Weeks 10-15 Open Space of Democracy Final Project 

Objective: to build a showcase of research projects on people and collectives engaged in creative activities that promote democratic culture

Core Questions: What is the cultural practice or performance or engagement? How does it make possible creative and critical engagement?


  • Project Collaboratory: Tuesday April 4 -20
  • Weekly Field Work posts on your blogs: Weeks 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. (5 Minimum, but more if useful for you: work on parts, post materials, explore connections, hold yourself accountable to your research process)
  • Project Charrette: Tuesday April 25 and Thursday April 27. Projects will be sufficiently developed so that the class can offer feedback and constructive critique during the two charrettes this week, and so that our project coordinator (Kerrin) can complete her design and critical work


  • Tuesday May 2 final project submitted
  • Thursday May 4 Class will meet for final project description and debrief

Approaches: Know what you are doing:

Profiles of individual cultural agents involved in creative and critical practices that rub against conventions and expectations

Accounts of individuals or collectives that venture into less obvious practices that make up a culture and leverage those practices in projects that promote critical and creative agility

Stories of creative cultural projects that promote exploration, expression, or the development of individuality

Pedagogical activities, performances, or socially engaged art that democratize social life through pedagogy—that foster personal literacies and collective dispositions for democratic life

Considerations of cultural works and activities that are not about social change but rather embody social change.


Weeks 7-8 Aspect Magazine Project: Project Description and Goals

The Aspect Magazine Project is a digital archive of a small but significant literary journal, Aspect magazine, published between 1969-1980. The Aspect Archive is designed for researchers, readers, writers, and students interested in the intellectual history of the New England region. As a scholarly resource, the archive increases access to the conversations and intellectual exchanges associated with the production of literature in New England among committed poets, artists and intellectuals.

As the Aspect Project Director and Editor, my goal is for you to have hands-on experience with editorial and archival work and to learn about the study of materials in the College Archive under the direction of the College Archivist, Rodney Obien, and his staff.

Aspect Magazine (1969-1980) was the creation of Edward J. Hogan, of Somerville, Massachusetts. Hogan was a history major at Northeastern University in March of 1969 when he launched a magazine featuring social and political commentary by a small group of university students. Hogan subsequently expanded that magazine to include poetry, fiction, graphic design, and literary news and reviews. Aspect published many writers, poets, and artists that represented the “Boston Scene” of the late 1960s and 1970s.


As part of your work for this course you will create descriptive metadata for two issues of the journal using the Dublin Core metadata standard. For each of the  issues you will write an informed and professional commentary on the writing and art in the issue. Each digital issue will be published in the Aspect magazine archive.

The learning objectives for the project include developing pedagogical methods to afford students opportunities to sustain intellectual development, in scholarly inquiry and production, and apply method and theory to practice by working with primary documents. The Project also seeks to empower you in an institutional setting that promotes critical reflection on rapidly changing forms of digital communication and algorithmic organization: for these technologies not only organize information but increasingly shape how we use language and make meaning.

The timeline and details for this work will appear on the schedule page.

Weeks 1-6 Weekly Blog Posts 

Each of you needs to complete weekly blog posts: the first group will be commentaries on the readings we are doing. The second group of blog posts will be research installments that will be posted beginning weeks seven and eight and continuing through the second half of the course.

The Process and Suggestions: Your first “project” in the course is your writing. All of you are writers, and all of you have successfully used writing in your classes and in other parts of your life. This sequence of relatively brief (500-word) commentaries is designed to surface and unpack some of your thinking about what you are reading, provide us with material to work from when we sit down together for discussion in the classroom, and give you the opportunity to share what you are learning in the course.

Here is how the writing process will work:

  • Publish the commentary on your blog no later than Tuesday at 10 AM each week
  • Attend two classes, on Tuesday and Thursday, in which we will work together on the texts/issues/problems you are thinking and writing about in your blog post
  • Publish a revised version will be completed no later than Sunday before you go to bed

Commentary 1 Due Tuesday January 24. A revised version due no later than Sunday, January 29

Next week we are talking about Alexis de Tocqueville’s thoughts on the influence of democracy on the action of intellect (two short chapters) and three of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays

What to do: Choose one of the essays and write a commentary on a passage (or passages) that you find interesting and that contribute to the subject of this course. Your choice will focus on democracy or the creative practice of literature or the arts. Write about what you believe will be interesting to someone who might not have discovered the writing, or thought much about what you have read. You are the authority, then, and your job is to share what you have learned and to suggest why someone might want to read the writing

Some Suggestions:

  • Quote: use a passage from the text as a point of departure. These short essays are exercises in working closely with the material of a text or texts—in the case of a written text, words, phrases, and sentences. This passage may be used as an epigraph. Or you can embed the quotation from the text in your blog post
  • Focus: summarize exactly what the words say and then provide analysis of why the passage is worth pulling out of the text
  • Elaborate: notice details. Make connections. Link the passage you are working from to other passages
  • Formulate: once you have pounded out some thoughts your thinking should continue by shaping those thoughts into fluent and elegant sentences and paragraphs
  • Add tags to your post: The tags should include author, title of work, 2-3 key terms in the passage. The tag function is first and foremost a conceptual exercise: what exactly are you writing about? Tags also invite reflection on what your focus has been, what some key ideas and keywords are; tags can be effective later when working on an essay and looking for material–to remember or be surprised by some associations (two different posts that turn out to be related by a tag); tags sometimes lead to interesting associations to other blogs. In fact, some of the Word Press formats will actually suggest automatically other blogs out there that might relate to your post
  • Title: Give your post a title. Make the title brief. Be thoughtful and consider your own creative talents in formulating the core focus of the writing using “microstyle”

If you have any questions, or would like to talk about the assignment, please let me know.