Requirements + Assignments


We want to make sure we get the most out of our discussions, and that we benefit from one another’s expertise and experience in developing our individual projects. Thus, we need everyone to show up regularly, on time, and prepared – i.e., having both completed the assigned reading and any mapping exercises. You will be permitted two excused absences (“excused” means that you must have contacted me prior to class to inform me of your absence) for the semester. Additional excused absences – and any unexcused absences – will negatively affect your grade. More than three absences, excused or unexcused, will result in failure of the course; if you anticipate needing to miss several classes, you are advised to drop the course. A pattern of late arrivals is likewise detrimental.

I do not require you to complete weekly reading responses, simply because your work on the individual and group projects should keep you plenty busy. That said, I still do encourage you to take time before class to annotate the weekly readings, abstract them, and reflect on how they contribute to your understanding of the overarching themes of the course and to your own research and making process. Your consistent presence and regular, constructive contributions account for 15% of your final grade.


We’ll dedicate some time in most of our classes to presenting and critiquing several (canonical/ exemplary/ experimental/ overwrought/ elegant/ etc.) maps in a variety of formats, to see what they do right and wrong, what they illuminate and obfuscate, how they integrate form and content effectively and poorly, and what lessons we can take away from them and apply, or avoid, in our own projects.

Each of you will post and publicly present one map critique – ideally, of a map that both addresses (in a direct or tangential way) the week’s theme and pertains to your semester project. Don’t think of this exercise as an additional assignment; use it to advance your own agenda. To identify a map for review, you might look through the websites I list here and the books I’ll be previewing in Week One. You could also simply Google “your project topic” + “map”; I’ll bet you a dollar you’ll find a few options. Please consult with the other presenters for the week to work out who’s chosen which projects. You’re welcome to double- or triple-up on a particular map, provided you each offer a distinctive perspective.

[You’re welcome to review previous map critiques from my 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 Urban Media Archaeology classes.]

Your fifteen-minute presentation-and-discussion should consist of two parts: (1) a critique and (2) a critical-creative application prototype. The critique should focus on a single mapping project and should employ some of the critical tools and criteria we discuss in Week 3. Your application is a critical-creative attempt to apply to your own research project the same effective and/or ineffective techniques used in the map you’ve critiqued. You might choose to exaggerate the failures of that map by creating a parody – or you might choose to try out some helpful features from your critique subject in order to generate mapping techniques that might aid in your own work. Be sure to identify what elements inspired you and why, and how and where we can see those elements’ influence in your map. Your application can take virtually any form and format – from a drawing to a paper prototype, from a quilt to a sound map. Keep in mind that this is only a prototype – a rough sketch, a maquette, a “napkin drawing”; we’re more concerned in this context with the ideas behind your project than with your execution.

Before class on your presentation day, please post your 600- to 900-word text – which should encompass both your critique and the explanation of your application exercise, along with documentation of your application – to our class website. You should aim to wrap up your formal presentation in seven or eight minutes (I’ll cut you off after ten), so we have plenty of time for discussion. And please be sure to have presentation media loaded/booted/hung/distributed before class begins so we can start on time. Your review is worth 15% of your final grade.


At the beginning of the semester you should begin to think about a fluid, capacious research topic that you’d like to explore through the maps you create over the course of the semester. Ideally, this topic will pertain to projects you’re exploring in your other classes or a thesis project, to a “through-line” you’ve pursued throughout the program, or to work you’re doing in your extracurricular life. You’ll need to submit a 600-word proposal for this project, via Google Drive, before class on September 15. This proposal should include (1) a topic description, thematic overview, problem statement, or research question; (2) a discussion of your topic’s personal relevance, larger critical significance, timeliness, etc.; (3) a preliminary discussion of how your topic might lend itself to spatial/cartographic investigation (i.e., what can you learn by mapping it?); (4) a description of the geographic area(s) and scale(s) you plan to focus on in your maps; and (5) a tentative bibliography of at least seven sources (some scholarly publications, some popular publications, some precedent maps, etc.) that will likely prove useful in your research and practice. You’ll share your proposal in class, in an informal 5-minute presentation, on September 22. The proposal is worth 15% of your final grade.

Each of the maps you then create over the course of the semester should pertain to this topic and cumulatively represent myriad ways of illustrating or investigating your subject. You’ll begin developing three of these maps in our in-class labs, and your presentation of this work-in-progress during our in-class review sessions, which typically take place two weeks after each in-class lab, will account for 15% of your final grade.

You can then continue to develop these prototypes, or generate map ideas of your own. By the end of the semester, you should have a minimum of five completed maps, in at least three different “media formats” (e.g., hand-drawn, photographic, audio-based, online-interactive, etc.). You’ll then need to compile those maps into an atlas, which you can present in whatever format you choose (e.g., a book, a website, an installation, etc.), as long as you frame the contents as a cartographic set – as five “spatial variations on a theme.” You should make sure to offer some means of narratively or argumentatively navigating through your collection; generate connective threads between your individual maps; and provide critical/descriptive commentary reflecting on the unique medial qualities of each piece in the set (see, for example, how Annette Kim addresses the distinctive features of each map in her “Critical Cartography Primer,” pp. 113-145 of Sidewalk City). You’ll submit your project at the start of class on December 15, and during that class each student will deliver a 10- to 15-minute presentation of his/her work (details to come). Your final atlas is worth 40% of your final grade.