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an ACTLab New Media course - RTF331R/390N Spring 2009 unique# 08050/08525 -- Syllabus version 1.0


Instructor: Sandy Stone (, phone: 302-9933 cell: 695-6732), Office: CMA6.124

Teaching Assistant: Joseph Lopez ( cell: 413-7832)

Guest Lecturers:  Brandon Wiley <>; Dustin Younse <>, Drake Wilson <>

Class meets in the ACTLab Tuesday 2:00-5:00 pm and in Lab time Wednesday 5:30-7:00 pm

Course description:  According to consciousness studies, the space between the waking and dream states is a continuum.  Depending on mood, task, tiredness, and a host of other variables, we occupy different places in the continuum from moment to moment.  Example:  You are driving a familiar stretch of highway, you start to daydream about a fond experience or familiar song, and then suddenly notice that you are ten miles further down the road with no memory of the intervening distance.

In this course we examine the continuum between waking and dreaming as a source of creativity, a resource for narrative, a space of exploration, and a frontier of research.  We’ll discuss scientific discoveries based on dream (e.g., Kekulé’s discovery of the benzene ring) and academic disciplines based on delirium (e.g., Surrealist Anthropology).

There are no written exams. Instead you will use the theories and tools you acquire during the semester to make stuff about some aspect of the space between waking and dreaming and/or the swerve into delirium. What you make can be in any form: sound, installation, video, computer animation, collage, sculpture, assemblage, performance. You will do this in stages, starting with simple projects and moving to more complex ones, using humor, irony, and unusual approaches and techniques.  We encourage your own interpretation and voice.

Class is in studio and discussion format. This means that your active participation is a course requirement. Topics for Tuesday’s discussions emerge in class and during lab time Wednesday evening.  We don’t provide a pre-baked list of discussion topics.  During the semester I expect you to contribute your own ideas and arguments to the discussions, and to be willing to take the risks such contributions imply.  In ACTLab courses we assume a high level of motivation on your part and your willingness to self-start, set your own goals, think independently, collaborate with others, seek help when you need it, and take risks. Let's make it an interesting semester!

Readings and Resources:  All class readings are available on the Resource webpage, . Some of the resources are there for you to browse as you feel the urge. Also, remember your best resource is always your own curiosity, and Google or Cuil or Clusty are your best tools. Experiment with keywords and see what happens. When you find something interesting, share it, either in person or via our mailing list <> .

Other ACTLabbies are your greatest resource. A number of people in this class have taken ACTLab New Media classes before, and understand the way we do things. (We call them repeat offenders.) They can be your best resource for how to approach and complete your projects and documentation (see the documentation requirement below).

Critical information

The following six things are required for you to receive a grade:

1.  Attendance at all classes.

2.  Reading all assignments and coming to class prepared.

3.  Generating and Participating in discussion.

4.  Successful completion of make-a-thon and two projects.

5.  Successful completion of documentation. See documentation requirement below.

6.  Full cleanup of the ACTLab following final presentations.  Leave it the way you found it -- no better, no worse.

Documentation requirement:

You must provide complete documentation of your work in the form of a web site.  A web 

site consists of a home page that says something about you, and additional pages for 

each project as necessary. 

Documentation means a description of each project, how it was made, its relationship to 

the readings and discussions (i.e., its theoretical grounding), your thoughts about the 

project, etc., together with sound recordings, video, and/or still photos of the work in 

progress and the completed project.

The handout Requirements for ACTLab Student Web Pages is our website bible.  It is included in this syllabus and viewable on the Dream/Delirium web page.  You are required to read it, understand it, and carry out its instructions.

We suggest you look at other actlab students' websites to get a sense of what we want.


Attendance and participation in discussion  25% 

Make-a-thon   5% 

Mid-semester project 20% 

Final project    25% 

Documentation (Web site)    25% 

Total    100% 

End of critical information

Course Schedule

Tuesday, Jan 20:  Introductions, administrative-fu.  INTRODUCTION TO THE ACTLAB: ACTLab theory, framework, and methods.

Jan 27:  Introducing ourselves and forming work groups.

Wednesday, Jan 28, 5:30-7:00 pm: First Lab Time.  Practical prep for in-class make-a-thon.  We’ll give you the handouts and discuss guidelines for lighting and sound.

Feb 3:  IN-CLASS MAKE-A-THON.  2-3 minutes for each presentation, 10-15 minutes for discussion.

First project equipment requests:  If you need equipment that you can’t simply sign out, make sure you coordinate with Joey, Dustin, or myself no later than February 24.

Readings for Feb 10 class:

Wikipedia “Dream” (

Wikipedia “Dream interpretation” (

Freud, Interpretation of Dreams, VI.  The Dream-Work, 8 pages (

Good summary of Freud and dreams, 9 pages (

Feb 10:  Discussion of readings:  Freud and Wikipedia material

Film/video: La Jetéé

February 17:  Discussion

February 24:  Guest Lecture:  TBA





March 24: In-class review of web pages

Readings for March 31 class:

Freud, Interpretation of Dreams, V. Material and sources of dreams, part 2, 13 pages  (

March 31:  Discussion

Film/Videos:  Un Chien Andalou; Brothers Quay: Homage to Svankmayr

Reading assignment for April 7 class:

Nick Herbert, Metaphase Typewriter (

Andre Breton, Surrealist Manifesto 1924 (

April 14:  Discussion

Film/Video:  TBA

April 21:  Magical Realism and its discontents: Castaneda and the vision quest; altered states

Final project equipment requests:  If you need equipment that you can’t simply sign out, make sure you coordinate with Joey, Dustin, or myself no later than April 30.

April 28:  Glossolalia and the lure of invented languages; neurological models of dreaming, lateralization; Quantum vs. Newtonian mechanics

May 5:  Last class day:  Wrap-up

May 6:  Last Lab Day!  If there’s something you still need to learn for your project, better do it now.

Saturday, May 16, 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m.:  Final Presentations  Bring friends and family.  Refreshments.  Wrap-up, farewells.  Have a great, great holiday!

Monday, May 18, 5pm: Drop Dead Date for completed web pages.

May 19, 9:00 a.m.: Drop Dead Date for professors to submit grades. You know what that means.

The Fine Print:

This syllabus is V.1.0. May be updated as necessary.

Regarding Scholastic Dishonesty: The University defines academic dishonesty as cheating, plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, falsifying academic records, and any act designed to avoid participating honestly in the learning process. Scholastic dishonesty also includes, but is not limited to, providing false or misleading information to receive a postponement or an extension on a test, quiz, or other assignment, and submission of essentially the same written assignment for two courses without the prior permission of the instructor. By accepting this syllabus, you have agreed to these guidelines and must adhere to them. Scholastic dishonesty damages both the student's learning experience and readiness for the future demands of a work-career. Students who violate University rules on scholastic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary penalties, including the possibility of failure in the course and/or dismissal from the University. For more information on scholastic dishonesty, please visit the Student Judicial services Web site at

About services for students with disabilities: The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259, 471-4641 TTY.

About the Undergraduate Writing Center: The Undergraduate Writing Center, located in the FAC 211, phone 471-6222, offers individualized assistance to students who want to improve their writing skills. There is no charge, and students may come in on a drop-in or appointment basis.

Warning: As part of the normal process of teaching and/or discussing media and narrative, this class may contain explicit descriptions of, or may advocate simulations of, one or more of the following: Nudity, satanism, suicide, sodomy, incest, bestiality, sadomasochism, adultery, murder, morbid violence, paedophilia, bad grammar, deviate sexual conduct in a violent context, the use of illegal drugs or alcohol, or offensive behavior. But then again, it may not. Should your sensibilities be offended at any time, you are free to leave the classroom without penalty provided that you notify either the instructor or teaching assistant when you do so.

Fragile: Do not bend, fold, spindle or mutilate. May be hazardous to your health. Not recommended for children. Do not purchase if seal has been tampered with. Not responsible for direct, indirect, incidental or consequential damages resulting from any defect, error or failure to perform. May be too intense for some viewers. Batteries not included. For recreational use. An equal opportunity employer. Some settling of contents may occur during shipping. Use only as directed. No other warranty expressed or implied. No postage necessary if mailed in the United States. Substantial penalty for early withdrawal. Slightly higher in California. Keep away from fire or flame. Any rebroadcast, reproduction, or other use of this game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited. Please keep your hands and arms inside the car while ride is in motion. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Contestants have been briefed before the show. Do not write below this line.