Fall 2019 Course Offerings


HMS 540S Deleuze, Art, & Cinema

Monday 5–7:50 PM | 3 credits
02 Instructor: Ethan Spigland

Gilles Deleuze’s thought emerged almost as often in conversation with artists, filmmakers, and writers as in dialogue with other philosophers. This course will explore the intersection between Deleuzian philosophy, cinema, and the arts. It will especially focus on the conception of thought and signs elaborated by Deleuze in his books Cinema 1 and Cinema 2. Drawing especially on Bergson, Peirce, and Nietzsche, Deleuze develops a highly original taxonomy of cinematic signs that eschews linguistic based semiotics and psychoanalytic approaches. What is Deleuze’s conception of art and aesthetics? Are his categories adequate for describing innovations in digital and new media? What is the relation between aesthetics and politics in his thought? Students will approach these topics analytically, but also through practical/creative exercises employing drawing and video. No prior background in philosophy or film theory is required. Prior experience in video and digital editing is recommended but not required. We will also screen numerous excerpts and complete films by a wide range of filmmakers and media artists including Dziga Vertov, Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, Roberto Rossellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Raul Ruiz, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Chantal Akerman, among many others.

HMS 501S Future Worlds and Other Science Fictions

Wednesday 2-4:50 PM | 3 credits
01 Instructor: Jayna Brown

In this class students will explore science fiction, art, music, film and video that envision other worlds and ways of being. Some of the works we consider are wild bio-technological fantasies. Others are dystopian critiques, as they imagine worlds destroyed by the impact of humans on the planet. Others contemplate humanity itself: the possibilities of biological life, human ‘nature,’ and subjectivity. All of these speculative aesthetic practices and philosophies profoundly disrupt notions of space, time, and matter. They create future and other dimensional worlds and forms of existence that reach outside our current paradigms of knowledge.

HMS 631S Critical Game Design

Wednesday 5–7:50 PM | 3 credits
01 Instructor: Basem Aly

This course is designed for highly motivated active learners interested in exploring both the theory and practice of game design. You will rapidly prototype successive iterations of a game as you grapple with overarching ideas about play. Play is a fundamentally human trait manifested in spontaneous creativity, transgressive or appropriative actions, or the suspension of conventional norms. Playfulness is an attitude ideally suited to critical inquiry, while games are rule-based arenas for experimentation and social rituals of all sorts. Students will have ample choice in determining the focus of their classroom experience. You will mix theory and practice, analog and digital, theme and mechanics to your own specifications. No prior experience in game design or programming is necessary, and the extent of your technical, artistic or theoretical focus will be up to you. Ideally you'd be interested in exploring new ground, traveling just beyond your comfort zone, and prepared to have fun. 

Students will develop the ability to design, prototype and critique both digital and analog games through various lenses of critical theory. You will learn to use game design engines like Unity3D to rapidly prototype and play-test each others’ games. Students will deploy theories undergirding procedural rhetoric and playful engagement embodied in games such as enactments of power, fairness, narrative, and simulation. You will be assessed on the basis of your individual progress in learning implementing, and risk-taking as you

HMS 640S Fashion, Labor, Justice

Thursday 9:30 AM–12:20 PM | 3 credits
01 Instructor: Minh-ha Pham

This course offers an overview of the political economy of the fashion industry from about the 1980s to the present. Focusing on specific examples of transnational supply chains, we follow the globalized production and consumption of garments and brands, and examine closely the debates about gender and globalization, economic and social development, labor standards, sustainability and activism. Some of the questions we will explore include: How do we account for the globalization of the garment industry? What are the politics of today's global “fast fashion” industry both in the global South and in the North? Do alternatives such as "ethical fashion" or "slow fashion" initiatives by designers, programs for corporate social responsibility, and campaigns of consumer activism offer meaningful interventions? What role do workers in the fashion industry—from garment workers to retail workers to models to bloggers—play in shaping discussions about a more just and sustainable future for fashion? We draw from interdisciplinary scholarship ranging from anthropology and sociology to media studies and race and ethnic studies.

HMS 640S Emotion in the Digital Age

Thursday 9:30 AM–12:20 PM | 3 credits
04 Instructor: TBA

Recent years have seen the rapid development of media and technology that tracks, stimulates, or otherwise involves human emotion. In this course, we will examine how a range of actors—media makers, managers, scientists, engineers, and artists—incorporate emotions into their work and creations. We will look carefully at how emotions are increasingly treated as data and resource for generating profit, productivity, and predictability in the contemporary era. We begin the course by examining various definitions of and approaches to studying emotions, as well as attempting to understand the wider social dynamics that have led to a heightened attention to emotion. We will then move on to survey areas within social media, work culture, and science and technology wherein emotion has been at the core of research, development, and design. The course is designed to raise questions of race, gender, and ability early on in the semester, so that we may ask how these developments in emotion media and technology are implicated within larger systems, hierarchies, and ideologies of power and identity. Ultimately, our inquiry will lead us to ask if these new intersections of culture, capital, and human experience may contribute to a new humanism.

HMS 630S On the Human

Thursday 2–4:50 PM | 3 credits
01 Instructor: Jayna Brown

Recent theoretical works have taken up the concept of the human—in its legal, political, biological and philosophical meanings—in radical ways. This class charts conversations in and across the fields of posthumanism, black feminism, queer studies, science studies and new materialism, fields that have centered on critiques of ‘the human’ for what and whom it includes and excludes as well as the ways it has shaped our species’ relationship to the wider ecologies in which it is enmeshed. What is made possible when we challenge liberal humanism’s notions of possessive individualism and sovereignty? What other forms of collectivity and organization, as well as ethical terrains, present themselves? Particular attention will be given to these critiques in relation to racial, gender and sexual formations. A well as theoretical work, we will read science fiction novels by such authors as Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany and view films and videos that speak to our questions. Class Presentations, short paper and final paper.

HMS 530S Photographic Theory: Optics of Race, Gender, & Imperialism

Thursday 2–4:50 PM | 3 credits
01 Instructor: Jon Beller

This course considers the exponential expansion of photographic practices over the last two centuries through the lens of the most recent theoretical writings on photography. For the first few weeks we consider some foundational texts: Talbot, Bazin, Benjamin, Barthes, Sontag, before looking at the post-visual turn writings of Vilem Flusser, Nicole Fleetwood, Simone Browne, Tina Campt, Ariella Azoulay, Kaja Silverman, Jacquelyn Goldsby, Lorna Roth, Lily Cho, Michele Pearson Clarke, Aria Dean and many others. Particular attention will be paid to escalating role of the photographic image (the "technical image") in the political organization of society ranging from the experiential and the psychic to the geopolitical and genocidal. Our study entails a rigorous elaboration of the complex relationship between photography, racialization, imperialism, gender, sexuality, commodification, financialization and the ubiquitous cybernetic interface known as the screen. Final projects: A theoretically informed research paper and/or a photographic project.

HMS 531S Money as Medium: Crypto-Economic Design

Thursday 5–7:50 PM | 3 credits
01 Instructor: Jon Beller

This class reviews highlights of the history of the emergence of the money form and the social relations which constitute it in order to consider the importance of crytpocurrencies as a new medium. We will analyze existing and conceivably possible cryptocurrencies from the standpoints of both the theoretician/political-economist and the designer. Course keywords include: money, capital, value, production, circulation, representation, attention economy, post-fordism, cognitive capitalism, blockchain, securitization, derivative, colonization, racial capitalism, computational capital. Readings include Karl Marx, Rosa Luxembourg, Robert Miester, Benjamin Lee, Posner and Weyl, Satoshi Nakamoto, Vitalik Buterin, and contemporary publications in Medium, Coindesk, and other venues publishing on crypto. Crypto case studies include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Economic Space Agency (platform cooperative), Sphere (global performance), Smashboard (feminist/anti-patriarchy) and ArtWork (anti-racial-capitalist). Students are strongly encouraged to bring their own interests, knowledge, references and socio-political aspirations regarding this nascent field of endeavor. Final course project can be a theoretical paper or a crypto-economic design project.