IS 347/TNDY 402F // Digital Media Theory // Spring 2010
W 4.00-7.00 // Stauffer 106

Kathleen Fitzpatrick // Department of English // Pomona College
Crookshank 4 // x71496 // kfitzpatrick at pomona dot edu
Office hours: MT 4.00-5.30
Online office hours: Su 4.00-6.00 // kfitz47 at gmail

This course will serve as an introduction to the critical study of digital media, with attention to the pre-history of the Internet systems we’re now familiar with, the theoretical modes of reading that such technologies have helped give birth to, and the social and political effects that these technologies have had. Some of what we’ll read will seem a bit dated, as the Internet has developed quickly over the last decade-plus, but all of it remains important for a well-grounded understanding of the development both of network technologies and of scholarly thought about those technologies.

This course has also been listed as a transdisciplinary or t-course; as a result, the work of the class will focus around collaborative research conducted across fields. We’ll discuss that research project and the means through which you’ll collaborate over the course of the semester.


Reading responses and other blogging (20%): Before class each week, you will post a reading response to the class blog. Each of these responses should raise or explore some critical question in the readings we have read for that week, and should use a close reading — with appropriate quotation, citation, and explication — of the text to support its points. You can skip two of these reading responses with impunity. In addition to the weekly reading responses, you’ll use the blog for more general discussion about issues that arise in or around our class. You will each also be required to read your classmates’ posts and leave at least two comments each week, before the end of the day on Sunday. This weekly requirement is meant as a minimum acceptable level of participation; I hope that you’ll all contribute more, and use the blog to feed our discussions, and to help you generate ideas for the papers you’ll be writing this semester.

Research project (50%): Your primary work for the semester will be the team-based production of a substantive transdisciplinary research project centering on the study of digital media. We’ll hash out the particulars of the assignment as the semester progresses.

Class facilitation and final presentation (10% each): Each of you will be asked to lead the class during one session, working in pairs, facilitating our discussion of that day’s reading by presenting a brief introduction to the material and leading our exploration through questions and examples. At the end of the semester, each of you will also present the results of your term project to the class. This presentation will be brief but formal and extremely polished. Details to come.

Attendance and participation (10%): Pretty self-explanatory, I’d think.


The following books are available at Huntley or through Amazon:

Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, eds., The New Media Reader (NMR)
Martin Lister, et al, New Media: A Critical Introduction, 2nd edition
Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media
Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation
Michele White, The Body and the Screen
Lisa Nakamura, Digitizing Race
David Silver and Adrienne Massanari, eds., Critical Cyberculture Studies
Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture

Other required readings will be made available on this website, as indicated in the schedule.


Jan 20: Introduction
General course introduction
Clay Shirky, “Publish, Then Filter“; Daniel Solove, “How the Free Flow of Information Liberates and Constrains Us

Jan 27: What Is New Media?
Lister, “New Media and New Technologies,” pp. 9-44
Janet Murray, “Inventing the Medium” (NMR)
Lev Manovich, “New Media from Borges to HTML” (NMR)
Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, pp. 2-61

Feb 3: Historical Contexts
Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think” (NMR)
Alan Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” (NMR)
Norbert Wiener, “Men, Machines, and the World About” (NMR)
J. C. R. Licklider, “Man-Computer Symbiosis” (NMR)
Theodor H. Nelson, “A File Structure for The Complex, The Changing, and the Indeterminate” (NMR)

Feb 10: Media Change
Lister, “New Media and New Technologies,” pp. 44-99
Marshall McLuhan, Two Selections (NMR)
Hans Magnus Enzensberger, “Constituents of a Theory of the Media” (NMR)
Jean Baudrillard, “Requiem for the Media” (NMR)
Raymond Williams, “The Technology and the Society” (NMR)
Theodor H. Nelson, from Computer Lib / Dream Machines (NMR)
Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation

Feb 17: no class; Prof. Fitzpatrick out of town

Feb 24: Networked Media
Lister, “Networks, Users, and Economics,” pp. 163-209
Yochai Benkler, “Peer Production and Sharing,” from The Wealth of Networks
Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail

Mar 3: In-class research project work session

Mar 10: New Identities and Communities
Lister, “Networks, Users, and Economics,” pp. 209-218
Sherry Turkle, “Introduction” and “Aspects of the Self,” from Life on the Screen
Laura Miller, “Women & Children First: Gender and the Settling of the Electronic Frontier
Steve Silberman, “We’re Teen, We’re Queer, and We’ve Got E-mail
Julian Dibbell, “A Rape in Cyberspace
Research project proposal due

Mar 17: no class; spring break

Mar 24: Race Online
Cameron Bailey, “Virtual Skin: Articulating Race in Cyberspace
Lisa Nakamura, “Cybertyping and the Work of Race in the Age of Digital Reproduction
Lisa Nakamura, Digitizing Race

Mar 31: New Media in Everyday Life
Lister, “New Media in Everyday Life,” pp. 237-307
Pew Internet & American Life Project

Apr 7: Cyberculture
Lister, “Cyberculture: Technology, Nature and Culture,” pp. 317-413
Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto” (NMR)
Michele White, The Body and the Screen

Apr 14: Critical Cyberculture Studies
David Silver and Adrienne Massanari, eds., Critical Cyberculture Studies

Apr 21: The Networked Book
McKenzie Wark, GAM3R 7H30RY
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy

Apr 28: Convergence Culture
Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture

May 5: Final Presentations
Final presentations
Research project due