There are four graded components to this course:

  • Participation (25 points).
  • Critical essay that examines an existing collection transformation (25 points). Due February 20.
  • Collection transformation project (25 points). Due April 17.
  • Final reflective essay (25 points). Due May 1.

The critical essay should be printed and brought to class. I will have access to the URL for your project; your design brief should be printed and brought to class.

Because I will be at a conference on May 1, reflective essays will be submitted via e-mail.

When crafting assignments, follow the instructions carefully, and pay special attention to the grading criteria. All written assignments are graded based on the criteria listed in this syllabus; the number of points available for each assignment is divided equally (or as near to equal as possible) between the defined criteria.

Late assignments are not acceptable. For each day that an assignment is late, ten percent of the possible points will be deducted from the score, rounded up (that is, if the final reflective essay, worth 25 points, is one day late, the maximum number of points for the late assignment is 22, or 25-3 [2.5 rounded up]). Students who anticipate difficulties with completing assignments on time should consult with the instructor as soon as possible so that alternate solutions can be discussed. (When requested in advance, arrangements can usually be made.)


As a studio-based class, much of our learning is based in reflection upon practice, in using design-focused project work to engage with fundamental questions of how we read and write information collections.

To enable rigorous, sustained exploration of these concepts, it is important to regard the classroom environment as a scholarly community of design researchers, a design laboratory, if you will, where everyone is responsible for contributing to the evolving understanding of the group. In-class conversations and working collaborations, where readings and current design activities are discussed and debated, will form a key aspect of the course.

In class, everyone needs to contribute ideas, questions, and perspectives. Respectful debate is encouraged. However, quantity is not the primary mark of successful participation. Students who make consistently thoughtful contributions, reference appropriate course readings and project activities, propel discussions onward, and listen attentively to the ideas of their colleagues will receive the highest participation grades.

Students should come prepared each week with at least one discussion question based on your experience with the week's readings.

Critical essay that examines an existing transformation

In this assignment, you will analyze an existing video library to describe how, and how well, it works as a both a means of examining residuality (or, we might alternately say, enacting mestiza consciousness) as well as how, and how well, it works as a persuasive, compelling, information experience.

You may choose one of three "transformed" video collections to examine in your essay. All three transformations take the same video library as their starting point. (You may also compare either two or all three of the transformations if you wish, although this is more difficult in a single essay.) More information about the transformed collections and the traditional collection they were based on will be provided in class.

Your mission
You will adopt the role of the information critic in addressing two questions regarding your selected transformation (or transformations, should you choose to compare two or three of them):

  • How can a digital collection foreground the experience of the residual?
  • What constitutes the reading experience of such a digital collection?

To investigate these questions, you should identify and assess how the transformed collection works as an interactive information experience, or an expressive database. For example, you might examine how the transformation is consistent in some ways and inconsistent in others. Do the inconsistencies seem principled, or motivated? Do they structure productive questions on the part of the reader, or are they merely distracting? In making a case one way or the other, you will need to use concrete examples from the "text" to provide persuasive evidence for your argument.

The final paper should be approximately 3,000 words (around 10-12 pages). While your essay should address specific aspects of the collection under scrutiny, your paper should have a larger argument to give it cohesion. In other words, the essay should not merely list design elements that you find effective or not effective, but should synthesize your analysis of these elements to reveal a broader thesis about how the transformation works and what it brings to the reader. For example, one might argue that while the authorial voice of the Here in Texas transformation provides a unifying force that enables one to see its descriptors as more coherent than they might initially appear; however, ultimately, the specificity of the voice trivializes the overall impact of the transformation, turning it into someone's trite confessional. (Or you might argue that the specificity of the voice magnifies the impact, or that the amorphousness of the voice trivalizes the impact, or that the voice is a force of fracture, not get the idea.)

Grading criteria
A successful critique will exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Presents a coherent thesis that unites your thoughts about the collection (or set of collections).
  • Explains how the collection works: what it conveys about residuality and how its descriptive infrastructure works to convey (or not convey) that position.
  • Makes a case for what the collection brings to the reader: what sort of reading experience is structured by the collection? (Is it intellectually invigorating? Irritating? Enjoyable?)
  • Adheres to professional writing standards: is logically structured and organized, is clearly and concisely written, adopts a professional, scholarly tone, and uses correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Design transformation

In this project, you create your own design transformation of a traditionally constructed video library, in a manner very similar to that of the transformations that you examined in your critical essay. You will change the descriptive infrastructure of an existing collection to forge your own enactment of mestiza consciousness (or, we might alternately say, to explore the notion of residuality). Everyone in the class will begin with the same library, which is broadly organized around the subject area of sustainability. The source library, as well as your transformation of it, is built using the Open Video Digital Library Toolkit, or OVDLT, an easy-to-use system for digital video library development that was created by a former faculty member at the iSchool, Gary Geisler. No technical expertise is required to change the descriptive elements that you will transform. Instructions on using the OVDLT administration features will be provided in class (but again, no technical expertise is involved).

You may undertake this project either as an individual or with a partner.

Your mission
You will revise the metadata and other customizable elements of the source library to create an experimental transformation that uses the library's descriptive elements to foreground and interrogate the idea of residuality. (You will not be able to change the included videos, nor will you be able to change the user interface or basic feature set. Only the descriptive infrastructure.) In doing so, you will identify an overall design approach and determine how each potential design element (descriptors, summaries/abstracts, titles, responsible entities, dates, key frames, tags, collections and playlists) might contribute toward the realization of that approach.

There are two parts to this assignment: the transformed library and a "design brief" that describes your approach and how each design element contributes to it.

For the transformed library, you must consider the following elements, all of which can be modified using the toolkit's adminstrative and cataloging tools:

  • Library title.
  • Descriptors.
  • Records for individual videos, including:
    • Titles and alternate titles.
    • Sentence summaries.
    • Abstracts.
    • Responsible entities.
    • Tags.
    • Dates.
  • Key frames.
  • Descriptors.
  • Collections and playlists.
  • Featured videos and collections.
  • About page, News page, and Contact page.

Grading criteria

A successful assignment will exhibit the following characteristics:

  • The brief identifies a design approach to address residuality/mestiza consciousness in your transformation and explains how your transformation implements this approach through customizing the design elements.
  • The approach outlined in the brief and enacted in the transformation is thoughtful and considered.
  • The transformation follows the approach outlined by the brief and uses the design elements as described.
  • The transformation is complete (that is, all the videos have been recataloged according to the established approach, and so forth).

Final reflection

In this essay, you will ponder what you have read, what you have done, and what you have produced in this class, and you will write a cohesive paper that uses these thoughts and experiences to reflect upon the three motivating questions for the course.

Your mission
Your paper should describe what the experience of authoring the transformation, as well as your assessment of the product that you created, reveals to you about:

  • How a digital collection can foreground the experience of the residual.
  • What constitutes the authoring experience of such a digital collection.
  • What constitutes the reading experience of such a digital collection.

IYou may also find it helpful to compare your own transformation approach with the transformation that you addressed in your critical essay.

Your final reflective essay should be approximately 3,000 words (around 10-12 pages). As with your critical essay, your paper should have a larger argument to give it cohesion. In your essay, use both the course readings and your design project experiences to substantiate your answers to the three questions. Make sure, though, that the emphasis is on critical examination, and not a mere report of what you did or a justification for your design decisions.

Grading criteria

A successful essay will exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Presents a coherent thesis that unifies your response to the different questions.
  • Provides evidence for claims via both course readings and project design experiences.
  • Goes beyond anecdotal experience and justification of individual design decisions.
  • Adheres to professional writing standards: is logically structured and organized, is clearly and concisely written, adopts a professional, scholarly tone, and uses correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.