MS 51 // Introduction to Digital Media Studies // Spring 2010
MW 1.15-2.30 // Crookshank 8
F 1.15-4 // Lab, Crookshank 8

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 examines the digital media technologies that are at the center of much of our communication, entertainment, and social lives today, exploring both the uses of those technologies and the critical responses to them. We’ll look at some early writing that predicts many of the technologies we take for granted today, at some of the early studies of the computer’s impact on individual identity and community, and at a number of issues surrounding the new networked communication structures we use heavily today. Throughout the semester, you’ll both study these technologies from a critical perspective and explore them in a hands-on fashion, working both individually and in groups on a series of projects designed to further your understanding of contemporary digital technologies and their role in contemporary culture.

Please note: This is a paperless class; all of our work will be done digitally. This digital orientation will allow us the ability to take advantage of new technologies and texts as they arise throughout the semester. It also demands flexibility from all of us, in working with the changes that the technologies produce, requiring a more dynamic class experience than more established subjects do. All of which is to say that the syllabus below is of necessity a work in progress; please consult it frequently, and be sure to keep abreast of changes as they arise.


Attendance and participation (5%): See policies for more information. Bear in mind that participation doesn’t mean simply doing the work, or simply speaking up in class, but actively working to make the class a positive learning experience for you and your fellow students.

Class notes project (10%): Over the course of the semester, you will compile a set of collaborative notes for the class, detailing the important issues from our readings, the main threads of our discussions, any questions that we raise that remain open, and so forth. You’ll use a combination of Google Wave and Google Docs for these notes, Wave for the initial notetaking and discussion and Docs for the final product. Each of you will serve as lead notetaker during at least one class session, though you’ll be expected to contribute to the collaborative notes for every class period.

Blogging (25%): We’re going to use a number of different technologies over the course of the semester, as a hands-on form of interaction with the computer-based communication structures we’re studying. The most important of these is our course blog, on which you’ll write frequently, using your posts to respond to our course readings, to think about the technologies we’re using, to draw your classmates’ attention to articles and artifacts you’ve found, and so forth. You are required to post at least two entries each week, one of which directly engages with the week’s readings, before the start of class on Monday; you are also required to read your classmates’ posts and leave at least two comments each week, before the start of class on Wednesday. (Note that you don’t have to post the two entries or leave the two comments at the same time; just make sure that week-to-week you get those two entries and comments in.) This weekly requirement is meant as a minimum acceptable level of participation; I hope that you’ll all contribute more, creating an ongoing, engaging dialogue.

Labs and projects (25%): Most Friday afternoons, we’ll meet in Crookshank 8 for some hands-on instruction and work with the kinds of technologies we’re studying this semester. These labs are not optional; if you must miss one, you are responsible for making up the work on your own time. (Note, too, that missing a lab counts as an absence.) Many of these labs will be devoted to working on a series of digital media projects. More information about these projects will be given over the course of the semester.

Final project (25%): Your final project in this class will ask you to work in a team of two or three to produce the meta-media object of your choice, demonstrating what you have learned both technologically and critically over the course of the semester.

Class facilitation (10%): Working in pairs, each of you will be responsible for facilitating our discussion during one class session. This should not be a long, formal presentation, though you may want to begin with a few minutes of background information to aid our discussion; rather, you should prepare questions and other materials that guide us through an engaging conversation about the day’s reading.


All policies under which my classes operate (including policies about attendance, late work, accommodations for students with documented disabilities, and the like) are available at Please read those policies carefully, and let me know if you have any questions.


All required readings are linked below; some require a Sakai login. I also highly recommend Sams Teach Yourself HTML & CSS in 24 Hours, which is available at Huntley.


Week 1: Introduction
W Jan 20 — General course introduction
F Jan 22 — Lab #1 — Introduction to the course website & other technologies

Week 2: Early theories of computer intelligence and interaction
M Jan 25 — Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think“; Alan Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence
W Jan 27 — Theodor H. Nelson, “A File Structure for The Complex, The Changing, and the Indeterminate
F Jan 29 — Lab #2 — Introduction to web technologies

Week 3: Early cyberculture studies
M Feb 1 — Howard Rheingold, “Daily Life in Cyberspace,” from The Virtual Community
W Feb 3 — Sherry Turkle, “Identity in the Age of the Internet” and “Aspects of the Self,” from Life on the Screen
F Feb 5 — Lab #3 — More on HTML & CSS

Week 4: Community and governance
M Feb 8 — Julian Dibbell, “A Rape in Cyberspace
W Feb 10 — Lawrence Lessig, from Code 2.0
F Feb 12 — no lab — Prof. Fitzpatrick out of town

Week 5: Cybertypes
M Feb 15 — Lisa Nakamura, “Cybertyping and the Work of Race in the Age of Digital Reproduction,” from Cybertypes; Frank Schaap, “Disaggregation, Technology, and Masculinity,” from Critical Cyberculture Studies
W Feb 17 — No class — Prof. Fitzpatrick out of town
F Feb 19 — Lab #4 — Audio

Week 6: Hypertext
M Feb 22 — Michael Joyce, Afternoon (PC version / Mac version — note: must be run in Classic mode); George Landow, “Hypertext: An Introduction,” from Hypertext 2.0
W Feb 24 — Espen Aarseth, “No Sense of an Ending: Hypertext Aesthetics,” from Cybertext; Jane Yellowlees Douglass, “What Interactive Narratives Do That Print Narratives Cannot,” from The End of Books — Or Books Without End?; Matt Kirschenbaum, “Save as: Michael Joyce’s Afternoons,” from Mechanisms
F Feb 26 — Lab #5 — Audio, part 2

Week 7: Old and new
M Mar 1 — Lev Manovich, “What Is New Media?,” from The Language of New Media; Lisa Gitelman, “New Media </Body>,” from Always Already New
W Mar 3 — William Gibson, “Agrippa (a book of the dead)“; The Agrippa Files; Matt Kirschenbaum, “Text Messaging: The Transformissions of ‘Agrippa’
F Mar 5 — Lab #6 — Video

Week 8: Peer-to-peer networks
M Mar 8 — Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail” (see also his blog)
W Mar 10 — Yochai Benkler, “Peer Production and Sharing” from The Wealth of Networks
F Mar 12 — no lab — spring break

M Mar 15 – F Mar 19 — spring break

Week 9: Authority
M Mar 22 — Andrew Sullivan, “Why I Blog“; Jay Rosen, “Audience Atomization Overcome: Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press“; Clay Shirky, “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable
W Mar 24 — Stacy Schiff, “Know It All“; Marshall Poe, “The Hive
F Mar 26 — no lab — Cesar Chavez day

Week 10: Ownership
M Mar 29 — Shane Ham and Robert D. Atkinson, “Napster and Online Piracy,” Charles W. Bailey, Jr., “Strong Copyright + DRM + Weak Net Neutrality = Digital Dystopia?,” Courtney Love, “Courtney Love does the math
W Mar 31 — Tim Wu, “Does YouTube Really Have Legal Problems?,” Matt Zoller Seitz, “Copy Rites: YouTube vs. Kevin B. Lee
F Apr 2 — Lab #7 — Sophie

Week 11: Social networking systems
M Apr 5 — Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Social Networking Websites and Teens,” danah boyd, “Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck,” and Clive Thompson, “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy
W Apr 7 — Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Adults and Social Network Websites,” Jarred Taylor, “Is FriendFeed Doomed?,” Michael Arrington, “FriendFeed, the Centralized Me, and Data Portability
F Apr 9 — Lab #8 — More Sophie

Week 12: Fan cultures and fan production
M Apr 12 — Henry Jenkins, “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture” and “Why Heather Can Write
W Apr 14 — Sharon Cumberland, “Private Uses of Cyberspace: Women, Desire, and Fan Culture” ; also, read around in the journal Transformative Works and Cultures, Volume 1
F Apr 16 — Lab #9 — Begin final project

Week 13: Game studies
M Apr 19 — Alexander Galloway, “Gamic Action, Four Moments,” from Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture; Ian Bogost, “Procedural Rhetoric,” from Persuasive Games
W Apr 21 — No class — Prof. Fitzpatrick out of town
F Apr 23 — Lab #10 — Final project work session on your own

Week 14: Game studies, part 2
M Apr 26 — Mackenzie Wark, Gamer Theory
W Apr 28 — Machinima: The Machinima FAQ, The X-Box Auteurs, This Spartan Life, Red vs. Blue; Second Life: Alexandra Alter, “Is This Man Cheating on His Wife?“; Steven E. Jones, “Second Life, Video Games, and the Social Text
F Apr 30 — Lab #11 — Final project work session

Week 15: Last stuff
M May 3 — no class — Prof. Fitzpatrick out of town
W May 5 — Final project presentations and conclusions