CMNS 308

The City at Night

Summer 2010


Dr. Daniel Makagon                                                              

Office Hours: Tuesday/Thursday 9:00-9:30PM and by appointment                     

Phone: (312) 362-7979


home page:                    


Course Description and Objectives


"In my head there's a city at night/Static gauge with the rush and the lights," sings Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade in "Soldier's Grin." The lyrics capture the city's psychogeographical energy, the combination of excitement, fear, and hope that plays out in the streets at night. It also reflects the transformation of the city's look and feel once the sun sets.


The city is often discussed in public discourse in terms of divisions (e.g., wealthy neighborhoods/ghettos and commercial spaces/residential places) but one of the most powerful dualisms is day and night. Not only do the rhythms of the city change with the shift from day to night but also the representational power of light versus dark infuses our sense of who moves through the city at nighttime. Although most courses about urban life feature some discussion of the night, the scheduling of these classes prohibits a consistent first-hand collective experience and analysis of the city at night. This class seeks to provide students with an opportunity to study urban communication and culture in the context of the night. We will pay special attention to relationships between the ways in which people experience the city at night and the representations of those experiences through mass media, public discourse, and everyday talk.


There are two central objectives for this course: (1) to understand and use a variety of fieldwork methods to help us learn about the unique cultural practices that take shape in the city at night and (2) to further develop a critical understanding of urban communication and culture through course readings and experiential learning.


Required Texts


All course readings are available on-line. Download and print the files from: 


Recommended: Haruki Murakami, After Dark and Sukhdev Sandhu, Night Haunts


Course Assignments


Class Participation                               10%                 ____(pts.) X .10 = ______


Mid-term Paper (4-6 pages)                30%                 ____(pts.) X .30 = ______


Reading Quizzes                                 30%                 ____(pts.) X .30 = ______


Final Paper (4-6 pages)                       30%                 ____(pts.) X .30 = ______



                                                                                    Final Grade= ____________



You are required to complete the reading assignments before you attend class. This will lead to more fruitful discussion and help frame course field studies.


Reading Quizzes


Quizzes will allow me to gauge how well you understand the arguments made in the readings. Unlike your papers and class discussion, where I am interested in your opinions about the issues and the strength of the writer's argument(s), the quizzes are designed for you to demonstrate your understanding of the course readings. We will take a quiz at the beginning of our Tuesday class sessions. Reading quizzes will cover assigned materials for that Tuesday and the previous Thursday.



Mid-term Paper


This assignment asks you to write an analysis of some key issues raised in course readings during the first half of the class (likely 2-3 issues given the paper length). The objective of this paper is to assess the ways in which communication allows us to more fully understand the city at night. In general, you should develop a thesis that identifies important issues pertaining to the city at night as raised in course readings. The body of your paper should (A) describe the issues, (B) flesh out the reasons why those issues are important, and (C) discuss how viewing those issues through a communication lens helps us understand the issues better. Some 30-minute podcasts containing lectures about urban communication will be uploaded to help frame the communicative features of urban life. This Mid-term paper is due in hardcopy on August 5th by 9:30PM.



This assignment asks you to write an analysis of the city at night based on the work you've been doing throughout the term. The objective of this paper is to assess course readings and class excursions with regard to issues of urban communication and culture. What conclusions have you drawn about the unique symbolic, material, and psychogeographical features and experiences of the city at night? In general, you should develop a thesis that considers these questions: (A) "What are the lessons I've learned this term?" (B) "What do these lessons tell me about urban communication and culture?" and (C) "How is the city different at night?"


You want to do more than catalogue what we did or if you liked/disliked a particular field study or multiple field studies when writing about our fieldwork; rather, your final paper should critically examine the sites of study, the people who guided us, and the broader meanings of the cultural practices that were central to these spaces and these people. Focus on the meaning of the places and the practices relative to the night and critically examine the problems and/or possibilities of such activities in the city.


This paper also requires you to do more than provide a description of your experiences. You need to reflect on the experience of studying the city (how it felt; what you gained from it; what problems you faced; what you learned about the city, the people who work at night, and the problems people face at this time) and write an essay that establishes a claim about the relationship between urban communication and the city at night. As with your mid-term, Reading Response papers can help you in terms of describing issues, but this paper must be more than pasted entries from your reading response papers. The Final paper is due via email (or in hardcopy with a SASE if you want written feedback) on August 19th at 6:30PM.


All papers must be typed, paginated, double-spaced throughout the entire essay, and use a consistent style (e.g., Chicago, MLA, or APA). Use one-inch margins and 12-point font. Do not send me electronic copies of your work unless requested. See the syllabus addendum (available in the folder that contains pdfs for this class) for a description of my grading policies and expectations as well as further details on written assignments.


Contact or visit the Writing Center for assistance with your writing: Lincoln Park at 802 W. Belden, 150 McGaw Hall, 773-325-4272. The Loop at 25 E. Jackson, 1620 Lewis Center, 312-362-6726.


Course Policies


Attendance and Active Participation are expected and required. Participation grades are factored by considering how often you participate in class discussion (both in the class and in the field) and how that discussion advances our overall learning (i.e., I will consider how your questions help us understand difficult reading passages, how your contributions further discussion rather than hinder discussion, how your comments foster lively debate, how your participation grows from an engagement with the reading and urban experience rather than functioning to advance an autobiographical tale only). In short, I assess participation based on quantity and quality.


Promptness is expected as a general rule. If you are consistently late to class, your grade will be negatively affected.


You are allowed one excused absence in this class (i.e., you have documentation about a medical illness, family emergency, legal issue/civic responsibility, or are missing because of an official DePaul function). If you miss more than one class session with excused absences or if you miss class with an unexcused absence, you will receive an "F' in the class (even if the absences are excused). Missing more than one class session (20% of the term) undermines the integrity of the classroom experience. If you miss this much class because of illness or a family emergency, you should meet with the Dean of Students to discuss withdrawal options. Leaving before the class ends or arriving more than 10 minutes late is an absence.


All assignments are due on assigned days. There will be NO MAKE UPS. Documented illnesses or documented emergencies are the only exception to this policy. Changes in work schedules, personal celebrations (e.g., birthdays), or vacations are NOT considered to be legitimate reasons for missing assignment deadlines or class meetings. If you miss a quiz and have documentation for your absence then you will take the quiz on the next date you attend class. Similarly, if you have an excused absence for a class session when you would turn in a paper then you can give me the paper on the next date you attend class.


Students with disabilities should provide me with documentation from the Office of Students with Disabilities.


Cellular Phones: If you have a cellular phone or pager, turn it off or set it to vibrate, and keep it in your backpack or purse. All cell phones must be put away during the class session. I will confiscate cellular phones for the remainder of the class session if you are sending or reading text messages or using your phone to check email/surf the Internet.


E-mail: I often send e-mail announcements to the class. You need to (1) make sure your preferred email address in Campus Connect is the address you check regularly so messages do not bounce back and (2) make sure my email address will pass through your spam filter.




I have often found that plagiarism becomes tempting if students are feeling pressured. Remember, when in doubt quote. If you are quoting someone else in your presentation, you need to clearly identify the information as a quote and the source. Similarly, when paraphrasing, you should clearly identify your source. If you are quoting somebody directly in your paper then you need to list the information within quotation marks and cite a page number. If you are paraphrasing then you need to cite the person and a page number. Never copy and paste entire documents into your paper and do not quote others to the point where your ideas become indistinguishable from your source's ideas. There is no reason to plagiarize given the resources available to you (e.g., opportunities to meet with me; coaches in the writing center; my handout on writing for the class; and DePaul's policy on academic integrity, which can be found at If you do plagiarize, you will automatically receive a grade of "F" in this class. Moreover, the Academic Affairs office will be contacted.


Grade Scale


93-100 A, 90-92 A-, 88-89 B+, 83-87 B, 80-82 B-, 78-79 C+, 73-77 C, 70-72 C-, 60-69 D, 0-59 F






Tentative Course Schedule


Please note that this is a very tentative course schedule. I will always send an email with schedule changes, but you should always check the on-line course schedule for updated reading assignments and field studies.



July 20                         Course Introduction

                                    Field Studies with Guardian Angels


July 22                        Reading: Murray Melbin, "Night as Frontier"

                                    Print Sleep Diary

                                    Field Study: Understanding Fieldwork at Night


July 27                         Reading: Sukhdev Sandhu, Night Haunts excerpts (2 files)

                                    Field Studies with CTA


July 29                        Reading Seth Kugel, "Children of the Night"

                                    Bring Completed Sleep Diary

                                    Field Study: Sleep Studies and Disorders with Dr. Kelly Baron


August 3                     Mid-term work day


August 5                      Mid-term

                                    Reading: Jeff Ferrell, Empire of Scrounge (excerpts)

                                    Field Study: Dumpster Diving


August 10                   Reading: Daniel Makagon, "The Vibe"

                                    Urban Public Performance Field Studies with Dr. Dustin Goltz


August 12                   Reading: Mitchell Duneier, "When You Gotta Go" (Sidewalk excerpt)

                                    Field Studies with Night Ministry bring food (signup sheet in class)


August 17                    Reading: Bill Buford, "Lions and Tigers and Bears"

                                    Field Study: TBA


August 19                  Final Papers Due via email (or in hardcopy with a SASE if you want written feedback) by 6:30PM