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    Vassar College
   
 
  Sep 26, 2017
 
 
    
Catalogue 2017-2018
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URBS 303 - Advanced Debates in Urban Studies

Semester Offered: Fall and Spring
1 unit(s)


This seminar focuses on selected issues of importance in Urban Studies. Topics vary according to the instructor. The course is required of all majors and may be taken during the junior or senior years; it can be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 2017/18a: Critical and Social Design.This course takes up the theory and practice of Design Thinking to explore the messy, emerging terrain of “social innovation,” especially with regard to urban policies, practices, and institutions. We locate the emergence of Design Thinking in relation to the perceived failures of modernist urban planning, and track its exponential growth in an era of neoliberal governance and “creative cities.” We investigate “human centered design” as a new form of urban expertise, as a broadening range of institutions—hospitals, universities, non-profits, state and federal agencies—scramble to establish divisions of design strategy and innovation.

We ask: How did the world become a design problem? What does it mean to approach urban inequality, social injustice, public health failures, and political disenfranchisement in terms of design? How do DIY urban movements such as Tactical and Everyday Urbanism track within the broader trajectory of design-driven social intervention? How might we intervene in the emerging doxa of Design Thinking itself? How might we critically disrupt the expanding field of design strategy toward deepening democracy and fostering the just city?  

The course is structured as a hybrid of studio and advanced seminar. Informed by recent scholarship in design and in critical urban theory, students learn, practice, and critically reflect on the techniques of design strategy in a series of individual and collaborative projects.

Readings include critical essays and chapters by Wendy Brown, Sara Hendren, Bruno Latour, Eric Olin Wright, J.K. Gibson-Graham, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Chris Le Dantec, Lucy Suchman, Jamie Peck and Neil Brenner, along with a selection of methods manuals such as: the d.school Bootcamp Bootleg; Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, Designing Your Life; IDEO.org’s Field Guide to Human-Centered Design, Joan Minieri and Paul Gestors, Tools for Radical Democracy: How to Organize for Power in Your Community; Zaid Hassan, The Social Labs Revolution: A New Approach to Solving our Most Complex Challenges. Lisa Brawley.

Topic 2017/18b:  Memory, Planning, and Placemaking. (Same as GEOG 303 ) Urban memory and heritage are increasingly important sources of cultural identity, tourism, community development, and political symbolism in our globalized world. Cities recognize heritage sites, historic districts, monuments and landmarks, memorials, nature preserves and other special areas as strategies of placemaking – the social, spatial, and symbolic processes by which distinctive places are planned and authorized by governmental authority. This seminar focuses on the role of place memory in the planning and governance of global cities. We consider both official historic designations and grassroots efforts of “counter-memory” to recognize underappreciated and marginalized groups. By examining the continuities and ruptures of collective memory in cities, this seminar explores how processes of remembrance (and forgetting) affect society, space, politics, community, and identity. Field trips examine the making of historic places in the Hudson Valley and New York City. After examining the theory and practice of historic placemaking, students carry out research on sites of their own choosing. Brian Godfrey.

One 3-hour period.



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