although you should also bring you notes on the reading for the Tuesday session as well. Absolutely no email submissions of papers.
1. Reflections on the readings. Write only one page, single-spaced (no more) that shows me your response to the ideas and issues in the readings for that session. Your writing should identify one key passage from the readings that you would be prepared to quote and discuss in class. In addition you should be ready to articulate one question or issue that the readings bring to mind, something that you=d like the group as a whole to consider.
2. Weekly design exercise. To supplement your reading, each week will include a design exercise to be done outside of class. This can involve observing a site, solving a problem, making a sketch, taking photographs, writing your observations about a particular aspect of design and social life. Assignments will be given at the end of class on Friday and are due the following Friday. (If your design exercise includes illustrations or photos, it can be longer than just one page; the one page is for your written passages only.). The second half of each Friday session will be devoted to discussion of the design exercise.
Helping lead a discussion. For each session, students will help lead the seminar – two students on Tuesday, one on Friday. Serving in this role is a requirement of the class. Those selected for each session will be relieved of the responsibility for writing requirements for that entire week. Regard this as a modest public performance. How well you serve in this role will be graded and will be a significant part of your participation grade. Students will prepare the following:
(1) Tuesdays and Fridays: one student will prepare a 4-5 minute long thoughtful summary that highlights themes in the readings for the session, identifying one or two important issues for discussion in open session or in breakout, round table groups;
(2) Tuesdays only: a critical commentary on ideas for that session, sometimes focused on of web-based materials related to the topic for the day, presented in a brief talk to the group (for example, discussion of web sites on the new urbanism, green design, etc.), fielding questions about the material. The purpose here is to look briefly at the state of the debate about key developments beyond the books and articles we’re reading.
Term project. The most important, piece of work you will do in the course is a term project on an aspect of the social and political dimensions of design that you find interesting. Working in a team with two other persons, you will propose a topic for study, conduct the research and present it. Team projects must reflect solid teamwork in quantity and quality C shared effort, attention to deadlines, good organization and communication outside of class, care in the writing and illustrations in your final product. Sample topics for projects will be distributed early in the term.
Your project will be presented in (1) a 20 minute oral summary to the seminar at the end of the term and (2) a paper roughly 15-20 pages double-spaced, typewritten (with drawings and photos, if appropriate) to be submitted the last day of class. All students in the team will receive the same grade for the project. [Note: We may need to schedule an extra session for the oral presentations.]
Project Timeline. You should begin thinking about the membership of your team right away, talking with students in the class who you think might be good partners. Written proposals for your term project – specifying topic, team membership, goals, research plan, and division of labor -- should be submitted on Friday, Feb. 20. The week of March 15 after spring break, each group should arrange to meet with me to discuss the progress of their work. Class time for April 9 will be devoted to consultations on term projects; everyone must attend. All groups should be ready to present their findings beginning Friday, April 16.
Grades. Your grade will be determined by:
(1) attendance in class, active participation in discussion, 30%;
(2) weekly writings, 30%;
(3) term paper, its steady progress during the term and oral presentation -- 40%. No late work of any kind will be accepted (unless you have a legitimate excuse – illness, job interview, or family emergency). You may miss any two daily sessions and/or daily written assignments without penalty; if you miss more than that, your grade will plummet.
The weekly papers on the readings and design exercises will be graded very simply as follows:
3 – excellent ; 2 – good; 1 – needs to improve; 0 – rotten or missed assignment.
Email of papers is not permitted. Bring papers them to class and place them in the folder provided each Friday.
Office hours: Friday, 12-1:30 and by appointment (email is the best way to arrange these).
Other materials on the Web: As the course moves along some course writings and illustrations will appear on Prof. Winner=s Web page.
Academic integrity: All work submitted must be your own. If you borrow ideas or information of any kind (which is always essential to learning and creativity), please just give a clear reference to the original source. This is easily done and will be a good habit to cultivate. Evidence of plagiarism, borrowing materials or ideas without credit as well as other forms of cheating will be dealt with severely – a grade of “F” for the course.
Tuesday, January 13
(a) Discussion of aims of the course and introduction of students, their backgrounds and interests.
(b) In class design exercise: ADesign a social/material setting for a...@
Friday, January 16: American in built form – patterns of dwelling
Chs. 1, 2, 3
First design exercise distributed in class
Friday, January 23: Homes, autos and communities
Tuesday, January 27: New urbanism -- promise and pitfalls
Video: AThe Truman Show@ (brief selection)
And browse freely in these selections
“The New Urbanism: An alternative to modern, automobile-
oriented planning and development, by Robert Steuteville:
“Flying High,” article
“A Critique of New Urbanism,” by Peter Gordon and Harry W. Richardson:
Friday, January 30: Urban/suburban alternatives
“The tale of
(click on “About us” and “Products”
“End is nigh for the commune that kept hippie dream alive,”
History of Cohousing: “Where it Al Began,” by Danny Milman
3. Smart growth and anti-sprawl
About smart growth: smart growth principles
One approach: traffic calming (see some specific ideas here)
Opposition to smart growth: “Sprawl by Any Other Name,” by Anne Marie Cox
Tuesday, February 3: Shaping the object world – history of industrial design
Friday, February 6: Modernism, consumerism and social control
You are what you buy?
Tuesday, February 10: Global economy and personal identity
Friday, February 13: The brand expands
Naomi Klein, No Logo, Chapters 2 and 10, digital library reserve
Tuesday, February 17 (no class because of President’s Day rescheduling)
Friday, February 20: Oppression and liberation
Read a selection of the materials below
“Design Anarchy,” by Kalle Lasn
Adbusters: Creative Resistance
Adbusters: First Things First campaign
“First Things First Manifesto 2000”
“First Things First Manifesto – A Brief History,” by Rick Poynor
“True Cost Design:
How to Design the Perfect Product, interview with Craig Vogel and Jonathan Cagan
Tuesday, February 24: Technological design and gender politics
2 and 4.
Chs. 2 and 4.
Friday, February 27
Film, “Koyaanisqatsi,” directed by Godfrey Reggio, music by Phillip Glass. [Note: Godfrey Reggio will be visiting campus this term to present all three of the films in the “Qatsi” series. Students in this class will attend and write about this as a required design exercise. Details to follow.]
March 2: Gender, subjectivity,
and the politics of urban design
Gender, subjectivity, and the politics of urban design
Visiting presentation by Prof. Kate Boyer
David Harvey's Justice,
Nature and the Geography of Difference (selection on reserve)
David Harvey's Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference (selection on reserve)
Jane Jacobs, "The
Uses of the Streets" (on reserve)
Jane Jacobs, "The Uses of the Streets" (on reserve)
Minnie Bruce Pratt,
"Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart" pp. 11-19 (selection on reserve)
Minnie Bruce Pratt, "Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart" pp. 11-19 (selection on reserve)
Friday, March 5 (No class. Use the rest of this week to work on your term projects.)
Week IX: Spring Break
Tuesday, March 16: What is good design?
Friday, March 19: What is good design? (continued)
Tuesday, March 23: Creating and destroying public space
and pp. 194-197 (on reserve)
The birthplace of democracy: the agora of
Map of the agora
Photos of the agora today
Friday, March 26: Colin Beech: Design theory
Tuesday, March 30: Public cyberspace – participation or propaganda?
Critically scrutinize these political web sites: (any selection from among these
and any others of your choice)
(report on a survey
by the Pew Research Center on the Internet and American Life)
(report on a survey by the Pew Research Center on the Internet and American Life)
Political website design consultants – what are they selling?
-- creative political use of the web
MoveOn.org -- creative political use of the web
Friday, April 2: A successful design movement: people with disabilities
with Ed Roberts, a founder of the Independent Living Movement :
Roberts Campus (see especially the FAQ -- scroll down for design topics)
Ed Roberts Campus (see especially the FAQ -- scroll down for design topics)
on "universal design" (but is universal design necessarily participative?)
Materials on "universal design" (but is universal design necessarily participative?)
Article:"Universal Design: The New Paradigm" by Elaine Ostroff
Tuesday, April 6: Another design movement: sustainability and green design
Centre for Design, Australia (browse materials in sections on sustainable products
and systems, buildings and life cycle assessments)
an international network of people involved in sustainable design (the
O2, an international network of people involved in sustainable design (the section on
and cases has numerous product concepts; some of the interviews
ideas and cases has numerous product concepts; some of the interviews
interesting. Follow other links as you wish.)
are interesting. Follow other links as you wish.)
That Matters (Sustainable design with emphasis upon underserved communities)
Design That Matters (Sustainable design with emphasis upon underserved communities)
(an article in three parts)
[Note: Readings and links to other projects
in green design are welcome.
[Note: Readings and links to other projects in green design are welcome.
Bring them to class.]
Bring them to class.]
Friday, April 9: Consultations on student projects
Tuesday, April 13: Global empire, community and conflict
“The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know,” by Charles Fishman
“Big Brother Comes to Wal-Mart,” by Mary Starrett
"Wal-Mart opens wallet in effort to fix its image," by
Constance L. Hays
Anti-Wal-Mart groups (browse within this site as you wish)
List of towns that have successfully resisted the “big box”
Friday, April 16: Student presentations
Tuesday, April 20: Student presentations
Friday, April 23: Student presentations
Tuesday, April 27 (last day of class): Student presentations.
Term papers are due at the end of class today.
AWe build our buildings, then they build us.@
C Winston Churchill