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Dark Ecology Syllabus

Hours: 2.30 - 6.10pm
Room: Library 1004B
Office hours by appointment:
Monday 12-1pm.
Wednesday: 2.30-3.30pm


Ours is a time of dark ecology, where humans have become an environmental force. What does this mean for what we understand the environment to be and our relationship to it? This course investigates diverse local systems such as power grids, water infrastructures and ecoystems around campus. Students will be introduced to methods drawn from both scientific and artistic modes of inquiry including recording, mapping, poetic and scientific sensing, visualization, and photography. How can we explicate the systems that sustain us? How might public interventions shift how we perceive and represent our deep connections to environmental systems?


Course Content and assignments



Students successfully completing all aspects of this subject will:

  • Demonstrate an introductory understanding of ecocritical theorya and sociology of technology.
  • Develop a literacy of local environmental issues.
  • Have furthered their ability to engage creatively and critically with the social, relational and spatial aspects of urban infrastructure systems.
  • Have furthered their experience and skills in negotiating interdisciplinary creative production.


Part 1 (25%) Assignment 1 5% literature review Assignment 1 20% for field guide

Part 2 (25%) Assignment 2 25%

Part 3 (30%) Assignment 3 proposal 5%
Assignment 3 25%

Other Readings blog posts 10%
Attendence 10%

Field trips

September 19th, 1-4pm

  • Westchester wastewater treatement plant.
  • Westchester recycling facility.

October 3rd, 9am -4pm

  • Indian Point Nuclear Power plant (lunch provided)

Course Structure

Lectures, readings and research on topics such as:

  • ecocritical theory
  • contemporary environmental issues
  • techniques for visualizing/describing human-technology-biosphere relations
  • ethnographic research methods


For a detailed schedule, with homework and reading requirements go here.

Week Lecture/Topic/Content Tutorial/Workshop Assessment Due Date
Week 1 Intro to dark ecology. Why infrastructure.
  • Project 1 groups and planning.
  • Infrastructure audit.
  • Campus research.
Sept 5th Labor Day, No class.
Week 2 What is ethnographic research?
  • Talk from campus environment officer.
  • Campus research updates.
  • Revision of field recording techniques with Victoria Estock.
Systems literature and research review due
Week 3 Field trip 1: Waste
Week 4 Externalities. Risk. Resilience.
  • Field guide group review.
  • Finalize and compile guide.
Week 5 Field trip 2: Energy Field guide draft PDF due Friday of this week.
Week 6 Acoustic ecology and soundscape.
  • Studio
Week 7 Sound and curation
  • Studio
Sound work due Friday this week
Week 7 No lecture
  • Installation.
Exhibition of sound work and guides in Two Walls
Week 9 Thinking coexistence
  • Perspectives on environment exercise.
  • Analogue sensing workshop.
Week 10 Interspecies
  • Sensing workshop 2
Week 11 Sensing and politics of information
  • Data workshop 1
Species literature review due.
Week 12 Rethinking interface
  • Data workshop 2
Project proposal due in class.
Week 13 Design strategies
  • Studio
Week 14 No lecture
  • Project setup.
Final projects due


Miss more than 3 classes and you fail. Turn up more than half an hour late and receive half an absence.


  • Jedediah Purdy, 2015, Anthopocene Fever.
  • Larkin, Brian. "The politics and poetics of infrastructure." Annual Review of Anthropology 42 (2013): 327-343.
  • Shannon Mattern, 2014, Infrastructure Tourism
  • Elkins, James. How to use your eyes. Routledge, 2007. Chapter 2, How to Look at a Culvert.
  • Shannon Mattern, 2016, Cloud and Field.
  • Ursula, Franklin. Real World of Technology. (1989). Chapter 1
  • Winner, L. (1986). Do Artifacts have Politics? The whale and the reactor: a search for limits in an age of high technology. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 19-39
  • Timothy Morton, 2014, The Ecological Thought. Excerpts.
  • Muecke, Stephen. What the cassowary does not need to know. Australian Humanities Review, 2006.
  • Stone, Christopher D. Should Trees Have Standing--Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects. 1972.
  • Bratton, Benjamin H. and Jeremijenko, Natalie. Suspicious images, latent interfaces. Architectural League of New York, 2008.
  • Potter, Emily. "Climate change and the problem of representation." (2009).
  • All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace - Episode 2 - The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts


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