Humanities and Technology

Technology:

from Greek tekhnologia, systematic treatment of an art or craft : tekhnē, skill . . . .

1a. The application of science, especially to industrial or commercial objectives. b. The scientific method and material used to achieve a commercial or industrial objective. 2. Electronic or digital products and systems considered as a group. . . . 3. Anthropology The body of knowledge available to a society that is of use in fashioning implements, practicing manual arts and skills, and extracting or collecting materials.

-- American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed., 2000.

“Technologies are not mere exterior aids but also interior transformations of consciousness” (Walter Ong, “Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought,” 301).

In this class, we will examine numerous technologies, both old and new, and we will think about what technology is in both the scientific and anthropological definitions of the word (see American Heritage, above). Printing and filming are technological processes that scientists have discovered and that are used for producing books and movies. But metaphors, images, and words are themselves technological innovations in the anthropological sense: they shape our thoughts in very interesting ways which we will try to capture by thinking hard about the way they work. Though the technologies we examine will not necessarily have “industrial or commercial objectives,” they certainly will have “objectives” or goals. What we will explore is the creative aspect of various products of technology – that is, we will not see them as having simply the goal of communicating an idea, but of doing something beyond conveying information. We will become aware of the fact that the way something is communicated can at times be more important than what is communicated. We will look at how various technologies try to create the kind of person who can best appreciate them – how various media such as novels, television, film, and web pages try to transform you into a new kind of person. And most of all, we will look to see how the products of various technologies reflect on their own meaning and significance.

Required Texts:

L. Frank Baum, The Patchwork Girl of Oz

Jorge Luis Borges, Everything and Nothing

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl – CD-Rom

Handout Packet available at Oxford Copy Shop = HO

Grades:

  1. Assignments 50%
  2. Final Web Project 20%
  3. Class Participation 10%
  4. Final Exam 20%

Attendance:

More than three absences will cause your grade to be lowered substantially; with six or more absences, you will be dropped from the class. [1]

Schedule

January

Week 1: Technology #1 – Writing – the purpose of writing

T 1/7 Course Introduction

excerpt from Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message” HO

R 1/9 Excerpt from Plato, The Phaedrus (on writing) HO

excerpt from Walter J. Ong, “Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought” HO

excerpt from Michael Hobart and Zachary Schiffman, “Orality and the Problem of Memory” HO (the complete article is available on Electronic Reserve)

Assignment #1: For four hours, live in a purely oral world. That is, don’t read ANYTHING – if text comes on the television, turn your head away; don’t look at signs on the street or buildings as you walk; don’t read menus at restaurants; don’t read notes or glance at newspapers. If a radio announcer starts to read something, turn it off. Write a short essay, 3 paragraphs long, about your experience, referring if you can to ideas mentioned in the readings for 1/9. Things you might notice and discuss: can you name all the original sources of anything that was communicated to you (i.e., people) in a way that you couldn’t do if simply reading signs (who or what is the source of the sign in front of Arby’s?) – or were the sources in fact sometimes obscured by the absence of letters (where do the words Jennifer Aniston utters on “Friends” really come from – are they “hers”?) Were you able to never think any letter of the alphabet at all during that time? Do you remember more or less of that time period than you would ordinarily, when allowing yourself to be immersed in print?

Week 2: Technology #2 – Metaphor – the uses of metaphor in constructing

thought

T 1/14 Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, pp. 3-76

William Blake, “A Poison Tree” HO

Due: Assignment #1; three paragraphs about your experience as one who lives only in an oral world.

Assignment #2: Post a discussion to the class email discussion list before we meet on Thursday, answering the following question:

Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By suggests that ordinary ways of speaking reveal cultural values. Speaking "literally," we will often say, "She is falling in love." Clearly, then, our society thinks about loving as falling. What effects does that metaphorical equation have on how we act and think about love?

R 1/16 Due: Assignment #2 (post 3 paragraphs before we meet)

Metaphors We Live By pp. 77-155

Week 3 Technology #3 – The Web Site – Communicating Information

T 1/21 MEET IN THE KAMM LAB, LIBRARY

Guest Speaker: Lisa Santucci – finding information on the Internet

Information HO

Assignment #3, due for next class: list reliable web pages on a topic to be determined during this class meeting.

R 1/23 MEET IN THE KAMM COMPUTER LAB, KING LIBRARY

Due: Assignment Number 3

Lisa Santucci – finding information on the Internet

Week 4: Technology #4 -- Printing

T 1/28 MEET IN THE LIBRARY LOBBY

Tour of King Library

excerpt from Margaret Ezell, Social Authorship and the Advent of Print HO

Assignment #4, due 2/4: an assignment to find resources in the library that will be distributed when you get there

R 1/30 MEET IN THE LIBRARY LOBBY

Tour of King Library (cont’)

February

Week 5: How Technologies create Selves; Technology # 5: Flickering Images

During this week, schedule conferences with me to pick out the literary topic – an author or text – of the web site you will be making.

T 2/4 Due: Library Research Assignment #4

Mind as printing press: excerpt from John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690): “Of Ideas in General, and their Originality,” “Of Perception” HO

Mind as Computer: excerpt from Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think”

HO

Brain as software: excerpt from Mark Taylor, The Moment of Complexity

HO

Assignment #5, due next class: Read through the Oxford English Dictionary’s definitions of the bat, dated on or before the publication date of Cuvier’s nineteenth-century zoology text book, and then read a paragraph about bats from that 1884 book. (All these items appear in your handout packet, in the section marked “Bats.”) Read through also the O.E.D.’s definitions of Sonar, Radar, and Echolocation: when (what years) were these terms coined? Read through the Columbia Encyclopedia’s descriptions of bats, written after those dates, and then compare it to Cuvier’s. How do these two descriptions differ? Write a paragraph or so on the class listserv answering the following question: how do different technologies affect the way we think about bats?

R 2/6 Due: Assignment #5 (post paragraph[s] before we meet)

OED, excerpt from Georges Cuvier, The Animal Kingdom (1884), and Columbia Encyclopedia, included in the section of your handout packet called “Bats.” HO

excerpt from William H. Phillips, Film: An Introduction, “Cinematic Techniques” (414-21) HO

excerpt from The Remote Control in a New Age of Television, eds.

Walker and Bellamy HO

Week 6: How Technologies create Selves; The Concept of Author and the

Concept of Self

T 2/11 David Hume, “Of Personal Identity” (1739) HO

excerpt, from Ian Hacking, Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory HO

excerpt from Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life HO

excerpt from Charles E. DeBose, “Codeswitching: Black English and Standard English in the African-American Linguistic Repetoire,” in Codeswitching, ed. Carol M. Eastman, Philadelphia: Multilingual Matters, 1992 (full text available through netLibrary, on line) HO

excerpt from The Three Faces of Eve (Hollywood film starring Joanne Woodward, 1957) – to be shown in class

R 2/13 The Author

excerpt from Mark Rose, “The Author as Proprietor” HO

discussions of plagiarism by Pope, Parnell, More, Egerton Brydges, and Lonsdale, in a HO called “Originality vs. Plariarism

Laura Mandell, The Original Author – Web Site Argument

(http://www.users.muohio.edu/eng495/paper2.htm)

excerpt from Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” HO

Ted Nelson, “What is Literature?” HO and

4 January 2003

excerpts from “The Xanadu Ideal” (1993)

< http://www.xanadu.com.au/general/ideal.html> 4 January 2003

Assignment #6 – Group Assignment, due 2/20: a detailed assignment requiring the reading of several handouts included in the HO packet. Get together in groups of 4, meeting in the library. Read and discuss together “When are you using common words in a dictionary, and when are you quoting?” (HO), deciding which of the items in bold show use of similar words and ideas, which involve an allusion to a previous text, which direct quoting, and which plagiarism. Make a list for your group to turn in. Next, go to a rhyming dictionary in King library (call numbers in HO packet). Look up some of the rhymes in Gray’s “Elegy on a Country Churchyard”: can you find any other texts that Gray either alluded to or plagiarized, or that themselves “borrow” from Gray?

Week 7: Technology #6: The Word

T 2/18 NO CLASSES – EXCHANGE DAY

R 2/20 Due: Group Assignment #6

Jorge Luis Borges, “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” and “Borges and I” in Everything and Nothing (a text to be purchased for this class).

Assignment #7: On the class email discussion list:

  1. Describe a situation in which you were being insincere. In the situation you described in which you were being insincere, how did you 'know' that you were being insincere? or
  2. Describe a conversation in which you said something that felt insincere and then you changed a word or phrase or sentence, or even an intonation of voice which resulted in your feeling that what you had said was now more sincere. What was changed? [2]

Week 8: Technology #6: The Word (cont’); Technology #7: Individualism

Meet with Laura Mandell this week in order to decide upon the topic for your web site (which author or text) and to choose which excerpt you will be using for your class work next week.

T 2/25 Due: Assignment #7

excerpt from Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity (1971) HO

How to Use Words to Think (Lanham, Williams) HO

R 2/27 Technology #7: Individualism as a Technology of

Democracy

excerpt from Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity (1971) HO

excerpt from Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment?” (1784) HO

excerpt from Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835-1840), vol. 2, ch. 2” “Of Individualism in Democratic Countries” HO – also on electronic reserve

If you want to understand more about” individualism,” access David Miller on electronic reserve.

March

[3] Week 9: Technology #3: The Web Page

T 3/4 MEET IN KAMM COMPUTER LAB, KING LIBRARY

Practicum: Using Dreamweaver to Make a Web Page

The Dreamweaver Interface

Dreamweaver Quick Sheet

Assignment #8, due 3/25: Make a web page containing an excerpt from a text, and work in the library to collect materials for editing your text – adding notes to it, links, and other kinds of information. Before beginning to work on this assignment, you will have met with Laura Mandell to select the text (Week 8); while you are working on gathering editorial materials, you will meet with Bill Wortman (Week 11). You must have seen both of us before turning in your assignment.

R 3/6 MEET IN KAMM COMPUTER LAB, KING LIBRARY

Putting up a short text by your author

Week 10: SPRING BREAK

T 3/11 NO CLASS

R 3/13 NO CLASS

Week 11: Technology #8: Literature as Recreation – or as a (re)Creation of the Self

This week, arrange a 15-minute meeting with Bill Wortman at King Library to show him your progress in editing the short text you have chosen to put up as a web page.

T 3/18 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (text to be purchased for the class)

Assignment #9, due next class: Post a message to the class discussion list, contemplating the following: how is the monster in Shelley’s novel and Branaugh’s movie like a self that has been created or produced by writing or reading a novel and by making or viewing a movie? That is, imagine that the monster in Shelley’s novel and Elizabeth in Branaugh’s film are really standins for you, and their stories somehow symbolize simply what happens to us as we live our lives. What might Shelley and Branaugh be saying about the role that novels and film play in our development and how we become what we are?

EXTRA MEETING on Wed. March 19: Kenneth Branagh, director, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (to be shown in BAC 337, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.)

R 3/20 Due: Assignment #9 – post your ideas to the list before coming to class.

Shelley and Branagh: discussion

BEGIN Assignment #10, Due 4/1: Write a 3- to 5-page typed, double-spaced essay in which you interpret a particular literary text or set of literary texts, coming up with the main ideas presented by that work or works – its themes – but also paying close attention to the text’s reflection on the ways that it itself creates or recreates its readers.

Week 12: Technology #9: Film as a Means for Reading

T 3/25 Due: Assignment #8 – your edited web page

Frank Baum, The Patchwork Girl of Oz (text to be purchased for this

class)

Assignment #11, Due next class: Post to the class email discussion list your thoughts on the following. We have looked at two movies that do not in fact “illustrate” the print texts on which they are based – that is, they don’t simply transfer those texts onto film, but in someway “translate” them. Thinking about Branagh’s or Fleming’s movies, would you say that movies present “readings” of literary texts – that is, interpretations of their meaning from a particular point of view? If so – here’s the hard part! – how do you think the medium of film itself affects such interpretations? That is, why would Mary Shelley’s or Frank Baum’s main points have to take a different form in film than they do in print?

EXTRA MEETING on Wed. March 26: Victor Fleming, director, The Wizard of Oz (to be shown in BAC 337, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.)

R 3/27 Due: Assignment #11

Baum and Fleming (discussion)

April

Week 13: Work on your Final Project, your Web Site

T 4/1 MEET IN KAMM COMPUTER LAB, KING LIBRARY

Due: Assignment #10, on disk: we will do a peer workshop of your essay

in class.

Jorge Luis Borges, “Garden of the Forking Paths,” in Everything and Nothing (book to be purchased for this class)

Assignment #12, Due 4/3: Find excerpts from printed texts of literary criticism, links, images, and sounds either on the Internet or in library books that you would like to use in your web site for the purpose of:

1. Adding to the persuasiveness of your essay by illustrating one of your points;

2. Presenting a contrary point of view;

3. Creating an experience for the reader that will turn him or her into the kind of self who can best understand your message;

4. Reflects on the meaning of the hypertext medium itself, either symbolically or logically.

R 4/3 MEET IN KAMM, KING LIBRARY, AND CIM (next door to

Kamm)

Due: Assignment #12

Your essay will be returned to you with research suggestions; you will be taught how to scan images and how to put images from the Internet into a web page, as well as sound and video: make certain to bring as many materials as you can among those that you wish to include in your web site.

Week 14: Technology #10: Hypertext and the Disseminated Self

T 4/8 MEET IN KAMM COMPUTER LAB, KING LIBRARY

bring to class with you Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl (CD-Rom to be purchased for the class)

Hypertext HO

excerpt on “dissemination” from John Peters, Speaking Into the Air, 51-7 HO

excerpt from Jacques Derrida, Dissemination HO

excerpt from Roland Barthes, S/Z HO

excerpt from Plato, The Phaedrus HO – see beginning of packet

The Parable of the Sower (Bible) HO

Assignment #13, due as you work: “clock in” to begin a three-hour reading session by emailing the class email discussion list at the beginning and again at the end. In your first email, offer a sentence or two about your feelings as you face reading this hypertext. In your second email, offer another sentence or two about your experience: was it what you expected? Next, answer the following question: how much did reading Jackson differ from reading Borges’s short story, “Garden of the Forking Paths,” which you read last week, a story that might also be defined as “hypertext” according to N. Katherine Hayles’s definition (Hypertext HO)? Why the difference?

R 4/10 MEET IN KAMM COMPUTER LAB, KING LIBRARY

Due: Assignment #13, written as you were reading your assignment for today, will have been turned in before class.

bring Jackson to class for discussion

Week 15:

Assignment #14, due at the beginning of each class period (4/17, 4/22, 4/24) and then after class on 4/24: Over the next two weeks, students will present their works in progress – their web sites – to us in class, each person taking 10 minutes. You will all be asked to write comments on these presentations, and to turn them in at the class meeting following the students’ presentations, so make certain to take good notes. You will be graded on the quality of your comments, on whether they reflect what we learned this semester: do your comments show an awareness of how technologies create selves? of how the medium itself conveys a message independently of any content? of how creative productions always discuss not only imaginary scenes and interactions, but also the process and significance of their own production – what it means to be a creator, and what it means to be a consumer of creative products?

T 4/15 MEET IN KAMM COMPUTER LAB, KING LIBRARY

Group 1: present your web sites so far

R 4/17 MEET IN KAMM COMPUTER LAB, KING LIBRARY

Group 2: present your web sites so far

Week 16:

T 4/22 MEET IN KAMM COMPUTER LAB, KING LIBRARY

Group 3: present your web sites so far

Course Evaluations (20 minutes)

R 4/24 MEET IN KAMM COMPUTER LAB, KING LIBRARY

Finish presentations of your web sites; students who present this day will be sent your comments by email, with a copy to both Laura Mandell and Bill Wortman.

May

Your Web Project is due by the date of the Final Exam (you’ll turn it in as a pre-condition for taking the exam):

PLACE: KAMM COMPUTER LAB, KING LIBRARY

DATE: Thursday, May 1, 12:30 - 2:30

In the Final Exam, you will be asked to analyze three creative productions in terms of the ideas we have discussed this semester:

1. What sense of selfhood does this text / image / video / or web site generate, and how?

2. What message does the medium itself convey, independently of its content?

3. How does this text / image / video / or web site symbolically discuss itself – its own process and meaning?



[1] Please make certain to stop by my office with a withdrawal form – I’m happy to give you a WP [Withdraw – PASS] in the class, but I can only do so if you take the initiative by filling out such a form.

[2] These questions come verbatim (I'm quoting) from: Thomas Ogden, Reverie and Interpretation: Sensing Something Human (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1997), 203.

[3] NONE OF THE CLASS MEETINGS THIS WEEK ARE OPTIONAL: YOU MUST ATTEND TO GET FULL COURSE CREDIT.