Spatial Rhetorics & Locative Media – E 388M

Spatial Rhetorics & Locative Media – E 388M

Abstract Line Drawing of an architectural space.

In the last few decades, rhetorical scholarship–alongside a host of other humanities disciplines–has held a sustained interest in spatiality. Of particular concern for the humanities is how spaces affect our shared practices and sense of identity. Rhetoric and related scholars, then, seek to explore how we enact, preserve, and transgress boundaries to help create spatial conditions of possibility for personal, pedagogical, and political ends. For instance, any city is in part defined by the many ways its people, roadways, and buildings relate to one another, providing sights, sounds, and speeds of interaction that then fold back and help further characterize that space.

To further complicate matters, recent innovations of digital media, mapping applications, and tracking technologies–including digital sensors, surveillance cameras, and global positioning systems–have contributed additional possibilities and problems to our sense of space. Now, the spaces we experience are just as much characterized by loose and porous boundaries as any stable or static condition. Spaces, it seems, are on the move.

Towards understanding today’s shifting spatial conditions, the class will examine spatial rhetorics in three ways. First the class will focus on rhetoric’s rich tradition of inventive spatial practices; second, we will survey what might now be considered canonical critical spatial theory (Lefebvre, De Certeau, Soja, etc.); finally, we will spend extensive course time exploring spatial rhetorics through mobile and locative media. Ultimately, the course aims to provide students with a foundation of spatial rhetorical theory while also offering an opportunity to consider the methodological demands of composing with mapping applications and locative media.


Course Outcomes

At the end of the course, students will be able to

  • Be conversant about the development of critical spatial theory
  • Demonstrate awareness about spatial rhetorical theories
  • Show facility with mapping and locative composing methods


Course Texts

Algra, Keimpe. Concepts of Space in Greek Thought

Cooley, Heidi Rae. Finding Augusta: Habits of Mobility and Governance in the Digital Era

Farman, Jason. Mobile Interface Theory: Embodied Space and Locative Media.

Grosz, Elizabeth. Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space.

Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space.

Presner, Todd, David Shepard, & Yoh Kawano. HyperCities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities

Propen, Amy. Locating Visual-Material Rhetorics: The Map, The Mill, The GPS

Rice, Jeff. Digital Detroit: Rhetoric and Space in the Age of Networks

Soja, Edward W. Postmodern geographies: The reassertion of space in critical social theory.

Additional Articles will be available on the course Canvas website


Course Projects

[full assignment sheets will be provided for all projects]

Reading Responses (20%) Due: Throughout Semester

10 reading responses over the course of the semester to be posted to our course site (Canvas). During the first week, I will provide an outline and discussion for how responses should be organized. The responses will primarily serve to gather your thoughts towards our required readings, but they may also be opportunities to report on experience using one of the many applications we will be exploring this semester. In all cases, the responses will provide a starting point for class discussion.

Mapping Assignment (15%) Due: TBD

In this assignment, you will identify, examine, and explore one mapping application/method. Over the course of the semester, we will survey several available applications/programs in class, but students are welcome to select an application/program not listed/surveyed in class.

Case Study Review/Response (15%) Due: Varies

This assignment–done in lieu of a response–asks you to analyze one mature spatial-oriented research project, paying special attention to the methodological and technological considerations. These will be 1-2 pages and will include a brief, informal presentation/discussion for that class meeting (one-two each Wednesday). Some of the case studies have been chosen by me (on the schedule), but there are several slots available for students to identify their own case study.

Proposal & Working Bibliography (10%) Due: Nov 3

This will be a proposal and bibliography for your final project. This is the space in which you will declare which option (more below) you intend to pursue for your final project. While the proposal is not meant to be a strict contract, it is designed to get students thinking about and working on projects early.

Final project (40%) Due: Dec 8

The final project should work towards your own research agenda as possible. Towards that end, I offer three options, all of which build from the course readings and assignments. Whatever option is chosen, the eventual project should respond to the course readings/themes/methods, focusing on some aspect of spatial rhetorics and/or locative media.

Option One

Traditional Essay. This option asks a student to compose a 6000-7000 word essay concerning spatial rhetoric and/or locative media that can be further developed for a conference presentation, a dissertation chapter, or an early draft of an article for publication consideration.

 Option Two

Project Plan. This option would allow a student to propose, outline, and (initially) design a substantial digital project. This will likely include several artifacts: i.e. a project rationale, mini-grant proposal, technical documentation, asset list.

 Option Three

Imaginary App. This option would look to Cooley’s *Finding Augusta* and its accompanying mobile app as a model for designing a similar app for a course text, theme, or project. Similar to Option Two, this option would necessarily require several artifacts: rationale, interface wireframes, app mockups.


Course Schedule

Section One: Spaces in/of Antiquity

 Week One

Wed Aug 27: Introductions & Expectations

Discuss: Corder, “I Proposed a New Geography Course, but the Curriculum Committee Turned It Down”

Week Two

Mon Sep 1: No Class

Wed Sep 3: Bodenhamer, “The Potential of Spatial Humanities”; Algra Concepts of Space in Greek Thought, 1-72.

Case Study: Graff, “Reconstructing Sites of Ancient Greek Oratorical Performance in Virtual Reality” ; Lecture Presentation: “Spaces of Oratorical Performance in Ancient Greece: Reconstruction, Interpretive Visualization, and Assessment

Week Three

Mon Sep 8: Aristotle; Cicero; Quintilian

Wed Sep 10: Miller, “The Aristotelian Topos: Hunting for Novelty”; Leff, “Up from Theory, or, How I fought the Topoi and the Topoi Won”; Muckelbauer, “Topoi: Replacing Aristotle”; Rickert, “Toward the Chora” Recommended: Simonson, “Reinventing Invention, Again

Case Study: Verran’s TAMI Project


Section Two: Critical and Practical Spatial Theory

 Week Four

Mon Sep 15: Lefebvre, The Production of Space, p. 1-169; Ackerman, “The Space for Rhetoric in Everyday Life”

Wed Sep 17: Lefebvre, The Production of Space, p. 169-229; Endres & Senda-Cook, “Location Matters: The Rhetoric of Place in Protest”

Case Study: Forensic Architecture 

Week Five

Mon Sep 22: Soja from Postmodern Geographies, p. 1-75; Grego, “Institutional Critique and Studio as Third Space”; Farman, “Mapping the Digital Empire”

Wed Sep 24: Blair, “Contemporary U.S. Memorial Sites as Exemplars of Rhetoric’s Materiality”; Gruber, “The (Digital) Majesty of All Under Heaven”

Recommended Readings: Inman, “Designing Multiliteracy Centers”; Gresham, “Composing Multiple Spaces”

Case Study: TBD

Week Six

Mon Sep 29: De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, p. 91-131; Reynolds, “Maps of the Everyday”; Rieder, “Typographia

Wed Oct 1: Farman, “Storytelling with Mobile Media”; Thielman, “Locative Media and Mediated Localities”; Hemment, “Locative Arts”

Case Study: Border Bumping


Section Three – Locative Media and Rhetoric

 Week Seven

Mon Oct 6: Grosz, “The Future of Space: Toward an Architecture of Invention”; Massumi, “Strange Horizons: Buildings, Biograms, and the Body Topologic”; Barnett, “Psychogeographies of Writing

Wed Oct 8: Amin & Thrift, from Cities: Reimagining The Urban, p. 1-30.; Kinsley, “The Matter of ‘Virtual’ Geographies”; Thrift, “The ‘Sentient’ City and What it May Portend” ; e Silva &  Frith, “Interfaces to Public Spaces”

DUE: Mapping Assignment TBD

Week Eight

Mon Oct 13:  Rice Digital Detroit

Wed Oct 15: Rice, Digital Detroit; In-Class: Skype Visit w/ Professor Jeff Rice, University of Kentucky

Case Study: The End of Austin and/or The Detroit Algorithm

Week Nine

Mon Oct 20: Propen, Locating Visual-Material Rhetorics: The Map, The Mill, The GPS, p. 3-45; 121-159; 186-203

Wed Oct 22: Potts, “Methods for Researching and Architecting the Social Web” & “Locating Data in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina”; McNely, “Heuristic Approach to Hybrid Spaces”

Case Study: Geocaching

Week Ten

Mon Oct 27: Farman, Mobile Interface Theory, p. 1-75

Wed Oct 29: Farman, Mobile Interface Theory, p. 76-113

Case study TBD

Week Eleven

Mon Nov 3: Cooley, Finding Augusta, p. 1-52

Due: Project Proposal

Wed Nov 5: Cooley, Finding Augusta, p. 53-115; In-Class: Skype Visit w/ Associate Professor Heidi Rae Cooley, University of South Carolina

Case Study: Augusta App

Week Twelve

Mon Nov 10: Presner et al., HyperCities, p. 1-100; Lynch, from “What Time is This Place?” p. 29-64

Wed Nov 12: Presner et al., HyperCities, p. 101-202; Ethington, “Placing the Past”

Case Study: HyperCities

Week Thirteen

Mon Nov 24: Workshop

Wed Nov 26: Workshop

Week Fourteen

Mon Dec 1: Workshop

Wed Dec 3: Project Presentations




[more resources added throughout the course of the semester]

CartoDB – “A Cloud Based Mapping Application”

Odyssey.js – Narrative Mapping Composer – A project of CartoDB

PostGIS – Spatial database extender for PostgreSQL object-relational database

Neatline – Application for Building Narritives with Timelines and Maps

OpenPaths – Open Source GPS Tracking Application and Database

OpenStreetMaps – An Open Source Mapping Project

OSGeo – An open source community for software dev

Spatial Humanities – An NEH-funded research group investigating the Spatial Turn in the humanities.

Tableu Public – A hosted Information Visualization Application

Ushahidi – An open source mapping platform

ViewShare – Information visualization, Including Maps

GeoCommons: Mapping, DataSets, and Visualizations


Additional Readings

Augé, Marc. Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity, trans. John Howe.  New York: Verso, 2008.

Bachelard, Gaston. The poetics of space. Beacon Press, 1994.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The dialogic imagination: Four essays. U of Texas Press, 2010.

Cache, Bernard. “Earth Moves: the Furnishing of Territories. trans. Anne Boyman. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995.

Casey, Edward S. The fate of place: A philosophical history. U of California Press, 2013.

——. Representing Place: Landscape Painting and Maps (University of Minnesota Press, 2002.

——. “Getting back into place.” Towards a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World (1993).

Clark, Gregory. “Writing as Travel, or Rhetoric on the Road.” College Composition and Communication (1998): 9-23.

Cooper, Marilyn M. “The Ecology of Writing.” College English (1986): 364-375.

Dickinson, Greg, Carole Blair, and Brian L. Ott, eds. Places of public memory: The rhetoric of museums and memorials. University of Alabama Press, 2010.

Dobrin, Sidney, ed. Ecology, Writing Theory, and New Media: Writing Ecology, Routledge, 2011.

Harrison, Paul, and Ben Anderson, eds. Taking-Place: Non-Representational Theories and Geography: Non-Representational Theories and Geography. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2012.

Hillier, Bill. Space is the machine: a configurational theory of architecture. SpaceSyntax, 2007.

Keller, Christopher J., and Christian R. Weisser, eds. The locations of composition. SUNY Press, 2007.

Kitchin, Rob, and Martin Dodge. Code/space: software and everyday life. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2011,

———.  “Code and the transduction of space.” Annals of the Association of American geographers 95.1 (2005): 162-180.

Kwinter, Sanford. Architectures of time: Toward a theory of the event in modernist culture. MIT Press, 2002.

Latour, Bruno, and Albena Yaneva. “Give me a gun and I will make all buildings move: An ANT’s view of architecture.” Explorations in architecture: Teaching, design, research (2008): 80-89.

Massey, Doreen. For Space. Sage, 2005.

——. Space, place, and gender. U of Minnesota Press, 1994.

Mitchell, William J. Placing words. MIT Press, 2005.

——. E-topia: Urban life, Jim–but not as we know it. MIT press, 2000.

——. City of bits: space, place, and the infobahn. MIT press, 1996.

Reynolds, Nedra. “Composition’s imagined geographies: The politics of space in the frontier, city, and cyberspace.” College Composition and Communication(1998): 12-35.

Sloterdijk, Peter. Globes: Volume I: Microspherology. Semiotext, 2014.

——. Bubbles: Spheres Volume I: Microspherology. Semiotext, 2011.

Syverson, Margaret A. The wealth of reality: An ecology of composition. SIU Press, 1999.

Thrift, Nigel. Non-representational theory: Space, politics, affect. Routledge, 2008.

Ulmer, Gregory L. Electronic monuments. U of Minnesota Press, 2005.

Urry, John. Mobilities. Polity, 2007.

——-. Consuming places. Psychology Press, 1995.

Varnelis, Kazys. Networked publics. The MIT Press, 2012.

Weisser, Christian R., and Sidney I. Dobrin, eds. Ecocomposition: Theoretical and pedagogical approaches. SUNY Press, 2012.

Yaneva, Albena. Mapping controversies in architecture. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2012.




Spatial Rhetorics &
Locative Media - E 388M
Casey Boyle | Fall 2014
M & W 11:00-12:15 | PAR 104
Office Hours: MW 8:00-9:00;
T/TH 1:00-:300 & by appt.