I would like to do a creative project that touches on three themes that I want to address: accessibility to these technologies, learning how to use media, and the functionality of these technologies. I propose to design an electronic piece of literature that will essentially serve as a how-to-guide of using these technologies. The guide however will be targeted to an audience that does not usually have access to these technologies or access to learning how to engage with them. The idea behind this stems from my interest in thinking of ways to bridge the digital divide while also being able to personally conceive and engage with technology in innovative ways.
My project will consist of an electronic piece of literature that through engaging with the technology the user will be introduced to content that explains the processes at work during the experience. It will have technical explanations as well as theoretical concepts – framed within a historical context – to allow the user to understand the work that is being done with the technology. I plan on designing this technology through the technical skills I have with a program called Processing, which will have an interface similar to that of the cyber text literature that we had read, but it will be completely designed and computer coded by me and then put online for use. This will allow me to exercise practical skill while being able to invent a new experience for myself and other users – keeping in mind that each experience is going to be different. My hope is that this literature becomes a tool that exemplifies theory in practice, a way of facilitating education through technology theory. By clicking on different prompts the user will be directed to textual information that they will read to receive information or technological lessons, or they will be directed toward interactive forms of the text that asks them to use the instructions provided earlier to test their functional skills in the technology. This guide will be fulfilling to me as a creator but also to larger communities as a tangible and interactive tool for education and social change.
For my project I plan to continue my exploration of the indigenous uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, the EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army). Last semester, I wrote a chapter of my dissertation which explores the theoretical aspects of the movement as a neo-marxist approach to the pursuit of social justice. This semester, I want to complete another chapter where I explore the use of media (mainly the internet website Enlace Zapatista, as well as several newspaper articles, videos/documentaries, and songs about the movement). I would like to explore the complexity of the incorporation of media to this revolutionary movement and whether or not it has been a more effective method of achieving social justice for the indigenous people who make up the majority of the movement.
I plan to review the content of the various letters and communiques sent to local newspapers by Subcomandante Marcos since 1994. The book titled Shadows of Tender Fury provides a list of the communiques since the public emergence of the movement, which will be a great source for the first part of my project. Secondly, I plan to explore other books, as well as the EZLN website (for which I have been a member for years) to explore the direction of the movement through the past years.
Finally, I plan to incorporate the Media Studies’ theoretical models we have been studying in this class to the analysis of the effects of the media in the development and evolution of the EZLN. Using McLuhan and the effects of technology, media and society, and media and our thought processes. McLuhan also discusses the “global village” which would be very relevant to the strategies used by the EZLN to appeal to an international audience. As well as others as our course develops.
My term project will be a piece of creative non-fiction exploring the question (roughly) of how we got from ‘punk’ to ‘cyberpunk’ and beyond. I wrote my term paper for Marxism and Cultural Studies last semester about punk rock and punk culture in the 1970s, so I see this project as a way to build on my research while bringing the subject a little closer to the 21st century.
Science fiction author Bruce Bethke coined the term “Cyberpunk” in 1983 as the title for a short story of the same name. Cyberpunk (a portmanteau of “cybernetics” and “punk”) became a sci-fi genre in its own right, popularized by the work of authors like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, as well as retroactively applied to earlier work by J.G. Ballard, Phillip K. Dick, Thomas Pynchon, and even William Burroughs. According to the Wikipedia entry on cyberpunk, the cyberpunk narrative is characterized by “advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.”
I’ve always been intrigued by the various ways “punk” has become a catch-all term for an anarchic, dystopian aesthetic, and particularly in the ways this sensibility manifests itself on the Internet, arguably the space in which many of today’s major upsets in the social order are orchestrated. Cyberpunk hit its peak of cultural vogue in the early 90s and mercifully faded from the pop-cultural radar (until the Matrix trilogy came out and blew teenage minds worldwide, anyway) but traces of the sensibility linger tantalizingly in many aspects of digital culture today.
I’m still figuring out what form the project will take, but it will definitely include multimedia, fragmentary thought processes, some web code craziness, and otherwise depart interestingly from the standard academic essay format.
As a starting point, here’s a charming article entitled “Cyberpunk R.I.P.” by Paul Saffo, from the Sep/Oct 1993 issue of Wired.
Various other points of interest…
Cyberpunk in pop culture
- Hollywood tries to make computers look exciting, hilarity ensues (eventually, the Matrix)
- Cyberpunk in comics and anime. The future of cartooning, cartooning the future
- In music, the subject of several concept albums, including Billy Idol’s universally-panned 1993 album Cyberpunk and David Bowie’s better-recieved 1. Outside
- …and, more broadly, the futuristic aesthetic manifested in various post-punk musical genres including noise, industrial, and electronic music
Cyberpunk and cyberculture
- The romanticization of the hacker as postmodern outlaw
- Sci-fi goes postmodern, postmodernity goes sci-fi
- Wired magazine and (post)cyberpunk ideology
- Punk/DIY culture in the ’90s and its relationship (if any) to hacker/”maker” culture in the late ’90s and ’00s