Requirements + Assignments


In a seminar course each participant’s contribution is valued, and absences affect the entire group. You will be permitted two excused absences (“excused” means that you must have contacted me prior to class to inform me of your absence) throughout the semester. Any excused absences in excess of two and any unexcused absences will negatively affect your grade. A pattern of late arrivals is likewise detrimental. More than three excused absences, or more than two unexcused absences, will prevent you from passing the course.

You’re expected to come to class prepared (i.e., having read and digested the readings), remain engaged, and participate thoughtfully in class discussions, presentations, group exercises, etc. Attendance and participation are worth 20% of your final grade.


Just as archivists “process” a newly-acquired collection, we need to process the new ideas we’re exposed to; we need to arrange those ideas in our minds, consider them in relation to our past knowledge, personal interests, and everyday experiences; and appraise what value they might hold for the future. This intellectual work benefits not only you; it also helps us make the most of our in-class discussions. You’ll need to post to our class blog at least five 200-word (maximum!) “processing posts” over the course of the semester; you should begin posting within the first three weeks of the semester, and keep posting at least once every three weeks for the duration of the semester. Posts are due by noon on Tuesdays. Your posts should involve some critical, synthetic reflection on the week’s assigned readings, but would also ideally include: ideas that you find particularly captivating or frustrating and that you might like to explore through further research (perhaps your final project); questions you’d like us to address in our group discussion; connections you’ve drawn between the readings and art you’ve recently experienced, places you’ve recently been, current events you’ve heard about, etc. You’re welcome to illustrate your posts with images, audio, video, etc., where appropriate. These posts are worth 20% of your final grade.


Over the course of the semester each student will submit one 900- to 1200-word post and deliver one 15-minute in-class presentation focusing on a concrete application of the theories we discuss in class. These are not two separate assignments; your paper can be the script for your presentation!

Where do you see the week’s central themes playing out in the world – in a brick-and-mortar library or archive, in an artist’s work, in a particular online database, in one of the many behind-the-scenes spaces supporting our digital infrastructure, etc.? You’re encouraged to investigate how archival/library/database theory works on the ground – which means that, ideally, for this assignment, you’ll go visit places, talk to people, touch stuff, etc., rather than merely grappling abstractly with theoretical texts. In your paper and presentation you’ll want to strike a balance between (brief) synopsis of the relevant theoretical frameworks or concepts; description of your chosen concrete subject; and critical analysis of that subject in light of those theories and concepts.

Your paper should be posted to our class website before class on the date you’re scheduled to present. You’re encouraged to include illustrative media. And please note that, just because it’s a blog post doesn’t mean it’s casual writing; please edit and proofread! You’ll have ten minutes for your formal presentation, then we’ll dedicate roughly five minutes to discussion. The presentation and paper are together worth 20% of your final grade.

You’ll find a few sample application projects from our Fall 2012 class here, from our Fall 2013 class here, and from our Fall 2014 class here.


See below for more on the format of the final project. Throughout the semester I hope you’ll come across several ideas, arenas, individuals, etc., about which or whom you would like to know more. This final project will give you the opportunity to delve deeply into a research and/or creative area of personal interest. You can draw inspiration from previous students’ work: here’s what the students in my 2011 “Archives/Libraries/Databases” class did, here’s what the 2012 students did, here’s what the 2013 students did, and here’s what the 2014 students did.

You should begin thinking about potential topics early in the semester. By 11:59pm on Sunday, October 22, you’ll need to submit to me privately, via Google Drive, a formal ~900-word (including end-matter) project proposal. Please share your work as a Google Doc or Word Doc so I can add margin comments.

This proposal should include:

  1. a problem statement or research question;
  2. a discussion of your proposed research methodology and an outline of your research/production plan*; and
  3. a tentative bibliography containing at least ten sources, half of which must be scholarly sources.

You’ll be expected to share your proposal in an informal three-minute presentation in class on October 24. I certainly don’t expect your proposals to be perfect (the primary reason I ask you to submit these is so you can receive constructive feedback before delving too deeply into your projects), but I do expect the proposals to evince some serious contemplation, good planning, and an awareness of relevant resources in the field. The proposal is worth 10% of your final grade. You’ll have an opportunity to revise and resubmit the proposal if necessary.

*If you’re considering a research-based creative project or media production, your “research methodology” section should explain how your chosen format – video, artist’s book, interactive map, audio documentary, etc. – serves as an appropriate “method” for your project, i.e., how the form suits the content.


Throughout the semester you should be working toward the completion of either (1) a 4,000- to 6,000-word paper (word count includes end-matter), or (2) a creative/production project (that’s of final-project-appropriate scope) with a 600-word accompanying text, in which you address the critical and/or aesthetic issues you aimed to explore through your work, explain how your chosen format aided in that exploration, and provide a bibliography listing the critical resources that informed the project. This research project is worth 30% of your final grade, and is due before class on December 12, our final meeting. Papers and support papers for creative projects should be submitted via Google Drive.