PPS 333 (Fall 2012)/INTC 205 (Winter 2013)

Life in The Megacity: Urban Communication and Policy

Levan 404

Mondays 6pm-9:15pm


Dr. Hugh Bartling

Public Policy Studies

Office: 990 Fullerton, Office 137 LL

Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays 8:30am-9:30am, 11:30am-12:30pm, and by appointment

Phone: (773) 325-4960

e-mail: hbartlin@depaul.edu




Dr. Daniel Makagon

College of Communication                                                                 

Office: 14 E Jackson, #1828   (temporary SAC 597)             

Office Hours: M 4:30-5:30 and by appointment

Phone: (312) 362-7979                                              

e-mail: dmakagon@depaul.edu




Course Description and Objectives


Mexico City is the fourth largest megacity in the world. With a population of 23 million and an annual population growth of 2%, this city provides an excellent location for students to study urban public policy, communication, and the culture of everyday life. The program focuses on three overlapping sites of analysis.  First, students learn about the intense urban growth Mexico City has experienced over the past several decades and the ways that official urban planning efforts by federal and local officials in Mexico City have addressed the social, environmental, and infrastructural challenges that accompany a massive increase in population. Second, students study neighborhoods that have developed reputations as bohemian enclaves and subsequently experienced gentrification. Finally, field studies provide students with opportunities to learn about formal and informal spaces of leisure and popular culture. The group visits outdoor marketplaces in a variety of neighborhoods, alternative musical cultural centers, media outlets, and public squares and stadiums that serve as sites of national identity and local pride.


Taken together these studies will allow students to gain a better understanding of the unique historical and contemporary urban life in Mexico City but also to consider how this megacity provides a site of analysis that simultaneously converges with and diverges from cities in the US (esp. Chicago). Moreover, coursework in Chicago and field studies in Mexico City will ask students to consider how the Americas as a geographical space and a psychogeographical formation continue to wrestle with various forms of stability and change.


The course will use a variety of urban communication and policy issues to frame the study of and experience in the city. The DePaul campus courses will use in-class discussion and readings about urban communication, urban public policy, and life in Mexico City along with local field studies in Chicago to help frame our time in Mexico City.


Students may earn Self, Society and Modern World (PPS 333) and Junior Year Experiential (INTC 205) Learning domain credit on this program.




Required Texts


All course readings are accessible via a password protected Web site. You are required to print each day’s reading and bring the article with you to class.






Course Assignments


Autumn 2012


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


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


Mid-term Paper (2 X 3-4 pages)         30%                 ____(pts.) X .30 = ______


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


                                                                                    Final Grade= ____________



Winter 2013


Participation                                                                                        20%     ____(pts.) X .20 = ______


Daily Field Notes/Journal Entries/Reflection in Mexico City              30%     ____(pts.) X .30 = ______


Final Project                                                                                        50%     ____(pts.) X .50 = ______



                                                                                                            Final Grade= ____________


You are required to complete the reading assignments before you attend class. This will lead to more fruitful discussion.


Reading Quizzes


Weekly reading quizzes will be short answer and will allow us to gauge how well you understand the arguments made in the readings. Unlike your papers and class discussion, where we are interested in your opinions about the issues and the strength of the writer's argument(s), the quizzes are designed for you to state the author's argument only. In other words, we are not striving to understand what you think about the issues; rather, we are interested in how well you understand the construction of the author's argument. If we do not understand what s/he's saying then our critique of her/his work will not be properly grounded. Possible points for each quiz question will be listed after the question (usually 10 or 20 points per question and usually 1-3 questions per quiz). Answers will be graded based on your ability to clearly summarize the author's argument(s) and use examples from the reading to support your answer(s).


Mid-term Paper


This assignment asks you to write an analysis of 2-3 key policy and 2-3 communication issues, concepts, and themes raised in the first half of this class. You will write 2 short papers (3-4 pages each); one paper about urban public policy and one paper about urban communication. The objective of this assignment is to create a theoretical context whereby you can assess and take stock of what you have learned about urban public policy and urban communication prior to turning our attention to more specific analyses of life in Mexico.


In general, you should develop a thesis for each paper that identifies important issues pertaining to urban life, as raised in course materials. 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 policy and communication lens helps you understand the issues better. Our reading quizzes will provide a context for assessing your understanding of each article, whereas the mid-term creates a context where you put those readings together to map out a broader sense of urban public policy and urban communication. (Note: You are writing 2 short papers. Each professor will read the paper that connects to his area of teaching, so you shouldn’t treat each paper as part of a larger paper, whereby you reference some larger themes that cut across the two areas. We hope that you will see connections between urban public policy and urban communication, but you will want to save an explicit analysis of those connections for your final paper.) An email copy of this paper is due at 6:00PM on October 8th.   Email your policy paper to Dr. Bartling and your communication paper to Dr. Makagon.  Please send papers in a .doc or .docx format only.




Using the theories, concepts, and issues of urban public policy and urban communication presented in the first half of class via course readings, discussions, and lecture materials, your final paper should explore media reports of some key issues in Mexico City. Use databases like LexisNexis Academic Universe; on-line sources for reputable newspapers, magazines, alternative weeklies, and blogs; and print editions or reputable periodicals, academic journals, and book chapters to identify issues and themes. We do not want to prescribe a specific topic or series of topics for this paper; rather, we want you to identify those issues, sites, cultural activities in Mexico City that interest you. These papers will allow you to develop a deeper understanding of contemporary and historical life in Mexico City that will connect a theoretical understanding of communication and public policy to the field studies we will do in Mexico, ideally informing questions you will ask of our guides in Mexico and also how you read the city and our experiences there. Again, you should identify a topic of series of connected topics that most interest you, but we expect that each paper will feature (A) an introduction that sets up the paper and narrows to a thesis, (B) a review of relevant literature and theory that helps frame your reading of the issue(s), (C) analysis of the issues (which would include both summary of what is happening broadly speaking; some socio-cultural, political, or economic context for the issue; and some assessment of the issue in terms of why it is important, exciting, problematic, etc.). This paper is due by 6:00PM on November 19th via email to both professors.  Please send papers in a .doc or .docx format only.




All papers must be typed, paginated, double-spaced throughout the entire essay, and use a consistent style (e.g., Chicago, MLA, or APA). See the syllabus addendum (available in the folder that contains pdfs for this class) for a description of 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, 773-325-427 and in the Loop at 312-362-6726. wcenter@depaul.edu.


Winter 2013 Assignments


Journals: All students will type journal entries in Mexico City to record field notes, and to reflect on our field studies there. You might begin with a brief description of what we did/with whom we met but then follow the description with analyses that support claims of value (something is good/bad, right/wrong, moral/immoral, beautiful/ugly from an aesthetic standpoint). In short, these journals should do more than simply state what happened but instead provide overviews of why our studies in Mexico matter. Write a journal entry for each day we have a field study. If we have multiple field studies in a single day, which will likely happen regularly, you might consider the ways in which those studies work together to help you learn about life in this megacity. You do not need to write journal entries for days that we do not have field studies (i.e., your free days). We encourage you to keep a notebook with your in Mexico and to jot observations, important issues discussed with our guides in Mexico, and anything else that you think is important; however, the entries you submit for a grade will follow standard writing practices for this class (typed, double-spaced, etc.). These journals are due by email to both professors by 10PM on December 21.


Final Projects/papers: Each student will develop a course project that will critically reflect on our time in Mexico City. These projects can take multiple forms (written work, audio documentary/radio reports, video documentary, photo essay, etc.) but should directly engage course materials from the first half of the class and your liberal studies education more generally. If you choose to submit a creative project, you would also submit a short 1-2 page paper that directly reflects on the course materials/Liberal Studies concepts that inspired your work. If you choose to submit a final paper, you will likely need to choose 2-3 issues that most resonated for you while we were in Mexico City and write a 4-6 page paper that reflects on those issues vis-ą-vis direct engagement with course materials from the Autumn term and a broader intellectual framework that featured in your liberal studies education. This isn't a research paper per se, but it is more than a random collection of thought about some issues. That is, the purpose of this paper is to reflect on what you learned from this trip. Also, think about other classes you have taken and some of the issues/readings from the Fall term that we did prior to going to Mexico. Although this Mexico City study abroad trip is part of a specific course, it also fulfils a JYEL requirement and thus fits within a nexus of you liberal studies requirements, public policy studies, and communication studies. Thus, you can certainly make connections among our time in Mexico and other issues you have studied at DePaul. This paper is due Friday, February 22, 2013 by 5:00 PM.



Course Policies


Promptness is expected as a general rule. If you are consistently late to class your grade will be negatively affected. Leaving before the class ends or arriving more than 10 minutes late is an absence.


Attendance and Active Participation are expected and required. You are allowed one excused absence (e.g., you have documentation about a medical illness/emergency, legal issue/civic responsibility, or are missing because of an official DePaul function). If you miss more than one class session, or your absence is unexcused, you will receive an “F’ in the class. Missing this many class sessions (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.


All assignments are due on assigned days and in class. There will be NO MAKE-UPS. Documented illness or documented emergencies are the only exception to this policy. Changes in work schedules, personal celebrations (e.g., birthdays), assignments due in other classes, car problems/EL congestion, etc. are NOT considered to be legitimate reasons for missing deadlines or class meetings. If you have an excused absence for a class session when you would turn in a paper or take a quiz then you can give me the paper on the next date you attend class and/or make up the quiz during the next class session. (Note: If you will be missing a class because of a religious holiday, let me know in writing at least two weeks before the holiday so we can make arrangements to make up missed work.)


Students with disabilities should provide documentation from the Office of Students with Disabilities and/or the PLUS Program.


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: We will regularly 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 our email addresses will pass through your spam filter.




We 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 us; coaches in the writing center; my handout on writing for the class; and DePaul’s policy on academic integrity, which can be found at http://academicintegrity.depaul.edu/). 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

(We do not assign incompletes)



Tentative Course Schedule




9/10                 Course Introduction   

                        Super Amigos Documentary


9/17                 Introduction to the Megacity – Social and Environmental Problems

                        Read: Timothy Gibson and Mark Lowes, “Introduction: The City as Production, Text, Context”

                        Read: Andre Sorensen and Junichiro Okata, “Introduction: Megacities, Urban Form, and Sustainability.”

                        Read: Peter Hall, “Megacities, World Cities and Global Cities.”


9/24                 Social Ecology of the Mexico Basin

                        Read: Exequiel Ezcurra, et. al. Ch. 2 “The Environmental History of the Basin,” from The Basin of Mexico: Critical Environmental Issues and Sustainability United Nations University Press (1999)

                        Read: Michael E. Smith, “City Planning: Aztec City Planning,” from Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures.

                        Read: Emily Wakild, “Naturalizing Modernity: Urban Parks, Public Gardens and Drainage Projects in Porfirian Mexico City,” Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanas Vol. 23, n. 1, Winter 2007

                        Read: Howard Platt, “Exploding Cities: Housing the Masses in Paris, Chicago, and Mexico City, 1850-2000," Journal of Urban History, Vol. 36(5), 2010.


10/1                 Urban Communication

Read: Simon Cottle, “Stigmatizing Handsworth: Notes on Reporting Spoiled Space”

Read: Daniel Makagon, “The Vibe”

Listen: Daniel Makagon (week 2 and week 3 podcasts: stream from D2L or download MP3 files that will be uploaded to embedupload)—not on quiz but will help with midterm


10/8                 Mid-term Due via Email


10/15               Environmental Policy Challenges in Mexico City

                                    Read: Patricia Romero Lankao, “Water in Mexico City: what will climate change bring to its history of water-related hazards and vulnerabilities,” Environment and Urbanization, Vol 22, n. 1, 2010.

                        Read: Maria Eugenia Ibarraran, “Climate's Long-term Impacts on Mexico City's Urban Infrastructure,” Global Report on Human Settlements, 2011.

                        Read: Alfonso Valenzuela-Aguilera, “Mexico City: Power, Equity and Sustainable Development,” in Sorensen and Okata, Megacities: Urban Form, Governance, and Sustainability.

Read: Cecilia Tortajada, “Challenges and Realities of Water Management of Megacities: The Case of Mexico City Metropolitan Area,” Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 61, n. 2, 2008.



10/22               Cultural Spaces in Mexico City

Read: Alma Guillermoprieto, “Garbage”


10/29               Final Paper Research Week—No Class


11/5                 Planning for Sustainability in Mexico City

Read: Ciudad de Mexico, “Plan Verde”

Read: Ciudad de Mexico, “Mexico City Climate Action Program”

Read: Urban Age, “Mexico City: Growth at the Limit?”

Listen: Podcast of speech by Mexico City Mayor Marcel Ebrard, “Mexico City: Inclusive Actions Towards Sustainability.”



11/12               Space, Place, and Communitas in Mexico

Read: Bernardo Jimenez-Dominguez, “Urban Appropriation and Loose Spaces in the Guadalajara Cityscape”

Read: Daniel Hernandez, “Guadalupe’s Test”