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Sophomore Dialogue Seminar
History 34Q, HPS 158 Winter Quarter 1997



New media technology such as the printing press, photography, film, and, more recently, computer-mediated communication as well as computer-generated visualization and simulation: all these have had profound effects on our conceptions of objectivity, agency, the self, and the body. This course explores several historical episodes in which technologically mediated virtual worlds have transformed our experience of the "real." We will begin with a brief introduction to theories of mediated experience, and then move to a consideration of the invention of graphism in paleolithic times and the relation between linear writing and graphic presentation. We will then move to 17th century considerations of technologies of "virtual witnessing" in constructing arguments about scientific facts, followed by a consideration of the 18th century fascination with the disembodied subject in works such as Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiment and Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Questions of embodiment will guide our consideration of the "interpretant" in Charles Sanders Peirce's semiotics, and focus on material media-grammophone, film, typewriter-will frame our consideration of Freud's notions of the subject. Our final set of topics will focus on visualization, the "second computer revolution," in several fields of biomedicine, including new developments in "virtual surgery." With VR artists at Sun Microsystems, we will engage in a hands-on laboratory exercise in the problems of constructing virtual worlds, while readings on hypertext, cyberspace, and cyborgs will frame our exploration of the shifts new hypermedia may introduce into our practices of reading and rhetoric.

Instructors: Timothy Lenoir and Sha Xin Wei
Class Meets Tuesdays and Thursdays 7:00-8:30 PM
Building 260-Room 8


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Last modified 17 December 1997.