Instructor Insights

Instructor Insights pages are part of the OCW Educator initiative, which seeks to enhance the value of OCW for educators.

Instructor Insights

Below, Ezra Haber Glenn describes various aspects of how he teaches 11.S942 Wanderings in Psychogeography.

Sculptural fountain spraying water on a city street.

Students in 11.S942 might encounter this scene while on a psychogeographic wandering around the Kendall Square neighborhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Image courtesy of bogdantapu on Flickr. License CC BY-NC.)

OCW: What is psychogeography, and what inspired you to create a course on the topic?

Ezra Haber Glenn: In his seminal 1955 article “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” Lettrist/Situationist founder Guy Debord defined psychogeography as the study of “the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” At its most basic level, the field uses the tools of literature, myth, maps, art, wandering, wondering, humor, eyes, ears, noses, intentional and unintentional trespassing, random accident, and other forms of conventional and extrasensory perception to explore the ways that humans do (or could) experience places, and the ways those experiences in turn could (or do) shape those humans.

I've only taught this class twice, but I've been teaching the material (to myself, mostly) for as long as I can remember. I developed and offered the course in its current, very open-ended form out of an interest in exploring the material with others and learning from their perspectives and interests as well. The word “seminar” stems from the Latin seminarium, a nursery where seeds are planted; as such, the class provides an opportunity to plant some seeds and see what sprouts. I continue to be interested in the subject because I’m still figuring out what it includes and how it helps me understand the world, our place in it, and the limitless potential of human experience.

OCW: What strategies have you found work well for engaging students and getting everyone involved in a seminar?

Classroom engagement is mostly about channeling energy and humor and sharing a delight for multiple ways of thinking about ideas.

— Ezra Haber Glenn

Ezra Haber Glenn: For the most part, I've trusted the material to be interesting and engaging, and the students to be interested and engaged. So the main strategy is self-selection. (Remember, no one needs to take this stuff, and most people seem to do fine without ever learning pyschogeography. Beyond helping you think about what it means to be alive, in a place, connected to history and ideas and other people and the timeless flow of existence, it's pretty useless as a field: no one ever got a patent, won a war, or figured out a faster way to despoil the environment using these techniques, so in the grand scheme of things it's probably a waste of time. But for students who are interested, it can be a fun way to pass the days while we wait for the Rapture.)

Beyond that, classroom engagement is mostly about channeling energy and humor and sharing a delight for multiple ways of thinking about ideas.

OCW: Did you really incorporate a “random surrealist coin toss” in the overall grade for the course?

Ezra Haber Glenn: Yes. It could be heads (+1% towards your grade), or it could be tails (+0% towards your grade). When the class was in-person, we actually flipped the coins and let the student pick heads or tails, during a fun end-of-semester party event. Really, it's there to demonstrate an overall irreverence towards rules, to call out the absurdity of conventional rules and systems of conformity. After all, what’s more absurd: flipping a coin to determine a grade, or our attachment to grades at all, when we should be focused on learning, sharing, and exploration?

Read More/Read Less

 

Assessment

Grade Breakdown

The students' grades were based on the following activities:

The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by weekly reflections (11 reflections at 5% each). 55% Weekly reflections (11 reflections at 5% each)
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by class participation. 25% Class participation
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by final project. 20% Final project

Curriculum Information

Prerequisites

None

Requirements Satisfied

11.S942 can be applied toward a Master’s degree in City Planning, but is not required.

Offered

Occasionally

Student Information

Six students took this course when it was taught in Fall 2020.

Breakdown by Year

Graduate students

Breakdown by Major

A mix of students in urban planning, architecture, and visual/media studies programs

Typical Student Background

Students selected the class based simply on their interest in the topic.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

3 hours per week

Met 2 times per week for 1.5 hour per session; 26 sessions total; mandatory attendance

 

Out of Class

9 hours per week

Outside of class, students completed assigned readings, wrote and posted weekly reflections, went on optional psychogeographic walks, and worked on their final projects.

 

Semester Breakdown

WEEK M T W Th F
1 No classes throughout MIT, but weekly reflection due. No session scheduled. No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
2 No classes throughout MIT, but weekly reflection due. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
3 No session scheduled, but weekly reflection due. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
4 No session scheduled, but weekly reflection due. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
5 No session scheduled, but weekly reflection due. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
6 No session scheduled, but weekly reflection due. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
7 No classes throughout MIT, but weekly reflection due. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
8 No session scheduled, but weekly reflection due. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
9 No session scheduled, but weekly reflection due. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
10 No session scheduled, but weekly reflection due. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
11 No session scheduled, but weekly reflection due. Class meeting scheduled. No classes throughout MIT. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
12 No session scheduled, but weekly reflection due. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled.
13 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
14 No session scheduled. Final project presentation scheduled and weekly  reflection due. No session scheduled. Final project presentation scheduled and weekly  reflection due. No session scheduled.
15 No session scheduled. Class meeting scheduled. No session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
Displays the color and pattern used on the preceding table to indicate dates when classes are not held at MIT. No classes throughout MIT
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when class meeting are held. Class meeting
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when weekly reflections are due. Weekly reflection due
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when no class session is scheduled. No class session scheduled
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when final project presentations are held. Final project presentations