Thursday, December 07, 2006

Class discussions

I found some interesting similarities between Litman's arguments and arguments concerning basic income guarantee, and I wanted to kind of locate their connective tissue. Actually, I guess I should be more specific: there were moments during past class discussions regarding basic income guarantee that could have been applied to today's arguments, so I suppose this is actually more about the particulars of our class dynamic as opposed to texts that make certain claims.

That being said, I remember that when basic income guarantee became a topic of discussion, there were a number of reactions that sounded something like this: what incentive will there be to work certain kinds of jobs which "must be done" if the fiscal backing does not exist? Isn't it too close to an idealist, utopian myth that can't function because skill=monetary incentive fueling a desire to develop certain skill=application of skill? Won't there be too great of a leveling effect that will render individualism inactive because we will somehow [based solely on our income] lose a sense of "purposeful work"? Communism? Assimilation? Lack of definable, class and social differences?

All of these assumptions or fears have a definite weight and legitimacy, and should not be immediately dismissed because they are the product of our shared contemporary experiences and make a lot of sense in THIS CONTEXT (the context being contemporary life). What developed out of that argument, however, was the notion that how we identify "work" and what constitutes the process of working and production would have to become or WOULD become radically different because if you are paid simply to exist, then the activities you do everyday can BECOME what work means {a really really really great argument for Artists, with a capital A, D.C.).

Ok, so there's that. That in and of itself isn't the connection I'm trying to make. What connects these two discussions more directly is the ideology shift. There was an almost intrinsic agreement initially that determined what constituted "work" that wasn't necessarily a vocalized claim, but I think parallels could have been made among individual philosophies of what work represented to each of us that could form a sort of general consensus of what we think of as productive labor. Keeping that in mind, it was necessary for us to reaffirm what we dictate to be work in order for something like basic income guarantee to make any amount of sense.

Similarly, I found that the discussion of the Litman piece today required an adjustment of what we believe constitutes property and how we think about the exchange of information. I think it's interesting that Litman explained the history of copyright laws in order to kind of demonstrate that what are consider common-placed notions of intellectual property haven't actually existed for all that long. In the same way that [and this is not the best example, but something relatable to critical theory and the course overall], when we speak about Nature, we need to remember the history of how Nature developed as an ideology, we need to keep in mind that WE, the contemporaries of every historical moment, are the inventors of these compartments. Therefore, we have full license to change our minds.

This is oversimplified, obviously. It's not like flicking on a switch. But it is an interesting, gradual exercise that I feel can free us of a number of unnecessary binds.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I'm watching me


well, maybe...

after getting past the wrong idea I originally had, I still cant see how the internet is parrelled to Foucault's panopticon. the thing that gets me is the freedom of activity in the participants. in the panoptic prison, the prisoners had no activity, ie- were stuck in a cell and therefore in the mechanism of the panopticon. Internet users however, have a very different experience. they are actively seeking out information to use in each persons own way. theres no coercion or intimidation(unless you bring up the recording industry suits) about viewing or creating websites as long as they confine to the law. true kiddie porn is off limits but I think it's for the best...really. other than that governments and organizations have no power (that I'm aware of) to control what content you consume. every so often I hear about how AOL or some other demon company sold customer activity lists to the CIA or FBI and I say get educated about how the net works, get a floating IP or change web providers! Or better yet lobby the government to change these invasive practices. anyway.

the internet is a decentralized network made up of many large corporate pages but far more personal sites and blogs. in the prison, it' a top down, one way, direct contact, 'oh my god I'm in a fucking prison with armed guards watching my ass' kind of place.

perhaps its something more. maybe its about ISP providers having the power to control content. if the internet is an ocean, then the providers are the boats that get everyone around. what if those boats only went to certain destinations?? destinations that those wanting to keep an eye on everyone wanted you to see and those that they did not. I do not think the latter is the case. there are many out there that have the knowledge of the behind the scenes stuff that really help keep info flowing in the face of restrictions. so log off myspace for once and check out or or or or....hey! cheap DVD players on amazon..........

adam day

Tomorrow's Readings:

Just a reminder, tomorrow is a Law Day.

We're discussing Jessica Litman's Sharing and Stealing and James Boyle's Enclosing the Genome?

Those of you who have not yet co-facilitated a class discussion really need to figure out how that is going to happen. Next week we will be reading selections from the Precarity issue of fibreculture. Look it over in advance and have a sense of the pieces you might be interested in talking about in class a bit.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Your Final Exam

Here is your final exam. Choose to answer two from the following four questions. Each of your answers should be approximately 3-4 pages long. You may spend as much time as you wish on the exam and you should use your texts to help substantiate your points. Stick to the questions and be sure to finish on time. You are to submit a physical copy of your exam to me on the last scheduled meeting of the course.

(a) Summarize what you take to be the key insight in any single one of the theoretical texts we have read over the course of the term and then show how that insight illuminates your reading of “The Gentle Seduction,” “Desk Set,” or “Colossus: The Forbin Project” (choose one).

(b) Summarize what you take to be the central argument of C.S. Lewis’ “The Abolition of Man” and then propose two other texts we have read over the course of the term that reiterate key features (these can include either strengths or limitations, depending on your viewpoint) of Lewis’ argument.

(c) Compare and contrast two works in which the theme of an emerging technologically facilitated “spiritualization” or “dematerialization” is central, but in each case importantly different, in your view of the arguments the authors are making.

(d) Compare and contrast two works in which the theme of an emerging technologically facilitated “global” or “planetary” perspective is central, but in each case importantly different, in your view of the arguments the authors are making.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Next Week

Don't forget to click on the syllabus for the latest info about what we are reading and who will be facilitating discussion. If you are faciliating soon and your choice of texts isn't on the syllabus yet -- e-mail me to remind me so the information appears as soon as possible. Speaking of as soon as possible... that's when your blog-posts need to arrive for the first assignment. Kick it into gear, people.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tomorrow... And Beyond!

Remember that for tomorrow you should have read and prepared to discuss C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man. Tomorrow I'll be bringing a blank syllabus on which students will be able to select presentation times for the remainder of the term, and texts from the online list that they would like to present (you can select a time without knowing yet exactly which text you will want to present -- but remember, when it comes both to times and texts, first come, first served). I am going to choose two texts for us to read and discuss next week, and I encourage students to come forward to present on at least one of them. The first text is a curious short story by Marc Stiegler called The Gentle Seduction. The second is John Perry Barlow's incredibly influential Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Language of the Future

These are the lyrics to Laurie Anderson's "The Language of the Future," from United States, which I discussed a little bit before class with a couple of you. We can take this up, among other things, next Thursday, should the shape of the conversation move us that way....

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 ...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Syllabus for Critical Theory B, Fall, 2006

Critical Theory B, Fall 2006: Theory Faces Technoscience
Instructor: Dale Carrico,;
Thursdays, 9.00-11.45; Office Hours: After class and by appointment.
Course Blog:

Course Description

A technophile is a person to whom we attribute a naïve or uncritical enthusiasm for technology, while a technophobe is a person to whom we attribute a no less uncritical dread of or hostility to technology. But what does it tell us that there is no similarly familiar word to describe a person who is focused on the impact of technoscientific developments in a critical way that pays equally close attention both to their promises and their dangers? Is it really so impossible to conceive of a critical technocentrism equally alive to real promises and alert to real dangers?

Technoscientific change is an ongoing provocation on our personal and public lives. In this course we will focus our attention on some of the ways critical theory has tried to make sense of the ongoing impact of technoscience and technodevelopmental social struggle on public life, cultural forms, creative expression, and ethical discourse.

Our conversation this term will take as its point of departure the assumption that the basic categories through which we make sense of individual and collective agency, dignity, and claims of right are transforming under the pressure of emerging and converging digital networks, genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive medicine, developments in energy, manufacturing, materials science, automation, weapons proliferation, and so on.

Over the course of the term, we will survey some key interventions of critical theory into the problems, values, assumptions, and specificities of contemporary technoscience. Together with these theoretical texts, we will contemplate fiction, film, and policy-making that take up these problems and expresses these values and assumptions in different ways. These texts will sometimes be technophilic, sometimes technophobic. Sometimes they will be freighted with hyperbolic enthusiasm, sometimes with intimations of disaster. Some will see technological development as inherently superhumanizing, some as inherently dehumanizing. We will lodge our own interventions in a hope that refuses nostalgia and a critical realism that refuses the faith in inevitable progress.

In an important sense the course will truly be a collaborative performance, and so our more specific focus and problems and interests will depend in a significant measure on your own circumstances, concerns, and on the texts that you yourselves happen to respond to most forcefully. Every text that we are reading in this class is available online, and I am providing an overabundance of texts for you to choose from. The shape of our conversation, its pace, focus, order will reflect your choices and your responses. It remains to be seen just what conclusions we will find our way to by the end of the term and the end of this conversation.

Grade Breakdown:

Attendance/Participation/Quizzes: 20%
In-Class Presentation: 15%
Three Short Papers, approximately 3pp. each, posted to this blog: 40%
Final Examination: 25%


Christopher Allen, “Tracing the Evolution of Social Software
Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, “California Ideology
John Perry Barlow, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
Michel Bauwens, "The Political Economy of Peer Production"
Michael Berube, “Life As We Know It
James Boyle, “The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain
James Boyle, “Enclosing the Genome?
David Brin, “Three Cheers for the Surveillance Society!
Jamais Cascio, “Leapfrog 101” and other entries under the "Leapfrog" keyword at Worldchanging
Jordan Crandall, "Operational Media"
Erik Davis, “Experience Design
Jacques Ellul, excerpts from The Technological Society
fibreculture, any essay from Issue 5, "Multitudes, Creative Organisation and the Precarious Condition of New Media Labour"
Andrew Freenberg, “Marcuse or Habermas: Two Critiques of Technology
Donna Haraway, “The Promises of Monsters
Katherine Hayles, “Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Weiner and
Cybernetic Anxiety

James Hughes, “Embrace the End of Work
Don Ihde, "How Could We Ever Believe Science Is Not Political?"
Jeron Lanier, “One Half of a Manifesto
Lawrence Lessig, “Preface,” and “What Things Regulate?” from Code
Lawrence Lessig, "Insanely Destructive Devices"
C.S. Lewis, “The Abolition of Man
Jessica Litman, “Sharing and Stealing
Steve Mann, “The Post-Cyborg Path to Deconism
Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky), “Material Memories
Annalee Newitz, “Genome Liberation
Bruce Sterling, “Viridian Design Speech
Marc Steigler, “The Gentle Seduction
Paul Virilio, Two Conversations
Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism
Mark Winokur, “The Ambiguous Panopticon
Christian Zemsauer, "Afro-Futurism"
Slavoj Zizek, “Bring Me My Philips Mental Jacket
Slavoj Zizek, "No Sex, Please, We're Posthuman"

A Provisional Schedule of Meetings:

Week One, August 31

Administrative Introduction
Personal Introductions

Week Two September 7

Course Introduction
C.S. Lewis, “The Abolition of Man

Week Three September 14

John Perry Barlow, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” DC
Marc Steigler, “The Gentle Seduction” Claudia

Week Four September 21

Kristin, Don Ihde, "How Could We Ever Believe Science Is Not Political?"
Michael Berube, “Life As We Know It

Week Five September 28

Jamais Cascio, “Leapfrog 101” and other entries under the "Leapfrog" keyword at Worldchanging, David C.
David Brin, “Three Cheers for the Surveillance Society!,” Bronwen

Week Six October 5

Slavoj Zizek, “Bring Me My Philips Mental Jacket
Slavoj Zizek, "No Sex, Please, We're Posthuman," Alla

Week Seven October 12

Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism,” Tony
Donna Haraway, “The Promises of Monsters,” Chika

Week Eight October 19

Lawrence Lessig, Insanely Destructive Devices, Grey
Paul Virilio, Two Conversations

Week Nine October 26

Annalee Newitz, “Genome Liberation,” Ates
Michel Bauwens, "The Political Economy of Peer Production"

Week Ten November 2

Katherine Hayles, “Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Weiner and Cybernetic Anxiety
Jeron Lanier, “One Half of a Manifesto

Week Eleven, November 9:

Desk Set

Week Twelve, November 16:

Colossus: The Forbin Project.

Week Thirteen: November 23: Academic and Administrative Holiday

Week Fourteen: November 30

Paul D. Miller (DJ Spooky), “Material Memories
Mark Winokur, “The Ambiguous Panopticon

Week Fifteen: December 7

Week Sixteen: December 14

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Syllabus for Critical Theory A, Spring, 2006

Critical Theory A
Subject, Object, Abject

Spring 2006

Tuesdays, 9.00-11.45
Instructor: Dale Carrico,
Office Hours: Before and after class and by appointment.

Course Description

Just what is the relationship of argument to interpretation? “Interpretation” derives from the Latin interpretatio, a term freighted with the sense not only of explication and explanation, but translation. What are the conventions that govern intelligible acts of interpretation, translation, argumentation? What are the conventions through which we constitute the proper objects of interpretation in the first place? And who are the subjects empowered to offer up interpretations that compel our attention and conviction? What happens when objects object to our interpretations and demand the standing of subjects themselves? How does the interpretation of literary texts differ from the interpretation of the law? How does it differ from a scientist’s interrogation of her environment? Or from any critical engagement with the “given” terms of the social order in which one lives? Or even from the give and take through which we struggle to understand one another in everyday conversation? These are questions with which we will begin our survey of some of the themes, problems, and conventions in the rhetoric of interpretation. Where we will have arrived by the end will of course be very much a matter open to interpretation.

Schedule of Meetings

Jan 24 Introduction
Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs”

Jan 31 Diagnostic Essay Due, 2-3pp.
Discuss Haraway, “Manifesto for Cyborgs”

Feb 7 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology

Feb 14 Marx and Engels, The German Ideology (continued)

Feb 21 Roland Barthes, Mythologies

Feb 28 Barthes, Mythologies (continued)

Mar 7 Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”

March 13-17 Spring Break

Mar 21 Paper Due, 4-5pp. due
Screen film They Live, John Carpenter, dir.
Discuss film.

Mar 28 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

Apr 4 Conclude discussion of Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Begin discussion of Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality

Apr 11 Discuss Foucault, History of Sexuality (continued)

Apr 18 Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

Apr 25 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (continued)

May 2 Carol Adams, “Preface” and “On Beastliness and a Politics of
Solidarity,” from Neither Man Nor Beast: Feminism and the Defense
of Animals

Judith Butler, Giving an Account of Oneself

May 9 Paper Due, 4-5pp
Butler, Giving an Account of Oneself
Concluding Remarks.