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.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Laurie Anderson: The Language of the Future


Last year, I was on a twin-engine plane coming from Milwaukee to New York City. Just over La Guardia, one of the engines conked out and we started to drop straight down, flipping over and over. Then the other engine died: and we went completely out of control. New York City started getting taller and taller. A voice came over the intercom and said:

Our pilot has informed us that we are about to attempt a crash landing.
Please extinguish all cigarettes. Place your tray tables in their upright, locked position.

Your Captain says: Please do not panic.
Your Captain says: Place your head in your hands.
Captain says: Place your head on your knees.
Captain says: Put your hands on your head. Put your hands on your knees! (heh-heh)

This is your Captain.
Have you lost your dog?
We are going down.
We are all going down, together.

As it turned out, we were caught in a downdraft and rammed into a bank. It was, in short, a miracle. But afterwards I was terrified of getting onto planes. The moment I started walking down that aisle, my eyes would clamp shut and I would fall into a deep, impenetrable sleep.


Finally, I was able to remain conscious, but I always had to go up to the forward cabin and ask the stewardesses if I could sit next to them: "Hi! Uh, mind if I join you?" They were always rather irritated--"Oh, all right (what a baby)"--and I watched their uniforms crack as we made nervous chitchat.
Sometimes even this didn't work, and I'd have to find one of the other passengers to talk to. You can spot these people immediately. There's one on every flight. Someone who's really on _your_ wavelength.
I was on a flight from L.A. when I spotted one of them, sitting across the aisle. A girl, about fifteen. And she had this stuffed rabbit set up on her tray table and she kept arranging and rearranging the rabbit and kind of waving to it: "Hi!"
"Hi there!"
And I decided: This is the one _I_ want to sit next to. So I sat down and we started to talk and suddenly I realized she was speaking an entirely different language. Computerese.
A kind of high-tech lingo.
Everything was circuitry, electronics, switching.
If she didn't understand something, it just "didn't scan."
We talked mostly about her boyfriend. This guy was never in a bad mood. He was in a bad mode.
Modey kind of a guy.
The romance was apparently kind of rocky and she kept saying: "Man oh man you know like it's so digital!" She just meant the relationship was on again, off again.

Always two things switching.
Current runs through bodies and then it doesn't.
It was a language of sounds, of noise, of switching, of signals.
It was the language of the rabbit, the caribou, the penguin, the beaver.
A language of the past.
Current runs through bodies and then it doesn't.
On again.
Off again.
Always two things switching.
One thing instantly replaces another.

It was the language of the Future.

Put your knees up to your chin.
Have you lost your dog?
Put your hands over your eyes.

Jump out of the plane.
There is no pilot.
You are not alone.

This is the language of the on-again off-again future.
And it is Digital.

And I answered the phone and I heard a voice and the voice said:
Please do not hang up.
We know who you are.
Please do not hang up.
We know what you have to say.
Please do not hang up.
We know what you want.
Please do not hang up.
We've got your number:
One ...
Two ...
Three ...


Digital Democracy, Digital Anti-Democracy (CS-301G-01)

Spring 2015 01/23/2015-05/08/2015 Lecture Friday 09:00AM - 11:45AM, Main Campus Building, Room MCR

Instructor: Dale Carrico; Contact:,


Grade Roughly Based On:

Att/Part 15%, Reading Notebook 25%, Reading 10%, In-Class Report 10%, Final Keywords Map 40%

Course Description:

This course will try to make sense of the impacts of technological change on public life. We will focus our attention on the ongoing transformation of the public sphere from mass-mediated into peer-to-peer networked. Cyberspace isn't a spirit realm. It belches coal smoke. It is accessed on landfill-destined toxic devices made by wretched wage slaves. It has abetted financial fraud and theft around the world. All too often, its purported "openness" and "freedom" have turned out to be personalized marketing harassment, panoptic surveillance, zero comments, and heat signatures for drone targeting software. We will study the history of modern media formations and transformations, considering the role of media critique from the perspective of several different social struggles in the last era of broadcast media, before fixing our attention on the claims being made by media theorists, digital humanities scholars, and activists in our own technoscientific moment.

Academic Resource Center
The Academic Resource Center (ARC) provides free tutoring to all SFAI students on any assignment or project. Because everyone benefits from discussing and developing their work in an individualized setting, SFAI recommends that all students make use of the Academic Resource Center.

Students can make an appointment with a tutor by visiting (username is the first part of your SFAI email address; password is your last name). The Center is open throughout the semester (beginning after the add/drop period) from 10am to 4pm Monday through Friday in the lower level of the Chestnut Street campus (at the Francisco Street entrance), with extended hours in the Residence Halls and at the Graduate Campus. Students are also welcome to drop by the Center any time during open hours to make use of the ARCs writing reference library, computers, and study spaces.

Accessibility Accommodations
SFAI has a commitment to provide equal educational opportunities for qualified students with disabilities in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations; to provide equality of access for qualified students with disabilities; and to provide accommodations, auxiliary aids, and services that will specifically address those functional limitations of the disability which adversely affects equal educational opportunity. SFAI will assist qualified students with disabilities in securing such appropriate accommodations, auxiliary aids and services. The Accessibility Services Office at SFAI aims to promote self-awareness, self determination, and self-advocacy for students through our policies and procedures.

In the case of any complaint related to disability matters, a student may access the student grievance procedures; however, complaints regarding requests for accommodation are resolved pursuant to Section IV Process for Requests for Accommodations: Eligibility, Determination and Appeal.

The Accessibility Services Office is located on the Chestnut Campus in the Student Affairs Office and can be reached at

Academic Integrity and Misconduct Policy
The rights and responsibilities that accompany academic freedom are at the heart of the intellectual, artistic, and personal integrity of SFAI. At SFAI we value all aspects of the creative process, freedom of expression, risk-taking, and experimentation that adhere to the fundamental value of honesty in the making of ones academic and studio work and in relationship to others and their work. Misunderstanding of the appropriate academic conduct will not be accepted as an excuse for academic dishonesty. If a student is unclear about appropriate academic conduct in relationship to a particular situation, assignment, or requirement, the student should consult with the instructor of the course, Department Chair, Program Directors, or the Dean of Students.

Forms of Academic Misconduct
Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of anothers words, ideas, or information. At SFAI academic writing must follow conventions of documentation and citation (6.1; MLA Handbook, Joseph Gibaldi ch.2). Students are advised to seek out this guideline in the Academic Support Center, to ask faculty when they are in doubt about standards, and to recognize they are ultimately responsible for proper citation. In the studio, appropriation, subversion, and other means of challenging convention complicate attempts to codify forms of acknowledgment and are often defined by disciplinary histories and practices and are best examined, with the faculty, in relationship to the specific studio course.

Cheating is the use or attempted use of unauthorized information including: looking at or using information from another persons paper/exam; buying or selling quizzes, exams, or papers; possessing, referring to, or employing opened textbooks, notes, or other devices during a quiz or exam. It is the responsibility of all students to consult with their faculty, in a timely fashion, concerning what types of study aids and materials are permissible in their specific course.

Falsification and Fabrication
Falsification and fabrication are the use of identical or substantially the same assignment to fulfill the requirements for two or more courses without the approval of the faculty involved, or the use of identical or substantially the same assignment from a previously completed course to fulfill requirements for another course without the approval of the instructor of the later course. Students are expected to create new work in specific response to each assignment, unless expressly authorized by their faculty to do otherwise.

Unfair Academic Advantage
Unfair academic advantage is interferenceincluding theft, concealment, defacement or destruction of other students works, resources, or materialfor the purpose of gaining an academic advantage.

Noncompliance with Course Rules
The violation of specific course rules as outlined in the syllabus by the faculty or otherwise provided to the student.

Provisional Schedule of Meetings

Week One, January 23: What Are We Talking About When We Talk About "Technology" and "Democracy"?

Week Two, January 30: Digital,

Laurie Anderson: The Language of the Future
Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology 
Evgeny Morozov, The Perils of Perfectionism
Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky), Material Memories 

Week Three, February 6: The Architecture of Cyberspatial Politics

Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas, Chapter Three: Commons on the Wires
Yochai Benkler, Wealth of Networks, Chapter 12: Conclusion
Michel Bauwens, The Political Economy of Peer Production
Saskia Sassen, Interactions of the Technical and the Social: Digital Formations of the Powerful and the Powerless 
My own, p2p Is Either Pay-to-Peer or Peers-to-Precarity 
Jessica Goodman The Digital Divide Is Still Leaving Americans Behind 
American Civil Liberties Union, What Is Net Neutrality
Dan Bobkoff, Is Net Neutrality the Real Issue?

Week Four, February 13: Published Public

Dan Gillmour, We the Media, Chapter One: From Tom Paine to Blogs and Beyond
Digby (Heather Parton) The Netroots Revolution
Clay Shirky, Blogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing
Aaron Bady, Julian Assange and the Conspiracy to "Destroy the Invisible Government"
Geert Lovink Blogging: The Nihilist Impulse
Jodi Dean Blogging Theory

Week Five, February 20: Immaterialism

John Perry Barlow, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
Katherine Hayles, Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Weiner and Cybernetic Anxiety
Paulina Borsook, Cyberselfish
David Golumbia, Cyberlibertarians' Digital Deletion of the Left
Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, California Ideology
Eric Hughes, A Cypherpunk's Manifesto
Tim May, The Cryptoanarchist Manifest

Week Six, February 27: The Architecture of Cyberspatial Politics: Loose Data

Lawrence Lessig, Prefaces to the first and second editions of Code
Evgeny Morozov, Connecting the Dots, Missing the Story
Lawrence Joseph Interviews Frank Pasquale about The Black Box Society
My Own, The Inevitable Cruelty of Algorithmic Mediation
Frank Pasquale, Social Science in an Era of Corporate Big Data
danah boyd and Kate Crawford, Critical Questions for Big Data 
 Bruce Sterling, Maneki Neko

Week Seven, March 6: Techno Priesthood

Evgeny Morozov, The Meme Hustler
Jedediah Purdy, God of the Digirati
Jaron Lanier, First Church of Robotics
Jalees Rehman, Is Internet-Centrism A Religion?
Mike Bulajewski, The Cult of Sharing
George Sciaballa Review of David Noble's The Religon of Technology

Week Eight, March 13: Total Digital

Jaron Lanier, One Half of a Manifesto
Vernor Vinge, Technological Singularity
Nathan Pensky, Ray Kurzweil Is Wrong: The Singularity Is Not Near
Aaron Labaree, Our Science Fiction Future: Meet the Scientists Trying to Predict the End of the World
My Own, Very Serious Robocalyptics
Marc Steigler, The Gentle Seduction

Week Nine, March 16-20: Spring Break

Week Ten, March 27: Meet Your Robot God

Screening the film, "Colossus: The Forbin Project"

Week Eleven, April 3: Publicizing Private Goods

Cory Doctorow You Can't Own Knowledge
James Boyle, The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain
David Bollier, Reclaiming the Commons
Astra Taylor, Six Questions on the People's Platform

Week Twelve, April 10: Privatizing Public Goods

Nicholas Carr, Sharecropping the Long Tail
Nicholas Carr, The Economics of Digital Sharecropping
Clay Shirky, Why Small Payments Won't Save Publishing
Scott Timberg: It's Not Just David Byrne and Radiohead: Spotify, Pandora, and How Streaming Music Kills Jazz and Classical 
Scott Timberg Interviews Dave Lowery, Here's How Pandora Is Destroying Musicians
Hamilton Nolan, Microlending Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

Week Thirteen, April 17: Securing Insecurity

Charles Mann, Homeland Insecurity
David Brin, Three Cheers for the Surveillance Society!
Lawrence Lessig, Insanely Destructive Devices
Glenn Greenwald, Ewan MacAskill, and Laura Poitras, Edward Snowden: The Whistleblower Behind the NSA Surveillance Revelations
Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden: Saving Us from the United Stasi of America

Week Fourteen, April 24: "Hashtag Activism" I

Evgeny Morozov Texting Toward Utopia 
Hillary Crosly Croker, 2013 Was the Year of Black Twitter
Michael Arceneux, Black Twitter's 2013 All Stars
Annalee Newitz, What Happens When Scientists Study Black Twitter
Alicia Garza, A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement
Shaquille Bewster, After Ferguson: Is "Hashtag Activism" Spurring Policy Changes?
Jamilah King, When It Comes to Sports Protests, Are T-Shirts Enough?

Week Fifteen, May 1: "Hashtag Activism" II

Paulina Borsook, The Memoirs of a Token: An Aging Berkeley Feminist Examines Wired
Zeynap Tukekci, No, Nate, Brogrammers May Not Be Macho, But That's Not All There Is To It; How French High Theory and Dr. Seuss Can Help Explain Silicon Valley's Gender Blindspots
Sasha Weiss, The Power of #YesAllWomen
Lisa Nakamura, Queer Female of Color: The Highest Difficulty Setting There Is? Gaming Rhetoric as Gender Capital 
Yoonj Kim, #NotYourAsianSidekick Is A Civil Rights Movement for Asian American Women
Jay Hathaway, What Is Gamergate

Week Sixteen, May 8: Digital Humanities, Participatory Aesthetics, and Design Culture

Claire Bishop, The Social Turn and Its Discontents
Adam Kirsch, Technology Is Taking Over English Departments: The False Promise of the Digital Humanities
David Golumbia, Digital Humanities: Two Definitions
Tara McPherson, Why Are Digital Humanities So White?
Roopika Risam, The Race for DigitalityWendy Hui Kyong Chun, The Dark Side of the Digital Humanities
Bruce Sterling, The Spime
Hal Foster, Design and Crime

Course Objectives:

One -- Introduce students to Science and Technology Studies, New Media Studies, Network Theory, Digital Humanities and situate these in respect to broader critical theoretical discourses: Marx on fetishized commodities, Benjamin on auratic media-artifacts, Adorno on the Culture Industry, Barthes on naturalizing myth, Debord on the Spectacle, Chomsky and Herman on propaganda, Klein on the logo.

Two -- Discuss "science" as one among many forms of differently warranted belief (others: moral, legal, familial, instrumental, religious, ethical, political, subcultural, aesthetic); discuss "technoscience" as a particular and usually at once reductive and imperializing figuration and narrativization of the scientific; discuss "technology" as the collective elaboration of agency, not so much as a constellation of artifacts and techniques but as familiarizing and de-familiarizing, naturalizing and de-naturalizing investments in artifacts, techniques, and events with significance in the service of particular ends.

Three -- Discuss access-to-knowledge (a2k), end-to-end (e2e), many-to-many, peer-to-peer (p2p) networks, formations, ethoi as occasions for democratizing and anti-democratizing technodevelopmental social struggle; discuss "democracy" not as an eidos we approach but as ongoing interminable experimental implementations of the idea that people should have a say in the public decisions that affect them; discuss "democratization" as the struggle through which ever more people have ever more of a say in the public decisions that affect them.

Four -- Discuss the connection of a2k/p2p-formations and media/network theories grappling with these to relational, social, participatory aesthetic and curatorial practices and theories.

Five -- This course takes as its point of departure the insight that the novelties and perplexities of our experience of emerging p2p-formations are, on the one hand, clarified when understood in light of the unique formulations of Hannah Arendt's political thinking but also that these novelties and perplexities provide, on the other hand, illustrations through which to better understand Hannah Arendt's political thinking in its own right: Discussions will include her delineation of the political (as a site other than the private, the social, the violent, the cultural), her notion of the peer (as someone other than the citizen, the intimate, the colleague, the subject, the celebrity), and her accounts of civitas, revolution, public happiness, futurological think-tanks and AI, and totalitarianism both as manifested historically in Nazism and potentially in neoliberalism.