Theory and Cyberspace: Culture, Technology, Media

Humanities 301, Summer 2005 (July 5 - Aug. 4), Tues. - Thurs. 9:00-12:45, A303 Old Mill Annex

Thomas Streeter: 656-2167;, 31 So. Prospect (Benedict House)

This course will explore intersections between, on the one hand, theories of culture, technology, and society and, on the other, that set of cultural and sociological phenomena associated with computer communications colloquially known as "cyberspace." Scholarly work that discusses the relations between media, spatial relations, social and legal regulation, technology, bodies, and society will be explored alongside examples of "cyberspace" culture.


The principle assignment (roughly 50% of your grade) will be a research paper (perhaps 20-25 pages).  

Also, every week, you will turn in a two or three page reflective essay on two or more of the readings for that week.  The essay should make some central point, argument, or observation -- that is, it should be an essay, not a list.  As a general rule, the essay should discuss at least one aspect of each reading that pointed out something unique about the topic in question, and one aspect that pointed out something general, something shared with the topics of other readings or class discussions.

Participation in discussions will also count as  part of your grade.

Course Outline

[Add Borges library; Ulmer; my piece for Institute; Computer Power and Human Reason excerpt, other humanist critiques; bodies earlier]Readings and films: most of the readings will be on electronic reserve; there will be links from the online version of this syllabus at: Most of the online readings will require you to provide your UVM "net id," (i.e., you zoo username and password).  I strongly recommend you print out online readings, which makes them much easier to read and allows you to bring them to class. 

William Gibson's Neuromancer [originally 1984] is available at local bookstores or online

During the semester we'll also look at the following films, which will be on reserve in the media library: Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1926); Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982), and Mark Neale's 1999 documentary "William Gibson - No Maps for These Territories." We'll work out a schedule for viewings on the first day of class. (All this is subject to changes and additions during the semester.) 

Please read and/or view the materials listed below before the class on the date listed.

July 5: Introduction -- Modernization and Communication

July 7: Life in the Matrix of Modernity

July 12: The Original Information Technologies: Orality, Writing, Books, Printing

July 14:  The Problem of Determination

July 19: Beyond the Book?

July 21:  The Postmodern Condition

July 26: Space, Time, Society

July 28: Selves, Bodies, and Virtuality

Aug 2: Gender and Technology

Optional Readings:

Aug 4: Presentations

Additional Resources:

James Carey, "Culture, Technology and Communications: Bibliography and Suggestions for Reading and Writing," 1980 (a course syllabus that's also an exceptional literature review);

James Boyle's excellent page of copyright links:  

Michel Chaouli, "How Interactive Can Fiction Be?"Critical Inquiry Volume 31, Number 3, Spring 2005,

Some interesting and potentially useful books:

Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace
by Lawrence Lessig
Shamans, Software, and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society
by James Boyle
The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change
by David Harvey
How We Became Posthuman : Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics
by N. Katherine Hayles
Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
The Language of New Media (Leonardo Books)
by Lev Manovich