Social Apps Lab Courses

The lab recruits members from the following undergraduate courses offered at the University of California, Berkeley. Lab members are encouraged to complete all of these courses.

ART 178: Game Design Methods

This course offers an introduction to game design and game studies. Game studies has five core elements: the study of games as culture generators, the study of play and interactivity, the study of games as symbolic systems, the study of games as artifacts, and the design of games. One process which is crucial to all these elements is to play. We will study the core elements of game studies through play, play tests, and the study of people playing. There will also be a close examination of classical game studies as well as practice-oriented texts. The final exam for this course is to design, test, and evaluate a playable game. Also listed as Film and Media C181.

ART 23AC: American Cybercultures

Greg Niemeyer, Spring 2015
Internet, Course Listing

This new course will enable students to think critically about, and engage in practical experiments in, the complex interactions between new media and perceptions and performances of embodiment, agency, citizenship, collective action, individual identity, time and spatiality. We will pay particular attention to the categories of personhood that make up the UC Berkeley American Cultures rubric (race and ethnicity), as well as to gender, nation, and disability. The argument threading through the course will be the ways in which new media both reinforce pre-existing social hierarchies, and yet offer possibilities for the transcendence of those very categories. The new media — and we will leave the precise definition of the new media as something to be argued about over the course of the semester — can be yet another means for dividing and disenfranchising, and can be the conduit of violence and transnational dominance.

NEW MEDIA 190/290 P: CITRIS Mobile App Challenge

Dan Gillette, Spring 2015
Tue 3-6PM, 250 Sutardja Dai Hall, Course Listing

This course is connected to the CITRIS Mobile App Challenge, which encourages students to develop innovative mobile applications for today’s most pressing societal needs, with the challenge culminating in a selection process with prizes, along with a Demo Day to showcase the student’s projects. This course provides students enrolled in the challenge opportunities for deeper exploration and mentorship around entrepreneurship, mobile app development, product design and research methods, as well as providing a means for receiving credit for the challenge. The course will be taught as combination studio and seminar, with a variety of guest lecturers and project-based coursework customized to student needs.

Previously Taught Courses

ANTHRO C146: Mobile City Chronicles

James Holston & Greg Niemeyer, 2014 Fall

This course studies the city through cases of 19th and 21st-century urban detection, including detective fiction, epidemiology, urban planning, surveillance, ethnography, and related technologies. Students develop and playtest cellphone games that in turn require players to investigate cities. This “gaming the city” uses smartphones not only to read existing databases but also to write to them, producing new urban practice and knowledge. The course is organized as a research and game lab. Also listed as Practice of Art C179.

ANTHRO 169b: Research Methods in Socio-Cultural Anthropology: Data and Democracy

James Holston & Greg Niemeyer, 2011 Fall

This undergraduate lecture course has a fieldwork component that examines the impact of the digital divide in Oakland on a neighborhood within 500 meters of a specific building.  It will involve residents of the building in conducting the research and in communicating its findings to the larger community.  Students will work with residents to understand and perhaps overcome the inequities of a differentiated access to information technologies.

ANTHRO 196:  The Social Apps Lab

James Holston, 2012 Fall

This upper division course is a lab-based seminar.  We will develop a number of mobile and web applications that provide crowdsourcing opportunities to address significant social issues.  Lab work includes building both the “front and the back end” of applications, as well as researching story concepts, implementing game dynamics, and developing collaborative development strategies.

ANTHRO 196:  Urban Game Research and Design

James Holston, 2011 Spring

This seminar focuses on the potential of cellphones and tablets to harness the participatory energies of game-play for addressing major social issues.  The objective is to use urban research to design game apps that require players to conduct various kinds of investigations in the city to solve game challenges.  Thus, the aim is to develop mobile game apps that generate new urban knowledge and civic participation through social and historical detection.

ANTHRO 250:  The Internet and Anthropology

James Holston, 2012 Fall

This graduate seminar explores the implications of the internet for political organization and anthropological inquiry.  It focuses on emerging problems in democratic theory, citizen practice, city life, urban planning, and anthropology that global access to digital information and communication technologies creates.

ANTHRO 250: Social Media Theory and Design

James Holston, 2013 Spring

This graduate seminar focuses on the power of social media to generate new associational forms and the kinds of social media that might organize the city as a commons.  It also asks what social science and specifically anthropology may contribute to the investigation of these issues, in terms of both theories of social life and its design through new information technologies. This seminar is open to both graduate and undergraduate students by permission of the instructor.

ANTHRO 250 and & BCNM 290: Urban Detection: Surveillance, Ethnography, and Games

James Holston & Greg Niemeyer, 2010 Spring

This graduate seminar will investigate, develop, and playtest “urban detective games” that engage systems of monitoring city life.  The objective is to expose these systems and “game the city.”  The games we develop will be played on a smartphone interface.  They will both resignify existing data about cities and produce new data about them that reveal previously undetected patterns.  Both kinds of detection will expand the notion of urban ethnography, art, and alternate reality games.  The seminar will be organized as a research team and lab both to study the histories of urban detection and to develop game narratives.

UC Berkeley Course Catalog