Social Spaces in the Academy II

Building on initial results from a provost-funded research study conducted several years ago by the first offering of this research seminar, this second offering will update and deepen the examination of social spaces at academic institutions using Harvard University as the case study. Social spaces – indoor and outdoor public places where people engage in a variety of informal activities – permeate the academy. Social spaces include dining rooms, dormitory common rooms, classrooms, libraries, athletic facilities, performance halls, student centers, and other physical places. This research seminar focuses on a specially defined subset of social spaces: indoor and outdoor places open to and usable by students, faculty, and staff for informal activities such as meeting friends, people watching, eating a sandwich, or reading a book. Such social spaces may be intentionally designed, like the cafe at Lamont Library, or may arise spontaneously, like the area of intersecting pathways next to the boulders in front of the Science Center. The course will operate as a research study with faculty and students serving as members of the research team. Enrollment is limited to 20 students. The class will normally meet weekly for two hours. Much of the work will be conducted in the field, individually or in small teams of students and faculty. Researchers will investigate the interplay of social activities and physical settings through methods that include user interviews, activity mapping, videography, and spatial analysis of selected locations across the campus. Class discussions and work sessions will pull together the research study. Reading assignments will provide students with theoretical and methodological backgrounds and skills, as well as knowledge about other academic campuses, to conduct the research. Products will include proposals, plans, designs, and a webpage including a comprehensive relational database. The course counts as four units, and the workload is designed not to exceed what is expected of an average four-unit course.The Course is to meet weekly from 11:30am – 2:00pm on Thursdays; students will be required to conduct field research and/or meet with instructors for an additional 1.5hrs per week at times to be determined.