This is a class where there is no meaningful way of saying someone did "well" and another person did "poorly", making grades moot. I encourage people to take it P/NP. If for some logistical reason you prefer to take it for a letter grade, let me know and we will figure something out. You are welcome to audit, but, if possible, requested to take the class for credit, because our ability to run small classes depends on showing that there is sufficient demand for them, in the absence of which these types of classes may disappear.

There are many ways to participate and contribute. Below I will discuss a few things that could, in traditional vocabulary, be called requirements. I'd see them more as opportunities. You may do these things to a greater or lesser degree, the bar for a P being kept low so as to not deter people from a class that is already unusual.

Along with the broader counter-cultural theme of the class goes a counter-cultural view of grades. Grades function, in the system, as credentials and incentives. Grade-based incentives encourage doing things for the sake of a reward in the form of a better grade, which is then a credential further down the line. I'd like instead to encourage people do things for their own sake, do the labor for the sake of the labor and not the fruit of it. In the long run, this brings more value and satisfaction than a good grade. In the short run, it can seem unfair and a poor bargain, because people whose contributions may differ quite a bit are getting the same credential-based reward, but this view is predicated on the mistaken idea that the grade is a valuable reward. So the injunction for the class is to do what you want or can with regard to the tasks suggested below.

Do the readings and participate in class discussion, again to whatever extent you can manage. Sometimes, a book will interest you and you will read it avidly and to the full. Other times, it won't grip you, and you may read diagonally, skip things here and there and get a sense of what it says. You can participate in discussion either way. What you found unappealing about a book is just as good a topic of discussion as what you found appealing. The book might motivate you to look at other things, do some research as it were, and you could talk about this, about where it lead you.

Each reading will have a leader or leaders. Pick some reading that you find interesting, and enter your name in this reading leaders list. This means you will do the reading in full, perhaps start the discussion with a brief summary, and even mediate the discussion. You can lead in teams, meaning it is fine if multiple people elect to lead on the same reading or work.

Create a record of your thoughts that I can read and comment on. The mechanism I decided to use for this is a Google Doc per participant. Participant X's Google Doc is shared between me and X, and called X's personal Doc. Think of it like your diary or notepad. As the quarter evolves, write here your reactions to the readings or other thoughts. I suggest that, as you read, ahead of class, you write your reactions, even if they are just talking points for discussion. You may write regularly, per reading, or less frequently, just for some readings. I will respond in the same Doc, so a conversation may evolve. The expectation is a few (let's say 3) pages over the quarter, but more is welcome and there is no upper limit. Each participant will get an email with a link to their personal Doc. If you haven't got it by the first class on Tuesday Jan 5, ask.

We want to consider various current research topics and discussions, for each asking, and trying to answer, various broad questions related to their utility, motivation, and underlying culture, as outlined at the bottom of the readings section. A task for you could be to take one such topic, either a listed one or another that interests you, and perform the same analysis. Discuss the results with the class. You can write the topic of your choice in your personal Doc indicated above.