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An ACTLab New Media Course - RTF 331R/390N Spring 2009 Unique # 08055/08530  -- Syllabus Version 1.0

SivanaWeird Science!

Action Between The Worlds

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

Teaching Assistant: Joseph Lopez,, phone: 413-7832t

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

Guest Weird Scientists:  Jerry Chamkis, <>, Eric Beggs <>

Class meets in the ACTLab Thursday 2-5 pm and in Lab time Wedmesday 7-8:30 pm

In the boundaries between hard science and total fakery lies the realm of Weird Science -- where certainty doesn’t exist and people called “experts” battle for control of the meaning of words like “proof” or “fact”.  This course is about that science and those battles.

We will explore Weird Science in human psychology, sociology, and storytelling. Evoking Nineteenth Century fascination with early technology and its conflation with such over-the-edge phenomena as Orgone energy, Electronic Voice Phenomena, and spirit communication, we'll study and practice making things that provoke deeper discussions about the functions that weird sciences fulfill and the cravings they satisfy in modern culture. 

There are no written exams, but in return we ask for more than you might do for a standard final exam: you will use the theories and tools you acquire during the semester to MAKE STUFF about some aspect of weird science.  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 Thursday’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 we 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.  If nobody suggests a discussion topic, we’re still required to be there for three hours, but they’ll seem a lot longer.

Readings and Resources:  Class readings, if assigned, will be available on the course webpage, http:// . 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.)  We’ll team you up with them.  They know from experience how to get projects and documentation done (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 Weird Science 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 

Jan 22: Introductions, administrative-fu.  INTRODUCTION TO THE ACTLAB: ACTLab theory, framework, and methods. 

Jan 29: Introducing ourselves and forming work groups.

Wednesday, Feb 4, 7:00pm-8:30pm:  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 5:  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 26.

Feb 12

Optional and note that the material is mature:  Watch "Poison" directed by Todd Haynes.  Available at the UGL audio visual library:  VIDCASS 7007 UGL Audio Visual Collection. 

Today's theme:  Gender, Fantasy, and Science

Feb 19:


Feb 26:




Mar 16-21: SPRING BREAK 


Mar 26:

In-class review of web pages

Apr 2:

Discussion.  Science and the invisible; science and metaphor; science and the viral.  Discussion: Rhizomatics, deterritorialization, and the idea of scientific progress.  In-class films: Clips from Cronenberg's "The Fly"

Apr 9:


Apr 16:


Apr 23:


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.

Apr 30:


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

May 7:


Sunday, May 17: 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.

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