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Syllabus

American Studies 629i

MATERIALITY AND NETWORKED SOCIETY

Course Syllabus

Thursday 4:00-6:40pm


Dr. Jason Farman

Email: jfarman@umd.edu

Office: 2107B Holzapfel Hall

Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:15-2:00pm or by appointment

Office Phone: 301.405.9524


 

Description: In our digital age, many of the objects we interact with seem immaterial and intangible since “all existing media are translated into numerical data…[and all] graphics, moving images, sounds, shapes, spaces, and texts become computable, that is, simply sets of computer data” (Manovich, The Language of New Media). This course seeks to redeem the materiality of networked society by investigating the ways that our digital spaces and objects are always tied to embodied physicality and material infrastructures. We will study the histories of new media, the industrial designs behind our objects, analyze correlations between material spaces and virtual spaces, and even take a trip to one of the East Coast’s most important internet hubs in the DC area to see the physical infrastructure of the internet. We will also look at topics such as the move away from physical artifacts in industries like music and recording (the move to MP3s), the ideas of virtual labor around the world, the pathways our digital devices take when we’re done with them, computer forensics, and pervasive computing spaces.

 

Required Texts:

  • Poster, Mark. What’s the Matter with the Internet? Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2001. ISBN: 0816638357
  • Castells, Manuel, The Rise of Network Society, Vol. 1. Wiley-Blackwell, 2000. ISBN: 9780631221401
  • Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young. Stanford University Press, 1999. ISBN: 0804732337
  • Matthew Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. The MIT Press, 2008. ISBN: 0262113112
  • Malcolm McCullough, Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing. The MIT Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780262633277
  • Additional Readings on course CD-ROM (handed out on first day of class)

 

Assignments:  Reading assignments are listed on the day they will be discussed in class. You are expected to arrive to class having read the works listed. You must cite all of your sources accurately according to MLA, APA, or Chicago style and type all work in Times New Roman, 12-point font. Any plagiarized work will receive an “F” and may lead to a failing grade for the course.

 

Grading:

  • Presentation 1: Lead the class in a discussion driven analysis of the assigned reading for a particular day: 10%
  • Presentation 2: Media Archaeology and Tracing Flows of Digital Objects Presentation: 10%
  • Book Review: Present a review of a relevant, recently published book: 10%
  • Questions/Definitions: Students must come to each class with three well-developed questions and connections based on the assigned reading (with e-mailed copy to instructor). This should be coupled with on-going definitions of the key terms we will be utilizing throughout the semester: 15%
  • Participation: 15%
  • Research Prospectus and Presentation: 10%
  • Final Research Paper (15-20 pages): 30%

—Please Note: This syllabus is subject to change at any time according to the professor’s discretion.  The assignments below may also include readings handed out in class, which each student is responsible for completing.

SCHEDULE

Week 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE COURSE

Sept. 1 —

• Introduction. Watch documentary Objectified


Week 2: EVOCATIVE OBJECTS AND “THING THEORY”

Sept. 8 —

• Bill Brown, “Thing Theory” Critical Inquiry 28:1 (August 2001): 1-22

• Sherry Turkle, Evocative Objects, Ch. 1

• Deborah Lupton, “The Embodied Computer/User” in Cybercultures Reader

• Arjun Appadurai, “The Thing Itself” Public Culture 18:1 (2006): 15-21

• Alexander Galloway, “The Unworkable Interface”

• Vilém Flusser, The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design, Introduction

 

Week 3: MEDIA ARCHAEOLOGY

Sept. 15 —

• Friedrich A. Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter

• Erkki Huhtamo, “Kaleidoscomaniac to Cybernerd: Notes Toward an Archaeology of the Media” Leonardo 30:3 (1997): 221-4

• Lisa Gitleman, Always Already New Ch. 1

• Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation, Introduction, Ch. 2

  • Dan Leads Class

Week 4: MATERIALITY AND MEDIA SPECIFICITY

Sept. 22 —

• N. Katherine Hayles: “Print is Flat, Code is Deep”

• Mary Ann Doane, “The Indexical and the Concept of Medium Specificity” differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 18:1 (2007)

• Bill Brown, “Materiality” in Critical Terms for Media Studies

• Begin Mark Poster, What’s the Matter With the Internet


Week 5: MEDIA SPECIFICITY & NETWORKED SOCIETY

Sept. 29 —

• Finish, What’s the Matter with the Internet

• Walter Benjamin, “Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction”

 

Week 6: NETWORKED SOCIETY

Oct. 6 —

• Manuel Castells, The Rise of Network Society, Vol. 1 (Selections)


Week 7: NETWORKED LABOR AND THE IMMATERIAL BODY

Oct. 13 —

• Paolo Virno, “Labor, Action, Intellect,” in A Grammar of the Multitude <http://www.generation-online.org/c/fcmultitude3.htm# GrammarOfTheMultitude-div1-id2866923>

• Leopoldina Fortunati, “Immaterial Labor and its Machinization.”

• Tiziana Terranova, “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy.” <http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/technocapitalism/voluntary>

• Christian Fuchs, “Labor in Informational Capitalism and on the Internet.”

• Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Nelson, “Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor.” <http://eipcp.net/transversal/0608/mezzadraneilson/en>

  • Julie Leads Class
  • Cassy Book Review

Week 8: POLITICAL ECONOMY, FLOWS, AND OBSOLESCENCE

Oct. 20 —

• Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, Preface and Part 1.

• Ursula Huws, “Material World: The Myth of the Weightless Economy.”

• Alex Galloway, “Protocol, or, How Control Exists after Decentralization.”

• Giles Slade, Made to Break, Ch. 1-2

• Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence, Introduction <http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/mcpress/plannedobsolescence/ introduction/>

• In class: Watch Video “Hidden History of Your Cellphone.”

  • Cassy Leads Class
  • Yuenmei Book Review

 

Week 9: INTERNET INFRASTRUCTURES

Oct. 27 —

• Visit Equinix Internet Hub in Ashburn, VA

• Paul Ceruzzi, Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner

 

Week 10: PROJECT WEEK: TRACING THE FLOWS OF DIGITAL OBJECTS

Nov. 3 —

• Presentations on flows of an object and documents of an interface

  • Julie’s Book Review

 

Week 11: NEW MEDIA ARCHIVING AND THE FORENSIC IMAGINATION

Nov. 10 —

• Matthew Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms

Preserving Virtual Worlds Project, Final Report: Introduction, Games & Interactive Fiction, and When Strategies Fail: The Case of Second Life

• Kari Kraus, “When Data Disappears” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/opinion/sunday/when-data-disappears.html

 

Week 12: THE VIRTUAL AND THE MATERIAL

Nov. 17 —

• Adriana de Souza e Silva and Daniel Sutko, “Theorizing Locative Technologies Through Theories of the Virtual.”

• John Rajchman, “The Virtual House,” in Constructions

• Therese Tierney, “Formal Matters: The Virtual as Generative Process,” in Abstract Space

• Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter (selections)

  • Paul Leads Class
  • Dan Book Review

 

Week 13: Thanksgiving Break. No Class Scheduled.


Week 14: PERVASIVE COMPUTING, ARCHITECTURE, AND MATERIAL SPACES

Dec. 1 —

• Malcolm McCullough, Digital Ground

  • Yuenmei Leads Class
  • Paul Book Review

 

Week 15: CONCLUSIONS AND FINAL RESEARCH PRESENTATIONS

Dec. 8 —

• Final Presentations

 

Week 16: PAPERS DUE

• Final Papers Due

Links

Here are relevant links for this course:

Contact




Questions, information?

Dr. Jason Farman
Email: jfarman@umd.edu
Office: 2107B Holzapfel Hall
Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:30-3:00pm or by appointment
Office Phone: 301.405.9524