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 2024 Winter Session Term 2.

Sections are scheduled in the following patterns.
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays – MWF
Mondays, Wednesdays – MW
Tuesdays, Thursdays, – T/R
Tuesdays — T
Thursdays — R


MWF & MW – Scheduling Patterns and Course Descriptions

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

Instructor:  Tara Lee

Sections: 810, 812, 832, 842

Available Times:   8:00, 9:00, 11:00, 12:00 - MWF

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: Mi-Young Kim

Sections: 806, 808, 809

Available Times:  11:00, 2:00, 4:00 - MW

The world is full of friction (conflicts); some argue it is the constructive force that prompts ideas and innovation while others warn that it is a destructive force producing fear and conflict. Media, particularly social media which has been an indispensable part of people’s lives, reflects or generates friction in our society and is often criticized for being a brewing ground for misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.

This section of WRDS150B will introduce a selection of unabridged, peer-reviewed scholarly articles and discussions on “friction” with the subtopics such as inclusive societies, gun control, vaccination, neoliberalism, GMO food, climate change, and ChatGPT/AI/robots. We will observe how scholars from various disciplines such as environmental sciences, natural sciences, media studies, business, and political science construct knowledge on these topics: e.g., what questions they ask and how they phrase their inquiry as well as why they choose to use a certain methodology for their inquiry and how it may affect the way their inquiry is answered. Along with exploring various research genres and methods, types of data, and writing practices, we will investigate how different types of knowledge are produced and friction aggravated by media can generate.

We will also become familiar with the conventions of academic writing and the basic premise of research through the individual and collaborative writing assignments and activities, as well as participate in scholarly conversations through our own research on the topic of friction and the role of media.

Instructor: Laila Ferreira

Sections: 811, 821, 841

Available Times:  9:00, 10:00, 12:00 - MWF

This section of WRDS 150B will take as its focus the concept of Inclusive Design. We explore how inclusive design is defined, what it involves and how it impacts the work that scholars do in Science, Math, Engineering, and Computer Science. Throughout the term, we will evaluate the scholarly research and writing practices of STEM fields through academic articles about the application of inclusive design principles to a range of topics and design projects. Students will have the opportunity to produce research and research writing that explores current knowledge about inclusive design well as the future possibilities of inclusive design in STEM.

Instructor: Rebecca Carruthers den Hoed

Sections:  805, 807

Available Times:  9:30, 12:30 - MW

Together, we will explore the idea of resilience and how it is defined and measured in different academic disciplines (e.g., engineering, psychology, ecology). 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 in research that focuses on the behaviour of complex systems: e.g., ecosystems, social systems, technical systems. While definitions vary, the term ‘resilience’ can refer to a complex system’s ability to bounce back to ‘normal’ — or bounce forward to some ‘new normal’ — after an expected disaster or disruption. For this reason, the study of resilience is sometimes called the “science of surprise.” How can cities and buildings be designed to help people ‘bounce back’ quickly after a sudden heat wave? How can elite athletes learn to ‘bounce back’ after a poor performance and ‘bounce forward’ to improve their performance next time? What makes some species more likely to survive and even thrive after a wildfire? Resilience is often (but not always) considered a good thing: a desirable quality, process, or goal that helps a system recover quickly and adapt positively after a shock or trauma— like a flood, hurricane, drought, power failure, financial crisis, disease outbreak, forced relocation, or even colonization, systematic oppression, symbolic violence. In response to readings, lectures, and class discussion, students will develop a research project of their own that focuses on ‘state of the art’ resilience research and that contributes to current scholarship about resilience.

Instructor: Katja Thieme

Sections: 822

Available Times: 10:00 - MWF

This section of WRDS 150 is specifically designed for students who are studying in a faculty other than Arts at UBC. To help us focus our investigation into how different disciplines write and communicate, we will investigate how the concept of surveillance is developed and used in areas such as health studies, media studies, and ethics in science and engineering. Surveillance has become a research issue of practical concern (e.g., with what surveillance tools can global spread of diseases be effectively observed and controlled?), as well as of ethical questions (e.g., what should the ethics be for using drones in applied science work?). Looking at examples of how these questions have been discussed in research writing, this course will help you identify and use different research methods, types of data and evidence, and elements of style in research writing.

Instructor: Mary Ann Saunders

Sections: 871, 881

Available Times: 3:00, 4:00 - MWF

In WRDS 150, our course focus will be the multidisciplinary research field of transgender studies. A fundamental premise of trans studies is that ethical research about trans lives and experiences must be attentive to and prioritize the knowledge which trans people have about themselves. This, then, is also the stance we adopt in WRDS 150, understanding trans lives as legitimate and valuable, and trans people as the experts on their own experience. We will examine trans studies research from several academic disciplines to develop an understanding of how different disciplines construct knowledge in ways unique to each. Throughout the term, you will use the knowledge and skills you gain to develop your own transgender studies research and writing project. What do trans people say about their lives and experiences? How can you, as apprentice researchers, ethically translate that lived experience into research scholarship of your own?

Instructor: Laura Baumvol

Sections: 831, 851, 861

Available Times: 11:00, 1:00, 2:00 - MWF

In this section of WRDS 150, we will focus on how various disciplines, such as environmental sciences, health sciences, natural sciences, and computer science investigate and write about the communication of scholarly knowledge. This communication can involve the knowledge popularization 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 (e.g., mass media, news media, magazines, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, Q&A websites, etc.). Considering advancements over time in the relationship between scholarly knowledge and discourse and “popular talk”, the traditional deficit model of science communication involving the  “hierarchical transmission” from experts to a passive audience has been replaced by a model that includes a two-way interaction between the academic community and non-specialist audiences. This contemporary and democratic view of knowledge popularization allows for a reflective and dialogic communication between science and society and promotes empowerment, inclusion, and participation through the public engagement with science, working as a strategic alternative for social, educational, cultural, and economic development. 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.

T/R, T & R– Scheduling Patterns and Course Descriptions

Instructor: Jaclyn Rea

Sections: 922, 932, 941

Available Times:  11:00, 2:00, 3:30 - T/R - online

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 150B, we will focus on the commonplace but nonetheless complex phenomenon of humour from several disciplinary perspectives, including computer science, environmental communication, and neuroscience.

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 those in the field of science communication say about humour’s role in messages to the public about climate change and sustainability? What might neuroscientist say about humour types and brain response? What might researchers in computer say about the social functions of humour, particularly as these relate to improvements in and/or perceptions of human-computer interaction (HCI) or humour’s use in AI more generally? 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 scholarly writing?

Instructor: Dennis Foung

Sections:  971

Available Times:  7:00 –R - online

“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: Tom Andrews

Sections: 901, 923

Available Times:  8:00, 11:00 - T/R

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: Nazih El-Bezre

Sections:  902, 911, 921, 931

Available Times:  8:00, 9:30, 11:00, 2:00 – T/R

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:  912, 933

Available Times:  9:30, 2:00 - T/R

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: Jennifer Gagnon

Sections: 961

Available Times: 7:00 - T - online

Video games are neither “just for kids,” nor simple escapist entertainment. Indeed, video games are fast becoming one of the most profitable and innovative forms of creative and artistic expression today. Deeper study reveals that video games as a genre are heavily influenced by social and political understandings of ability, gender, race, sexuality, and identity. Issues related to diversity and inclusion such as who gets to play, whose stories are told, and who is represented, have taken centre stage in recent explorations of the future of gaming at the intersections of fun, profit, and politics. While video games let the player be in control, not everyone’s stories are represented. The theme of this course will explore how aspects of identity such as gender, race, ability, and sexuality, influence the ways that we experience and respond to the genre of video games as a media making and political practice.

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