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CAT 3 courses (six units, spring quarter) are writing- and research-intensive, focusing on collaboration, research, and art-making by speculating on how the relationships between culture, art, and technology will be transformed in the future. Students must have passed CAT 2 in order to enroll in CAT 3.

Learning Objectives

After completing CAT 1 and CAT 2, CAT 3 students should be confident in their ability to do the following:

  • Understand and practice effective research, including developing research questions and finding and evaluating appropriate sources.

  • Use research to make an effective multimodal and/or creative argument towards a specific audience.

  • Engage with cultural products, including art and popular culture, as the result of research but also as legitimate objects of research.

  • Develop an independent research project: find and evaluate appropriate sources, compose research genres (such as annotated bibliographies and literature reviews, etc.), and practice revision.

  • Develop independence in the composition process and effectively collaborate with peers in the process of research and development of a multimodal project.

Writing Skills

CAT 3 fosters the following skills:

  • Intersectional approaches to research.

  • Writing with research and developing a voice.

  • Resepectful and responsible collaboration (interpersonal communication).

  • Multimodal/creative composition.

Core Concepts

By the end of CAT 3, students should be able to understand and define the below terms and ideas:

  • Resistance/revolution.

  • Interdisciplinarity.

  • Art as argument.

  • Research as a process.

Common Readings

All CAT 3 students will read these texts:

  • Walter Benjamin: "Thesis on History."
  • Octavia Butler: "A Few Rules for Predicting the Future."

Spring 2023 Courses

CAT 3: Environmental Futures: Community-Engaged Learning

Phoebe Bronstein

Associate Teaching Professor, CAT

Bill Robertson Geibel

Lecturer, CAT
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10:00-10:50 a.m.

Disclaimer: This course will require students to volunteer 3-5 hours per week at environmental nonprofits around San Diego. Students will arrange their own transportation.

This small, seminar-style CAT 3 course will examine how popular culture—magazine/newspaper articles, literature, film, and television—has and continues to imagine the environment,with particular attention to the climate crisis. From contemporary films like Okja and Weathering with You to Hollywood's The Day After Tomorrow, we will examine how mass media promotes, questions, and reinforces environmental politics. Paired with our course content, this course will foreground community engagement by having students volunteer with local environmental organizations like the Birch Aquarium, the Solana Center, and the San Diego River Park Foundation. Through discussion and reflection on both the course content and your volunteer experiences, we will ask how these stories we tell help shape and propel environmental change. For instance, how can these future worlds help us understand and engage with our past, current, and future relationship to the environment? How do these films shape our own relationship with the planet? How do these visions sooth or exacerbate anxieties about topics like global warming? Potential topics we will cover include (but are not limited to) the climate crisis; capitalism and the environment; race, gender, and the environment; technology and the environment; and the politics of food.

CAT 3: Subversive Speculation: BIPOC Genre Fiction

Jennifer Marchisotto

Lecturer, CAT
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10:00-10:50 a.m.

Speculative fiction creatively reimagines the world we live in, using fantastic elements to play with alternative versions of history, the present, and the future. This CAT 3 course will examine the ways BIPOC authors have used genre fiction to challenge traditional white patriarchal narratives. From science fiction, to fantasy, to horror, we will think about the ways authors of color employ the fantastic to imagine new futures not bound by the marginalizing and alienating assumptions that underpin contemporary American and Eurocentric societies. We will read and watch texts from a range of perspectives illustrating the ways speculative fiction has been used to confront issues like immigration, cultural appropriation, state violence, and more. We will also read contemporary scholarship on this topic to understand the ways in which speculative fiction is discussed in academic contexts.

Possible authors and texts include Nnedi Okorafor, Rebecca Roanhorse, P. Djèlí Clark, Black Panther, Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, Mohsin Hamid, and others. These texts will serve as inspiration for your own research projects. In keeping with the goals of CAT 3, students will be required to pursue and apply their own research for both individual and group assignments. These assignments will build toward a collaborative research project in which students craft a "Choose Your Own Adventure"-style text that is informed by course readings and research.

CAT 3: Futures Through Music-Making: Videos, Virtuality, and the Bop Gun

Joe Bigham

Lecturer, CAT
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 2:00-2:50 p.m.

As an intersection of technology and social interaction, music-making can be an effective tool for imagining potential futures. Science fiction has often used examples of music performance to make the future audible, such as Max Rebo's bar band in Star Wars or Diva Plavalaguna's operative signing from The Fifth Element. Musicians have also engaged in "sounding" the future by placing their music in futuristic contexts, as in Funkadelic's "Bop Gun: Endangered Species" and Janelle Monae's Dirty Computer. Sonifications of data allow us to hear the change across multiple domains and imagine where that change might evolve toward.

This course synthesizes contemporary musical practices with futurist and speculative perspectives. As a writing course, we will research, analyze, and critique short essays about cutting edge and futurist musical perspectives. Our materials will include chapters in the fields of Sound Studies and Ecomusicology, examples of virtual reality and music-making (Jarrod Lanier's work), and other futurist music-making examples. The ideas we develop from our writing will then form the basis of a collaborative sound project aimed at representing a future world. Through our own music and sound-making experiences, we will perform and critique where we are in the present moment and where we might go.

CAT 3: Surviving or Thriving: Narratives of Apocalypse and the Aftermath

Liz Popko

Lecturer, CAT
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10:00-10:50 a.m.

This CAT 3 course will ask you to consider the ways that our future has been imagined, specifically in narrative and rhetorical strategies. From novels and plays to film and photography, we will look at how authors compose stories about the end of humanity and then imagine any life that persists post-apocalypse. Through research inspired by our fictional (if familiar) texts, you will develop your own  arguments about the future of social structures, social institutions, gender, race, and the environment, among other issues of interest for you. Additionally, you'll have the opportunity to work with others to use your research to compose your own narratives of surviving and/or thriving after a disaster. While much of our discussion will examine catastrophic rhetoric, we will also explore more nuanced rhetoric and evaluate the efficacy of such choices in argumentation. By the end of this course, you will be able to break down narratives of disaster, threat, and humanity—not to dismiss risks, but to better evaluate and respond to such risks and imagine the future.