HUM 340 | AU 302 | bay area culture | sfsu

bay area culture

Dr. Rob Thomas
Trailer for
General Magic

SFSU Bulletin Description

Ever since the Gold Rush, authors, journalists, artists, architects, and musicians have shaped the way people here and abroad understand Bay Area culture. Students study the region's vast projection of itself, paying special attention to transformational periods, movements, events, and figures.

Prerequisites: GE Areas A1*, A2*, A3*, and B4* all with grades of C- or better or permission of the instructor.

This course meets the following requirements: Upper Division UD-C; Arts and/or Humanities, SF State Studies: Global Perspectives, Environmental Sustainability, Am. Ethnic & Racial Minorities.

This course is fully online in Canvas and is a Zero Cost Course Materials (ZCCM) class.

Course Description

Welcome to the secret history of Bay Area culture. This is a fun course that thinks about the larger social, cultural, historical, aesthetic and technological aspects of modern Bay Area culture. How can we think about the Bay Area in relation to contemporary problems like our relationship to technology and economic development? What is the relationship between technology and our everyday lives? What, in short, is the history of the present of the Bay Area?

We will learn about the pre-history of our contemporary culture of screens and electronic devices by studying the little known history of General Magic. We will then go back to the future of the 19th century in order to study the work of the photographer and inventor, Eadweard Muybridge (Exposing Muybridge) and think seriously about its relation to the history of modern art, technology, and Silicon Valley (River of Shadows). We will study the history of indigenous people of the Bay Area, including the genocide of native peoples, and its relation to the peculiarly modern (19th century) concept of race (Ishi: The Last Yahi, Race: The Power of an Illusion). We will read selections from Malcom Harris’ Palo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World, explore the sculpture of Ruth Asawa, study the life and work of noted science fiction author Philip K. Dick (The World's of Philip K Dick), read Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl, learn about the history and importance of the Black Panthers (The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution) and think about the history of video games in the Bay Area (High Score: “Boom and Bust"). This course is meant to be a fun and thoughtful way for us to enter into Bay Area culture. Throughout this course, we will endeavor to think Bay Area culture within the broader history of global cultures, as well as in relation to our everyday lives.

Everyone is welcome in this class. The discussion forums are, above all, a space where students are allowed to have a voice. It’s important, especially with what is going on in the world, that we support each other and strive to be respectful of our differences, our contributions, and our points of view. From the subject matter we will study, to the work we will do in the discussion forums, this is an inclusive class.

Background Image: Photography by Eadweard Muybridge, "Leland Stanford Junior on his Pony 'Gypsy' — Phases of a Stride by a Pony While Cantering" (1879)





Trailer for

The Black Panthers

About Rob Thomas, Ph.D.

I'm An innovative educator with over 20 years of experience developing and teaching transformative educational content; from video game studies to San Francisco modernism to the philosophy of Rick and Morty, and beyond. Over the past six years, my work has focused on the transformative potential of online learning, particularly fully asynchronous (non-Zoom-based) teaching. As part of my passion for this work, I recently completed an advanced degree in Instructional Design and Technology.

Teaching portfolio at: