Documentary Experiments in Urban Research

URBS 344, ANTH 344, CIMS 344

Ben Mendelsohn

Thursdays 4:30 - 7:30 PM

How do moving image media enable inquiry into core urban studies questions or topics? What can video art, experimental documentary, and sensory ethnography teach us about the practice of urban research? How can we build on the traditions of first person and essay cinema to produce compelling documents of our own questions and findings? This course surveys a range of film and video works on themes such as the production of space, urban nature, infrastructure, and collective memory. Taken as a genre, these time-based works provide a powerful model for training scholars’ observational skills, conceptualizing scales of analysis, and engaging broader publics in urban research. In this course, we will explore this audiovisual genre in dialogue with selected theoretical, ethnographic, and case study readings in urban studies. As an advanced theory-practice course, it combines seminar readings and discussion with regular screenings and a series of workshops on photo, video, audio, and postproduction skills.

The course will provide a general fluency in critical urban theory. In dialogue with this scholarship, students will develop and situate their own experimental documentary research projects. While the structure of the course is somewhat fluid, throughout the semester we will emphasize five thematic units and five methodological/technical skills units:

THEMES:         urban mediation | urban comparison | race and space | urban nature | gender, sexuality and the urban

SKILLS:            site studies | camera basics | sound recording basics | archival and third-party images | video editing

Fall 2019