What does inequality look like in 2013 and how might we imagine it differently for our collective futures? What can working with East Harlem teach us about the most urgent political economic issues of our time? How do the affordances of digital technologies augment the way we both research inequality and resist its corrosive effects?

Engaging broad questions of economic inequality and its impact on the “commons,” or public sphere, the seminar will combine a political economic analysis with an examination of lived experiences, counter-narratives and everyday forms of resistance; and consider the role that new technologies can play in offering alternative ways to document, study, and resist inequalities. Dialogues with prominent scholars, public intellectuals, community activists, and artists will address the intersections of structural inequalities and the stories that shape people’s everyday struggles with the ever widening gap in wealth, income, and debt and how this affecting public services and institutions. The course will focus upon issues of housing, education and technology and include community engagement events and research in East Harlem.

We will also engage critical questions of how digital technologies can be used for community-engaged teaching and scholarship. The course will be run as a participatory, open, online course, a “POOC.” This is a reimagined MOOC (massive, open, online course) that is gaining so much attention in the mainstream press. Our vision of a participatory, open, online course is one that places collaborating with East Harlem at the center. At the same time, we want to use the open Internet to engage wider publics who may have ties to, or interest in, East Harlem beyond the physical boundaries of El Barrio. Anyone can participate in the online seminar at no cost. People in the neighborhood and from around the world can take part by watching livestreamed lectures, joining discussions via Twitter, commenting on or posting to the course blog, or participating in synchronous (real-time) online chats. In addition, several of the meetings of the seminar will be held in East Harlem and will be open to the public as well as livestreamed.

The goal of this participatory, open, online course is to create resources (e.g., art, digital archives, maps, tools for civic engagement) that endure beyond the end of the seminar and that serve to resist the very real, material inequality facing El Barrio. We aim to do this through working with community activists in East Harlem and forging partnerships with those enrolled through the CUNY-Graduate Center.

This course is the first open, online course in the history of the CUNY-Graduate Center. It is a co-sponsored by the Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) and JustPublics@365, funded by the Ford Foundation.

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