ISP 102

Explore Chicago: Underground Culture in Chicago

Autumn 2007


Dr. Daniel Makagon                                                                                              Student Leader: Kayde Claunch            

Office: SAC 596                                                                                             

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

Phone: 773-325-7376                                                                                            Staff Assistant: Annette Janik


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--vis the production of culture in Chicago.


Chicago Quarter Learning Goals:


1. Involve experiential learning through participation, direct observation, personal discovery, and reflection.


2. Develop students' writing and rhetorical skills through classroom exercises and projects.


3. Promote Vincentian values of community service and respect for diversity.


4. Acquaint students with the Chicago Metropolitan area, its neighborhoods, cultures, people, institutions, organizations, or issues.


5. Introduce students to group-based learning, what it means to be a life-long learner, and the enjoyment of learning.


Required Texts


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

Course Assignments


Common Hour                                                      10%                         ____(pts.) X .10 = ______


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


Underground Spaces Paper                                  35%                         ____(pts.) X .35 = ______


Zine Contribution/Final                                       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.

Underground Cultural Spaces Paper


This assignment emphasizes building an interpretation from looking and listening. Your goal is to document 3 places where underground culture is thriving. You will attend and assess these local underground cultural sites (e.g., a club, gallery, radio station, caf, record store, etc.) and analyze the cultural practices that take shape in these places. 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 in a small group, with a partner, or on your own to conduct this research, although each student will write her or his own 3-5 page paper. A full description of the assignment is available in the folder that contains pdfs for this class. This paper is due October 8th.




There are two options for the Final:


Zine Contribution/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.


Take Home Final Exam


This exam will ask you to synthesize course materials (excursions, readings, guest speakers, and in-class discussions/lectures). You will develop an analysis of relationships between a do-it-yourself philosophy and underground culture in Chicago. A full description of this assignment will be made available in the 4th week in the folder that contains pdfs for this class.


Reading Analyses


You are required to turn in a 5 paragraph reading analysis for each day that we have a required reading assignment. These summaries should feature a combination of the following: (A) discussion of the central thesis raised in the essay(s), (B) summary of key points raised in the reading(s) that functioned to support and flesh out that thesis, and (C) an assessment of the argument as a whole (i.e., why should we care about the issues raised in this reading more generally and how does the essay allow us to understand underground cultural life in Chicago more specifically?).


Your papers should not function to merely express your opinion about a specific reading; rather, you should offer a detailed analysis that features quality support (e.g., testimony and examples culled from the readings and from the underground cultural public sphere). (See the written assignment requirements listed below for more information about writing in this class.) These essays are due at the beginning of the class session on the date the reading is assigned and will be graded based on quality of insight, overall quality of writing (i.e., how well you engage a reader as well as grammar), and ability to dig beneath a surface level analysis (i.e., do more than read for a thesis). A letter grade will be assigned for each submission.


Course Policies


Promptness is expected as a general rule. If you are consistently late to class your grade will be negatively affected (between 10 and 20 minutes late will constitute ½ absence and later than 20 minutes will constitute an absence).


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. (Leaving at the break will also constitute a full absence.)


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. You do not need a laptop for 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. I do not accept electronic copies of student 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 DePauls 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 = 93-100, A- = 90-92, B+ = 88-89, B = 83-87, B- = 80-82, C+ = 78-79, C = 73-77, 

C- = 70-72, D = 60-69, F = 0-59 (I do not assign incompletes)