Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Neighborhood Narratives – Fall 2006, Temple University, Philadelphia

Instructors: Hana Iverson, Steve Bull, David Gordon
Affiliates: Rickie Sanders, GUS and Merian Soto, Dance



Neighborhood Narratives is an evolving out-of- classroom New Media interdisciplinary education course. It introduces students to the concept of locative media, where all types of media (analogue, digital, text, sound, image etc) are applied to real places and thus trigger real social interactions. The class researches the relationship between the self and place, the reciprocal action between what we carry with us and how we find our way through an urban landscape. Students design their own projects, using alternative methods
that tie their stories to the environment at hand. The class provides a context within which to explore new and old models of communication, community and exchange. No prior technological expertise is required. The final assignments are presented on location in the city.


The term locative media has been associated with mobility, collaborative mapping, and emergent forms of social networking. At the core of the idea of locative media is the underlying context of motion. The locative of this practice is a state of mobility, while defining the point of spatio-temporal ‘capture’ of information or experience, dissemination or some point in between becomes the narrative language. Students will view examples of current “best practices” in locative media, and create group projects that will add to a Temple archive of urban narratives. Students will create their own narratives from sets of “connected annotations” that define a path through the city. These connected narratives can include many non-traditional narrative styles (see below) because of their grounding in the larger geographic structure of the city. Throughout the process of creating these annotations, students will be encouraged to combine the skills of Benjamin's storyteller (the person who sits and dreams of stories in far away times and places) with Baudelaire's flâneur (the mobile observer of the city who meditates in a drift). Movement exists in the historical continuum of people who have articulated the process of what it is to think and walk. The Sophists, Aristotle, Beethoven, Kirkeegard, Virginia Woolf, and Gertrude Stein among others have been famously associated with relying on the rhythm of walking to sort the internal meditation through external movement.

Community histories – creating a multi-layered document of the ethnographic history of a neighborhood through techniques of interviewing and historical research. (Example: )

Urban prospecting -- viewing a small sector of a neighborhood in exacting archaeological detail to create an inductive, bottom-up view of the city. (Example: )

Psychogeography – stretching traditional ways of creating viewpoints of the city by strictly following algorithmic or subject-specific approaches, as outlined in the works of Situationists and other literary theorists. (Example: )

Street Games – developing playful interactive activities that overlay features of the city with the fictional narrative of a game.
(Example: )

International Network

Neighborhood Narratives links the Philadelphia main campus of Temple University with its international campuses in London, Tokyo and Rome. The international network of classes videochats with each other throughout the semester, sharing their experiences and projects. All the location-based stories from each site are connected and archived using the web and mobile telephones.

Fall 06: London –Siobhan Thomas, instructor. Tokyo – Ron Carr, instructor.

On-line Access

All students are expected to have frequent, dependable access to the internet, with a printer attached. In addition, it is essential that you have an active Temple e-mail account, for email with faculty and with each other, and for access to the class site. If you have any difficulties with either Internet access with printer or your e-mail account, please see the instructor after the first class.

Technology requirements

Each student will need access to a mobile phone and digital camera. They will also need access to the internet, both to conduct research and to upload their documentations to their blogs.

Instructor Contact

The best way to reach us is by email. If you want to make an appointment to meet, please use email to do so. An appointment will not be confirmed until you have received an email reply from the instructor.


Many of the readings for this course will be handed out in class. Many of them will come from the following sources:
Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin -- the concept of the flaneur in the city
Guy Debord and the Situationists -- the concept of the derive, or drift, through the city that opens up new perspectives.
Michel de Certeau -- the spatial practices of everyday life.
Henri Lefebvre -- the production of space, again through spatial practices.
Peter Marcuse and Ronald van Kempen (eds) Globalizing Cities: A New Spatial Order?, Blackwell Publishers, 2000.
Mitchell Duneier, Sidewalk, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.
Anthony Vidler, Warped Space: Art, Architecture and Anxiety in Modern Culture
MIT Press, 2000
William J. Mitchell, Me + +: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City ,MIT Press, 2003
Malcolm McCullough, Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing and Environmental Knowing, MIT Press 2004

Class Participation

Projects will be evaluated based on their originality, as well as technical and conceptual qualities. All exercises must be completed in order to pass the course. Late assignments will reduce the assignment's grade.
Students will be measured by their ability to work, communicate and share knowledge. In-class presentations and overall student participation are an essential part of the process of understanding and integrating the material. Every effort will be made to help prepare students for formal presentations and to facilitate informal participation. Therefore participation is an important factor in assessing the student’s grade.

Attendance and Lateness Policy

Attendance Policy: There will be a sign-up sheet for each class meeting; it is the students’ responsibility to sign up to this list. More than two unexcused absences without the instructors’ permission (medical certificate might be requested) will decrease the overall grade by one unit for each additional missed class. Five absences will result in a failing grade for the course. If you are going to be absent, please inform us by email at least 24 hours in advance. ABOVE ALL: KEEP US INFORMED BY EMAIL. If you are absent, it is YOUR responsibility to contact another student who took notes on that day, and to make up any work in a timely fashion.

Lateness Policy: Three times arriving late will be considered as one unexcused absence. Being more than 10 minutes late will be counted as an absence. If you are late, it is your responsibility to let the teachers know when you come into class that you are here, and to make sure you have been marked as present..


Research, attendance and participation: 35%
Various short assignments: 30%
Final Project: 35%


• “Freestyle” tours to encourage students to develop their own viewpoints.

• Students will write “self-created” narratives (stories and impressions about the city) in a photoblog to practice articulating their experience of traveling about a city.

• Exercises will be conducted to familiarize students with the techniques necessary to create each of the types of connected annotations being created in the class.

• Community histories:
o Analysis of diaries, interviews, census reports, city maps, newspaper accounts, graphs, cartoons, autobiographies, government documents and other sources
o Basic interview methods and ethics will be reviewed: oral history, documentary film and photography, the snapshot aesthetic, etc.
o Potential interview subjects will be identified and first stage interviews will be initiated where appropriate.

• Urban prospecting:
Review of the methods of mining “place” – how we view place and people, how we gather artifacts.

• Psychogeography:
Students will practice creating their own algorithms or single-subject foci in the city, and will enact the scripts developed by other students in their group.

• Street Games
Student groups will collaboratively design simple games that incorporate both visible and invisible features of the city.


August 29 – Student and teacher introductions, Locative Media introduction, Narration of lunch/backpack assignment – what we carry with us. Presence, vanishing, time. From photography/image to digital. Start blog. Assignment: Observe, listen – overheard cell phone conversations, chatter, record your walk, reading: Beaudilair poem, Garden of Forking Paths, Borges.

September 5 – Pyscho-geography 1: become teams, imagine the city, write the narrative of a an imagined charachter. Reading: Metaphor: or, the Map, the writer is an explorer.

September 12 – Read stories, audio narratives: Sonic Memorial, Janet Cardiff, etc. Assignment: team collage exercise (can include location points), reading:


September 19 – Collage cut-up into books, Pyscho-Geography 2 assignment: find the person and interview them. Walk with them in the city – observe their movement. Reading: Carto-city by Denis Cosgrove and Mapping the Homunculus by Steve Deitz, from Else/where: Mapping, Janet Hall + Peter Abrams, eds. University of Minnesota press.

September 26 Presentation of interviews. Assignment: follow their path and make it your own. Put something into it. reading:

October 3 - Present Urban Planning of Philadelphia


October 10 - – David Gordon joins class, presentation of his work and thinking, introduction to scores. Assignment: get material of your own and put into score, decide on place – (block or building), reading:

October 17 – Review scores, Outdoor Performance + Cellphonia street performance, Public site, public memorial