Popular Culture & Technology: Writing About Digital Design
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: Parsons The New School for Design
School: School of Art and Design History and Theory
Department: Art and Design History
Course Number: PLDS 4016
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Design History, Theory & Criticism
Once upon a time it made sense to read novels in order to understand the forces that unite society and those that tear us apart. Then it made more sense to look to movies as the great cultural reflector. Today we engage with Apple’s latest App or Facebook’s newest group or the next Youtube sensation with the same sense of focus and import that we used to reserve for literature and film. But do we know why some technological products are more successful that others? Why some change the world’s vocabulary and others are barely noticed? Why some become symbolic of efficiency and hip-ness while others are reduced to bad jokes? In this class we will try to find out. By examining some of the most influential critical writing in the field, students will be encouraged to recognize the use of products in visual and verbal storytelling – for both fictional and factual purposes; learn ways in which they themselves add to the cultural conversation when they use and represent products; and find ways to use critical reading and writing to hone their own personal design practices. Class meetings will involve comparing the current cultural moment to moments in the recent past when people were similarly overwhelmed with new media; describing the forms, functions, actions and thought processes that the repeated use of technological objects engenders; and thinking deeply about how such gadgets organize, direct and design society. Students will generate product reviews, write critical papers examining the influence of products on culture and society and produce blog entries that describe their own personal encounters with products.
Course Open to: Degree Students
Course Pre/Co-requisites:
Open to: All university undergraduate degree students. Pre-requisite(s): first-year university writing course and at least two prior history or methods course in art, media, film, or visual culture. One of these courses should be 3000-level.


Open to Undergraduate students.


Not open to Freshman students.

Not open to Sophomore students.