LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Community, Media Activism,

Public Health and the Environment


Faculty:       Anne Fischel X6416         SEM II E-3108 Office Hrs: Monday 1-3

                  Lin Nelson    X6506         SEM II E-3102 Office Hrs. Monday 1-3


PROGRAM SCHEDULE (all classes are in SEMINAR II)


Tuesday 10-1                 E-1105        Presentation/Screening

Tuesday 2:30-4:30                  B-3109        Anne’s Seminar

                                    C-3107        Lin’s Seminar

Wednesday 10-1            A-1107        Workshop

                                    A-3105        Workshop or Breakout space    

Friday 9:30-12:30                    B-1105        Presentation

Friday 1:30-3:30             C-3107        Lin’s Seminar

                                    C-3109        Anne’s Seminar

Friday 3:30-4:30             C-3105        Closure


We will have several fieldtrips this quarter. Most fieldtrips will take place on Fridays. Occasionally, we will  have fieldtrips on other days depending on the  availability of our community collaborators.




Our program starts from the perspective that the community base of knowledge needs to be acknowledged and supported. In these days of globalization, fast-paced media, mass marketing and celebrity, what people in diverse communities around the world know at a local level is often trivialized or ignored. Local Knowledge will explore the dynamics of community life through collaborative efforts with people in our region as they work to sustain and empower their communities.


Our focus on the local will not be uncritical or romantic. Communities can be isolated or isolating; they can be exclusionary; they can compete in unhealthy ways with other communities near and far. Communities are not homogenous; their diversities are reflected in both the vitality and stress of community life.


It is important for us to be open and reflective about all we about to experience and learn as a group. We will be drawing upon broad areas of thought and inquiry – in community and regional studies, environmental studies, public policy, labor studies, media, global studies and research methods.  We will be constructing our explorations with attention to the social philosophy and advocacy identified with popular education, community-based research, media activism and public art.  While our daily efforts will involve inquiries with neighbors in Olympia, Shelton, Tacoma and Centralia/Lewis County, we will be linking this work to broad patterns of social analysis and activism. In fact, some of our attention will be directed to other communities whose labor and environmental struggles have been dramatically chronicled. Our expectation is that our emerging knowledge in this program will be vivid, rich and particular in its attention to the details and distinctiveness of life in neigborhood, town and city; at the same time, we want to cultivate a sense of comparison, context and connectedness across communities.


One essential goal is to learn how to collaborate with community groups responding to regional and global change. Our starting point will be understanding how communities, especially marginalized ones, identify, use and critically evaluate their own local knowledge and resources. We will explore how economic change, internal conflicts, and different experiences of class, gender, race, immigration and oldtimer-newcomer positions challenge and diversify the knowledge within a community. We anticipate working with communities on projects focusing on social justice, environmental protection and public art, documentation and communication. We will also be involved with community projects which are creating new possibilities for economic, cultural and ecologic sustainability. 


         Here are some of the questions we will be considering:


Š       What is local knowledge? How is it cultivated, identified, applied and critically evaluated?

Š       How are community stories created, documented and communicated?

Š       How does expertise/outside input affect approaches to locally identified issues?

Š       How do broad regional, national and international conditions impact communities and how are these conditions interpreted in different ways at the local level?

Š       What role does media play in local communities? How do community members interpret and learn from media images? What alternative media resources exist in the community and how are they utilized?

Š       What sense of history and future guides communities? How can that future be sustainable?

Š       What can we learn about collaborative community research and media documentation – and our participation in it? What political, aesthetic and ethical considerations should guide this work?


During fall quarter our emphasis will be on acquainting ourselves with local communities in the region through presentations, reading, group research, and field trips.  We will develop skills in community mapping, video documentation, and interviewing. Winter quarter will offer more in-depth experience with a range of tools and approaches. Students will be researching and planning colllaborative, multi-faceted projects to be implemented in spring quarter. Our goals will be to develop projects contributing to community discussion and decision-making, to develop a strong sense of local place, story and culture, and to widen our understandings of regional and international movements and support networks available to local communities.


Some of the frameworks and skill areas we will be working with include the following: social science research methods, “citizen muckraking”, corporate research, public policy analysis, local history and archival research, video production, visual design and media literacy. We expect everyone to develop basic skills in all areas through team projects, before focusing more deeply in a few areas in which major project work will be done.


Local Knowledge will be a demanding program. Collaborative community-based work is challenging and requires us to be responsible and committed. We hope and expect that you will register for the entire year. We expect regular attendance, careful preparation of all assigned readings and research, full participation in all program activities and willingness to develop the skills needed for effective collaboration. We welcome your participation, but we reserve the right to address any problems that negatively affect your ability to work well in community settings.  






Eugene Nelson, Break Their Haughty Power: Joe Murphy and the Wobblies

Beverly Brown, In Timber Country

Beverly Brown and the Jefferson Center, Voices from the Woods

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Charlotte Ryan, Prime Time Activism

Center for Public Integrity, Citizen Muckraking

Andrew Schneider and David McCumber, An Air That Kills

David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World

Loka Institute, Doing Community-Based Research (to peruse on your own this quarter—will read together in winter quarter)




Connected to core readings and themes: notebooks containing readings and lists of supplemental resources will be available in the Library, Center for Community Based Learning and Action/Labor Center, and SEM II  E-3105 classroom.


**Local History/National  Context : supplementary readings on the IWW, local history, and the national historical context.

**Community Learning and Popular Education (linked to weeks 3 and 4): Jefferson Center newsletters and reports, community education strategies, adult literacy, Highlander Center.

**Community-Based Research (linked to week 6): CBR tools

**Environment, Health and Community: (linked to weeks 7 and 8): environmental policy toolbox, citizen advocacy strategies, government documents, on-line resources.

**Corporate Research (linked to week 9): NGO’s, strategies, tutorials.

**Interviewing, Oral History Research and Questionnaire Design: guides, tools, and philosophy:




RESOURCE GROUP: Some of your work will be developed through discussion with a resource group of approximately 6 people in your seminar. We will help you form your resource group week 1 and will create new resource groups at mid-quarter. Possible activities you could do together with your group would be: writing and sharing journal entries, reading and discussing resource guides and resource sharing. You will be allso be expected to write a draft of each essay and work with a sub-group of 3 to critique and revise the essays.


JOURNAL: A journal is not a diary. In Local Knowledge we would like you to think of your journal as both a tool of learning and a documentation of your work. By the end of each quarter it will serve as a portfolio of your learning process, reflections and completed assignments.


Your journal should be well-organized into distinct sections. It should contain: (1) all handouts, (2) your notes on class presentations, (3) reading notes, (4) analytic reflections (about 1 page) in preparation for each seminar (these should be written on the computer) which you will share with other seminar members, and (5) specific assignments; i.e., an interview/oral history, an ethnographic observation, and documentation of video work (including a script). Your  faculty will collect and review your journals twice this quarter (by 1:00 Wednesday of week 5 and by 1:00 Thursday ofweek 10, focusing on a few reflections and other pieces you have selected.)


ESSAYS: Three 5 page essays in response to framing questions about readings/viewings that Anne and Lin will provide. Due Friday of week 4, 6 and 9. You will be asked to share a draft with 2 members of your resource group and make revisions based on their comments. Please turn in your original draft, reader comments and your revised (final) draft.


INTERVIEW/ORAL HISTORY: Your collected writings on interviewing: your interview questions, other raw materials, at least partial transcription of your interview and reflections on the interview process.


ETHNOGRAPHIC OBSERVATION: Field notes, written reflections, distilled description, self-reflexive component.


VIDEO: A short, collaboratively produced video sharing your new knowledge of a communitiy site. To be integrated with other forms of presentation (written, interactive?). Along with the completed video please expect to keep written logs, a shooting script, copies of releases, as necessary, and other relevent documents of your process. 


PRESENTATIONS: This quarter your ethnographic observations, oral history work and video/audio production will be synthesized into a presentation about a particular site in Olympia. You will work on this project in small collaborative groups. Your presentation can be set up like an installation or in some other engaging and informative format. Our goal, as a program, will be to construct an interactive, 3-dimensional, time-based “map” of our new learnings about Olympia.
Local Knowledge: Revised 10/12/04


Week 1: September 28-Oct. 1

Main reading: Break Their Haughty Power


Tuesday:              Program Logistics and Introductions

                           Yarn Game: Origins

Questions:            Where do you come from?

                           What are you bringing with you?

                           What is history, and what is our relationship to it?


Collective brainstorm: what is community? What is local?

         Reflective writing


         Continue and compete in PM and share out with 2 colleagues

         Group de-brief


         Keep your reflective writing in journal to revisit later.


         Lewis County and Centralia websites


Wednesday seminar 10-12:  Break Their Haughty Power

Wednesday all-program gathering: 12-1 (orientation to Centralia and prep for fieldtrip)

Wednesday 2:00-3:30: Lecture Hall 1, training/orientation for van drivers; bring valid drivers license;


Friday 9:00: fieldtrip to Centralia

Friday 12:30 PM: “Lewis County Hope and Struggle” at the Olympia Club


Assignment: write up field trip experience for Tuesday of week 2


Optional and recommended: Attend Friday night Artwalk.



Week 2: October. 5-8

Readings: Local History/National Context Reader


Tuesday 10-1: Film: “An Injury to One” by Travis Wilkerson; the Wobblies and alternative visions of Labor (Guest: Peter Kardas and Dennis Otterstetter, Labor Center staff); discussion of Centralia fieldtrip.

Tuesday 2:20-4:30: Seminar


Wednesday 10-1: mapping workshop


Friday: Olympia field trip starts 9:30 at Seven Oars Park near 4th Ave. Bridge and end ends at 4:30 at First Christian Church.



Week 3: October 12-15

Reading: Brown, In Timber Country


Tuesday 10-1: Debra Salazar: Forest Policy: Natural Resources and Social Justice; Screen “Cuts”; Create groups for ethnographic observations and Wednesday media workshops.   

Tuesday 2:20-4:30: Seminar    


Wednesday workshop 10-1:      Sound Recording with Minidisk Recorders and Microphones (with Aaron Kruse)—in A-3105)

                                             Digital camcorders (with Anne in A-1107)


Friday library workshop and research activity and seminar:

9:30-11:30 Anne’s group in seminar—we’ll meet in B-3109**

Lin’s group in library workshop (in B-1105)

11:30-12:30 B-1105: Everyone--screen “Holding Ground”

1:30-3:30    Lin’s group in seminar    

Anne’s group in library workshop (in usual seminar room)

3:30-4:30    Closure


Assignment 1: Ethnographic Observation: observation and write-up. NO PHOTOGRAPHS or FILM or SOUND RECORDING!


Assignment 2: First Paper Due Tuesday of week 4 before fieldtrip              



Week 4: October 19-22

Readings: Brown, Voices from the Woods, readings on popular education, Ritchie, “Conducting Interviews” in Interviewing Reader**


Monday, Oct. 18: Grand opening of Center for Community-Based Learning and Action. Gus Newport speaks. (Time TBA)


Tuesday: Fieldtrip to Shelton (times approximate; stay tuned)

9:20: vans leave Red Square for Shelton Historical Society and walking tour.

12PM: Meet at Mason County PUD—brown bag lunch, meeting with Sarah Loose, Jefferson Center, and panel with Shelton community activists


Wednesday workshop 10-1:      Digital Camcorders: (with Anne in A-1107)

Mini-Disc Recorders (with Aaron in A-3105)


Thursday, Oct. 21 7pm: Suggested screening: Rachel’s Daughters at Olympia Film Society


Friday 9:30-12:30: Workshop on listening/interviewing

Friday 1:30-3:30:  Seminar on week 3 and 4 texts

Friday 3:30-4:30: Discussion of ethics of media/ethnographic observation


Assignment 1: Audio/Video Documentation


Assignment 2: Flag Journal entries; hand in Wednesday of week 5


Week 5: October 26-29

Reading: Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed


Tuesday 10-1: Appalshop films: Minnie Black’s Gourd Band, Girl Hoops, Coal Bucket Outlaw, Jon Silver’s Trials of Juan Parra

Tuesday 2:30-4:30: Seminar


Wednesday 10-1: Library Workshop, part 2 (details TBA)


Friday: Fieldtrip to Commencement Bay with Leslie Rose, Citizens for a Healthy Bay (www.healthybay.org) (exact times TBA)


Assignment: Audio/Video Documentation



Week 6:  November 2-5 (faculty retreat is Nov. 3-5)

Readings: 1. Citizen Muckraking, Ch.1-4, 8, and “Muckraking 101” , ch. 2-7

        2. Jackson, Prime Time Activism


Tuesday 10-1: Guests: Lea Mitchell, PEER, and Journalist panel

Tuesday 2:30-4:30 Seminar


Wednesday workshop 10-1: media work in progress


Anne and Lin at Faculty Retreat: Thursday, Friday


Friday: group projects based on Citizen Muckraking--details TBA


Assignment 1: Paper #2 Due Tuesday of week 7


Assignment 2: Develop interview questions for site-based interview



Week 7: November 9-12

Readings: Schneider and McCumber, An Air That Kills and supplementary resources


Tuesday 10-1: Environmental Policy and Community, Screen Chemical Valley,

Tuesday 2:30-4:30: Seminar


Wednesday workshop:     1. 9:30-10:30 Everyone: Intro to Video Editing

2. 10:45-1:00: media work in progress

3. Sing up for a 1-hour editing proficiency on Wednesday afternoon or Thursday


Friday 9:30-12:30: Michael Silverstein (physician and public health practitioner) and Dennis Otterstetter (Field Organizer, TESC Labor Center)

Friday 1:30-3:30    Seminar

Friday 3:30-4:30    Closure


***Sunday, Nov. 14, 5:30pm:  OFS screening Libby, Montana (High Plains Films)


Assignment 1: Site-based interview; complete and transcribe



Week 8: Nov. 16-19


Readings: An Air That Kills,  Citizen Muckraking, ch. 6, and supplementary resources


Tuesday all day: Tacoma fieldtrip to ASARCO and other sites. (details TBA)


Wednesday 10-1: Environmental Health panel with Vivian Blanco,and Lillian Bartha (local physicians) and Brandy Smith (Washington Toxics Coalition)


Friday 9:30-12:30: Working with Public Documents, Building a Proposal, LK and other program grads: Ben Tabor

Friday 1:30-3:30 Seminar

Friday 3:30-4:30: Begin Discussion of Winter Quarter


Assignment 1: Paper #3 Due Tuesday of Week 9


Assignment 2: Editing Script Due



Thanksgiving Break: Nov. 22-26



Week 9:  Nov. 30-Dec. 3

Readings: Korten, When Corporations Rule the World, Citizen Muckraking, ch. 5.


Tuesday 10-1: Possible films: From the Mountains to the Maquillas, Stephan Chemical, McLibel

Tuesday 2:30-4:30: Seminar


Wednesday10-1: Project Strategies and Problem-Solving


Friday: No Class: Preparation for week 10—Anne and Lin available as needed



Week 10: Dec. 7-9

Presentations: Creative synthesis of field observations and interpretations of Olympia community.


Tuesday AM: Set-up for presentations

Tuesday PM: View presentations with TESC and community participation

Wednesday 10-1: Project/Program discussion, closure

Friday 9:30-11:30: Self-evaluation workshop

Friday PM:  Everyone working on evaluations