This is What Democracy Looks Like

Discovery Core Experience: I&S Course

BCORE 107B: This is what democracy looks like.BCORE 107

60-Second Syllabus: This is What Democracy Looks Like 

About This Course: 

Let’s step back from the fray of the 2020 presidential election and explore what democracy really is and what we can and should do as citizens in a democracy. In this course, we explore democracy and democratic citizenshIndividuals and Societies Iconip by examining their representations in media. We will watch films (both fiction and documentary) and read graphic novels, popular press articles, and scholarship on democracy. Throughout our guiding question will be “What does democracy really look like, and how can I make it a reality?” In addition to the theme of democracy, students will learn crucial academic skills, including critical reading strategies, analytical writing strategies, and oral presentation strategies. You will have an opportunity to research something of interest to you regarding democracy and communicate it to the class. And, you will have an opportunity to be creative in your final project, which will ask you to represent democracy by creating an artifact or performing an action. Along the way, we will learn about important student resources on campus that can guide you toward success in achieving your academic, professional, and personal goals.

Why Should I Take This Course? 

You may have noticed that democracy as a political and social ideal is not doing so well recently. Supposedly a beacon of hope and freedom for the world, the United States recently experienced a serious attempt by a sitting president to overthrow a free and fair election. Commentators are openly questioning whether our democracy can hold up to the existential threats it faces from within the political system. Beyond that, you may have felt like our political system seems ill-equipped to deal with the intertwined crises of climate change/catastrophe, social and economic inequality, and a deadly pandemic. If you want to understand the problems we face, then this class will get you started down that path.

What Will I Study?

This is not a civics and government class in the traditional sense. We will explore how democratic ideals (liberty, equality, justice, fairness, etc.) get translated and negotiated in the institutions we build (voting, branches of government executive, the electoral college, etc.) and the actions we take as citizens to participate in our democracy (voting, speaking in public forums, political organizing, creating public art, etc.). But, our class will allow you to explore current events by providing historical context and conceptual tools for analyzing issues like racism, police brutality, sexism/misogyny, xenophobia, economic and social inequality, and environmental justice.

Selected Texts & Films:

Possible films: 

  • Inequality for All
  • What is Democracy?
  • Whose Streets? 

Possible readings:

  • Davis, Freedom is a Constant Struggle
  • Roberts-Miller, Democracy and Demagoguery
  • Anderson, One Person, No Vote
  • Taylor, Democracy May Not Exist, But We'll Miss It When It's Gone

Professor Ian Porter (He/Him/His)

School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences

Picture of Professor PorterAbout Professor Porter: 

Ian Porter is a doctoral candidate in Communication at the University of Washington where he studies rhetorics of technology and sustainability in an urbanized world. He also holds graduate degrees from UW in digital media communication and library and information science and an undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University in English literature. He teaches courses in the Discovery Core series on urban life, data worlds and the quantified self, and practicing the good life. In addition, he teaches Interdisciplinary Writing and Research Writing on the topics of technology and sustainability. In his free time, he loves hanging out with his wife and daughter, eating good food, and listening to good music on Seattle's amazing local radio station KEXP.  


"Democracy is not just a system of government; it is a way of life." - Professor Porter