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Required Texts

Most texts in this class will be distributed online, but two are books you should buy. They are not in the bookstore because both are extremely easy to get at a low price from various online retailers. Please buy the editions indicated here, as it will be important that we’re all on the same page, both literally and metaphorically. Please note: Some of these texts are available as ebooks, and I certainly don’t mind you reading them on your Kindle, Nook, or other device. However, you should buy the digital edition of the editions assigned here, which will include matching page numbers:


One of the best way to get in touch with us is to visit during office hours. If you’re unsure about our readings, struggling with an assignment, or just want to talk, please visit. During the Fall 2016 semester, Professor Offenhuber will be in his office (Ryder Hall 311) Mondays from 9.30-11am, Thursdays 9.30-11am (book a slot); while Professor Schmidt will be in his office (Nightingale 413) Mondays 3-5pm. We may also be able to make appointments at other times—just email Professor Offenhuber or Professor Schmidt with at least three possible meeting times. We can schedule in person or virtual meetings. The next best way to get in touch with us is by sending an email to Professor Offenhuber or Professor Schmidt. (If you’re unsure or haven’t thought about the tone to strike, see this guide to emailing your professors.) Often we will respond more quickly, but you should not send us an urgent email, for example, the night before an assignment is due.

Outgoing communication

You should keep up with assignments and announcements in class, over e-mail, and through the course website. There will be almost certainly changes to the printed syllabus; you should be sure to check each week’s reading on the web site.

Reasonable Accommodation

Students with documented learning disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodation in this class. If you need any such accommodation, please be in touch as early as possible.


You are required to be respectful to your fellow classmates and professors: listening attentively, not interrupting, and maintaining a civil discourse. Personal attacks, hostility, and mockery will not be tolerated. If you have any issues, please talk to me directly so that I can address them. You are also welcome to eat food or drinks in class, provided they are not distracting.


This course relies on active, engaged participation in class activities and discussions. There will be few lectures and we will not be building toward an exam. Instead, we will work together to build our facilities for thinking critically about the city and analyzing its data. You should come to every class having read all of the required reading (or watched the required videos, etc., etc.) and prepared to discuss them with your colleagues. We will assess your reading and course engagement through in-class writing exercises (some collected for a grade and others not), reading quizzes, in-class group work, and related assignments.

Maintaining an active class conversation also requires that the class be present, both physically and mentally. To that end: you may miss two classes without penalty over the course of the semester. Please note: We make absolutely no distinction between excused and unexcused absences, so use your allotted absences wisely. You may not miss two classes early in the semester and then petition for additional excused absences afterward. When you must miss class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed and to make up any pertinent assignments. You may not make up quizzes or in-class work. If you take one of your excused absences, we simply will not grade any in-class work you missed. If you miss an applied computing activity due to an excused absence you should attempt to make up the work. Once beyond your allotted absences you will receive a zero for any in-class work or computing activities missed.

Note: “Attendance” does not simply mean that your body can be found in proximity to those of your classmates. You must also be mentally present, which means you must:

Be awake and attentive to the conversation of the day; Prepare assigned texts before class begins; Bring your assigned texts to class. If we’re reading online articles, you should either bring a device on which to read them or print them and bring that hard copy; Bring your assigned texts to class!.

If you fail to meet these requirements, we may consider you mentally absent, though you may be physically present, and that day will be accounted as an absence.

“Information Overload” Days

We do understand that the semester can get hectic. The reading and workload for this class is often challenging, and you must balance it with the work in your other classes. Most likely you will have days when you simply cannot—for whatever reason—complete the assigned reading. To that end, you may take one “information overload” (IO) day during the semester. On that days you will not be expected to contribute to class discussion and you will receive a pass on any in-class work (the work will be ungraded and not factored into your final grade). In order to take an IO day, you must follow these rules:

You must attend class, listen attentively to any lectures or class discussions, and take part in any activities or group work not dependent on the day’s reading. Your IO day cannot be used as an additional excused absence. You must inform us before the beginning of class that you are taking your IO day. You may not wait until we call on you or you see the day’s in-class assignment. We will deny any IO requests made during class. To that end: take special care to be on time if you plan to request an IO day, as you won’t be allowed to request one if you arrive late. You may not extend an IO day into another class session, even if the reading or activities of one day continue on the next. You may not take an IO day to avoid completing on an in-class applied computing activity or another major assignment. IO days will excuse you from reading quizzes or reflections, but nothing of more serious import.

IO days are intended to help you manage the inevitable stresses of your unique semester. Use them wisely.

Attendance and Participation Bonus

At the end of the semester, for any allowed absences or IO days you do not use, we will drop your lowest in-class work grade. So if you attended all sessions prepared and did not require an IO day, we would drop your three lowest in-class work grades from our final calculations. We may also drop one low grade to acknowledge exceptional engagement and participation through the semester.

Digital Etiquette


This should go without saying, but let’s say it anyway: you should turn off your cellphone and/or other devices before you enter the classroom. If your phone rings once during class this semester, we’ll all laugh and I’ll ask you to turn it off. If your phone rings again during class this semester, we may ask you to leave and will count you as absent. Though it may seem unthinkable, your friends and family may actually survive three hours each week without direct updates as to your whereabouts and doings. They probably won’t call the police to report you missing.

FYI: you’re not as sneaky texting under the table as you think you are.


This class will rely on access to laptops in nearly every session. However, in-class laptops also present temptations that many students find irresistible. You may not use a laptop during class to follow a game, text (see the phones policy above), check your friends’ Tumblrs, post on Reddit, or commit (non course related) code to Github. Such activities not only distract you—meaning you will be less able to participate meaningfully in the class’ conversation—they also distract anyone around or behind you. If you choose to virtually exit the class, we will ask you to physically leave as well and this will count as an absence. If you often seem distracted by what’s on your screen, I reserve the right to ask you to put your laptop away, perhaps for the duration of the semester. Periodically we will ask you all to put “lids down.” This means I want everyone—myself included—to put away screens in order to focus our attention on another aspect of class.

Technical Snafus

This course relies heavily on access to computers, specific software, and the Internet. At some point during the semester you WILL have a problem with technology: your laptop will crash, a file will become corrupted, a server will go down, a piece of software will not act as you expect it to, or something else will occur. These are facts of twenty-first-century life, not emergencies. To succeed in college and in your career you should develop work habits that take such snafus into account. Start assignments early and save often. Always keep a backup copy of your work saved somewhere secure (preferably off site). None of these unfortunate events should be considered emergencies: inkless printers, computer virus infections, lost flash drives, lost passwords, corrupted files, incompatible file formats. It is entirely your responsibility to take the proper steps to ensure your work will not be lost irretrievably; if one device or service isn’t working, find another that does. We will not grant you an extension based on problems you may be having with technological devices or the internet services you happen to use. When problems arise in the software we are all using for the course, we will work through them together and learn thereby.


Students are expected to complete a TRACE (Teacher Rating and Course Evaluation) toward the end of the semester.

Academic Integrity

Students must abide by Northeastern University’s Academic Integrity Policy at all times:

A commitment to the principles of academic integrity is essential to the mission of Northeatern University. The promotion of independent and original scholarship ensures that students derive the most from their educational experience and their pursuit of knowledge. Academic dishonesty violates the most fundamental values of an intellectual community and undermines the achievements of the entire University.

If you have any questions about what constitutes academic integrity in this class—particularly as the concept applies to digital course projects—please talk to me. We will also discuss the ethics of digital scholarship in class.

Writing Center

The Northeastern University Writing Center is located in 412 Holmes Hall and in Snell Library (for current hours see or call 617-373-4549) and offers free and friendly help for any level writer, including help with reading complex texts, conceptualizing a writing project, refining your writing process (i.e., planning, researching, organization, drafting, revising, and editing), and using sources effectively. You can receive feedback face-to-face during regular hours or via email/online response. I strongly recommend that you make appointments to go over drafts of your work—including your digital work—before turning it in. Questions about the Writing Center can be directed to Belinda Walzer, Writing Center Director.

Title IX

Northeastern’s Title IX Policy prohibits discrimination based on gender, which includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship or domestic violence, and stalking (for more information, see the website for the Office for University Equity and Compliance ( The Title IX Policy applies to the entire community, including male, female, transgender students, and faculty and staff. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted,confidential support and guidance can be found through University Health and Counseling Services staff ( and the Center for Spiritual Dialogue and Service clergy members ( By law, those employees are not required to report allegations of sex or gender-based discrimination to the University. Alleged violations can be reported non-confidentially to the Title IX Coordinator within The Office for Gender Equity and Compliance at: and/or through NUPD (Emergency 617.373.3333; Non-Emergency 617.373.2121). Reporting Prohibited Offenses to NUPD does NOT commit the victim/affected party to future legal action.