class description

Specific Course Description (pdf of the syllabus available here)

This course explores the emerging field of Media Archaeology alongside what I call “media poetics,” or the writerly practice of exploring the limits and possibilities of given reading/writing technologies. While we will do conventional reading writing in a seminar setting, our class will also do hands-on experiments in the Media Archaeology Lab with its collection of zombie media and early digital art/literature.

Media archaeology (with Michel Foucault and Friedrich Kittler as two of its deep influences) provides a sobering conceptual friction to the current culture of the new that dominates contemporary computing in the way that certain theorists identified with the field such as Geert Lovink use it to undertake “a hermeneutic reading of the ‘new’ against the grain of the past, rather than telling of the histories of technologies from past to present.” On the whole, media archaeology does not seek to reveal the present as an inevitable consequence of the past but instead looks to describe it as one possibility generated out of a heterogeneous past. Also at the heart of media archaeology is an on-going struggle to keep alive what Siegfried Zielinski calls “variantology”–the discovery of “individual variations” in the use or abuse of media, especially those variations that defy the ever-increasing trend toward “standardization and uniformity among the competing electronic and digital technologies.”

Following Zielinski, our class will move from the present through the past, uncovering a series of media phenomena–or ruptures–ideally as a way to avoid reinstating a model of media history that tends toward narratives of progress and generally ignores neglected, failed, or dead media. We will also do this by reading works of media poetics at the same time. For example, we will read work by Marshall McLuhan on the capabilities of the typewriter alongside typewritten concrete poetry; we will read early works of digital literature from the 1980s alongside writing by Friedrich Kittler on discourse networks; we will read Zielinski on variantology alongside digital literature/art iPad/iPhone apps that work against the standardizing effects of the Apple developer guidelines; and we will read recent work by Jonathan Crary on our culture of 24/7 connectedness to networks of control alongside work by glitch and net artists to assess the degree to which we can resist these networks of control.

Required/Recommended Texts

The following required texts for our class are available at the Innisfree Bookstore on The Hill (1203 13th St, Boulder, CO 80302):

Beaulieu, Derek and Lori Emerson eds. Writing Surfaces: The Selected Fiction of John Riddell.

Borsuk, Amaranth. Between Page and Screen.

Crary, Jonathan. 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep.

Dickinson, Emily. The Gorgeous Nothings.

Parikka, Jussi. What is Media Archaeology?

Course Requirements and Policies:

First, I expect you to contribute to class regularly. Participation begins with attendance; both absences and tardiness will affect this portion of your grade. Your participation grade will also reflect the quality and thoughtfulness of your contribution in class, respect shown to class members, and evidence of completion of reading assignments.

Second, I will require that you a) post a minimum 250-300 word response to the week’s reading on our class blog by Monday 5pm; b) five out of the eleven blog posts should include a report on active research you undertake in the Media Archaeology Lab, testing out weekly hypotheses from the reading, studying and working with any kind of media in the lab (from books and manuals to magic lanterns, projectors, typewriters, magnetic media, computer hardware, computer software, games etc). And c) comment on at least one other person’s blog post.

Third, I will ask each student to give a presentation in which you will be responsible for presenting your thoughts on the assigned reading and leading discussion during the second half of class.

Fourth, since MA/PhD and MFA students may have different goals, I’m giving you the choice of writing either a final research paper OR creating a work of media poetics OR creating a work of practice-based research. Given that “doing” media archaeology/media poetics is an ideal mode of thinking, I strongly encourage you to do a creative project; however, I recognize that you might want to work toward producing an academic article or conference paper.

Your final grade will be calculated as follows:

Participation: 20%

Blog posts: 20%

Presentation: 25%

Final paper (about 20 pages) OR final project: 35%

Please also note: I do not accept late work. If your final research paper or final project is not submitted by the due date you will automatically receive an F for that assignment. 

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