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 2023 Winter Session Term 2.

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

MWF, M & W – Scheduling Patterns and Course Descriptions

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

Instructor: Kimberly Richards

Sections: 871, 881

Available Times:  3:00, 4:00- MWF

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: Rohan Karpe

Sections:  810

Available Times:  8:00 - MWF

In this WRDS 150 section we explore behaviours, norms, and behavioural change.

How do various disciplinary researchers study behaviours, norms, and behavioural change. What research writing practices do they engage in to communicate their findings about behaviours, norms, and behavioural change? Using peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles, writing exercises, discussions, and critical feedback on writing assignments, you will be able to construct your own text-based research proposal and research paper on a behaviour, norm that you’re keen to study. Your paper will assist keen readers to change their understanding of your chosen topic.

Instructor: Dennis Foung

Sections:  821, 841, 851

Available Times:  10:00, 12:00, 1:00 - MWF

“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: Andrew Connolly

Sections:  861, 872, 891

Available Times: 2:00 - in person, 3:00 - in person, - MWF, 6:00 - W - online

“I don’t believe it.” That was Donald Trump’s response to a report on climate change prepared by more than 300 leading climate scientists. Trump is hardly the only person in the contemporary world to reject scientific findings. People dismiss evolution, the health benefits of vaccines, even that the earth is a sphere. This rejection of science can seem perplexing, especially for those who understand the rigorous process of producing scientific knowledge and theories. So why is it that some people simply do not believe in science?

This course looks at the ways scholars from various departments seek to answer that question. Some of the scholars develop wide ranging theories about why people believe what they believe. Others focus on specific people and the complexity of their belief systems. Some scholars even raise their own doubts about science and scientific methods. The differences in the approaches each scholar takes to this question sometimes relates to the discipline they are from. These scholars come from Political Science, Sociology, Philosophy, and English departments. Each of these disciplines has its own methods and conventions. In other words, a particular discipline influences what scholars ask questions about, how they phrase the questions, how they answer the questions, and how they present their findings. As a result, this course will not only introduce you to the academic study of science, politics, and belief. It will also introduce you to the various disciplinary approaches to research and writing.

Instructor: Nazih El-Bezre

Sections:  832, 842

Available Times:  11:00, 12:00 - MWF

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: Laila Ferreira

Sections: 824, 831,

Available Times:  10:00, 11:00 - 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: Susan Blake

Sections: 801, 811, 833

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

Full title: Literary 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: Adrian Lou

Sections:  812, 822

Available Times:  9:00, 10:00 - MWF

Traditionally, metaphor has been understood as a stylistic device that poetically decorates language. Metaphorical expressions (e.g. my love is a rose) are thus thought to be statements that do not reside in the realm of everyday speech. However, contemporary research in cognitive linguistics has shown that many conventional expressions are inescapably metaphorical. Consider, for instance, how we rely on metaphors to talk about abstract concepts, such as love (e.g. you’re breaking my heart), illness (e.g. the patients are battling cancer), and time (e.g. we’re running out of time). In this course, we will read academic articles that evaluate the use of metaphors in biology, healthcare, psychology, Indigenous studies and politics in order to have a better understanding of how metaphors shape the way we think about the world around us. Ultimately, students in WRDS 150 will learn how to read academic papers in a critical way, identify the rhetorical strategies used in academic writing, and write an original research paper that draws upon ideas and concepts from the course.

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

Instructor: Rohan Karpe

Sections: 933

Available Times:  2:00 - T/R

In this WRDS 150 section we explore behaviours, norms, and behavioural change.

How do various disciplinary researchers study behaviours, norms, and behavioural change. What research writing practices do they engage in to communicate their findings about behaviours, norms, and behavioural change? Using peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles, writing exercises, discussions, and critical feedback on writing assignments, you will be able to construct your own text-based research proposal and research paper on a behaviour, norm that you’re keen to study. Your paper will assist keen readers to change their understanding of your chosen topic.

Instructor: Tom Andrews

Sections: 901, 911, 922

Available Times:  8:00, 9:30, 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: Mi-Young Kim

Sections: 806, 807, 808, 809

Available Times:  11:00, 12:30, 2:30, 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: Michael Schandorf

Sections:  912, 921, 931

Available Times:  9:30, 11:00, 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: Rebecca Carruthers den Hoed

Sections: 933

Available Times:  2:00 - T/R

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: Krista Sigurdson

Sections: 923

Available Times: 11:00 - T/R - online:  

In this WRDS 150B course we deconstruct our scientific and lived understandings of gender/sex and race as categories of difference. Through reading historical, philosophical, sociological and scientific research, we examine two facets of race and gender/sex as well as their interplay. First, we look at sex/gender and race as ways human bodies and behaviors have been organized, thereby informing us of historical origins of racism and sexism. Second, we look at these categories as used today to explain health or other inequities or to demarcate identity, belonging or exclusion. We will draw on Science and Technology Studies to guide our work and will take up examples in Indigenous science, medicine/health sciences, sport, psychology, economics and other areas of everyday life to unpack our very understandings of gender/sex and race. Throughout we will consider how scholars in a variety of disciplines study and write about gender/sex and race. What questions do they ask and what methods do they use? We will learn about a variety of conventions around knowledge making and rhetorical/discursive moves, including what conventions it makes sense for you to take with you into your scholarly work. No prior knowledge of gender/sex, race and science is expected other than a curiosity and willingness to learn and engage.

Instructor: Sang Wu

Sections: 941

Available Times: 3:30 - T/R - online:  

This course introduces students to academic reading and writing through analysis of scholarly discourses in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. We will focus our investigation on climate change and other global crises, and issues of responsibility concerning them, in the era 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: Jennifer Gagnon

Sections: 932, 951

Available Times: 2:00 - T/Th, 7:00 - R - 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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