Class Syllabus!

Syllabus – Collaboration Studio: Scrapyard Challenge and Urban Hacking
Parsons The New School for Design
MFA in Design and TechnologyCourse Information:
Collab: Scrapyard Challenge – PSAM 5550 G
CRN: 6802Course Dates: August 30, 2011 to December 13, 2011

Course Meeting Time: 3:00pm to 5:40pm
Tuesdays: Parsons, 6 East 16th Street, Room 1204B

Instructors: Katherine Moriwaki, Jonah Brucker-Cohen
Emails: moriwakk at, jonah at
Class Blog:
Office Hours:  by appointment

Course Description:
This Collaboration Studio examines the practice of recycling and artistic production through urban exploration and hacking or rethinking of public spaces. As the world’s landfills swarm with millions of tons of discarded electronics, the examination of the critical and creative use of recycled materials becomes ever more important. Scrapyard Challenge and Urban Hacking examines interventions in planned obsolescence through sustainable technological practice and will tackle the issues of recycling, art making, and sustainability. The course will give students challenges around the city to complete using found or discarded materials combined with embedded microcontrollers such as Arduino.

Students will explore new ways of working with municipal waste management facilities to reclaim “good garbage”. In this class, participants will discuss ideas, create new work, and present projects related to sustainable practice. They will collaboratively introduce each other to methods of recycling digital materials for creative exploration and produce art projects made from found or rescued waste. The Scrapyard Challenge and Urban Hacking course provides an exciting opportunity to learn and develop frameworks for communities and individuals working with issues of sustainability and waste reduction.

There are four major overlapping themes we will work with throughout the semester and their intersection with recycling, re-use, and sustainability:

Low Technology – the opposite of high technology. simple, or seemingly non-technological solutions, or working with outdated technologies.
Dead Technology – things that no longer “work”, or are quickly being put out of use. Quite of bit of “dead” tech is available in the streets and in the junkyard. How do we bring it back to life?
Lost Technology – things we are losing because of technology – the emotional, social, and psychological dimensions of what is discarded and “lost.”
Found Technology – things we “find” when working with what is low, dead, and lost. New “discoveries” amongst what was previously regarded as worthless.

Skills required of students:
Basic hardware skills if possible but not necessary, interest to get more engaged with their local community and urban landscape

Students should have access to the Internet though their own laptops, but no additional equipment will be necessary unless they want to build something with electronics, such as Arduino, etc.. These types of materials can be acquired by the students depending on what they want to do for the course.

Course Components

Recycology Handbook
This will be the primary outcome we will be working towards for the end of the semester. The contents of this handbook will be the result of student assignments and activities. Your work should be properly formatted (high-res images, original files and other documentation) in order to facilitate this.

Primary Assignment:
Four (4) individual or joint / collaborative projects that explore recycling, urban waste, invention, sustainability, and design that explore recycling and urban hacking using the above themes as organizing principles. The themes are broad and have enough area of overlap to allow for individual student interpretation. The conclusion of each assignment includes producing a “chapter” for the Recycology Handbook collaboratively as a class.

Weekly Assignments and Guest Speakers:
Each week students will also work on smaller, targeted assignments designed to support work on the primary assignment. Weekly projects may be done individually or in groups, at the faculty’s discretion. Occasionally guest speakers will join the class. Students should respond to the speaker and their talk through posting a one page paragraph minimum blog post.

Documentation of project work:
All project work should be documented on the class blog. All source materials should be made available as downloadable files for the instructors, and images should be high resolution for inclusion into the Recycology Handbook.

Additional Reading may be assigned throughout the semester. All reading should have a one paragraph minimum reaction posted to the class blog.

Detailed Course Outline:

Guest Speakers, Dates TBA
Neil Seldman, Institute of Local Self-Reliance
Madeline Nelson,
Erin Kennedy, RobotGrrl

Week 1: August 30, 2011

Introductions all around: What is your experience working with discarded materials and trash? What about this class interests you?

Explanation of syllabus, assignments and general overview.

4th Floor visit to the materials re-use center.

Introduce Low Tech Assignment 1: Rube Goldberg
Weekly Assignment:
Map the trash cycle of your neighborhood. What day does trash go out, and what can one typically find? Look for and locate any of the following:

Fax Machine
Flat Screen Computer Monitor

As well as any other “useable junk” you might find. Any items are acceptable (the more the merrier) but they must come from your neighborhood junk run. (Remember, nothing is trash in our class!)

Bring this with you to class next week. Document your search and discoveries.

Week 2: September 6, 2011.

Reading: Katherine Moriwaki, Jonah Brucker-Cohen, “Lessons from the scrapyard: creative uses of found materials within a workshop setting”, 15 March 2006, Springer-Verlag London Limited 2006    Link:

In-Class Activity: Input/Output

Week 3, September 13, 2011.

In-Class Activity: Cause/Effect

Week 4, September 20, 2011.
Presentations in Class of Assignment 1: Low Tech
(Running the Rube Goldberg Machine)

Week 5, September 27, 2011.
Introduce Dead-Tech Assignment 2

Week 6, October 4, 2011.
Week 7, October 11, 2011.

Week 8, October 18, 2011.
Presentations in Class of Assignment 2: Dead Tech

Midterm Grades will be assessed based on the two in-class presentations, downloadable documentation, and activity on both the blog and individual websites, and class participation.

Week 9, October 25 2011.
Final Presentations in Class of Assignment 2: Dead Tech
Introduce Lost Tech Assignment 3

Week 10, November 1, 2011.
Week 11, November 8, 2011.

Week 12, November 15, 2011.
In-Class Presentations of Assignment 3: Lost Tech

Week 13, November 22, 2011.
Introduce Found Tech Assignment 4

Week 14, December 29, 2011.
Week 15, December 6, 2011.

Class 16, December 13, 2011.
In-Class Presentations of Assignment 4: Found Tech

Final Grades will be assessed based on the cumulative presentations throughout the semester, downloadable documentation, and activity on both the blog and individual websites, and class participation.

All documentation due by the end of the week Friday December 16.


Access Space –
Low-Tech –
High-low tech group at the MIT Media Lab –
Low-tech Magazine:
How Stuff is Made:
TRASHed: Art of Recycling:

Overrated Technologies and Their Underrated Low-Tech Alternatives:

Egyptians Use Low-Tech Gadgets to Get Around Communications Block:

The Fax Machine: Technology that Refuses to Die:


Katherine Moriwaki, Jonah Brucker-Cohen, “Lessons from the scrapyard: creative uses of found materials within a workshop setting”, 15 March 2006, Springer-Verlag London Limited 2006    Link:

Recycling Too Complicated for University to Get Right:

Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2009

“Rise of the Expert Amateur: DIY Projects, Communities, and Cultures”
by Stacey Kuznetsov & Eric Paulos
Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon 5000 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
PDF Link:

Graduate Grade Scale Descriptions
A Work of exceptional quality.
A- Work of high quality.
B+ Very good work.
B Good work; satisfies course requirements. Satisfactory completion of a course is considered to be a grade of B or higher.
B- Below average work-. Academic Warnings will be given at any time during the semester for any level work below a B.
C+ Well below average work
C Poor work; lowest possible passing grade for the course.
F Failure.
Failing Grades
Failing grades are given for required work that is not submitted, for incomplete final projects or for examinations that are not taken (without prior notification and approval). Final semester grades are determined by averaging grades received throughout the semester. Make-up work or completion of missed examinations may be permitted only with the approval of the faculty and the MFA DT Director.
Academic Integrity and Honesty Policy
The purpose the Academic Integrity and Honesty Policy is to protect the rights of authors, artists and fellow members of the academic community as well as to support the education of the individual student, who derives no educational benefit from cheating. Studio faculty are expected to educate students about the legal and ethical restrictions placed upon creative work and about the consequences of dishonesty in the professional world. Faculty assigning papers are expected to educate students about the appropriate incorporation of quoted material and other thinkers’ ideas. Most important, students are expected to keep themselves informed on these matters, to seek clarification from faculty regarding academic honesty and its relationship to specific assignments, and to conduct themselves accordingly. All incoming students are required to sign an Academic Integrity Statement declaring that they understand and agree to comply with this policy. Students who cheat in any way primarily cheat themselves; but they also compromise the academic climate for all members of the Parsons community. Dishonest students, whether directly or indirectly involved in an act of cheating, will be held accountable for violations of the Academic Integrity and Honesty Policy. “Academic dishonesty” is defined as:
• cheating on examinations, either by copying another student’s work or by utilizing unauthorized materials.
• any act of plagiarism, that is, the fraudulent presentation of the written, oral or visual work of others as original.
• theft of another student’s work.
• purchase of another student’s work.
• submitting the same work for more than one course.
• destruction or defacement of the work of others.
• aiding or abetting any act of dishonesty.
• any attempt to gain academic advantage by presenting misleading information, making deceptive statements or falsifying documents.
Guidelines for Studio Assignments
Work from other visual sources may be imitated or incorporated into studio work if the fact of imitation or incorporation and the identity of the original source are properly acknowledged. There must be no intent to deceive; the work must make clear that it emulates or comments on the source as a source. Referencing a style or concept in otherwise original work does not constitute plagiarism. The originality of studio work that presents itself as “in the manner of” or as playing with “variations on” a particular source should be evaluated by the individual faculty member in the context of a critique.
Incorporating ready-made materials into studio work as in a collage, synthesized photograph or paste-up is not plagiarism in the educational context. In the commercial world, however, such appropriation is prohibited by copyright laws and may result in legal consequences.
Guidelines for Written Assignments
Direct quotations and references to the statements and ideas of others in written work do not constitute plagiarism if the fact of quotation or reference and the identity of the original source are properly acknowledged. Written work from other sources may be directly quoted so long as (1) the source is identified before the quotation or in a subsequent citation, footnote or endnote and (2) the fact that the passage is directly quoted is indicated by quotation marks, if a phrase or sentence, or by indentation, if more than one sentence.
Any student who paraphrases the statements of another or brings in ideas or information from a published source must attribute the paraphrased content, ideas or information to the original source, either by using an introductory phrase like “Mr. Smith argues that” or “According to The New York Times” or by identifying the origin in a citation, footnote or endnote. A bibliography listing the sources used in any written assignment should be appended. Students should ask faculty members for detailed instructions or recommended reference materials on proper formats for quotations, citations, footnotes, endnotes and bibliographies.
Procedures and Penalties
Any violation of the Academic Integrity and Honesty Policy is a matter for disciplinary action. When a faculty member suspects that cheating, plagiarism or any other form of academic dishonesty has occurred, the faculty member should first inform the student privately that he or she suspects a violation of the Policy. The faculty should explain the alleged violation clearly, concisely and specifically and should advise the student to review the Policy in the Student Handbook. The faculty should schedule a second meeting with the student to discuss the accusation fully following the student’s review of the Policy. Whenever possible, this full discussion should take place within 72 hours of the initial meeting. If a violation comes to the faculty’s attention during finals or a school break, the discussion should take place as soon as possible, but no later than a month after the incident or before the start of a new semester.
Each party may elect, but is not required, to have an impartial advisor present at the meeting. The faculty should select the Chair or Associate Chair of the department that offers the course. The student should select an Advisor from the Office of Advising or from his or her major department. The role of the department Chair or Associate Chair is to help facilitate discussion between the student and the faculty by calling all parties to the meeting, providing a private meeting space and allowing the different points of view to be expressed. The role of the Advisor is to help the student to understand the Policy and the alleged violation.
During the discussion, the student should be prepared to present the work in question, along with any supporting drafts, sketches, digital files or other documentation. The faculty may ask the student to reconstruct the process involved in creating the work. After the discussion, the faculty member, in consultation with the department Chair or Associate Chair, will consider the facts and determine whether the charge is valid and, if so, will recommend what penalty ought to be imposed. The penalty for academic dishonesty should take into account the severity of the violation. The department Chair will refer in writing all violations to the Director of Advising for disciplinary consideration. The Director of Advising will convene a committee to determine the appropriate penalty for the course and the appropriate disciplinary action. Disciplinary action may include Disciplinary Warning, Probation or, in severe cases, even for a first offense, Expulsion from the program. A record of disciplinary action may impact future educational and employment opportunities.
In cases where the student confesses to the violation, the procedures and penalties for academic dishonesty may be altered at the discretion of the department Chair or Associate, and the Director of Advising. In cases where the work in question is submitted at the end of the semester and/or the faculty member is unavailable, the department Chair or Associate will discuss the incident with the student.
• Appeals
A student found guilty of academic dishonesty may appeal the Committee’s decision to the Associate Dean, whose decision will be final. The appeal review will test the fairness and effectiveness of the procedure used to determine the facts. If disciplinary action was taken, the student has the right to appeal the decision in accordance with the New School University Code.

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