About the Class

Spring 2019 Integrative PhD Seminar at The New School, co-taught by Zed Adams (Philosophy) and Shannon Mattern (Media Studies > Anthropology)

  • zed at newschool dot edu | 6 E 16th St #1015A | office hours by appointment (write me!)
  • matterns at newschool dot edu | 6 E 16th St #926 | office hours by appointment (write me!)

Tuesdays 4:00 to 5:5pm, 6 East 16th St #1003

Volcanic Museum, C├ęsar Manrique, Lanzarote Island, 1966-1968
Photos by Julian Weyer; via Control Panel

Interfaces are everywhere and nowhere. They pervade our lives, mediating our interactions with one another, technology, and the world. But their very pervasiveness also makes them invisible. In this seminar, we expose the hidden lives of interfaces, illuminating not just what they are and how they work, but also how they shape our lives, for better and worse. We also discuss a number of pressing social and political issues, such as why we are quick to adopt some interfaces (e.g., smartphones and social media platforms), but reluctant to embrace others (e.g., new voting machines and Google Glass).

In line with the mission of the Integrative PhD program, this seminar integrates work that deals with interfaces both philosophically and practically:

  • We draw upon work in embodied cognition that explores the conditions under which the mind extends into the world.
  • We incorporate critical and historical work from media and design studies, disability studies, sensory studies, and science and technology studies.
  • We utilize applied scholarship from the fields of human-computer interaction, information studies, digital humanities, and user experience and interface design.
  • We invite students to relate the course content to their own work. Each student will choose an interface pertinent to his/her area of study, share a brief selection of relevant readings with the class, and present an in-class critique of that interface. The instructors will create a catalogue of possible case studies, yet students will be free to choose their own topics.

At the end of the seminar, students will have the option of presenting prototype interfaces that are relevant to the topics of their theses (MA or PhD). We will encourage students to think beyond the keyboard and screen, to explore a variety of ways in which interfaces might embody the knowledge their theses aim to convey and expand the reach of their research. Doing so will enhance their social scientific and humanistic knowledge with new sensibilities and skills drawn from the worlds of design, media, and technology.