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Title:            SENSING THE CITY


Number:      UURB 4010


Type:            Undergraduate seminar / studio hybrid (elective)



The city reveals itself to us through our senses. But while our senses are superlative evolutionary systems, they are at the same time dumb circuits limited by their corporeality.  Meanwhile, the urban environment is bewildering and fragmentary, and the picture we build of it is necessarily incomplete.  As Baudelaire wrote, "We are enveloped and steeped as though in an atmosphere of the marvelous, but we do not notice it."  This course takes up Baudelaire's implicit challenge to notice the city.  Students explore the city through sight, sound, smell, touch, and, taste, cataloguing how the senses simultaneously reveal and limit what we can know of the world around us.  We also examine the interconnection of biology and ideology in the co-construction of perception.  Where our senses fail us, we turn to the prosthetic machines and cyborg sensory extensions designed to gather in more of the world, from cartography, telecommunication, and geocoded data streams to vast remote sensing and planetary surveillance systems.  Finally, we study the variety of uses made of sensory apparatus by planners, designers, artists, activists, police, military, and others with a stake in the urban.    Students will produce term projects that explore particular aspects of urban sensing in whatever format they choose--from fiction and memoir to scholarly papers, photographic essays, theatrical scripts, videos, games, drawings, urban plans and policies.  The goals of the course are threefold: to sharpen our critical engagement with urban perception; to raise basic questions about privacy, power, and social justice in our cities; and to use this awareness to experiment with new counter-narratives, interventions, and imaginaries.


Links:           Syllabus

Student projects

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