This City as Text (CAT) is adapted for a class of the FIU Honors College. It is designed for a small class section, as an introduction to CAT. The aim is to foster discourse in the class, discover the campus, and to develop observational skills.
“Florida International University is an urban, multi-campus, public research university serving its students and the diverse population of South Florida. We are committed to high-quality teaching, state-of-the-art research and creative activity, and collaborative engagement with our local and global communities.” (http://www.fiu.edu/about-us/vision-mission/index.html)
Students will form 4 groups of 5 students. Each group will be assigned one FIU location. During the course of one hour, the student group must explore the people, architectural spaces, and nature of their respective locations.
Protocol for engaging FIU community.
Introduce yourself and state that you are participating in an educational assignment.
“Hello, my name is X. I am a student here at FIU participating in a learning program today. May I ask you a few questions?”
Since the visitor likely answered questions for you, please be open to answering questions they may have about the activity, class, or the Honors College.
Students will deliver oral presentations in class. Each member of the group must speak. Groups can supplement presentations with images, but the emphasis should be on personal reflections.
Students should aim to engage a diversity of perspectives in order to form their personal reflection. Try to speak with a student, staff, faculty, and/or administrator.
“As an experiential-learning method, CAT makes students step outside their conventional classroom paradigms, and at no time is it easier to do this than when they are experiencing an alienation from what they know. Outside their ordinary habits of thought, the students respond to the call to figure things out for themselves, using the tools of mapping, listening, and observing.” – Joy Ochs
Excerpt from Shatter the Glassy Stare:
Strategies: Mapping, Observing, Listening, Reflecting
City as Text™ methodology is based on the concept of active or experiential learning. Participants are split up into small groups with an assigned area of the city/place to explore. They report back for a general discussion at the end of their walkabout and exchange their insights with others who have explored other areas of the same city. The idea is that the sum of everyone’s experience is a better view than just one person or one group doing the same exercise.
There are four basic strategies used in these exercises: mapping, observing, listening, and reflecting.
Mapping: You will want to be able to construct, during and after your explorations, the primary kinds of buildings, points of interest, centers of activity, and transportation routes (by foot, vehicle, or other means). You will want to look for patterns of housing, “traffic” flow, and social activity that may not be apparent on any traditional “map.” Where do people go, how do they get there, and what do they do when they get there?
Observing: You will want to look carefully for the unexpected as well as the expected, for the familiar as well as the new. You will want to notice details of architecture, landscaping, social gathering, clothing, possessions, decoration, signage, and advertising.
Listening: You will want to talk to as many people as you can and to find out from them what matters to them in their daily lives, what they need, what they enjoy, what bothers them, what they appreciate. Strike up conversations everywhere you go. Ask about such matters as: how expensive it is to live there (dropping by a real estate agency could be enlightening), where to find a cheap meal (or a good one or an expensive one), what the local politics are (try to find a local newspaper), what the history of the place is, what the population is like (age, race, class, profession, etc.), what people do to have a good time. In other words, imagine that you are moving to that location and try to find out everything you would need to learn to survive there.
Reflecting: Throughout your explorations, keep in mind that the people you meet, the buildings in which they live and work, the forms of their recreation, their modes of transportation—everything that they are and do—are important components of the environment. They are part of an ecological niche. You want to discover their particular roles in this ecology: how they use it, contribute to it, damage or improve it, and change it. You want to discover not only how, but why they do what they do. Don’t settle for easy answers. Don’t assume you know the answers without doing serious research. Like all good researchers, make sure you are conscious of your own biases and that you investigate them as thoroughly as you investigate the culture you are studying.