Table of Contents

How would I teach a class on digital studies? How would I teach a class on the Anthropocene? How would I teach a class on digital studies in the Anthropocene?

On Digital Studies

Thankfully I already have designed an Intro to Digital Studies syllabus. The question is: how would I make it mine based on what I’ve learned from these quals?

Chrono-Conceptually (The Boring Way)

I could do it chrono-conceptually:

  • The roots of media
    • Mumford, Benjamin, Innis, McLuhan
  • World War II and the turn to Information
    • Wiener, Bush, Turner, Edwards, Hicks
  • The rise of the network
    • Malloy, Hardt/Negri, Appadurai, Galloway/Thacker
  • The turn to materiality (German media theory)
    • Foucault, Kittler, Ernst
  • Media archaeology
    • Chun, Kirschenbaum, Parikka, Nakamura
  • The rise of infrastructure
    • Star, Starosielski, Hu, Bratton, Mattern
  • The emergence of technique
    • Siegert

Introduction to Digital Studies

This is a potential approach I’d take if I were teaching UMD’s Intro. to Digital Studies using only the materials on this list.

Introduction: Scoping the Digital

  1. “Definitional” projects over the past two decades of media criticism; overview topics of the course
    • Manovich, Language of New Media
    • Fuller, intro. to Software Studies
    • Parikka, What is Media Archaeology?
    • Starosielski, “Against Flow”

Module #1: Dematerialization // Networks and Power

Purpose of this module is to begin with thinking about how digital technologies organize power. Not quite chronological but draws heavily on the rise of the “information society” and its concomitant regimes of control, and the proliferation of network thinking in the 1990’s.

  1. The mid-century war-time roots of computing
    • Bush, “As We May Think”
    • Wiener, Cybernetics
    • Edwards, The Closed World
    • Hicks, Programmed Inequality
  2. Societies and technologies of control
    • Browne, Dark Matters
    • Cheney-Lippold, “A New Algorithmic Identity”
    • Pasquale, The Black Box Society
    • Noble, Algorithms of Oppression
  3. Globalization, the network as political figure, hacking/exploits/resistance
    • Appardurai, Fear of Small Numbers
    • Hardt/Negri, Empire
    • Galloway/Thacker, The Exploit
    • Brunton/Nissenbaum, Obfuscation
  4. Digital labor and the changing nature of work
    • Scholz, Digital Labor, esp. Terranova’s “Free Labor”
    • Liu, The Laws of Cool
    • Zuboff, In the Age of the Smart Machine
    • Galloway, “We Are The Gold Farmers,” from Interface Effect

Module #2: Rematerialization // Media Archaeology

This module then picks up with the re-assertion of materiality from German media theory in the 1990’s and Anglophone media archaeology in the 2000’s.

  1. Foundations of materialist media study
    • Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, Memory”
    • Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter
    • Innis, The Bias of Communication
    • Young, List Cultures [as explanatory document]
  2. The archive concept and the archive material
    • Derrida, Archive Fever
    • Chun, Programmed Visions
    • Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge
    • Farge, The Allure of the Archives
  3. Textual media archaeology — 1st Anglophone excursus
    • Gitelman, Always Already New
    • Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms
    • Emerson, Reading Writing Interfaces
    • Tenen, Plain Text
  4. So-called German Media Theory
    • Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive (w/ Parikka’s introduction)
    • Vismann, Files
    • Siegert, Cultural Techniques
    • Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media
  5. Platforms and formats — 2nd Anglophone excursus
    • Montfort/Bogost, Racing the Beam
    • Nakamura, “Indigenous Circuits”
    • Sterne, MP3

Module #3: At Planetary Scale // Infrastructures and Ecologies

This module pushes into very contemporary work in digital studies and expands media archaeology to address infrastructures and environmental impacts. It also returns to earlier questions of mediation to address the changing scope of digital studies.

  1. The problem of scale: pairing approaches to infrastructure
    • Bratton, The Stack
    • Star, “The Ethnography of Infrastructure”
  2. Archaeologies of Infrastructure
    • Starosielski, The Undersea Network
    • Hu, A Prehistory of the Cloud
    • Mattern, Code and Clay, esp. her intro. critique of MA
  3. The planet as media / vast scale
    • Mumford, Technics and Civilization
    • Parikka, A Geology of Media
    • Peters, The Marvelous Clouds
    • Gabrys, Program Earth
  4. Biological media / small scale
    • Nakamura/Chow-White, Race after the Internet, later selections on genomics
    • Coole/Frost, New Materialisms, selections
  5. Electronic waste and the politics of pollution
    • Brunton, Spam
    • Cubitt, Finite Media
    • Nixon, Slow Violence

Additional Modules on the Anthropocene

This is a modified version of the above syllabus that tries to link across both halves of the list more.

Module #4: Object-orientation and digital matter

This module asks after the ontological drive in both digital studies and contemporary speculative philosophy. How do materialist media studies and speculative philosophy substantiate their “realism”? Whence the turn toward realism at all? Organized around two figures: objects and matter.

  1. Object-orientation #1: Physical platforms
    • Montfort/Bogost, Racing the Beam
    • Harman, “On the Undermining of Objects”
    • Crutzen/Kotkamp, “Object Orientation” in Software Studies
  2. Object-orientation #2: The question of realism
    • Aristarkhova, “A Feminist Object” in OOF
    • Meillassoux, After Finitude
    • Kittler, “There is no Software”
  3. Digital matter #1: Relations and networks
    • Bennet, Vibrant Matter
    • Chun, Updating to Remain the Same
    • Jagoda, Network Aesthetics
  4. Digital matter #2: Science and the humanities
    • Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway
    • Haraway, Staying with the Trouble
    • Gabrys, Program Earth

Module #5: Techniques and arts of world-making

This module explores the turn toward technique that comes after the realist project for both media materialism and speculative/new materialisms. After fumbling with ontology, both turn toward a variety of ontic techniques or arts for managing a world that seems decaying and breaking. Includes cultural techniques, speculative theory-fiction, design, and work on repair and maintenance.

  1. Arts and techniques: from ontologies to ontics
    • Siegert, Cultural Techniques
    • Tsing et al., Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet
  2. The role of design
    • Bratton, The Stack
    • Kraus, “Finding Fault Lines”
    • Rosner, Critical Fabulations
  3. Across theory and fiction
    • Negarestani, Cyclonopedia
    • Carpenter, The Gathering Clouds
  4. Arts of repair and maintenance
    • Jackson, “Rethinking Repair”
    • Russell/Vinsel, “Hail the Maintainers”
    • Star, “The Ethnography of Infrastructure”

Module #6: Digital ecologies

And this module would explore the various senses of “ecology” for doing digital studies, including: genealogical and nonlinear inheritance, network ecologies, and the move from ecology to environment.

  1. Genealogy and ecological inheritance
    • Mumford, Technics and Civilization
    • Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, Memory”
    • Parikka, What is Media Archaeology?
  2. (Social) network ecologies
    • Galloway/Thacker, The Exploit, esp. the back half on biotechnics
    • Chun, Updating to Remain the Same, esp. the back half on social media
    • Latour, Reassembling the Social
  3. Environmental ecologies
    • Starosielski, The Undersea Network
    • Morton, Ecology without Nature
    • Cubitt, Finite Media

On the Anthropocene

My brain is a little mushy right now but I’m inclined to think a few things re: a syllabus on the Anthropocene:

  • That the “Anthropocene” is really one concept at the tail-end of a history of concepts, and as such it gives it too much credence to stand on its own.
  • Then that the Anthropocene requires context, and there are many contexts we could use:
    • As a current phase of humanities thinking about science and technology
    • As an extension of the environmental humanities more broadly
    • As a unit within a digital studies course