Thursday, April 2, 2015

Remember for Tomorrow!

I'll read through the Final Project assignment first thing tomorrow morning and I'll take any questions you may have about it so look it over. Also, REMEMBER what we talked about a few weeks ago: until the end of our class together I will now always expect that you will have one quotation AND one comment or question for each of the assigned texts (that's only four for tomorrow's class) prepared to raise in class discussion in case I ask you for one.

Final Project: Keyword Mapping Our Course "Digital Democracy, Digital Anti-Democracy"

First, Your Keywords:

1. a2k (access to knowledge)
2. acceleration
3. accelerationalism
4. accountability
5. agency
6. algorithm
7. algorithmic mediation
8. amateur
9. analog
10. artificial intelligence
11. artificial imbecillence
12. auteur
13. author
14. authoritarianism
15. authority
16. automation
17. autonomous weapons
18. Babel problem
19. basic income guarantee
20. binary
21. Big Data
22. biopiracy
23. #BlackLivesMatter
24. blog
25. blogipelago
26. blogosphere
27. broadcast
28. "California Ideology"
29. canon
30. citizen
31. citizen journalism
32. cloud
33. Coasean Floor
34. code
35. collaboration
36. color line
37. common goods
38. commons
39. commonsense
40. consensus
41. consensus science
42. consent
43. control
44. copyleft
45. copyright
46. creative commons
47. credentialization
48. critique
49. crowdsourcing
50. crypto-anarchy
51. culture
52. culture industry
53. cyberlibertarianism
54. cybernetics
55. cybernetic totalism
56. cyberspace
57. cyborg
58. cypherpunk
59. democracy
60. democratization
61. design
62. digirati
63. digital
64. digital divide
65. digital humanities
66. digital sharecropping
67. digital utopianism
68. dissensus
69. disruption
70. diversity
71. drone
72. elite
73. enclosure
74. end-to-end principle (e2e)
75. enframing
76. enhancement
77. eugenics
78. excludability
79. existential risk
80. externality
81. fair use
82. filtering
83. financialization
84. finitude
85. follow
86. free software
87. friend
88. "The Future"
89. futurity
90. futurology
91. GamerGate
92. genomic enclosure
93. gift economy
94. hashtag activism
95. harrassment
96. immaterialism
97. information
98. information society
99. industrial model
100. instrumental rationality
101. internet
102. internet-centrism
103. liberal subjectivity
104. like
105. linking
106. Long Tail
107. mapping
108. mass culture
109. mass mediation
110. media
111. media consolidation
112. meme
113. micro-blogging
114. micro-loans
115. micro-payments
116. Moore's Law
117. negative liberty
118. neoliberalism
119. Net Neutrality
120. Netroots
121. network
122. node
123. #NotYourAsianSidekick
124. objectivity
125. open source
126. outsourcing
127. participation
128. panopticon
129. peer
130. peer to peer (p2p)
131. planetarity
132. polysemy
133. popular
134. post-humanist
135. precarity
136. precarization
137. privacy
138. private property
139. privatization
140. professional
141. profiling
142. progress
143. propaganda
144. prostheses as culture/culture as prostheses
145. public
146. publication
147. public domain
148. publicity
149. public good
150. public relations
151. quantified self
152. reductionism/reductive
153. relational
154. representative
155. retro-futurism
156. revolution
157. rivalrousness
158. robocalypse
159. robotics
160. scroll
161. secrecy
162. security
163. sharing
164. Singularity
165. smart
166. social
167. social aesthetics
168. social networks
169. socialization
170. social web
171. solutionism
172. sousveillance
173. spam
174. spectacle
175. spontaneous order
176. stakeholder
177. stealing
178. streaming
179. surf
180. surveillance
181. techbro
182. technocracy
183. techno-fetishism
184. technology
185. technoscience
186. techno-transcendence
187. techno-utopianism
188. "Thought Leader"
189. trace
190. "Tragedy of the Commons"
191. transparency
192. viral
193. virtuality
194. whistleblower
195. WikiLeaks
196. wikipedia
197. word cloud
198. #YesAllWomen
199. zero comments
200. zeros and ones

For your Final Project you will generate a kind of personal conceptual mapping of the subject matter of the whole course. In order to produce this map, you will need to draw on readings and notes over the course of the whole term. Many connections and problems will likely become clear to you for the first time in making this map. Before you make your choices you should spend some time dwelling over the whole list above, since what may at first seem obvious choices often give way to different questions and concerns once you give them more thought.

The assignment is quite straightforward:

[one] Choose fifty-five Keywords from the list above.

[two] Organize your chosen Keywords into three separate, conceptually connected, sets. You can use any criteria that seems useful to you to organize these sets. The only rule is that no resulting set can contain fewer than twelve Keywords.

[three] Each of the three sets should be given a unique title or heading and an introductory paragraph (no longer than a single page) that elaborates the criteria governing your choices as to what would be included in that set. Some examples of set categories from Keyword Maps students have handed me in the past: "Good/Bad/Ugly" "Heaven/Hell/Purgatory" "Animal/Vegetable/Mineral" "Red/Green/Blue" "Going/Going.../Gone."

[four] Once you have organized your three sets in this way, briefly define each one of the Keywords you have included in each set in your own words. Ideally, your definitions should be as clear and as concise as possible. These definitions should be a matter of a sentence (or at most two), NOT a paragraph or more. They really are just definitions, not essays or lengthy explanations. It should be clear from your definitions why each of the Keywords in each of the three sets are conceptually connected to each other, but it is also crucial that no terms within any set are treated by you as synonymous, and that your definitions distinguish Keywords from one another clearly (even if the resulting distinctions are sometimes matters of nuance).

[five] Once you have defined all these Keywords, provide a short quotation from one of the texts we have read this term to accompany each one of your definitions. The quotation you choose can be a definition you found helpful in crafting your own definition, it can be an example or illustration you found especially clarifying, it can a matter of contextualization, framing, or history that you found illuminating, it can even be something you disagreed with so strongly it helped you understand better what you really think yourself. Feel free to edit and prune to keep your chosen citations fixed on its Keyword, just so long as your edit does not violate the original sense of the quotation as you understand it.

Obviously, there are endless ways of organizing these sets, defining their Keywords, distinguishing them from one another, and connecting them up to the texts we have read. What matters here is that you follow the rules of the exercise, not that you arrive at some single "right answer" you may fancy I have in mind.

Everyone's map will likely be quite dramatically different from everyone else's. That's a feature, not a bug.

Many students might also find it useful to introduce additional elements to their final projects -- illustration, cartography, collage, AV supplements, narrative, sculpture, games, and so on. None of these are required but students are welcome to make this final project their own, to introduce additional formal and experimental dimensions that help you come to terms with the course material as a whole in your own way once the basic requirements are satisfied.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Another Short Story This Week

Just wanted to point out that there is another short story assigned among the readings for this week for your delight and edification. Hoping everybody is prepared to talk about it this time around, it could be fun. Don't forget to bring your reading notebooks so you have a question to ask or a quote to share with your peers on each piece in case I should happen to ask for it. You don't have to have a quote/question for my piece, by the way, it feels tacky to ask you for one; it's bad enough I'm giving things by me to read in the first place.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Maneki Neko

One of the assigned readings for this week, "Maneki Neko," is a short story by Bruce Sterling. The link to the story in the syllabus was broken but should work now. I figured you would enjoy the change of pace reading about ideas in the form of fiction (we've had a lyric/spoken word performance, there's another story and a film in coming weeks for you to look forward to, among other things), so do be sure to read it. Like so much Bruce Sterling it's got a satirical edge and a serious mission, so you'll have to decide for yourselves how to take it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Blogging Anxiety

I want to talk about how blogging makes me anxious in the hope that once I share it with you, I might be able to post more blog entries… In this sense, I am embracing the journaling aspect of blogging to talk about my personal experience. 

When I talk about blogging, I am also including all kinds of “sharing" on internet, I am not only talking about posting an article on a blogging website like this one, but I am expanding this idea to sharing links on twitter, writing and sharing publicly on Facebook etc. 

Blogging makes me anxious, EXTREMELY anxious. And I have been ruminating on this feeling for days and here is my attempt to articulate what I think I understand: 

As much as I enjoy reading what other people write on internet, it puts more and more pressure on me to respond, engage and contribute in the same way as they do, which is not an easy thing to do. 
In the past, when something happened in the world, I would discuss it comfortably with my family, my friends and closer circles; we would debate privately and make up our minds about it. But today, even those closest friends are posting publicly on internet, “Oh by the way, I posted an article about that event, check it out”, asking me to also react and respond publicly as if it were the most natural thing to do. This shift from the private to the public realm is not automatic and trivial to me, and there is still a part of me that says: “why should I be talking publicly to strangers? Who said I like it and need it as much as other people do? I never asked for it.” 
In that sense, the sentence from “The nihilist impulse” that says “We could say that blogs are a gift to human kind no one needs” made me smile. 

I feel this pressure even more on platforms like Facebook. As soon as an event breaks out, people start immediately posting and sharing links about it. I wonder when and how they found the time to digest the event, figure out what is true, what is biased or not and how they can boldly make a statement with their posts in less than five seconds. 
For me, this supposedly unconditional need to make oneself heard, is pure peer pressure and a desire to blend in and be part of the game (whatever that game is). Today, since everybody is always saying something, the fact that you don’t, tells things about you, or more precisely, people start making assumptions about you. So in this world of blogging, even if you want to keep your thoughts private for many reasons, or even for a while until you figure out the complexity of that which you are thinking of, you are no longer allowed to. We live in a world where emotional simplicity is preferred over intellectual thinking. We are asked to respond immediately and publicly on things, we are asked to pick sides and stand up for matters that are far more complex than we suspect. I think that this is one of the reasons why blogs become “echo-chambers that police conformity” (like we discussed in class). When I finally made up my mind about something, it becomes even harder to make it public because of this ongoing conformity and just because people loose interest very quickly and move on to a different scandal. And this, makes me anxious. 

Last but not least, as outrageous as it may seem, I think that my anxiety comes from the fact that I grew up in a country with a dictatorial regime, where censorship and the surveillance of individuals was a common practice. I have seen what a government is capable of, from kidnapping, fake trials and prosecutions, torture and the use of psychiatric asylums, in order to silence ideas and opinions. Words do have consequences that can extend not only to the individual but the people you care about. Even if I am no longer living in an openly recognized dictatorship, I remain suspicious of how your own words can be used against you at any given moment of your lifetime, either by governments or professional entities and institutions, and I am not sure that everybody is aware of the risk that can be involved in that. Having said that, even if I despise those who blindly and naively say whatever crosses their minds as if they were in the privacy of their homes, I highly admire those who make bold and inspiring statements while fully aware of all the possible outcomes, and those are the people I look up to. 

Some people might probably think I am just being a coward. But I do believe that not everybody is born with innate super powers that allow them to transition from private to public, to articulate a social political and religious statement in 5 seconds and feel invincible at all times. 

So, am I the only one having blogging anxiety? 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Post Your Readings Sooner Rather Than Later

Someone has to be first, go. If you have questions, ask. If you are just putting it off, don't.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Invites Are In

Some of you can't write clearly to save your lives, so if you did not receive an invitation it may well mean I guessed wrong and transcribed your e-mail address incorrectly. If you did not receive an invitation or if the process has failed in some other way, please e-mail me directly at and I will re-invite you.