R1B - 002 | CCN: 29851

The Craft of Writing

Internet as Cultural Design: New Media Art, Digital Poetics, Electronic Literature

Instructor: Ryan Ikeda & Michelle Kim

4 Units

Many early New Media artists construe the Internet as a site of cultural activity. In 2002, programmers modify a first-person shooter game called Counter Strike to integrate ‘protest sprays’, or graffiti, that works against the game’s ‘self-serious violence and machismo’ in order to provide an anti-war message. In 2001, Net.Artist Keith Obadike attempts to sell his “blackness” on eBay. In 2000, conceptual artist and roboticist, Ken Goldberg, creates an online Ouija board with a planchette mounted on a robotic arm. Unlike a conventional Ouija board, which relies upon unknown “spirits” to answer each question, Goldberg’s Ouija 2000 allows up to twenty different participants to control the robotic arm. While Ouija 2000 provides answers to its users’ questions, it does so through a distributed anonymity that Goldberg calls “telepresence”, a type of epistemic uncertainty permitted by the Internet that is not unlike the magic or mysticism involved in a conventional Ouija board.

 

The purpose of this course is to demystify digital technology, in general, and, in particular, to investigate how the Internet designs and configures human behavior by controlling, or steering, human perception. We will field this line of inquiry in two ways: 1) By attending to provocative and seminal works of New Media Art, Electronic Literature, Digital Poetics, and Visual cultures, emerging in the late 1990s and early 21st century, that situate the Internet as a site for cultural formation, and also 2) Through several concepts important to key figures of digital studies, including – mediation (McLuhan), remediation (Bolter and Grusin), convergence culture (Jenkins), technicity (Simondon), and imbrication (Stiegler, Hayles).

 

As an R1B research-intensive course, our hope is to inspire our students to think critically not only about contemporary Internet discourses, but also the immediate objects you interface with and experience on a daily basis, and to consider:

· How does the Internet constrain, limit, and produce what I perceive about the world?

· How does what I see configure what I think?

· What must we give up in order to participate in digital culture?

We will develop these inquiries through writing and by rigorous and rhetorical engagement with works of art that critique digital culture, as well as secondary sources, or essays that critique works of art critiquing the digital, and also close attention to salient theories/arguments from contemporary digital studies. Some may describe this double-jointed process of thinking through writing and writing through reading as ‘research’, a practice this course also intends to demystify.