DIGC 320: Designing Critical Futures

DIGC 320 Designing Critical Futures
Course in Digital Culture
Course Description:

In her Nebula award-winning novel Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler writes that "[w]e can, each of us, do the impossible as long as we can convince ourselves that it has been done before.” But what if this "before" is located somewhere in critical futures? Why should these futures matter to people who are concerned with practical strategies for building a more just world? DIGC 320 invites students to imagine what "each of us" can do to reframe the possible by engaging with (1) creative labor from sonic, literary, and visual artists; (2) critical labor from scholars, media experts, and nonprofit professionals; and (3) social movement labor from activists, journalists, and civic participants. Along the way, students design visions of critical futures that speak to the communities they hope to serve outside of the course.

The course is organized around four essential units that each culminate in a creative project. The first unit focuses on place-making efforts that connect speculative design to community organizing and civic engagement. The second expands these connections through discussions of queer community, liberatory imagination, and feminist praxis. The third centers mutualistic collaboration and critical play as essential strategies for advancing equity and affirming generative difference. These strategies set up the final unit which invites students to make a digital project that engages with a critical future of their own design. Each unit will frame speculative work and real-world materials as case studies for designing critical futures.

Course Credits:
1 course unit (c.u.)*
Term Format:
Accelerated 8-Week Term
Course Block:

*Academic credit is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). A course unit (c.u.) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A c.u. (or a fraction of a c.u.) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One c.u. is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.


  • Associate Director of Instructional Design, Arts & Sciences Online Learning, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Colman is the Associate Director of Instructional Design for the Arts & Sciences Online Learning team at Penn. In this role, he works with instructors to conceptualize, create, and support educational experiences. Clay believes lifelong learning is integral to any sustainable social system and… Read more

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