Spring Curriculum

Spring 2010 H A&S 397 E:  (3)
Urban Lab Amsterdam: Culture, Technology, Environment
Instructors: Rob Corser, AIA and Clifford Tatum
[jump to course schedule]

Course Requirements:

Encompassing as this program does the lived aspect of scholarship in a country not one’s own, this quarter sets a high standard for academic performance that we urge as continuous throughout the summer. Thus, your attendance, preparation, and participation in the spring is critical to your success in the program, and will be to that of your colleagues. Any absence must be excused in advance; emergencies are that, but need to be registered with the instructors.

Course Format:

Students will learn about the city of Amsterdam as an object of study and develop interdisciplinary research designs that enable them to collaborate in small group research projects. The format will be one of group learning. The instructors will introduce an interdisciplinary research framework along with an overview of the key social and cultural issues in Amsterdam. Student groups will regularly report on preliminary research. Students will choose topics and work in groups of 2 to 3 students. There are a couple of ways this can work. You can work together to identify a single research question. In this case the work would be divided up among the group participants. Alternatively, a group can be formed around a particular topical domain. In this case each group member would develop an individual research topic within the larger domain. In both cases, students will work together, collaboratively, both in Seattle and in Amsterdam. The selection of research methods is typically based on what you want to know, or on your research questions.

Throughout the seminar you will be introduced to a number of research methods intended to provide a practical means of conducting research. E-Research practices will augment these methods and will be incorporated into your research designs. Data collection and analysis techniques will include still image photography, sound and voice recordings, short video clips, and the use of geo-location tagging (eg. Google Earth and Geographical Information Systems software.) Each student will start a blog to use as a lab notebook to publish research progress as well as a kind of travel journal while in Amsterdam. We will experiment with video as the end product of your research. We will look critically at our assumptions about knowledge. This means being reflexive about how we collect data, the methods we use, and how our assumptions about reality influence research designs. International research is an interesting way to do this because many of our assumptions, particularly the unconscious ones, are put into relief as a result of being outside of our cultural context. Our use of e-Research collaborative practices makes this reflexivity all the more salient.

Course Goals:

  • Identify some of the key social/cultural/environmental issues in Amsterdam
  • Guide students in the development of research topics and research designs
  • Teach a variety of methods that can be used in Amsterdam research
  • Introduce and explore eResearch practices
  • Develop team process

Student Objectives:

  • Examine contemporary social, cultural and environmental issues in the urban context of Amsterdam
  • Discover your research topic and develop research questions
  • Prepare research designs appropriate for field research in Amsterdam
  • Incorporate eResearch practices into research (including study of practices)
  • Conduct research collaboratively and successfully in small groups
  • Understand how an interdisciplinary approach has contributed to your projects

Attendance & Preparation:

Your attendance is critical to your success in this program and the success of your colleagues. Any absences should be excused beforehand.  You are expected to complete all assignments prior to class on the assigned date. This includes all readings, assigned writings, blog postings, and group presentations. Additionally, there will be a minimum of two “check-in” meetings with one of the instructors during the quarter. The first will be an individual check-in meeting and the second will be a meeting with your small group. General Class Etiquette: The environment of the class will be collegial and relaxed. It should also be a safe place for intellectual risk-taking, of dignity, and respect.  Therefore, you are expected to observe the following: arrive on time, be prepared to participate by having completed all assignments, and not leave sessions early unless previously arranged. Finally, be respectful of those who may have differing views, whether class participants or visiting faculty and students. We expect all participants to critique and dialogue from a variety of viewpoints that will enrich a thoughtful and open discussion.  Academic inquiry invites us to examine differing viewpoints in an environment of openness and mutual respect.

Method of Evaluation: This course has no final exam and most coursework will be submitted online. Students are graded based on the following components: Informed individual class participation, Informed individual class online discussion, Blog assignments, Small group participation, and Final Group Presentation/submission of Research Proposal.

Course Blog:

You will keep an individual blog linked to the course blog where you will post all assignments, share research findings, and collect research methods and other information useful to your developing research project.  You will continue to use your personal blog and reference the course blog during your time in Amsterdam.

Blog Assignments:

The blogs will facilitate our learning process in two ways; 1) as a medium to post reactions about the reading assignments and 2) as a medium to post reflections on the methods assignments. All blog posts are due before class on the day they are discussed.

The reading reactions are meant to provide an opportunity to discuss one or all of the readings assigned for that day. The research methods blog posts are coordinated with the methods assignments. Each student will use their blog to reflect on the experience of using the method and its strengths and weaknesses related to their particular research goals.

Research Methods (group) Assignments:

The research methods assignments are designed to enable groups to practice using one of the research methods discussed in that class period. For example, following the urban studies lecture, each group will use one of the “reading the city” methods in Seattle (or similar urban setting). On the following class period, the group will present their findings from using the method(s) as well as how the chosen method could be used to facilitate research in Amsterdam.

Final Research Proposal and Presentation:

At the end of the quarter, you will have crafted a group research proposal for the Amsterdam Study Abroad component of the program.  The final draft of your proposal should be clear, concise and, while not carved in stone, show evidence of both significant introspection and research.  The final research proposal should be between 5-10 pages per group.  Proposal guidelines will be made available on the course blog.  Your final group presentation should be approximately 15 minutes with an additional 5 minutes for questions. Additional:  We recommend that you attend special events, lecture, or colloquia, related to your research topic.  You can find a complete listing of UW events at http://www.washington.edu/home/events.html. Visit the listing frequently as new events are added often.  You will also want to look beyond the UW for relevant events, e.g. World Affairs Council (http://www.world-affairs.org/).

Course Schedule & Assignments: (check regularly for assignments and updates)

Assignment Zero – (prior to first class meeting)

Blog Post due: by 4:00 pm before class
Assignment details, here

Assignment 1 (first in-class session)

reading: Sismondo 2004, Prehistory of Science and Technology Studies

  • introduction to program
  • review student blog posts
  • fundamentals of research
  • in-class group exercise
  • introduce Assignment 2

Assignment 2  - A walk around the blog

Blog Post due: May 01, 2010 by Midnight PST
Assignment details, here.
1) Lynch and Rivkin – A Walk Around the Block
2) Hartmann – Situationist Roaming Online

Assignment 3 – Examination of Urban

Blog Post due: May 17, 2010 by Midnight PST
Assignment details, here.
1) Hine – Virtual Methods
2) Ragin – Constructing Social Research (chapt 1)

Assignment 4 (midterm presentations – in class)

Group presentations and peer review
Date/time/location: TBA


for your presentation, each group will have 10-15 minutes to address two key aspects of the topic you would like to research in Amsterdam:

1) formulation of a preliminary research question: frame your question by providing some background information on the phenomenon, problem, and/or area of interest.

2) development of your research strategy: use the research methods we have read about and practiced using. when developing your data gathering strategy consider practical issues such as a) ethical issues associated with human subjects, b) language barriers, c) access to people, and d) the context of your field site.

In addition, each group will serve as respondent for one of the group presentations. As respondent, your group will provide a reaction directly following the presentation. your comments will followed by open Q and A. Be sure to take good notes because the next assignment will be to post a formal response on your blogs.

Assignment 5 (class meeting) – Social Research Ethics

Date/time/location: TBA
Blog Post: publish your peer reviews
1) Ragin – Constructing Social Research (chapt 3)

Assignment 6 (final presentations – in class)

Date/time/location: TBA
Reading: Ragin – (Chapt 4) Using Qualitative Methods
Each group will present research proposals and submit a 3-5 page synthesis based on the following requirements:

1) Introduction to object and context of your study – In your introduction you should situate the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of your project within relevant literature. What is/are your object(s) of study and why is it worthy of studying? Here is where you need to define your terms, which should be based in (or informed by) prior research.

2) Research question – The ‘what’ and ‘why’ from above should lead you into the question. A good way to frame this is to first pose a broad question. This can also be a problem statement if you would prefer. Then break down the broad question or problem statement into smaller, answerable questions. For example, in a group of two or three, the broad question serves to illustrate the general domain of inquiry, which then is examined in terms of individual research questions. Although not required, one way to organize the division of labor is for each group member to focus on one of the sub-questions.

3) Methods strategy – Identify which methods you plan to use and how they will be used. For example, if you are planning to observe stuff, what specifically will you be looking for? If you plan to talk to people, who are they and how will you get access to them? Be sure to include any research ethics considerations

4) Field research schedule – Develop a consolidated schedule for the group. Initially, this will be a partial schedule and is expected to be a evolving document. However, you should try to add as much detail as possible even if it’s just a placeholder for some event that has yet to be defined. The schedules should include resources you will use in Amsterdam, such as:

  • People (names, titles, etc.)
  • Places (address)
  • Equipment
  • Information