ISP 102

Explore Chicago: Underground Culture in Chicago

Autumn 2006


Dr. Daniel Makagon                                                               Student Leader: Sarissa Harris                       

Office: SAC 596                                                           

Office Hours: F 12:00-1:00 and by appointment

Phone: 773-325-7376                                                             Staff Assistant: Jen Weed


Course Objectives


Chicago, like other large cities, has been a magnet for artists, musicians, writers, and performers. Some of these people consider the city to be a site that will facilitate fame and fortune. Others view the city as an environment that fosters cultural production that is grounded in community building and social connection. The link between creativity and the city has been a central feature of urban political discourse in recent years, as governors, mayors, and city council members have worked to lure creative people to their states and cities. In an effort to understand better how creative cultural production is central to Chicago (spatially and symbolically), this course will focus on contemporary forms of underground (or bohemian) culture in Chicago. We will explore the ways in which various underground cultural practices function as both important sources of local identity and an opportunity to put Chicago on a larger creative map. Students will study a range of underground cultural practices in Chicago (e.g., alternative rock, punk, rap, and techno music production and night clubs), alternative media outlets (e.g., radio stations and fanzines), and public art (e.g., graffiti and murals). Additionally, we will investigate how underground cultural producers develop relationships with city officials or resist official forms of support (and in some cases, co-optation). The course will ultimately introduce students to a variety of theoretical issues about urban life, communication and culture, city politics, and community as well as the aesthetic and business practices of people who are involved with such issues vis-a-vis the production of culture in Chicago.


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


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


Reading Quizzes                                 20%                 ____(pts.) X .20 = ______


Spirit of the Place Paper                      35%                 ____(pts.) X .35 = ______


Zine Contribution/Presentation            35%                 ____(pts.) X .35 = ______


                                                                                    Final Grade= ____________



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


Spirit of the Place Paper


This assignment emphasizes building an interpretation from looking and listening. Your goal is to document in 3-5 pages a place where underground culture is thriving. You will attend and assess a local underground cultural site (e.g., a club, gallery, social space) and analyze the cultural practices that take shape in that place. In general, you should discuss what happens there, the kind of people who gather there, the level of participation among the spectators, and then assess the site. You can work with a partner on the research, although you would each write your own papers. A full description of the assignment is available in the folder that contains pdfs for this class.


Zine Contribution and Presentation


For this group assignment you will contribute to a course e-zine. Your contribution will take the form of an essay but might also include other materials (e.g., photographs, drawings, copies of flyers, poetry, and other creative expressions). Our zine will cover contemporary (and historical) underground culture in Chicago. We will discuss topic options in the fifth week. A full description of this assignment is available in the folder that contains pdfs for this class.


Reading Quizzes


Quizzes will feature a mix of short answer and multiple-choice (in-class) and reading response essay (take-home) questions. The 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 state the author's argument only. In other words, I am not striving to understand what you think about the issues; rather, I am 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 for short answer 2-5 points per question for multiple choice). 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).


Course Policies


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


Attendance and Active Participation are expected and required. If you miss more than two class sessions (which is the equivalent of 2 weeks of classes), you will receive an "F" in the class (even if the absences are excused). Missing this many class sessions (more than 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, etc. are NOT considered to be legitimate reasons for missing 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. (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 me with documentation from the Office of Students with Disabilities.


If you have a cellular phone, turn it off during class sessions. Plagiarism will be discussed below but for now you should note that all cell phones must be put away during quizzes and you should not be sending or reading text messages during class sessions.


You must make sure your preferred email address listed in Campus Connect is correct and make sure emails from me will pass through any spam blockers. I will only send email to you from


Written Assignment Requirements


All papers should be typed, double-spaced throughout the entire essay, and use a consistent style (e.g., MLA, APA, etc.). Use one-inch margins and 12-point font. Do not send me electronic copies of your work. 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.


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




I have often found that plagiarism becomes tempting if students are feeling pressured. Remember, when in doubt quote. If you are quoting somebody directly 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


A 94-100         B+ 87-89        C+ 77-79        D+ 67-69        F 59 and below

A- 90-93          B 83-86           C   73-76         D 63-66

B- 80-82          C-  70-72         D- 60-62