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The Culture of Information *
ENGL 25 - Spring 2007,  Alan Liu

Mon, 4/2
Class 1: What is Information?

  • Buy required books (and CD-ROM of Califia) at UCSB Bookstore
  • Buy course reader at Alternative Copy Shop

I. Information Revolutions: Media, Communication, Computing, and 'New Media'
Wed, 4/4
Class 2: The Media Revolution: "The Medium is the Message"

Readings Due: Marshall McLuhan, "The Medium is the Message" (1964)Reader

Fri, 4/6
Class 3: Past Media Revolutions

Readings Due: Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (1982), pp. 16-27, 31-77

Mon, 4/9
Class 4: [Interactive Class]

Discussion with the Instructor on issues of previous two classes.

Wed, 4/11
Class 5: The Communications Revolution and the Digital Principle

Readings Due:

Fri, 4/13
Class 6: The Computer Revolution 1: History of the Computer

Readings Due:

  • Paul E. Ceruzzi, A History of Modern Computing (1998), pp. 13-46 Reader
  • Martin Campbell-Kelly and William Aspray, Computer: A History of the Information Machine (1996), pp. 233-58 Reader

Mon, 4/16
Class 7: The Computer Revolution 2: The Age of the Network

Readings Due:

Wed, 4/18
Class 8: The Computer Revolution 3: The Emergence of 'New Media'

Readings Due:

  • The Original New Media: Writing
    • Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 78-83, 93-103
  • The New New Media: Digital and Networked Media
    • Lev Manovitch, The Language of New Media (2001), pp. 18-48, 218-28 Reader

Fri, 4/20
[No Class]

Literary and Artistic Responses to the Information Revolution
Mon, 4/23
Class 9: The Literature of Information: Thomas Pynchon

Readings Due:

  • Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1965) (read to p. 88 by this date)
  • Help on the concept of entropy

Wed, 4/25
Class 10: (continued)

Readings Due:

  • Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (finish the novel)

Fri, 4/27
Class 11: (continued + interactive class)

  • Conclusion of lectures on Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49
  • Discussion with Instructor on the novel.

Mon, 4/30
Class 12: Toward a New-Media Literature

Readings Due:

Wed, 5/2
Class 13: Digital Literature

Readings Due:

Fri, 5/4
Class 14: Graphic Art, Digital Art, and Network Art

Readings Due:

Mon, 5/7
Class 15: (continued + interactive class)

  • Conclusion of lectures on new media literature and arts.
  • Discussion with Instructor.
Four-page paper due in lecture (See Sample Topics)

Wed, 5/9
[Midterm Reading Exam postponed until May 11th]

Originally scheduled for May 9th, the midterm exam has been moved to Friday, May 11th due to the power outage on campus the evening before the original date of the exam. Students are excused from coming to class on May 9th. The readings assigned for the next week of the course will be shuffled forward by one class (and one class will be cut). See the schedule below, which was adjusted on 5/9/07.

II. Information as Work and Power
Fri, 5/11
[Midterm Reading Exam]

[Note: Originally scheduled for May 9th, the midterm exam has been moved to this date, May 11th, due to the campus power outage shortly before the original date of the exam.]

Exam on readings (print and online) in the course to date. The exam is "factual," and is designed to reward students who have regularly kept up with the assignments and attended lectures and sections.

Mon, 5/14
Class 16: Postindustrial 'Knowledge Work'

Readings Due:

  • Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942), pp. 82-84 (on "creative destruction") Online
  • Shoshana Zuboff, In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (1988) [in Trend]; also read these online excerpts.
  • Joseph H. Boyett and Henry P. Conn, Workplace 2000 (1992), pp. 1-46 Reader
  • William H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone, The Virtual Corporation (1992), pp. 1-19, 50-72, 184-205, 214-16 Reader

Wed, 5/16
Class 17: Postindustrial 'Knowledge Work' (continued)

Readings Due:

  • Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline (1990), pp. 3-14 Reader
  • Manuel Castells, "The Informational Economy" [in Trend]

Fri, 5/18
Class 18: Political Critiques of Information in the New World Order: Cyberlibertarianism and 'Hacktivism'

Readings Due:

Fri, 5/18
Class 19: (continued + interactive class)

[This class, originally scheduled for May 18, has been cut from the schedule due to the power outage and postponed midterm earlier in May, which forced the preceding few classes to move forward one notch on the calendar.]
  • Conclusion of lectures on postindustrial "knowledge work."
  • Discussion with the Instructor."

Literary and Artistic Responses to Information as Work and Power
Mon, 5/21
Class 20: Cyberpunk Fiction

Readings Due:

  • Introduction to Science Fiction and Cyberpunk (Guest lecture by Lydia Balian)
  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984) (read at least half the novel by this date)
Guest lecturer: Lydia Balian (for a Web version of the PowerPoint lecture, see "Class Notes" for this class; or download the original PowerPoint file)

Wed, 5/23
Class 21: (continued)

Readings Due: William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984) (finish reading the novel)

Fri, 5/25
Class 22: Viral Art

Readings Due:

  • Familiarize yourself with the work of the following two artists or artist groups:
  • Critical Art Ensemble, "Electronic Civil Disobedience" (1996) Reader and "The Mythology of Terrorism on the Net" (1995) Reader [Note: these essays are in the reader but are also part of books by the CAE that can be retrieved online in the form of .pdf files.])

Mon, 5/28
[No Class: Memorial Day]

III. Information as Identity
Wed, 5/30
Class 23: Body, Gender, and Race in Cyberspace

Readings Due:

  • Julian Dibbell, "A Rape in Cyberspace; or How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database into a Society" (1993) [in Trend]
  • Simon Penny, "Representation, Enaction, and the Ethics of Simulation" (2004) (also read the responses to the essay by Eugene Thacker and Katherine Hayles) Reader
  • Donna Haraway, "A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s" (1985) [in Trend]

Recommended Readings:
  • Sherry Turkle, "Who Am We?" (1995) [in Trend]
  • If you've never been in a MOO environment, you may wish to venture as a guest into the lamdaMOO discussed in the Dibbell essay--at least as far as reading the tutorial and trying the interface. Use a telnet client to go to, port 8888 (most computers have a telnet client installed, in which case clicking on the above link in a Web browser should open it). Online

Due on this date: online, revised version of 4-page essay (Web Authoring Assignment) (see Technology Help page for information regarding technical assistance and resources for Web authoring) [Note: this assignment was moved to this date from its original deadline of May 25]

Fri, 6/1
Class 24: (continued)

Readings Due:

  • Margaret Morse, "Virtually Female: Body and Code" (1997) [in Trend]
  • Lisa Nakamura, "Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet" (2000) [in Trend]
  • Jennifer González, "The Appended Subject: Race and Identity in Digital Assemblage" (2000) Reader
  • Kostya Mitenev, Undina Online
  • Victoria Vesna, Bodies© INCorporated Online

Mon, 6/4
Class 25: (continued)

Conclusion of themes from the previous two lectures and discussion with the instructor.

Califia: An Electronic Novel of Californian Identity From the Age of the Chumash to the Digital Age
Wed, 6/6
Class 26: Califia

Readings Due: M. D. Coverley (Marjorie Luesebrink), Califia (2000)
(Open the file "Califia.exe" on the CD-ROM to start; turn your sound on. Try to make your way through at least the first two "journeys" in this hypertext novel: the journeys South and East.)

Fri, 6/8
Class 27: (continued)

Readings Due: M. D. Coverley (Marjorie Luesebrink), Califia (2000)
(Journey the rest of the way to the close of the novel in the West.)

8-page paper due in class

Wed, 6/13
[Final Reading Exam]

Exam on materials in the course (print and online) covered since the midterm. The exam is "factual," and is designed to reward students who have regularly kept up with the assignments and attended lectures and sections. The exam will be only 50 minutes long (4-4:50 pm).

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