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2021W WRDS 150B Topics – Term 2

WRDS 150B is offered in a wide variety of topics from departments and instructors across UBC.

Course topics and descriptions are subject to change depending on the instructor and their availability. Below is the schedule for the upcoming 2021/2022 Term 2 winter session.

Mon, Wed, Fri Course Schedule

Course Topic Descriptions

Below are course descriptions for each topic, as well as instructor and scheduling information

Instructor: Rohan Karpe

Sections:  855, 873, 883
In recent months, you may have incorporated behaviours such as: Washing hands with soap or sanitizer more frequently and regularly than you did before; Maintaining physical distancing in public places, while also wearing face masks; working and studying from home; socializing virtually with friends, family and colleagues. These actions represent behavioural change at societal levels. We have voluntarily adopted some of these behaviours, some have been enforced, and still others have been influenced by those around us. This has resulted in new products, technologies, ways of doing things, and serving within our communities. With such changes come newer challenges. Considering the currency of this topic, in this WRDS 150B section we explore behaviours, norms, and behavioural change and how these have been investigated by non-Arts disciplinary researchers and scholars.

Our focus will be on peer-reviewed journal articles in disciplines including but not limited to Business, Hospitality, Design, Engineering, Computer Sciences, and Occupational Health and Safety Science

We will:

  • Examine and practice the ways and means researchers employ to inquire into their chosen behavioural phenomena, express themselves, and communicate their findings, insights, and solutions.
  • Learn to inquire into and model the creative craft of research and academic writing that enable us to contribute to scholarly conversations:
    • How do various researchers use language, expressions, images, diagrams, tables, figures, and numbers within their disciplines?
    • What kind of rhetorical moves do authors demonstrate to lead readers through their evidence, reasons, arguments?
    • How do they persuade their readers of particular facts and points of views?

Instructor:  Dennis Foung

Sections:  832, 842

“Big data” is a term commonly used by laymen, scholars, and professionals to describe a wide range of technological innovations. Big data is, in fact, a big leap in scientific research, because the collection of primary data does not rely only on researchers conducting surveys or observing subjects, but on retrieving existing mega datasets from servers. In this course, we will examine how a range of disciplines conduct scientific enquiry using big data and how they present their research findings in scientific articles. For example, what can data scientists do with big data in general? How do educators identify at-risk students? How do marketing specialists profile their customers for improved business outcomes? More importantly, how do scholars in these disciplines answer their questions to extend their knowledge of the disciplines?

Instructor:  Tara Lee

Sections: 802, 812,

During this recent COVID-19 pandemic, troubling data has emerged in relation to racial inequalities when it comes to the effects of the virus. What role does race play in your life? How do you see it circulating in universities, workplaces, social media, the political realm, and social environments? Although “race” is considered to be a social construct, as an identity marker, it continues to have significant material consequences in terms of access to resources, perceptions of legitimacy, marketing strategies, and even socializing patterns. This course looks at research by scholars in a variety of disciplines who examine complex issues related to race (e.g. how race figures in conservation projects), often also taking into account other intersectional identity categories (e.g. gender, class, sexuality). As you read and discuss relevant scholarly articles, you will also become acquainted with the conventions of scholarly discourse, disciplinarity, as well as the production of new research knowledge within a field. Ultimately, the goal is for you to increase your critical engagement with the world around you, in addition to cultivating your skills and confidence as an academic writer and researcher.

Instructor:  Tom Andrews

Sections: 853, 862,  882

This section of WRDS150 is focused on Critical Thinking in the Digital Era. These modules cover issues including social networking behavior and privacy, climate change denial and hyper-critical thinking, and ‘slacktivism’ and bandwagon political engagement in the 21st century.  We will read articles from scholarly and non-scholarly sources from social science, political science, and humanities backgrounds as well as watching interviews, Ted Talks, and discussion panels.  In doing so, we will endeavor to answer such questions as: does the internet still offer users a place to share and consume information honestly?  Do the harms caused by social media use outweigh its many advantages in contemporary society?  How have internet communication platforms changed political engagement and awareness?  What biases or fallacies are perpetuated by an online world?

Instructor:  Mi-Young Kim

Sections:  821, 833, 851, 863

Memes, K-pop, fidget spinner, Pokémon Go, virtual reality games, mindfulness, tattooing, and (social) media hype of certain news… what do these have in common? They were (or are) once a fad. When does a fad become a fashion and finally settle as a “fit”? (or does it?) Which one of these has informational social influence or normative social influence? How does this particular type of social influence affect us as producers, distributors, and/or consumers? In this section of WRDS150B, we will address some of these questions and explore how fad shapes and forms our identities and values.

We will also become familiar with the conventions of academic writing and the basic premise of research, as well as participate in academic conversations through our own research on the topic of “fad, fashion, or fit”. A selection of unabridged, peer-reviewed scholarly articles on the topic (for Winter I 2021, three subtopics of media hype, Korean Wave, and body modification (or eSports) from several disciplinary perspectives including but not limited to media studies, socioeconomics, science, and psychology will help us see how scholarly texts with various research methods and writing styles can produce different types of knowledge and understanding of this particular type of the social influence.

Instructor: Susan Blake

Sections: *801, 831, 843
*Scheduled to be taught online - details on the bottom of the web page.

Full title: Linguistic Landscapes — Scholarly Research Practices, Language Use, and Disciplinarity:
A Corpus-Based Discourse-Analytic Perspective

This course aims to explore the question of how scholars in a variety of different disciplines within the university use language to write up
their research results in the form of academic research articles (RAs). This course also connects scholarly writing practices (academic
literacy) with a wide-range of scholarly research practices, and views academic writing as a “complex social activity” that takes both content
and context into consideration.
We engage in asking the following kinds of questions: How do researchers from different disciplines formulate research questions? What
kinds of research methods do they use? What kinds of data (evidence) do they incorporate in scholarly research articles? How are those
scholarly research articles organized? How are the data and their research findings presented in written and/or visual form? What is the
relationship between the authors and their intended readers? What kinds of scholarly activities are researchers engaged in?
This course focuses on corpus construction and discourse analysis (method) & provides relevant examples from the STEM disciplines
(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) as a point of departure.
Students will build their own working corpus (research articles from their own discipline) and analyze this textual material. They will have
opportunities to draft and revise and present their own original research findings in both oral and written forms. Research will be carried out
either collaboratively (2-3 students per research team) or individually (1 student per team), and provides students with opportunities to
reflect on their own research and writing practices, as they become apprentice members of different research communities on campus.

Instructor:  Meredith Beales

Sections: 852, 871, 881,*891

* Taught online - details on the bottom of the web page.

Living in the modern world means being immersed in a sea of textual and internet-based media: we are constantly reading and responding to the infinite variations of electronic texts, videos, images, and memes.  But how do the different media in which we encounter these messages change the way we respond to them?  And how do our brains and our societies interact under the impact of these new media? In this section of WRDS 150 we will explore how different societies  responded to new forms of communication, now and in the past.  We will explore, as well, how our brains respond to these same challenges, and how the rise of electronic communication has altered (or not) the ways we respond to it and to each other.

Instructor:  Laura Baumvol

Sections:  813, 823, 844

In this section of WRDS 150, we will focus on how various disciplines, such as environmental sciences, natural sciences, and computer science investigate and write about the communication of scholarly knowledge. This communication involves knowledge popularization or dissemination to a broad, popular audience through a recontextualization process of text relocation from a primary scholarly context (e.g. academic journals) to a secondary popularized context, such as mass media, news media, magazines, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, Q&A websites, advertisements, etc. The replacement of the deficit model of science communication to a passive audience by one that includes a two-way interaction between the academic community and non-specialist audiences has promoted dialogue, empowerment, inclusion, and participation through public engagement with science. The readings in the course, along with the individual and collaborative writing assignments and activities, will allow students to engage in scholarly conversations and explore multiple research genres and methods, types of data, and writing practices.

Instructor:  Kimberly Richards

Sections:  814, 822

Oil is a fulcrum around which many of today’s most pressing social, economic, and political issues can be analyzed and understood. In the twenty-first century, we are finally beginning to realize the degree to which oil has transformed modern life while entangling us in unsustainable colonial systems of extraction and dispossession. The increasing recognition of oil’s central role in modernity is met with the awareness that over the next decade we need to transition to new energy sources and new ways of living that enable us to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions and keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of droughts, floods, extreme heat, and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Extracting ourselves from our dependence on oil amounts to a social transformation of an unprecedented scale and scope; it entails not only to change the kinds of energy we use and depend on, but also a transformation in values. In this course we will consider some of the social and political challenges of the energy transition we face, and the accompanying cultural transformation.

Instructor:  Deo Nizonkiza

Sections: 841, 864, 872

Everybody has a story to tell! In this section of WRDS 150B, students examine the questions related to storytelling across disciplines. By examining the way such questions have been explored by scholars from different disciplines, such as Information Communication Technology, Health Sciences, and Engineering, students are expected to learn and familiarize themselves with scholarly practices through this topic of storytelling. Among other things, students will explore the nature of research questions scholars from different disciplines ask, the methodologies devised to answer them, and how they report the results. Through readings and related writing tasks and discussions, students will get used to writing conventions and principles. Students will then develop their own writing strategies which they will apply as they develop their own research projects as the course progresses.

Instructor:  M. Gillian Carrabré

The theme of this WRDS 150B section is ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY. The topic of sustainability can cover a number of subtopics including energy, water, fuel, food, recycling and upcycling. We will formally analyze six academic articles as a class, supplemented by several short videos, news articles, and informal articles from a range of disciplines. As a class, we will explore how the topic of sustainability is understood and discussed by both academics and the public. In what ways do scholars address sustainability across their diverse fields? In what forms does sustainability come into play in your lives as students and human beings? Throughout the pandemic, issues of sustainability have come to the forefront as we see the results of the epidemic (both positive and negative) on our planet. The class theme will inform our work together as you develop skills as academics, a skill that will serve you throughout your degree and beyond. You will learn to apply modern research techniques, think critically, and compose relevant academic papers in Chicago Style, MLA, or APA. The classroom will embrace an inclusive mentality, cultivate respect among colleagues, and allow space for creativity. As a researcher of rave culture and its ideologies, I have adopted the famous Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect mantra as my classroom motto. I would like for WRDS 150B to embrace the concept of PLUR in both classroom and online interactions whenever possible.

Instructor: Sang Wu

Section: 854, 861

This section of WRDS 150 will investigate climate change and other global crises, and issues of responsibility concerning them, in the epoch of the Anthropocene. Coined at the turn of the 21st century, the word is compounded from the Greek anthropos (“human”) and kainos (“new”). The Anthropocene is the new epoch of humans: one in which planetary conditions are shaped by human activity rather than vice versa, humankind as a force of geological agency has overtaken physical geography and natural history, and the familiar distinction between man and nature no longer holds. A closer look at the scientific and semantic implications of the term, however, reveals it to be less straightforward than initially appears. Currently not officially recognized as part of the Geologic Time Scale, what should be understood or measured as the basis for the Anthropocene means different things to different disciplines. How do scholars from fields as diverse as geology, climatology, sociology, history, anthropology, and psychology, engage with the common idea of the Anthropocene? Do studies of pre-industrial greenhouse gas emissions, critiques of environmentally unsustainable trends of industrial, socioeconomic, and technological acceleration in an age of world capitalism, and theories of the end of human history at the limits of human “meaning” and modernity, ask similar research questions despite starkly contrastive methodologies? How are the discursive challenges posed by referring to singular abstractions (e.g., humans as a “species,” the sense of a “universal” history or geostory, the “Anthropocene”) represented across multiple disciplines, reflective of the conceptual difficulties which arise in accessing or preserving a nature no longer distinguishable from the human interventions that create and destroy it? How is our sense of what it means to be natural objects or human subjects, and what it means not to be, informed by how our discourses produce meaning?

Instructor: Connor Byrne

Section:  811
This course is scheduled to be taught online.

For this course, the city will be our main object of scholarly investigation, and in order to introduce you to the rigours of academic writing and research, we will read academic research articles from a range of disciplines in order to familiarize you with the conventions and goals of academic criticism: novel, evidence-based research; critical dialogue; argumentation and analysis. As engaged readers and writers, and through a series of scaffolded assignments and workshops, you will become adept at the genre of research-driven writing: summary and citation, literature review, research proposals, conference papers, peer review, and the research paper.

Guiding this work will be investigations of the city—of urban phenomena and experience—carried out by the six research articles that model the kind of research (mainly qualitative, not quantitative) and writing for which this course serves as an apprenticeship. These articles provide a sampling of academic criticism from a range of disciplines—for example, sociology, history, urban design, art history, cultural studies, anthropology, etc.

In response to course material and discussion, you will reflect on your own evolving positions as modern city dwellers and ultimately develop a novel qualitative research project that contributes to scholarly conversations about the city.


Tues, Thurs Course Schedule

Course Topic Descriptions

Below are course descriptions for each topic, as well as instructor and scheduling information.

Instructor: Jackie Rea

Complete Course Title:  Academic Laugh Tracks:  Reading and Writing Research on Humour in Stem Fields

Sections:  913, 922

Typically, sections of WRDS 150 are designed around a research topic—a concept or issue that has attracted both public interest and scholarly attention. In this section of WRDS 150, we will focus on the commonplace but nonetheless complex phenomenon of humour from several disciplinary perspectives, including but not limited to neuroscience, computer science, and health sciences.

We will consider how scholars in these disciplines study and talk about humour. For example, what do these scholars say about humour’s scientific and technical functions and effects? More specifically, what might scholars in health sciences say about humour’s role in the maintenance of health or its role in health messaging? What might neuroscientist say about negative and positive humour styles and brain response? What might computing science scholars say about the social and cultural functions of humor bots? More importantly, how do scholars in these disciplines produce knowledge about humour – what methods do they use? And, most importantly, how is this knowledge-making activity represented in their writing?

Instructor: Nazih El-Bezre

Section: 901
Taught online - details on the bottom of the web page.

Sections: 911, 931

This section of WRDS 150 focuses on the relationship among globalization, identity formation, and the literacy practices needed in the 21st century. In today’s technologically-interconnected world, people, ideologies, food habits, fashion, and movies flow easily through borders with a speed unforeseen in the recorded human history. Due to the shrinkage of our world—which has been called a global village—we are faced with questions concerning the knowledges or literacies required to succeed in a highly competitive world, and the impact of these knowledges on our own identities. The focus on the 21st century literacies operates in conjunction with crucial life literacies, such as health literacy, ecoliteracy, second/additional language literacies, religious literacy, financial literacies, and even food literacy studies. As a result of these multiliteracies, individuals in the 21st century are now required to possess and use a variety of literacy competencies that span across various academic disciplines. Individuals’ literacies are thus multiple, dynamic, adaptable, and multidimensional. Due to the significance of these literacies on identity formation, researchers, including novice university students, explore literacies to improve knowledge transmission at every stage of individuals’ lives.

Instructor: Michael Schandorf

Sections: 923, 942

The idea of competition is so fundamental to Western culture that we often take it for granted as a natural good. Nearly every aspect of our lives involves competition: we compete in school and for jobs, we compete both socially and at work, we compete in games for fun, and when we’re not competing ourselves we spend much of our time enjoying watching others compete. But our obsession with competition has complications. For example, a world divided into winners and losers is an inherently inequitable world: there will always be more “losers” than “winners”. Competition also has interesting relationships with our need for social cohesion. Attempting to disentangle cooperation from competition, in fact, can undermine both: a lack of either can lead to unproductive stasis, and worse, but a complete integration of cooperation and competition can lead to us-versus-them thinking and even war (which American rhetorical scholar Kenneth Burke called “the ultimate disease of cooperation”). This seminar will explore some of the ways that competition has been investigated in recent scholarship, and students will design and produce a research project of their own contributing to that scholarly conversation.

Instructor: Rebecca Carruthers den Hoed

Sections: 912, 924, 933

Together, we will explore the idea of resilience and how it is conceptualized and measured in different academic disciplines (engineering, economics, ecology, psychology). While resilience has been studied by scholars for centuries (the word can be traced back to the work of Francis Bacon in the 17th century), it has become especially popular since the mid-20th century, when the concept was used to study the behaviour of different complex systems: e.g., ecosystems, technical systems, cities, communities, developing human minds. While definitions vary, the term resilience generally refers to a complex system’s ability to bounce back to normal after a disaster or disruption, or a complex system’s ability to bounce forward to some ‘new normal.’ In either case, resilience is often (but not always) considered a good thing: a desirable quality, process, or goal that helps humans recover quickly and adapt productively after a shock or trauma— like a flood, hurricane, drought, power failure, financial crisis, disease outbreak, violent assault, forced relocation, terrorist attack, or even colonization, systematic oppression, symbolic violence. In response to readings, lectures, and class discussion, students will reflect on what it means to survive and thrive in the face of adversity and develop a research project that contributes to current scholarly conversations about resilience.

Instructor: Jennifer Gagnon

Sections: 921, 932, 941

Section: 951
Taught online - details on the bottom of the web page.

Science is often conceptualized as authoritative, objective, and value neutral. However, deeper study reveals that science is heavily influenced by social constructions of gender, race, and sexual identity. Indeed, recent studies on the cultures of science have revealed that gender and race are “invisible” or “hidden” variables more often than you might think. Furthermore, the contributions of women, racialized, and LGBTQ2SIA+ scientists to some of the biggest scientific breakthroughs has often been obscured or erased. As scientists, we will examine gender, race, and sexuality as biosocial constructs and explore their roles in scientific discourse and debates on biology, culture, nature, society, and human diversity.

This course will be organized around the broad theme of Science, Gender, and Race. We will use a multi-modal approach blending lecture and discussions that will involve students in working collaboratively on science writing, presentations, posters, visuals, graphics, and other ways to communicate scientific research to a variety of academic and non-academic audiences. In pursuit of becoming better science writers who can shape material effectively for broad communication, students will pursue research projects on the theme of gender, race, and science, and will present their findings at a class-wide presentation to their peers. As the final project for the course, this presentation will provide the opportunity for students to combine their increasingly sophisticated skills as science writers and critical thinkers to communicate their group’s findings in a variety of modes including written reports, research analysis, responding to questions, and even the visual presentation of research.

 Online Course Schedule – Term 2

The WRDS 150B sections below will be taught online.  Classes will include a combination of synchronous (live) and asynchronous activities (such as watching recorded lectures, posting to discussion boards, or completing quizzes).  Attendance to online classes are required as per the instructors’ directions.

Course Topic Instructor Section Days Times
Globalization, Identity, and Literacy for the 21st Century Nazih El-Bezre 901 T/TH 8:00-9:30AM
Literary Landscapes Susan Blake 801 T/Th 8:00-9:30AM
New Media and Society Meredith Beales 891 W 6:00-9:00PM
Science, Gender, and Race Jennifer Gagnon 951 T 6:00-9:00PM
The City Connor Byrne 811 MWF 9:00-10:00AM


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