Until the course itself begins, I will be posting the syllabus, readings list, and some general writing and reading resources for the course onto the "BloggingTEC: Technology, Ethics, and Culture" blog where we will be gathering online. I thought at least some of this material might interest some of the readers who visit here as well, and so I'll post some of it here, too -- especially since I'm distracted with preparations and otherwise might not have much else to offer up to your attention for a couple of days. Here, anyway, is the Course Description from the Syllabus, which also provides the opening moves for the discussion for the first day of class:
In this course we will focus our attention on some of the ways in which critical theory has tried to make sense of the ongoing impact of emerging information and communication technologies on public life, cultural forms, creative expression, and ethical discourse.
Our conversation this term will take as its point of departure the assumption that the basic categories through which we make sense of individual and collective agency, dignity, and claims of right are transforming under the pressure of emerging and converging digital networked information and communication technologies. Over the course of the term, we will survey a number of canonical and contemporary theoretical and polemical works all provoked by the problems and possibilities of these technological transformations.
To the extent that “new” media really are something new, it is hard to imagine a temperament less suited in some ways to think about these impacts than philosophers and critical theorists. Hegel pointed out that philosophy paints its gray on gray only when a form of life has grown cold. And true to form, even relatively recent and influential “new” media theory often seems quaint in its assumptions quite soon after it has been written.
Typically, when theorists speak of “new” media they mean to describe digital media in particular. And since digital media are in fact still consolidating their hold over the circulation and communication of information today, we will mostly stick to that understanding ourselves. But it is important to realize that there are possibly newer new media always emerging as well for which the enabling technologies, working assumptions, and expected effects are quite different.
There will be important differences in the discussion of media and surveillance, depending on whether one wants to focus on issues of digital encryption or biometrics instead. There will be differences in the discussion of media and intellectual property, depending on whether one wants to focus on copyright or patenting genetic information. There will be differences in the discussion of media and the manufacture of consent, depending on whether one wants to focus on the consolidation of broadcast media, the rise of social software tools and practices, or the mandated use of neuroceuticals on the basis of medical information.
In an important sense the course will be a collaborative performance, and so our more specific focus and problems and interests will depend in a significant measure on your own circumstances, concerns, and on the texts that you yourselves happen to respond to most forcefully. It remains to be seen just what conclusions we will find our way to by the end of the term and the end of this conversation.
In addition to exploring these personal and public lives of emerging media, the course will also provide you with an occasion for further training and practice in the writing of argumentation based on close textual reading, and will be a workshop in critical thinking, reading, and deliberation skills.