Humanities 270B
Professor Mark Poster
Theories of Technology & Culture

Winter 2004



Required Texts
Topics and Readings
Assignments


Technology has been changing both in quality (from mechanical to "intelligent" machines) and quantity (extension from factories to homes and all locations of daily life). All cultural products are now mediated by advanced technologies. In this context a retheorization of technology is under way; this course will question the changing relation of culture to technology.

Required Texts:

  1. Mark Poster, What’s the Matter with the Internet? (Minnesota) - recommended
  2. Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings (Stanford)
  3. T. Adorno and M. Horkheimer, Dialectice of Enlightenment (Continuum)
  4. Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen (Simon and Schuster)
  5. Rey Chow, Primitive Passions (Columbia UP)
  6. Lynne Joyrich, Re-Viewing Reception: Television, Gender, and Postmodern Culture (Indiana Press, 1996)
  7. Friedrich Kittler, Literature, Media, Information Systems (G & B Arts International)
  8. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (MIT 2002)
  9. Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology (Harper)
  10. Available at the Reserve Desk are:
    1. Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"
    2. Donna Haraway, “Cyborg Manifesto”
    3. Félix Guattari, "Machinic Heterogenesis"

Weekly Topics and Readings:

            January 12 Introduction: Machines and Humans

Mark Poster, What’s the Matter with the Internet? Chs. 1-5

 

January 19 Theories of Technology (Martin Luther King Day)

Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, pp. 3-35 and 115-154
Félix Guattari, "Machinic Heterogenesis," in V. Conley, ed., Rethinking Technologies

 

            Also of Interest:

Samuel Weber, Mass Mediauras (Stanford Press)
Andrew Feenberg, Critical Theory of Technology

 

January 26 Mass Culture and Machines

T. Adorno and M. Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, Chs. 1 and 5 Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"

 

Also of Interest:

Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers

John Fisk and John Hartley, Reading Television (Routledge)

Nestor Garcia Canclini, Consumers: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts (Minnesota)

 

 

February 2 Media and Popular Culture

Baudrillard, Selected Writings, Chs. 1,2,7,9, 13

 

Also of Interest:

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media

 

February 9 The Book as Media/ Digital Writing
                        Friedrich Kittler, Literature, Media, Information Systems, Chs. 1,7,8

 

Also of Interest:

            Katherine Hayles, Writing Machines (MIT 2002)

            Espen Aarseth, Cybertext (Johns Hopkins 1997)

Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book (Chicago 1998)

 

February 16 Sexualities, Genders and Digital Technology (President’s Day)

Lynne Joyrich, Re-Viewing Reception: Television, Gender, and Postmodern Culture (Indiana Press, 1996)

 

Also of Interest:

Sue Ellen Case, The Domain Matrix (Indiana)

Alluquère Rosanne Stone, War of Desire and Technology at the End of the Mechanical Age (MIT Press)

Anne Balsamo, Technologies of the Gendered Body (Duke)

 

February 23 Databases as Culture and Art
            Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, Introduction, Chs. 1, 5 and 6

 

Also of Interest:

Paul Virilio, War and Cinema
William J. Mitchell, City of Bits (Internet) (http://www-mitpress.mit.edu/City_of_Bits)

March 1 Community Through Technology

Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen (MIT Press) pp. 9-73, 177-269

 

Also of Intereest:
Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think," Atlantic Monthly (July 1945)
Hans Magnus Enzensberger, "Constituents of a Theory of the Media," New Left Review

           

March 8 Technoculture Across Ethnicities: Translation and Globalization
            Rey Chow, Primitive Passions, Part 3, pp. 173-202

 

Also of Interest:

Lisa Nakamura, Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (Routledge 2002)

 

March 15 Machines and/as Humans

   Donna Haraway, “Cyborg Manifesto”

   Pierre Lévy, "Toward Superlanguage"

 

   Also of Interest:

   Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman (Chicago 1999)

   Mark Weiser, “Ubiquitous Computing,” 1993

  


Student Assignments:

        • Term Paper: Alternatives:

2.                  A 15 to 20 page paper examining intensively some aspect of the reading based primarily on the assigned and recommended texts.

3.                  A 15 to 20 page paper relating some aspect of the course to the student's ongoing research project.

4.                 Starting with an annotated bibliography of Web sites and internet sources, write a paper which self-reflexively assesses the epistemological consequences of on-line research.

Oral Presentation: To be determined on the first class meeting

Another Alternative: Instead of doing theory through books, we can view and discuss some movies (Matrix; Dark City; Videodrome; Strange Days; eXistenZ; Minority Report are some of the possibilities). We might also spend time discussing web pages of those engaged with radical experiments linking electronic media and the body (Stelarc, Orlan) and other regions of the Internet like blogs, IRC, Usenet, and so forth. Finally we might read a work of fiction related to our theme such as William Gibson’s classic, Neuromancer or, Neil Stephenson’s more recent, Cryptonomicon or an earlier work.