2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Civic Intelligence and Collective Action


Winter 2012 and Spring 2012 quarters

Douglas Schuler social informatics, computer supported cooperative work, computer science, software engineering , John Baldridge geography
Fields of Study
community studies and sociology

We are increasingly confronted with problems that cannot be solved by individuals acting alone—from world financial crises to global warming, from peak oil to toxins in neighborhoods.  At the same time a host of cultural, political, material, and social barriers often stand in the way of working together.  How can we act collectively to address these massive challenges?  How can we develop and use the social capital we have to preserve and protect "the commons" and our shared future?  How can we develop and nurture the "civic intelligence" that will help ensure our collective actions produce the best outcomes?

In this two-quarter program, we will consider and critique cases of collective action as diverse as the ongoing wave of factory takeovers in Argentina, the Spanish/Basque worker cooperative movement, the use of GIS and GPS technologies during the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the movement to "Occupy Wall Street."  We will examine ongoing socio-environmental projects, problems, and current proposals for solutions—from the question of why an obese population still buys “French fries” to the demands for a greater public voice in shaping our economic systems, from the reintroduction of wolves in the American west to the massive proposed “geoengineering” of the earth itself (e.g. the dumping of millions of tons of iron into the ocean to recapture carbon dioxide).

Through both quarters, we will use case studies to explore the nexus of the "natural" and the "human" and challenge the notion that these are separate concepts. We will gain a greater understanding of how environment and society interact.  We will investigate ways to analyze, address, and act to change both society and environment.  This approach to knowledge and action will require a re-examination of all-too-often oversimplified notions of "the commons," social capital, organized protest, and political discourse.  Both winter and spring quarters will include theoretical readings and workshops.  Spring quarter will also involve student projects with the goal of effecting real-world change.

Students registering for 12 credits will work towards establishing and maintaining a Civic Intelligence Research Action Laboratory that supports ongoing community projects.  There will be opportunities for students to serve in various roles on different projects.  There will also be a student-led "think tank" group that produces white papers, case studies, and other resources for the projects.

Advertised Schedule
All students meet 6-10p Wed, 10a-5p Sat (winter: Jan 14; Feb 4, 25; Mar 10; spring: Apr 7, 28; May 19; June 2).  Spring quarter 12 credit students also meet 4:30-6p Wed.
Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Offered During
Evening and Weekend

Program Revisions

Date Revision
April 4th, 2012 Class meeting added for spring 12 credit students (4:30-6pm Wed).
October 14th, 2011 winter dates added