Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Friday, April 28, 2006

Courses at the San Francisco Art Institute

Here's a description of the critical theory survey course I'll be teaching at SFAI this Summer:

CONTEMPORARY CRITICAL THEORY (Crit Theory A) “The Point Is to Change It”

What is theory good for? Marx famously complained that while philosophers have only interpreted the world, “the point is to change it.” Just what are the relations of theory and practice? How does theory illuminate and invigorate human agency?


Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology
Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion
Roland Barthes, Mythologies
Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic
Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity
Carol Adams, “Beastliness and the Politics of Solidarity”
Judith Butler, Undoing Gender
Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs”

And here are the two courses I'll be teaching at SFAI this upcoming Fall:

CONTEMPORARY CRITICAL THEORY (Crit Theory B) “Theory Faces Technoscience”

A technophile is a person to whom we attribute a naïve or uncritical enthusiasm for technology, while a technophobe is a person to whom we attribute a no less uncritical dread of or hostility to technology. But what does it tell us that there is no comparably familiar word to simply describe a person who is focused on the impact of technology in a critical way that pays equally close attention both to its promises and its dangers? Is it really so impossible to conceive of a critical technocentrism equally alive to real promises and alert to real dangers?

Technological development is an ongoing provocation on our personal and public lives. Indeed, in contemporary technocultures continual developmental interventions into "given" norms, laws, trading conventions, and the customary limits of architecture and morphology, as well as the fraught practices through which we struggle individually and collectively to re-weave these disruptions into meaningful relations with our histories and our hopes constitute a definitive and abiding crisis of cultural life in this historical moment.

In this course we will survey some of the key interventions of critical theory into the problems, values, assumptions, and specificities of contemporary technoscience. Together with these theoretical texts, we will contemplate fiction, film, and policy-making that takes up these problems and expresses these values and assumptions in different but related ways. These texts will sometimes be technophilic, sometimes
technophobic. Sometimes they will be freighted with hyperbolic enthusiasm, sometimes with intimations of disaster. Some will see technological development as inherently superhumanizing, some as inherently dehumanizing. We will lodge our own interventions in a hope that refuses nostalgia and a critical realism that refuses the faith in inevitable progress.


Hannah Arendt, “Prologue” to The Human Condition
Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, “California Ideology”
John Perry Barlow, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”
Michel Bauwens, "The Political Economy of Peer Production"
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”
Michael Berube, “Life As We Know It”
James Boyle, “Enclosing the Genome?”
David Brin, “Three Cheers for the Surveillance Society!”
William Burroughs, “Immortality”
Jamais Cascio, “Leapfrog 101” and “What Would Radical Longevity Mean?”
David Cronenberg, dir. The Fly
Erik Davis, “Experience Design”
Richard Doyle, “Darwin’s Pharmacy”
Jacques Ellul, excerpts from The Technological Society
Michel Foucault, “Space, Knowledge, and Power”
Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” and “The Promises of Monsters”
Katherine Hayles, “Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Weiner and
Cybernetic Anxiety”
Martin Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology”
Hepburn and Tracy, Desk Set
James Hughes, “Embrace the End of Work”
Jeron Lanier, “One Half of a Manifesto”
Steve Mann, “The Post-Cyborg Path to Deconism”
Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky), “Material Memories”
Annalee Newitz, “Genome Liberation”
Mark Poster, “CyberDemocracy”
Valerie Solanas, “The SCUM Manifesto”
Marc Steigler, “The Gentle Seduction”
Bruce Sterling, “Viridian Design Speech”
Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism”
Slavoj Zizek, “Bring Me My Philips Mental Jacket”

CONTEMPORARY CRITICAL THEORY (Crit Theory A) “The Enterprise of

What are the conventions through which we constitute the proper objects of interpretation in the first place? And who are the subjects empowered to offer up interpretations that compel our attention and conviction? What happens when objects object to our interpretations and demand the standing of subjects themselves? How does the interpretation of literary texts differ from the interpretation of the law? How does it differ from a scientist’s interrogation of her environment? Or from any critical engagement with the “given” terms of the social order in which one lives? Or even from the give and take through which we struggle to understand one another in everyday conversation?


Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo
Sigmund Freud, “The Psychotic Doctor Schreber”
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology
Roland Barthes, Mythologies
"They Live," John Carpenter, dir.
Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality
William Burroughs, “Immortality”
Valerie Solanas, The SCUM Manifesto
Paul Gilroy, Postcolonial Melancholy
Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
Carol Adams, “Beastliness and the Politics of Solidarity”
Judith Butler, Undoing Gender
Donna Haraway, “Ecce Homo”


RobinOfTheAnimals said...

These look amazing. I wish I could take all of them and read every single text.

Robin Zebrowski said...

Seriously - can I come too?

These texts are amazing - a few I hadn't heard of by authors I really like. I've got some hunting-down to do.