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An ACTLab course -- RTF 331R/390Q unique # 08235/08680 -- Syllabus version 1.0
Dangerous Border Violations
Instructor: Sandy Stone (firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 302-9933 cell: 695-6732)
Teaching Assistant: Joseph Lopez, email@example.com, phone: 413-7832
ACTLab Guest Lecturers: Dustin Younse <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Drake Wilson <email@example.com>
Office hours Mon 5-7 in the ACTLab and by appointment in the ACTLabTV office, CMA6.124
Class meets in the ACTLab Monday 1:00-4:00
This course is an exploration into the media and technologies of transition, with emphasis on identity and
transgender discourse across cultures and throughout history. We will consider Trans practices from
antiquity to the present; review changes in scientific perspectives on the design and significance of the
body marked as male/female/Trans/Other; discuss gender, ethnicity, prosthetics, cyborgs, and the
posthuman in relation to media production; and explore the function of the liminal and Trans figure in
films, pulp fiction, and popular culture.
Class is in studio and discussion format. This means that your active participation is a requirement of the
course. During the semester we expect you to contribute your own ideas and arguments to the
There are no written exams. Instead you will use the theories and tools you acquire during the semester
to make stuff about some aspect of Trans. What you make can be in any form: sound, installation, film,
video, computer animation, digital-fu, collage, sculpture, assemblage, performance, or intermodal
combinations. You will do this in stages, starting with simple projects and moving to more complex ones,
using humor, irony, uncommon approaches, and bizarre techniques.
You will make a total of three projects: one freethrow (the Make-a-thon), one small project and one larger
final project. They are due at roughly four week intervals during the semester.
Take risks! Amaze us! In ACTLab courses we assume a high level of motivation on your part and your
willingness to self-start, set your own goals, think independently, collaborate with others, seek help when
you need it, and take risks. Let's make it an interesting semester!
This syllabus includes a list of study material to be addressed on certain dates, but actual material may
change as circumstances require. During the semester other material may be added, or listed material
deleted. ACTLab courses are student-driven, and you are invited to submit material for inclusion or
suggest changes at any time.
Readings and Resources:
The following book is required for the course, and available through Amazon.com. You will have plenty of
time for it to arrive before we start using it.
Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle (Eds.): The Transgender Studies Reader (hereinafter called the
The following books are not required but are important and will be referenced during the semester. If you
are seriously studying Trans, you should have these.
Leslie Feinberg: Stone Butch Blues
Michel Foucault: Herculine Barbin
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Judith Halberstam: Female Masculinity
Ann Fausto-Sterling: Sexing the Body
Alice Donurat Dreger: Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex
Graduate students may optionally read these additional books, if you haven’t already:
Deleuze and Guattari: A Thousand Plateaux
Michel Foucault: Birth of the Clinic
There will be a reader (hereinafter called the READER) available from Jenn’s Copies, across
Guadalupe from our building, during the second week of class. If you prefer reading from a screen you
can download a .pdf version from the TRANS website, http://home.actlab.utexas.edu/trans.
The following six things are required for you to receive a grade:
1. Attendance at all classes.
2. Reading all assignments and coming to class prepared.
3. Participation in discussion.
4. Successful completion of two mini-projects and one final project. See presentation
5. Successful completion of documentation. See documentation below.
6. Full cleanup of the ACTLab following final presentations. Leave it the way you found it
-- no better, no worse.
No presentation may endanger the presenterʼs or othersʼ health or safety.
You will be graded both on the projects and on the quality of their presentation in class.
This includes items such as lighting, sound, and organization. An attachment containing
requirements for ACTLab student presentations is included with this syllabus. Read it
carefully and save it for future reference. It contains information which you will need in
order to receive a grade.
You must provide complete documentation of your work in the form of a web site. A web
site consists of a home page that says something about you, and additional pages for
each project as necessary.
Documentation means a description of each project, how it was made, its relationship to
the readings and discussions (i.e., its theoretical grounding), your thoughts about the
project, etc., together with sound recordings, video, and/or still photos of the work in
progress and the completed project.
You will make the web site in four stages. Each stage consists of documentation of one
of the three projects, plus a fourth stage consisting of the homepage with your bio,
external links, and whatever additional information you think is relevant. Stages one and
two are due in class the week following project presentations one and two. Stages three
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and four are due no later than 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, May 14.
Participation in discussion 25%
Make-a-thon (First project) 5%
Second project 20%
Final project 25%
Documentation (Web site) 25%
PROJECT ONE: September 21
PROJECT TWO: October 26 and November 2
PROJECT THREE: December 5
DOCUMENTATION: December 13
REQUIREMENTS FOR ACTLAB STUDENT WEB PAGES
These requirements are mandatory. You are responsible for knowing them and for carrying them out.
Failure to do so will result in a failing grade. You will receive no further reminders.
We will provide whatever tutorials you may need to construct your web site until the date that first web
pages are due, two weeks after first project presentations. No further tutorials will be given after that
You may construct your web site by writing it from scratch; by using the WordPress system we provide;
by adapting one of the many templates available free online, provided that we determine it doesn’t raise
security issues; or by using any of the following web construction software: Dreamweaver; Nvu; Amaya.
Dreamweaver is a commercial product and is available on all ACTLab computers. Nvu and Amaya are
free Open Source products and may be freely downloaded to your own laptop. You may NOT use iWeb.
The entire contents of your web site must be on the ACTLab server, nowhere else. No external
links are permitted, except on the “Links” or “Further information” page if you make one. You may not link
anything to your, or anyone else’s, UT Webspace. You may freely link to your own pages on the ACTLab
site or to other pages on the ACTLab site.
Everything must work. No broken links, no missing images.
Compress videos with Quicktime Pro using the following default setting (Export: Quicktime to
Movie (or whichever format you originally made, I.E. AVI to quicktime), Use: Broadband Medium).
No Windows Media (wmv) files may be used on your site.
Compress images to jpg set to low quality (20). In Photoshop, use “Save for Web”. In Gimp, use
“Save image as”, select “JPEG”, click “preview” and visually choose a quality between 20 and 50. Save
as gif only if you require the alpha channel (transparency). On average, a properly compressed jpg file
should be no more than 10-20K in size.
Resize and save images and videos in the screen size you will display them. A 1024x768 image will
still download as 1024x768 even if you tell the browser to display it as 250x120 -- a huge waste of
bandwidth that can unacceptably slow your site’s loading time.
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All videos and sound files must stream. This means videos and sounds start to play immediately
when the page loads, without having to download the file first. An exception is that a video or sound need
not start instantly if it is embedded in a web page which contains large amounts of text that must be read
before watching the video or listening to the sound. Because the university’s internal bandwidth is so
wide, it is impossible to know if your video files stream properly if you test them at the university, so
always test your video files from home. Be sure to clear your browser cache between tests. If you don’t,
you are merely playing the file out of your computer’s memory, not from the stream.
All pages must have clear, visible navigation tools. This means buttons, menus or links to the main
headings of your site and your home page, plus a link to the ACTLab home page.
Do NOT have your website open a link in a new browser window or resize the browser window unless it is
absolutely required by the aesthetics of your website design.
To upload your files, use Cyberduck for Mac or WinSCP for PC or other programs that support secure
file transfer (SCP or SFTP). The ACTLab server is secure; FTP will not work.
When you complete each phase of your website, email the full url (http://www.actlab.utexas.edu/
~youraccountname) to Joey, Dustin, and Sandy on or before the due date.
Web sites submitted after midnight of the due date, or that are incomplete or do not work properly by that
time, will be considered late. A late, incomplete, or broken web site on Projects One or Two will reduce
your final grade. Absent dire circumstances such as documented family emergencies, a late, incomplete,
or broken web site on Project Three will result in a failing grade.
REQUIREMENTS FOR ACTLAB PRESENTATIONS
Lighting. All live presentations that involve anything other than simply screening a video are required to
be properly lit. It is your responsibility to plan the lighting. You will draw up a light plot and arrange for
the appropriate lights to be gelled and aimed before presentation time. If your presentation requires
total darkness, you or an associate will be responsible for producing it. In the ACTLab this includes
arranging for all monitors to be turned off, the control room to be darkened or shielded, and the studio
doors closed. Proper lighting of your presentation is part of your grade.
Sound reinforcement. Creating a soundscape is not complete until you have decided on, acquired, and
set up the playback system. If your presentation uses sound, it is your responsibility to assure that
appropriate amplifiers, speakers, and wiring are set up at the site of your presentation, connected, and
working properly. Don’t assume that anything works until you have personally verified that it does. Don’t
assume that power is available; verify that it is. Proper sound reinforcement is part of your grade.
Microphone. If your presentation requires a microphone of any kind -- wireless, wired, contact, whatever
-- and you expect us to supply it, it is your responsibility to request it via email at least a week before
presentation. Doing so is part of your grade.
Video files. If you intend to screen a video, you are responsible for verifying that the video files for your
presentation are uploaded to the presentation computer at the beginning of presentation day, and that
they play on that computer. Discovering at the last minute that your video does not work on the ACTLab
presentation computer will result in a reduction in your grade.
RTF production equipment and ACTLab equipment are not the same. Unavoidably, the procedures for
checking them out are different.
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Students who need ACTLab equipment for this class: Contact the equipment checkout team
during checkout hours. Checkout hours are posted during the first week of class. Checkout ACTLab
equipment from, and return it to, the Deathstar, the room directly across the hall from the ACTLab.
Students who need RTF production equipment for this class:
1. Plan ahead. 500 students use RTF Equipment Checkout. ACTLab classes are a little different in that
equipment useage is an option, not a requirement. Contact RTF Equipment Checkout at least a few days
in advance of your needs. firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 512-471-6565 RTF Equipment
Checkout is open Monday through Friday 8AM-4PM.
2. When you get there ask to speak with Linda or Hector because the student employees will try to
impose rules that don't apply to you.
3. When you talk to Linda or Hector, the first words out of your mouth should be, "I'm in an ACTLab class
and I need equipment." That way we'll know not to charge you $25.50 insurance. Well, we won't charge
you insurance if you keep the dollar value of your checkout below the insurance deductible. We can help
you with that.There's about 5 minutes of paperwork to fill out, and then maybe 5 minutes for us to reserve
your equipment and get it for you. Try to avoid dropping by Thursdays and Fridays because we are very
busy. The other students make appointments (you can make one if you like), so we have to help people
who have appointments first.
Mailing list: Outside of class time we keep in touch via the Trans class mailing list
email@example.com. Use it to swap ideas, ask questions, get and give alerts of schedule changes,
share weird urls, and whatever else you can think of. The Trans mailing list is the only authorized mailing
list for this class. Do not use Blackboard.
Aug 31: Introduce ourselves. First-day biz. Reading for next class: chapters from Gloria
Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera (download pdf from course website http://actlab.utexas.edu/
Order The Transgender Studies Reader (the BOOK)!
Sept 7: Labor Day: No class.
Sept 14: Discussion of Borderlands/La Frontera
Discussion of Make-a-Thon
Make-a-thon equipment requests: If you need equipment, make sure you request it now.
Sept 21: Make-a-thon presentations. 7 minutes max, including discussion.
Sept 28: Make-a-thon websites due. Last website tutorial. In-class website critique.
Reading assignment for October 5: Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto (in the BOOK)
Oct 5: Discussion of A Cyborg Manifesto
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Oct 12: TBA
Readings for October 19:
Harry Benjamin,“Transsexualism and Transvestism as Psycho-somatic and Somato-psychic Syndromes”,
in the BOOK
David O. Cauldwell, “Psychopathia Transexualis”, in the BOOK
Janice Raymond, “Sappho by Surgery”, in the BOOK
Sandy Stone, “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto”, in the BOOK
Oct 19: Discussion of Benjamin, Cauldwell, Raymond, and Stone
"Surgical Construction of Ambiguous Genitalia", a medical training video. Not for the faint of heart.
Hermaphrodites Speak! (optional)
Oct 26: Second project presentations, Part 1: 15 minutes max, including discussion.
Nov 2: Second project presentations, Part 2.
Nov 9: Second project websites due. In-class website critique.
Readings for November 16:
Jordy Jones, “Gender Without Genitals: Hedwig’s Six Inches”, in the BOOK
Excerpts from Modcon: The Secret World of Extreme Body Modification. (to be handed out, optionally)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
The Theo Project (part)
Readings for November 23:.
Derrida, Writing and Difference (Grad students should read it, undergrads should attempt it)
Canary Conn, Canary: The Story of a Transsexual (excerpt) (to be handed out, optionally)
Morris, Conundrum (excerpt) (to be handed out, optionally)
Nov 23: TRANSMEDIA
A) Drag royalty, performance art, the aesthetics of self-invention
B) Performance art and border violations
Nov 30: THE FUTURE OF TRANSMEDIA, TRANSART, POSTTRANS, POSTPOSTTRANS,
TRANSPOSTTRANS, TRANPTRANSPOST, TRANSTRANSTRANS... uh...
The Day of Digestion, class discussion, debate, everyone being showoffs
Saturday, December 5: FINAL PRESENTATIONS
Sunday, December 13: Drop Dead Date for documentation and web pages
Tuesday, Dec 15, 9:00 a.m.: Drop Dead Date for professors to submit grades. You know what that
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The Fine Print:
This syllabus is V.1.0. It may be updated from time to time as necessary. Once the class has met, based on the skills, proclivities,
and wishes of its members, we may, and probably will, modify the reading assignments and discussion topics. If we do, you will
receive notice about the new readings and discussion topics far enough in advance that you will have no difficulty in keeping up with
The University of Texas Honor Code
The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity, and
responsibility. Each member of the University is expected to uphold these values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness, and
respect toward peers and community.
The University defines academic dishonesty as cheating, plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, falsifying academic records, and
any act designed to avoid participating honestly in the learning process. Scholastic dishonesty also includes, but is not limited to,
providing false or misleading information to receive a postponement or an extension on a test, quiz, or other assignment, and
submission of essentially the same written assignment for two courses without the prior permission of the instructor. By accepting
this syllabus, you have agreed to these guidelines and must adhere to them. Scholastic dishonest damages both the student's
learning experience and readiness for the future demands of a work-career. Students who violate University rules on scholastic
dishonesty are subject to disciplinary penalties, including the possibility of failure in the course and/or dismissal from the University.
For more information on scholastic dishonesty, please visit the Student Judicial services Web site at http://
Undergraduate Writing Center
The Undergraduate Writing Center, located in the FAC 211, phone 471-6222, http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/uwc/ offers
individualized assistance to students who want to improve their writing skills. There is no charge, and students may come in on a
drop-in or appointment basis.
Services For Students With Disabilities
The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with
disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259, 471-4641 TTY.
Religious holy days sometimes conflict with class and examination schedules. If you miss a work assignment or other project due to
the observance of a religious holy day you will be given an opportunity to complete the work missed within a reasonable time after
the absence. It is the policy of the University of Texas at Austin that you must notify each of your instructors at least fourteen days
prior to the classes scheduled on dates you will be absent to observe a religious holy day.
University Electronic Mail Notification Policy
All students should become familiar with the University's official e-mail student notification policy. It is the student's responsibility to
keep the University informed as to changes in his or her e-mail address. Students are expected to check e-mail on a frequent and
regular basis in order to stay current with University-related communications, recognizing that certain communications may be timecritical.
It is recommended that e-mail be checked daily, but at a minimum, twice per week. The complete text of this policy and
instructions for updating your e-mail address are available at http://www.utexas.edu/its/policies/emailnotify.html. (Optional: In this
course e-mail will be used as a means of communication with students. You will be responsible for checking your e-mail regularly for
class work and announcements.)
Use of Blackboard
This course DOES NOT use Blackboard. Do not use Blackboard to check assignments for ACTLab courses and do not use
Blackboard mailing lists to email students in this course, as ACTLab mailing lists include classes and individuals who are not
referenced by the Blackboard system.
Copyright and Fair Use
You may find the need to use copyrighted material this semester: music, photographs, movie clips, or any other expression. For
many of your uses, you need to find the copyright holder and negotiate a license. You own the copyright to the work you produce in
this class. As a copyright holder yourself, you understand the importance of copyright ownership. It is your responsibility to secure
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music and archival footage licenses as well as artwork, location and personal releases. You will find release templates on the RTF
For some uses, however, neither you nor anyone else needs to license copyrighted material. This is because copyright law exists to
encourage and support creativity. Copyright law recognizes that creativity doesn't arise in a vacuum. As creators, we all stand on the
shoulders of giants. New works of art (such as films, books, poems, paintings) all make use of what has gone before. Thus,
copyright law not only protects authors with a copyright that lets them decide who can use their works, but also offers exemptions
from the author's control. For filmmakers, the most important exemption is the doctrine of fair use. You can rely on fair use, where
appropriate, in the film and media projects you undertake for this course. If you are making a documentary film, consult the
influential Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/files/pdf/
fair_use_final.pdf which was created by a group of national filmmaker organizations, has been endorsed by the University Film and
Video Association, and is now relied on by film festivals, insurers, cablecasters, distributors and public broadcasters. Fair use also
applies in the fiction film environment, but not necessarily to the same extent or in the same way.
As always, the central question is whether the new use is "transformative" -- i.e., whether it adds significant value by modifying or
recontextualizing the original. For more understanding, including information on when you can use works for free:
without even invoking fair use, why you (mostly) don't need to worry about trademarks:
what is in the public domain: http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/rock/backgrounddocs/copyrightterm.pdf
how fair use lawsuits have been settled: http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/videos/sets/fair_use_case_studies
and how fair use has been employed successfully in documentary film:
For general information: http://centerforsocialmedia.org/fairuse