I am currently planning my fall ’08 graduate class, Networked Knowledge. I thought I would post here about the syllabus, which I am currently working on, and attempt to elicit feedback and suggestions from others who are currently working on this type of material. So, first the course description:
In the introduction to Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold argues that in the future people will be divided between “those who know how to use new media to band together [and] those who don’t” (xix). In this class we will examine how the technological change from the analog to the digital effects the ability to produce and disseminate knowledge and how networked media are changing not only the form of knowledge but its content as well. Once powerful institutions seem to be losing relevance by the day (consider how quickly Wikipedia has trumped Britannica). At the same time we should not too quickly view these new networked digital spaces as utopian democracies, for there are still substantial rhetorical and cultural forces at work. Central to our examination will be how technology, rhetoric, and ethics shape our use of networked communication.
To give a bit more of a frame to this, although I want a range of viewpoints and perspectives, I tend towards the theoretical and philosophic approaches versus say the business or social sciences end. As an example see below some of the texts I am considering, along with brief reasons. (One book I know I need is a good social-history of print culture, a study in the extensive changes brought about by the invention of the printing press.)
Note: there are a lot of other posts on this blog, that is because it has been used in prior semesters for other graduate classes.
- The Exploit: A Theory of Networks, Galloway and Thacker. This is currently one of my favorite books on network culture. Complex, yet concise Thacker and Galloway take their questioning further than most, past the simple rhetoric of “networks yeah!” that inform many works.
- The Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger. I will probably use his essay as well as an essay by Sam Weber from Mass Mediauras.
- Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky. I was originally planning on using Rheingold’s Smart Mobs as a “practical” text, but I think Shirky’s is a bit more up to date and covers many of the same themes.
- Paper Machine and Archive Fever, Derrida. Two central claims by Derrida in these texts are key. 1. The structure of the archive determines what can be archived. 2. Book and paper are just as much about “ideology” as they are about materiality.
- Blogs, Wikis, Second Life and Beyond, Axel Bruns. Bruns concept of produsage, that we have moved beyond industrial production is provocative and well argued.
- My Mother was a Computer, Katherine Hayles. I often have a lot of concerns about Hayles’s work, but I think this book, captures an important theme, the move towards a “simulation” architecture.
- Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, Walter Ong. Still on the fence about this one.
So this is the basic idea. I am also considering, Kittler Discourse Networks, Gunkel Thinking Otherwise, Castellas, Network Society, Stiegler Technics and Time, Jill Walker Rettberg’s Blogging (I actually haven’t read this last one, I am waiting for Amazon to get me a copy, but I respect her work, and guess that this book will be worth it. Although, teaching a text blind is a bit risky.)
Thoughts? Suggestions? Comments?
Update: Thanks to all those who have either emailed, twittered, or posted suggestions. One consistent/persistent question has been why not Ong? I must admit I am on the fence about Ong, I’ll try and explain why. For me Ong (Havelock and Innis to a lesser extent) provide too easy of a solution. That is their thesis/position seems seductively easy. First we have orality, then we have written, then we get a secondary orality with broadcast medium. So this approach relies on a sort of historical progression/evolution that I am largely uncomfortable with. Note how the subtitle of Ong’s book is the “technologizing of the word” as if this is simply a matter of speech becoming more technologized. Not to turn too Derridean here, but this seems to me heavily in the camp of thought as natural, speech as the next closest thing . . .As such Ong’s works often hedges towards techno-determinism without paying careful attention to technical differences (consider how he doesn’t elaborate much on the difference between script and movable type, a difference I might argue is greater than speech-script). This is not to say Ong is not worth teaching, in fact all of the above makes it worth discussing in class, but I also don’t like to teach a text so against the grain (so to speak). I prefer to teach with a text instead of point out its flaws so much, something I am not sure I can do with Ong. But, I am leaning more towards including it than not at this point . . .