Contingency and Collaboration in The Mediated City

Stephen Boatright, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Faculty Advisor: Cindi Katz

Contingency and Collaboration in The Mediated City

The increasingly dynamic array of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in our society poses difficult and necessary challenges for post-secondary educators. A number of complaints frequently surface from many of my graduate school peers regarding ICT in the classroom: frustrations about CMS navigability, worries about administrative meddling and surveillance, and impatience with top-down time- and resource-management. However, the issues posed by the increasing adoption of ICT innovations in academia can be framed around the more pro-active, pragmatic question of how advancements in ICT can be best, most adequately incorporated into our pedagogies.

This project stems from years of effort to employ new means of communication and collaboration in the classroom. I teach geography: courses from introductory lectures to seminars in Urban Geography, Geography of Housing, and regional geographies. In the past I have had moderate success with course websites, discussion boards, blogs, photo essays, online group projects, dynamic group presentations, and other sorts of web-based assignments, but a great degree of the potential such ‘mediated’ assignments has escaped me.

This spring at the New Media Lab I will be using WordPress to design a course website that will accomodate a high degree of student traffic, input, and control. This may ultimately serve as a model for courses that are organized around a set of low- and high-stakes assignments that place a high degree of emphasis on writing, class participation, and creative and critical thinking. A significant portion of my time at the Lab this semester will be devoted to determining the most effective ways to use the course website to generate course-related thought and reflection outside of formal and scheduled assignments, to make the website and therefore the subject of the course ‘present at hand’.

Developing a course model in the context of the New Media Lab will allow me to make purposeful use of ICTs in my courses so as to operationalize two of the most important themes in geographic thought—contingency and collaboration.

This project employs a variety of digital media to expand and alter the ways students approach academic, specifically geographic, thought. It uses the framework of a web-enhanced course, to develop a set of low- and high-stakes assignments that will attend to the specific subjects of any particular geography course as well as encourage metacognitive attention to the production of disciplinary knowledge and the ways it has been, is, and will be mediated.