Info 296A

Experimental Document Analysis

2-4 units

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This course is not currently offered.

Course Description

The seminar will explore the technical, social and cultural aspects of informative objects in any and all forms (aka “documents”). We will adopt three strategies:

  • Analyze examples of powerful documents (i.e. having social, intellectual, and/or emotional impact) in politics, business, subcultures, sciences, religion, and the arts.
  • Read and discuss selected literature on the "nature" of documents, past, present and in future.
  • Imagine and design possible new or emerging kinds of document and speculatively consider their likely uses, impacts, and relationship with existing genres.


Documents and their role in society cannot be understood unless they are examined concurrently from three perspectives:

  • Technical / technological forms and constraints;
  • Social roles and uses, intended and otherwise; AND
  • Humanities: meaning, perception, representation, language, cultural codes.


All three are required to comprehend the complex character of documents being physical, social and cultural all at the same time.

In “reading sessions” there will be discussions based on reading of texts by Jay David Bolter, Neil Gershenfeld, Brenda Laurel, John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid, David Levy, Bernd Frohmann, Michael Buckland, Niels W. Lund, Roger T. Pedauque, and Herbert A. Simon.

In “studio” sessions students are asked to present ideas and sketches of documents in a broad sense like a website, a zine, a poster, a poem, an official form and last but not least kinds of documents which never have been seen before, new forms of artistic documents. The main question will be to imagine and outline a number of options for making a satisfactory document according to social and cultural criteria as well as possible technical solutions. One solution and some technical means may function in principle, but challenge one or more of the social and cultural criteria and vice versa. Some documents may, as a whole, work better within an analogue environment instead of a digital environment, highlighting the discussion of new and old media.

Some of the sessions will be connected online with a similar course at the University of Tromso in Norway, as part of an international distributed document lab, The Document Academy.

Instructor: Visiting Professor Niels Windfeld Lund, is professor in Documentation Studies, University of Tromsø, Norway. He has a M.A. in History and Ethnology (University of Aarhus, Denmark) and a D.E.A. in History and Civilisation (L'Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris). He taught a course in "Documents in Society" in SIMS in 2001, and organizes The Document Academy / SIMS conferences.



Last updated:

January 10, 2017