The idea of solving problems by collecting as much data as possible about them is an old dream that has recently been revitalized with the help of new technologies and new ways of organizing knowledge production. This course examines the hunger for data from a historical and social perspective, seeking to understand when, why, and how the collection of vast amounts of data has come to seem valuable and desirable, sometimes in ways that exceed any reasonable expectation of utility or feasibility. Topics include state surveillance, online tracking, the quantified self, citizen science, civic hacking, human genomics, bioinformatics, and climate modeling.
ENGL 016.302 (Freshman seminar)
Whether you call it climatological science-fiction or #clifi, speculative fiction about anthropogenic climate change is becoming an important site for thinking, feeling, and warning about earth’s changing environments. In this class we’ll study a cluster of recent cli-fi novels that project a variety of climate scenarios—apocalyptic, utopian, and everything in between—into the future. We’ll also look at earlier fictions that explore humanity’s entanglement with non-human beings and environments, as well as at fictions that connect climate change in the present with scarce-resources, conflict, displacement, and environmental racism. Supplementary readings in the environmental humanities will introduce terms and concepts such as the Anthropocene, deep time, the great acceleration, the nonhuman turn, and climate justice.
PHIL-226 (Penn Global Seminar)
This course consists of a detailed examination of evolutionary theory and its philosophical foundations. The course begins with a consideration of Darwin's formulation of evolutionary theory and the main influences on Darwin. We will then consider two contemporary presentations of the theory: Richard Dawkins' and Richard Lewontin's. The remainder of the course will deal with a number of foundational issues including adaptation, the units of selections, the evolution of altruism, and the possibility of grounding ethics in evolutionary theory.
The role of water in the Middle East cannot be overstated. The Middle East is an arid region, but human and natural systems have interacted to determine relative water scarcity and abundance at different times and places. The location, accessibility, yield, and quality of natural and managed water resources significantly influenced the location and longevity of ancient and modern settlements. Control of water has always affected the economic, political, social life of the communities inhabiting these settlements. This course examines the distribution of water resources throughout the Middle East and the archaeology and anthropology of water exploitation and management over the last 9000 years. It will consider water in river valleys, deserts, highland zones, steppes, and coastal areas of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Levant, and Arabia from environmental, political, social, cultural, and technical perspectives. We will engage with a variety of media, including academic readings, popular journalism, films, satellite imagery, and digital maps. We will examine irrigation, water supply, sanitation, and water-driven power systems known from ethnographic studies and archaeological excavations. These data will allow us to engage with debates in Middle Eastern anthropology, including those concerning the relationship between water and political power, the environment in which the earliest cities arose, and present and potential future water crises and "water wars." In our final weeks, we will discuss archaeology and historical anthropology's contribution to conceptions of water "sustainability" and examine attempts to revive traditional and ancient technologies in an effort to better manage modern water resources.
This course will provide a broad introduction to the scientific basis of occupational and environmental health. Content will address issues in the ambient, occupational and global environments as well as the tools, concepts and methods used in environmental health.
GRMN 152/ ANTH 154-401/ENGL 052/ENVS 152/ HIST 152
Climate change transforms the natural and built environments, and it is re-shaping how we understand, make sense, and care for our past. Climate changes history. This course explores the Anthropocene, the age when humans are remaking earth's systems, from an on-water perspective. In on-line dialogue and video conferences with research teams in port cities on four continents, this undergraduate course focuses on Philadelphia as one case study of how rising waters are transfiguring urban history, as well as its present and future. Students projects take them into the archives at the Independence Seaport Museum and at Bartram's Garden. Field trips by boat on the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers and on land to the Port of Philadelphia and to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge invite transhistorical dialogues about how colonial and then industrial-era energy and port infrastructure transformed the region's vast tidal marshlands wetlands. Excursions also help document how extreme rain events, storms, and rising waters are re-making the built environment, redrawing lines that had demarcated land from water. In dialogue with one another and invited guest artists, writers, and landscape architects, students final projects consider how our waters might themselves be read and investigated as archives. What do rising seas subsume and hold? Whose stories do they tell? What floats to the surface?
FNAR 348 / FNAR 648
Starting with the representation of landscape in painting in the early 1800s, the course will then move through Pictorialism and the Modernist movement in photography. Revisiting the later half of the 20th century, we will begin to consider the shifting practices of landscape and the ways it has been photographically depicted up to the present. Collaborating with the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, students will begin their photographic exploration with the work of Andrea Wyeth and the landscape of the Brandywine Valley. As we consider Wyeth, the images of James Welling will also be introduced. Credited for pioneering new forms of representation in photography in the 1970s, Welling also revisited the work of Wyeth from 2010-2015, and committed to a fresh (and challenging) look at tradition.
FNAR-307 / FNAR-507
Studies of landscape are at the center of multiple fields of fine art making, environmental research, and historical inquiry. Christopher Tilley defines “landscape” as “a holistic term” that frames relationships between living beings and locales, “forming both the medium for, and outcome of, movement and memory.” For interdisciplinary arts practitioners in Philadelphia, the landscape may conjure such relationships at points of convergence: when the physical and symbolic layers of the city lay bare social dynamics, truths, and opportunities for action. Such a range of landmarks – including rivers, gardens, public parks, rowhomes, statues, municipal infrastructure, waste streams, the skyline – are indicative of the deep histories of the region itself, as well as the human-activity that traffics upon it. To produce work about and from Philadelphia is to inherit long-standing questions of civic belonging, make sense of shifting demographic and ecological conditions, and to balance aims for striving and coexistence. Students will pursue group projects and cross-disciplinary independent work, around selected arts and municipal partnerships throughout Philadelphia. Students work will contribute toward a class wide exhibition, as well as collaborations with artists, archives, and organizations. Converging Landscapes – Art, Ecology, and History will be structured as a socially-engaged art praxis civic studio. The course is ideal for students invested in issues of socially-engaged public art, environmental humanities, history, and civic engagement.
FNAR-268/ FNAR-568/ IPD -568
This course is a research-based design studio that introduces new materials, fabrication, and prototyping techniques to develop a series of design proposals in response to the theme: Biological Design. The studio introduces life sciences and biotechnologies to designers, artists, and non-specialists to develop creative and critical propositions that address the social, cultural, and environmental needs of the 21st century. The course will be a pilot study of the first biodesign challenge organized by CUT/PASTE/GROW.