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Active Learning and Research

PSYCH 157: Cultural Psychology of Urban Living
Clark students and students from sociology department at the Higher School of Economics in Russia jointly explore urban living from the perspectives of both cultural psychology and sociology. The course is crosslisted through the program in Communication and Culture.


Research papers

Students are expected to carry out short observational projects during the semester (including visual materials) on the basis of which they write a final paper (format of an article for a scholarly journal) on conceptual issues of understanding the social and cultural organization of urban environments. These papers will be evaluated by the instructors, and the better ones selected for discussion at the joint seminars (distributed to all participants in Worcester and Moscow a week before each seminar). The deadline for the drafts of the research papers is October 18 (midnight of the calendar date, by e-mail record sent to all participants in Moscow and in Worcester). The month of November will be dedicated to trans-Atlantic discussion of the drafts, which are subsequently turned into final papers by December 31st, 2007 (latest e-mailing or faxing time 11.57 p.m. EST). Research topics will be decided by September 27. Team projects are encouraged.

Selected research topics (creating one's own is strongly encouraged):

  • The "dirt" in public: waste and non-waste on public display in city centers in four countries.
  • The culture of a bus stop
  • Cultural psychology of lighting in urban areas (the light vs. darkness contrast)
  • City centers as theatrical arenas: noticing others
  • Nature in the city: cultural organization of parks and "green areas" within urban settings
  • Observing people's ways of entering (and leaving) churches
  • Analysis of the audible music in the streets
  • Semiotic analyses of church and restaurant entrances
  • Analysis of front doors of apartment buildings in cities
  • Observing behavior of people around public monuments
  • Signs of conduct regulation in city centers
  • Culture of visual regard for the others in urban areas in different countries
  • Graffiti in different countries: public and semi-private areas
  • Visible boundaries and their semiotic marking in urban areas
  • Distribution of flea markets in the cities and observation of human conduct (research topics)
  • The practice of begging and its distribution
  • Music from below (musicians and music bands in the streets, in subway and suburban trains)—music styles, people, economy, life styles, networks, maps of distribution
  • Evidence of the shadow economy and money laundering
  • Social representations encoding of conduct in the city (comparative analyses of Worcester and Moscow)
  • Cleanness patterns (research topics)
  • City life in the local newspapers (research topics, comparative analyses of internet versions)
  • Parks in the cities: social and psychological functions
  • Political, cultural, and war memorials in the city—how are they maintained by informal conduct (trespassing, vandalism, etc)
  • Food/eating habits in public places
  • Cultural organization of encounters in McDonald's

Contact Information Site Search

Course Overview
Faculty Interviews
Student Comments
Syllabus and Readings
Sample Projects

Teri Goldberg '11 explored the kinds of bumper stickers displayed in Worcester.

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