The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

Internet: Origins, Theory, Practice

Syllabus for a special topic university course on digital
culture and the Internet - comments welcome.

This course will cover a wide variety of topics, centered on
digital media and the Internet, and on the profound changes to
society that the digital revolution has brought about. There are
no prerequisites except online access.

The course will be structured around informal lectures and
in-class discussion, coupled with student research; by the
fourth week, please choose a topic to present in-class and
online. Attendance is mandatory.

All readings will be online; given the fast-forward nature of
the Internet, the urls will be assigned on a week-by-week basis.

Week 1:


What do you do online? How many hours? What do you do offline?
How many hours?

Introduction to the field of digital studies - the past,
present, and future of the Internet and online communication in
general. We will discuss the basic similarities and differences
between analog and digital media, focusing on both the 'natural'
and 'human-created' worlds. Illustrations from antiquated
technologies like look-up tables, abacuses and slide-rules.
Brief discussion of breadth versus depth approaches to

Week 2:

Early history of the Internet - the text-driven digital world,
including early search engines (gopher, archie, veronica),
email, and communities (the Well, Spoon, etc.). The RFC
directory. Earlier Internet handbooks. The concept behind
TCP/IP. Newsgroups and computer BBS (bulletin boards), Fidonet.
The Yanoff list. How should the breadth of information be
organized? The Hobbes Timeline.

Week 3:

Mozilla, Netscape, and early Web browsers. Early online
communities. MOOs, MUDs, MUCKS, and early text-based games like
Adventure. Newsgroups, IRC. Stormfront. The beginnings of Net
culture, and its relation to offline communities. CB, ham radio,
telegraph communities.

Week 4:

Beginnings of multi-media online. POWWOW, CU-SeeMe. The idea of
the "homepage" - various kinds of homepages. Using the WayBack
site. TheCastle and other early virtual worlds. The rise of
blogs. We want to begin thinking about the construction of the
online subject or user - what being online means for society as
a whole.

Week 5:

Wikipedia, online information, fake news, bullying, online
scholarship. The growth of the Internet, the digital divide.
Generation gaps - thinking also about early boys' radio clubs.
Online relationships. Sex, love, and death in cyberspace.
Postmodernism and the fragmented self.

Week 6:

Facebook, Instagram, G+ and Gmail, Yahoo and other social media.
Online addiction, the psychology of the screen. Messaging.
Modalities of online subjectivity, the MULTI directory of
presentation of the self in everyday online life. Is online
always virtual? Is the virtual always online?

Week 7:

Online education, plagiarism, MOOCs (massive open online
courses). Psychology of learning online. Kindergarten block
play, STEM, STEAM and other national initiatives. Bottom-up
organizations, TAZ (temporary autonomous zones), hacker and
maker spaces, collaboration spaces, Occupy. Fast-forward
political actions, cellphone organizing.

Week 8:

Hacking, cracking, 2600 magazine, the politicization of hacking,
script kiddies, cyberwarfare. Information wants to be free. The
case of Trolling, Dibbell's A Rape in Cyberspace.

Week 9:

Economics of Amazon, etc. The effect on brick and mortar stores.
Mobile platforms and platform dominance. The trajectories of
money in the digital world. Offshore accounting, immediacy,
virtual currencies.

Online from top-down - Who controls what? State supervision of
the Net, issues of Net neutrality. The EFF, Electronic Freedom

Week 10:

Internet art, blockchain, Furtherfield, digital art in general.
DIWO, Do it with Others. Collaboration, makerspaces. Codework,
Jodi and others. Randall Packer and Networked Art. Online
identities and their expressions. The Arab Spring.

Week 11:

Micro-cultures, fandoms. alt.society.neutopia, monster truck
neutopians, Walkers in Darkness, Body-mod sites. How is Twitter
organized? Presentations, discussions.

Week 12:

Presentations, discussions.


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