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New York: The City Imaginary Field Course

Module titleNew York: The City Imaginary Field Course
Module codeGEO2322A
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Henry Buller (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module is all about New York and how we can study and learn from a city without actually being there. It is as much about investigative methods and the use of different and wide-ranging conventional and unconventional sources of information to create understanding and insight as it is about New York City itself, its form, geography, functionality, people, processes, spaces and so on. The module will combine lectures around specific themes of New York City geography with a week of investigation, data gathering, presentation, visual and audio media, discussion and exploration. We will use interactive tools, data sets, games, film and other media to delve into the city and reflect on the power and the messaging of those different forms of representation as well as what might lie beneath them. Students will work individually and in groups to explore distinct neighbourhoods of New York around specific themes and using a variety of available online source material. The module will consist of a series of lectures and workshops over eight weeks of term 2 followed by a more intensive week in week 11 in which you will engage in a number of exercise, group work, media and representational studies and analyses of the city of New York, leading to two assessments to be completed for specified dates in Term 3.

Module aims - intentions of the module

New York City has long been an iconic example of contemporary urbanity: as a settler and frontier coastal city during the European colonisation of North America, as the seat of an emergent urban democracy, as the classic ‘modern’ sky-scraping city and migration destination of the 19th Century, as a Global city in the 20th. Today, and arguably for some time now, New York is, for some, as distinctively ‘virtual’ as it is ‘real’, a ‘double fantasy’ of image and imagination, while, at the same time, being for others, a harsher reality. No city, we might argue, has been so influenced by its representation (certainly, no American city with possible exception of LA). In this module, we will investigate the imagery, imagination and representation of New York, and their role, firstly, in the production of space and spatial discontinuity, secondly, as a possible research methodology and, third as a form of politics that, whether intentionally or otherwise, hides as much as it reveals. Using a range of methods, representational techniques, data sources, media and virtual tools, the module will perform a creative urban geography at-a-distance through which you will develop analytical and empirical skills, critical understanding of both urban processes and methodological inventiveness and group working experience. The module has the following main aims:

  • To provide you with an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained through lecture-based modules to 'real-world' geographical study.
  • To develop your research skills and abilities through observational and at-a-distance research methods.
  • To extend your analytical skills through the preparation of critical reflection.
  • To give you further preparatory training for undertaking a dissertation (GEO3311 / GEO3312) building on skills developed in stage 1.

The module will be based around the tension between representation and reality in contemporary New York City. Through exploring the mechanisms and expressions of this tension, the module will look at a series of themes including:

  • Aspects of the global city.
  • Architectural form and function.
  • Nature in the city.
  • Space, place and social change.
  • The performance and the representation and of community and Identity.
  • Private and public space.
  • Migrant experiences and cosmopolitanism.
  • Exclusion.
  • Urban iconographies and media representation: from the ‘Big Apple’ to ‘Gotham’.

By choosing the module and completing the formatively and summatively assessed coursework in this module you will develop your academic and professional skills, such as your ability to read and understand urban forms and urban processes, to develop and evaluate research designs, deploy research skills in different settings, develop critical thinking skills, participate in group discussions and prepare and undertake professional presentations. This will help you to grow in academic confidence and practice how to develop and present your ideas in writing and for presentations. You will practice how to tackle research problems in the field and how to manage your time and workload effectively, working individually and in a group.

The module is informed by active research in a number of relevant and cognate areas such as nature and social change in the contemporary city, urban identities and observational methodologies.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Decode, understand and analyse various social and socio-natural process that contribute to the dynamics of urban space along with identifying the forces and processes of spatial differentiation and discontinuity in cities.
  • 2. Identify, formulate and evaluate critical research questions and a critical understanding of urban form and process.
  • 3. Discuss specific case studies and examples relevant to specific themes relating to the module (e.g. urban geography, gentrification, nature protection in the city, urban planning).
  • 4. Describe selected methodologies and techniques used in collecting, analysing and presenting geographical information, and apply these with limited guidance.
  • 5. Describe and explain the results of practical fieldwork and relate results to existing bodies of geographical knowledge.
  • 6. Collect, interpret, evaluate and combine different types of geographical evidence and information.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Identify and apply a diverse range of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding in human geography.
  • 8. Apply geographical concepts in different situations.
  • 9. Discuss reciprocal relationships between physical and human environments.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently by written, oral and visual means.
  • 11. Undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment.
  • 12. Use technologies effectively and appropriately and with limited guidance to select, analyse, present and communicate information.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

A series of weekly lectures and workshop support sessions that develop themes in urban geography and, specifically, the geography of New York.

During week 11

These activities will be a combination of on-campus, in Exeter (or elsewhere) and online. This will be dependent upon student and staff availability, national and University rules regarding interaction, distancing and isolation, student and staff concerns and anxieties and the progression of the pandemic at that time.

  • Day 1: Simulating urbanity and alternative cartographies (class-based on-campus activities, where possible).
  • Day 2: Americana: cultural tropes and Americanisation.
  • Day 3: Iconography and the American City: Film, discussion and commentary.
  • Day 4: Morning: thematic presentations from staff. Afternoon, student presentations (formative).

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching30Meetings, synchronous on-line support sessions and lectures during term 2.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching20Participation in learning activities during week 11.
Guided Independent Study100Preparatory reading and group summative assessment preparation.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation15 minutesAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual essay502000 wordsAllWritten
Individual neighbourhood study502000 wordsAllWritten


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual essay2000-word individual essayAllAugust ref/def
Individual neighbourhood studyIndividual neighbourhood study AllAugust ref/def

Re-assessment notes

These notes define what will happen in three re-assessment scenarios:

If you are unable to engage with any of the field course module assessments for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will be re-assessed for field work skills via two new assessments to be submitted for the August deferral period:

  • A 2000-word essay, related to key themes introduced on the module;
  • A 2000-word Individual neighbourhood study

Both pieces of assessment will be devised in discussion with the module convenor.

If, having completed the field course learning activities, you are unable to complete the 2000-word individual essay for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will be required to submit a 2000-word essay in the August deferral period. If you are deferred in the individual neighbourhood study, you will be required to submit an Individual neighbourhood study in the August deferral period.

The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

If you fail the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%), you will be required to submit a 2000-word essay on key module themes and a 2000-word Individual neighbourhood study  based upon desk-based research on a theme, site, or issue related to the field course. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Reading lists appropriate to the module will be issued at the start of term 2.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE page:

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

New York, Field Course

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites

GEO2327 Geographies of Justice: Research Methodologies in Action and
GEO2328 Geographies of Consumption: Doing Human Geography Research

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date