Texts | Browse
Site | Contacts
Sophomore Dialogue Seminar Syllabus
History 34Q, HPS 158 Winter Quarter 1999
Instructors: Timothy Lenoir & Sha Xin Wei
Course Description | Calendar
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. 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 scientists and artists at the Stanford Computer Graphics
Laboratory, 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.
1. Tu Jan 5 Introduction
2. Th Jan 7 Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of
Man (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1994), pp.
3. Tu Jan 12 André Leroi-Gourhan, Speech and Gesture (Cambridge,
Mass; MIT Press, 1993), pp.
4. Th Jan 14 Alberto Manguel, "The Silent Readers," from A History of
Reading (New York: Viking, 1996), pp.
5. Tu Jan 19 Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, "Seeing and Believing: The
Experimental Production of Pneumatic Facts," in Leviathan and the Air-Pump:
Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life, (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1988), pp.
6. Th Jan 21 Daniel DeFoe, Robinson Crusoe (London: Penguin, 1965),
80- 117; 199-230.
John Bender, "Enlightenment Fiction and Scientific Hypothesis," Representations,
Vol. 60 (Winter 1997), pp.
7. Tu Jan 26 Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiment (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1976),
pp. 9-66; & Part III, Ch. I,
Recommended: David Marshall, "Adam Smith and the Theatricality of Moral
Sentiments," Critical Inquiry, 10 (1984), 592ñ613.
Imannuel Kant, Critique
of Pure Reason, Selections
8. Th Jan 28 Charles Sanders Peirce, "Some
Consequences of Four Incapacities," Peirce: Of Signs. (Chapel
Hill:Univ of North Carolina Press, 1991).
9. Tu Feb 2 Brian Rotman, "The Emergence of the Metasubject," Signifying
Nothing: The Semiotics of Zero (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987),
27-56; "Absence of an Origin," pp.
10 Th Feb 4 Brian Rotman, "The
Technology of Mathematical Persuasion," in Tim Lenoir, ed., Inscribing
Science (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).
Writing and Postmodernism
11. Tu Feb 9 Jacques Derrida, "Différance," Margins of Philosophy,
translated by Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), pp.
12. Th Feb 11 Mark Poster, "Derrida and Electronic Writing: The Subject
of the Computer," The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social
Context (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), pp.
Materialities of Communication
13. Tu Feb 16 Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, Translated
by Geoff Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 1999), Preface,
and Chapter 1: Gramophone.
David Wellbery, "Post-Hermeneutic Criticism," Forward
to Discourse Networks, pp.vii-xxxiii.
14. Th Feb 18 Field Trip: Computer Graphics Lab
We'll take a field trip to the Stanford Computer Graphics Lab to see Professor
Pat Hanrahan's work with the Responsive
Workbench, Professor Marc Levoy's work on 3-D imaging, and possibly
the Phantom Haptic Feedback system.
15. Tu Feb 23 Vaneevar Bush, "As
We May Think," Atlantic Magazine, August,1945, in SiliconBase.
Douglas Engelbart, Augmenting
Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework," Stanford Research Institute
Report AF 49(63-8)-1024
16 Th Mar 4 George Landow, Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporay
Critical Theory and Technology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1992), pp. 2-119.
Tim McLaughlin, Notes
Toward Absolute Zero, a piece of interactive fiction, using Storyspace
by J. Bolter et al. (1 MB, Mac binhex compressed)
Shelly Jackson, Patchwork
Girl (Eastgate Systems)
Habitat and Virtual Community
17. Tu Mar 9 Jean Baudrillard, "Simulacra and Simulations," in Mark Poster,
ed., Jean Baudrillard Selected Writings (Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 1988), pp.
N. Katherine Hayles, "Narratives of Artificial Life," How We Became
Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), pp.
N. Katherine Hayles, "The
Power of Simulation: What Virtual Creatures Can Teach Us."
Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer, "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat,
in Michael Benedikt, ed., Cyberspace: First Steps (Cambridge, Mass.:
MIT Press, 1992), pp.
Habitat: on course website
Alpha: Making Active Worlds." On course website.
And for the next steps we will examine Marcos Novak, transArchitecture
Explore further aspects of Marcos
Virtual Reality to Virtual Surgery
18. Th Mar 11 Roger Coyne, Designing Information Technology in the Postmodern
Age(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995), pp.
Hands on stuff.
Coursework and Requirements
This class is intended for heavy reading and interaction with media. We
will ask students to make presentations based on the course material. We
would like you to bring in additional perspectives on the material listed
in the syllabus, but aimed at focussing our discussion for the day. Ideally
we would like this material to be developed into an interactive course
website. Presentations will begin at the fourth class meeting in order
to give you time to work up something interesting.
Each student will also be required to produce a term project. The project
can be in the form of a 10 page term paper, or a design sketch of a digital
media piece, with commentary. You may work together with a partner
on the course project. In the fourth week of the term, i.e. January 28,
we'll ask you to turn in a one-page outline of your proposed term project
so we can offer feedback. We'll expect you to meet with us during office
hours so we can help shape your project into something you can complete
in a reasonable time.
We will discuss possible term projects as we get into the quarter, but
below are a few ideas of the sorts of things you might contemplate.
Ideas for Term Projects
A. Study an artifact (traditional paper format is fine, but think about
how to cite non-print artifacts) --
B. Do a creative piece --
Contrast the UNIX or DOS shell with the Mac or Windows interfaces. What
ontologies are implied? What is the status of the subject, the witness,
Examine an existing piece of VR, such as
Compare it with traditional virtualities (eg. Crusoe, the debit card).
How is it authored? How is it received, read, experienced?
MERL 's social vr -- http://www.merl.com/threads/social/
McLuhan says that the medium is the message, but maybe the message of online
text is that the natural medium for large masses of text is paper. Current
computer interfaces are not well-suited for intense readings of book-sized
assemblies of text. But there are people (at Media Lab and maybe GA Tech)
who are playing with small fragments of dynamic text for poetic and other
purposes. We see dynamic typography in TV ads. A topic for a creative or
analytic project could be dynamic typography. Check out the work at the
MIT Media Lab.
Using a computational authoring system of your choice, such as any HTML
create a piece of fiction, or a simulation, or a visualization. Compare
it with more traditional writing technologies. How might your creation
be different? One good way to do this project might be to create alternate
treatments of a given theme in different "media," eg. a photo essay vs.
GoLive CyberStudio -- HTML editor
DreamWeaver -- HTML editor
mTropolis -- animation editor
Macromind Director -- animation editor
MAX -- MIDI music composition
C. Write an analytic work (traditional paper format is fine) --
Texts | Browse Site
Does a nonlinear system of writing shape the way we think about or experience
the world differently than linear systems of writing? What does linearity
mean to you in this context? Choose some examples from recent technologies
(eg. word processor or musical score editor) and pre-computer technologies.
Trace the evolution of the notion, role and locus of the subject in some
recent technologies. Consider, for example, what ubiquitous computing,
or embedded cognition might imply.
Read Jaron Lanier's
comments about post-symbolic communication. Is it possible? What are
some reasons to believe or disbelieve his claims? (http://www.well.com/user/jaron/columbia.html)
Compare a pictographic/ideographic writing system (like Egyptian hieroglyphics,
or Chinese) with a phonetic writing system like English. Speculate on the
evolution of graphical user interfaces. Why are computer interfaces so
ocularcentric? (See A1.)
Last modified 14 January 1999