Course Syllabus

Course site:
Course Titan Pad:
Readings and Syllabus in PDF

location | seminar: 2017 SSMS | lab: 1518 Phelps
days/time |  seminar: M 10:00-12:50pm |  lab: W: 10:00-11:00am
Prof. Laila Shereen Sakr []
contact | email: ssakr AT | twitter:  @vj_um_amel
office hours | Tues, 3-4:50pm, or by appt. 2020 SSMS


In this graduate critical production course, students will investigate various methods for producing arguments in both written and visual/aural texts. The particular emphasis of this course will be on learning basic visualization design and evaluation principles: how to acquire, parse, and analyze large datasets; and how to query the data against a particular set of research questions guiding your overall concepts and research agendas. Students will also learn basic 2D, timeline, and network visualization software tools to produce a set of critical data visualizations in their final project for the class. At the midterm, students will submit an editorial statement reflecting their research interests and practices, along with a concept note and query for final visualization projects. Students will generate methodological questions that pertain to the particularities of producing scholarship across “theory and praxis,” and across word and image. These will form the basis of their final praxis projects. During the second half of the quarter, students will produce original data visualizations using Processing, Gephi, Google Charts, or Unity based on their individual projects submitted at the midterm. Weekly throughout the course, students will participate in technical labs that enable them to produce and critique global media analytics.

The class is organized procedurally through these three topics:

  1. Culture and Data  – The natural archival structure for data is a database. And it is a data-driven logic that is at the epistemological foundation of database narratives, visualizations, arguments, and stories.
  2. Algorithms and Analyzing – Students will engage in lab sessions on social media analytics — how to read it, and how to critique it.
  3. Networks and Visualization – We will consider the multiplicities of networks: solidarity networks, artistic networks, academic networks, virtual networks; networked images as political instruments..

In addition to the regularly readings and discussions, students will participate in the following:

  • A collective note-taking practice on Titan Pad for all class discussions.
  • Weekly blog writing (300-500 words) due Fridays by 10pm, and commenting (two comments on peers’ blog posts) due the following Sunday by 10pm. If no class, then no blog is due that week.
  • Attending minimum three events and lectures on campus (details in class schedule in red)
  • Midterm: Editorial Statement, Concept Note, and Research Question uploaded to class blog
  • Final: Data visualization project upload to class blog and in-class presentations


The course will use WordPress ( as the main online platform to provide: weekly syllabus updates, PDFs for all readings, events and resources. Students must use the blog to regularly reflect on readings, share relevant projects and report on their ongoing group projects.


Grading: 50% of the course grade reflects the conceptual design, production and presentation of the collaborative work. The remaining 50% of the grade involves an assessment of students’ individual participation and contributions to the course both in and outside of class. All grades are final and are not subject to change. The following grading rubric will guide the evaluation of student work for the course:

  • Class participation including discussions of readings (20%)
  • Blog posts 20%: Blog posts a short, critical exercises to help students articulate the research questions they are having as the read and experience the course materials. They are expected to be well-written, thoughtful, and engaged. Each blog post should provide one golden nugget: an abstract for a thought piece. Weekly blog should be 300-500 words, have a title, metatags, and be posted to class website on Fridays no later than 10pm, and commenting (two comments on peers’ blog posts) due the following Sundays no later than 10pm. If no class that Monday, then no blog for that week. Please post blog discussion for every event you attend.
  • Participating in campus events (10%): Besides the class sessions, students are requested to attend at least two out of the three following scheduled events and write a blog post for each one you attend.

Tuesday, Jan 12 – “R-Shief 4.0: Developing an end-to-end social media system” at 4pm in 2135 SSMS (See flyer).

Sunday, Jan 24 – “Egyptian Insurgency Short Film Festival” from 2:00-5:00pm in the Pollock Theater.

Monday, Jan 25 – After Tahrir Conference (9am-6pm; class is cancelled so you can attend).

Wednesday, Mar 9 – Cairo Drive film screening at 7pm in Pollock Theater

  • Midterm 20%: At mid-term student will produce a one-page Editorial Statement about their praxis, along with concept note and query for data visualization final project. Students to make 3-5 minute presentations in class for peer critique.
  • Final 30%: Final data visualizations are due electronically through a blog post. Must include live data visualization, concept note, query, editorial statement, and 5-page analysis of the project.

Online Platforms: Students will use Gmail for Google Drive. UCSB Net ID to for file storage.

Required Texts: All readings and other media will be provided by link or PDF through the course website. Please regularly check the course website for the latest schedule updates


  • Please be respectful of one another’s opinions.
  • Be rigorous: do the readings thoroughly and carefully and bring all readings to class.
  • Be on time.
  • Late policy: every six hours late on any assignment results in a deduction of half a grade.


This studio course is meant to be a collaborative learning and participatory environment. The weekly class sessions will often begin with a critical discussion of assigned readings, while the second session may include a guest lecture or presentations of relevant case studies. Campus events are in red.

* Note: the class schedule and assigned readings are subject to change. We will collectively review the syllabus to adjust it to the interests and needs of course participants. Campus events are in red.


Weeks 1-3 – Data and Culture  

Mon, Jan 4: 
Introductions, Review Syllabus

LAB Wed, Jan 6:  Setting up your workspace
Set up Gmail, WordPress,, TitanPad, and Unity accounts.
Data Sources

Mon, Jan 11: All about Data
Read: Gitelman, Lisa “‘Raw Data’ is an Oxymoron;”  and Manovich, Lev “The Science of Culture?” Cultural Analytics, Social Computing, and the Digital Humanities,” (2016). Discussing individual research projects.

Tues, Jan 12: Public Lecture: “R-Shief 4.0: Developing an end-to-end social media system” at 4pm in 2135 SSMS (See flyer).

LAB Wed, Jan 13:  Guests in Class: R-Shief Developers Benjamin Doherty and Mahmoud Said
Introduction data processing; MySQL 101; How to export datasets into different formats; How to convert formats and for what purposes CSV, JSON, XML; How to run processed data through various visualizers.

Mon, Jan 18:  No Class – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

LAB Wed, Jan 20 Build your Database
Create a database from data you have gathered and organized for class project. Database can be submitted in Google Drive, MySQL, or standard spreadsheets.


Weeks 4-7 – Algorithms and Analyzing

Sun, Jan 24:
Egyptian Insurgency Short Film Festival” from 2:00-5:00pm in the Pollock Theater.

Mon, Jan 25: After Tahrir Conference –  Instead of class, students can attend at least one panel. (9am-6pm).

LAB Wed, Jan 27:  Intro Processing: Querying your data **start 30 minutes early at 9:30am
Develop your concept and query for class project. Learning how to query your data in Processing and Google Drive.

Mon, Feb 1:  Editorial Statements and Manifestos
Read: Menkma, Rosa (2011). “Glitch Studies Manifesto,” The Glitch Moment(um), p. 11; Vector journal’s dynamic editorial statement; Femtechnet Manifesto; and “Courting Vectoralists: An Interview with McKenzie Wark on the 10 Year Anniversary of “A Hacker Manifesto.”

LAB Wed, Feb 3:  Introduction to Gephi, Timelines, Bar, Scattered, Tree and other Charts
Create mock-ups, sketches, tests

Mon, Feb 8: Guest Lecture (Skype); Gilad Lotan on Mapping Social Media
Read: Baudrillard “The Masses: The Implosion of the Social in the Media;” and Tarleton Gillespie (2016). “#TrendingisTrending: When Algorithms Become Culture.”
Media: New platform
, Scale Model
Homework: Make a physical representation of your data visualization using material objects. Due Wednesday.

LAB Wed, Feb 10: How to create social media analytics
Introduce to apps that analyze Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, hashtags, sentiment analysis, frequency analysis….

Mon, Feb 15:  No Class – President Day

LAB Wed, Feb 17:  Critique
*Midterms Due: Create your own 1,000 word editorial statement. This can be submitted in visual/aural/digital media. Must include the 1,000 word written text. Along with the editorial text, include a concept note and query for final data visualization projects. Students to make 3-5 minute presentations in class for peer critique.

**In the library’s new Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory

Weeks 8-10 – Networks and Visualization

Mon, Feb 22:
Google and Network Theory
Read: Castells, M. 2007. “Communication, power and counter-power in the network society.” International Journal of Communication 1(1): 238–266; and Vaidhyanathan, S. (2015) “The Googlization of Us: Universal Surveillance and Infrastructural Imperialism,” New Media, Old Media, pp. 599-615.

LAB Wed, Feb 24: Introduction to Google Charts, D3 Learning basic js and Google Drive

Mon, Feb 29: Social Media Logic: Visualizing Pitfalls and Shortcuts
Read: Hamish Robertson and Joanne Travaglia (2015). “Big data problems we face today can be traced to the social ordering practices of the 19th century;” Jose van Dijck and Thomas Poell (2013). “Understanding Social Media Logic;”  FlowData Guides and Tips
Homework: Create a world cloud or timeline of social media analysis.

LAB Wed, Mar 2: Deeper in Gephi, Unity, or Processing
Create a 2D data visualization from the database.

Mon, Mar 7: Students Present Final Projects in Progress
Abstracts Due: 300 word abstract, 75 word bio, and high-res (300 dpi) image due to Google Drive folder. *Class in the library’s new Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory

LAB Wed, Mar 9: Open Lab
Final event: Pollock Screening at 7pm: Cairo Drive

FINAL PROJECT DUE MARCH 16 (no later than 5pm)

Final data visualization and 5-page praxis statement due on class website. Must include live data visualization, concept note, query, editorial statement, and 5-page analysis of the project.