Making Meaning Matter: The Ornament of Materiality


Fall 2014 quarter

Taught by

feminist theory, consciousness studies
computer studies

What do wampum, bitcoin, quantum computing, 3D printing, community, and forgetting have in common? What does the education of women have to do with reproduction and population growth? How do these "things" differ in connecting the ethereal with the physical? Non-verbal experiences evolve into expressible thoughts and ideas, which can be crafted and manufactured into material existence, all of which may carry value. What are the stakes of each step of reification, given their carbon footprint in an ecozoic anthropocene? What are alternative, sustainable processes for learning, computation, and currency?

This program investigates this connection between meaning, making, and matter using scholarly as well as contemplative inquiry, experimental writing, moving images, and 3D printing. We’ll experiment with the role of optimism both in connecting mind and body and in debugging mental habits. Students will use 3D printing to bring an idea, developed through their writing, reading, and film experience into physical being. We'll analyze the relationships between an object’s material and non-material natures and values. Students will begin this program with a meditation retreat to become more familiar with bodily, felt experiences as the materiality of, and for, thought processes.

The program is designed to be self-bootstrapping and evolving using innovative pedagogy, through which all students actively participating in activity planning and community building.

Possible texts include Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar by James Marcus-Bach, How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement by Lambros Malafouris, Antifragile by Nassim Taleb, The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman, Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing 2014 by Mark Frauenfelder, The World is Made of Stories by David Loy, and A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

The program will continue as a studio component of the program “The Nature of Ornament” in the winter and spring quarters.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

computer science, humanities, and the social sciences.

Academic Website

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day and Evening


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$150 for an overnight field trip.

Special Expenses

$30 or more for 3D printing materials depending upon student individual projects.


Date Revision
July 30th, 2014 Arlen Speights has joined the teaching team; Paul Pham has been removed.
May 13th, 2014 New opportunity added.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 48


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10281
So - Sr (16 credits): 10284

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