Artifice and Agency

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Rant for Us to Contend With --

I just stumbled upon a provocative and pithy rant by Andrew Keen, called The Anti-Web 2.0 Manifesto (Adorno for Idiots)" that would provide an excellent point of departure for a contrarian class discussion. Check it out, print it up, and perhaps we will take it up.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Final Exam: Part Two

Option One:

The description for our class began with a question: "What is the shape and what might be the significance of a transformation from a mass mediated public sphere into more p2p networked public sphere?" Choose any two texts from the first part of the course (any of the texts we read up to, but not including, the Cintra Wilson piece) to describe how, in your own view, the emerging peer-to-peer networked public sphere differs most significantly from the mass mediated public sphere that preceded it. I have no expectation at all about how sweeping, how deep, how hopeful, how fragile you have come to believe this transformation truly is, nor do I have any expectation about what each of you will finally decide the significance of this transformation truly amounts to.

Option Two:

The texts we have discussed in the second part of the course (Cintra Wilson, Edward Said, Susan Faludi, Michelangelo Signorile) each seek to map the terrain of the media environment of the moment in which they were writing, and through this mapping to diagnosis barriers to a more "objective understanding" of complex social and cultural realities and, hence, to the achievement of social justice as they see it. But is it really true that "celebrity," "Islam," "feminism," "homosexuality" are produced by the institutions of mass media in the same ways in these accounts? Do the populist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-heterosexist commitments of these authors align as one might superficially expect them to do in their accounts of media and in their (sometimes only implicit) recommendations? Choose any two texts from among these four and highlight ways in which what might initially seem to be parallel or even interdependent analyses appear, on closer scrutiny, to be proposing significantly different understandings of the media landscape with significantly different implications for activism. Conclude by indicating how the differences you have noticed might offer insights for contemporary activism associated with these various political struggles in the changed media landscape of p2p networks.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Final Exam: Part One

Here, in alphabetical order, are twenty-two terms that have figured centrally in various ways in a number of the texts we have read over the course of this term.

1. accountability
2. celebrity
3. commons
4. democracy
5. elite
6. end-to-end principle (e2e)
7. free software
8. linking
9. mass culture
10. media
11. objectivity
12. open source
13. peer to peer (p2p)
14. popular
15. privacy
16. private property
17. professional
18. public
19. public good
20. representative
21. secrecy
22. transparency

Organize the terms in this list into three separate, conceptually connected, sets. You can use any criteria that seems useful to you to organize these sets. The only rule is that no resulting set can contain fewer than three terms. You can omit one, but only one, of the twenty-two terms from your exam altogether.

Once you have organized your three sets, define each of the terms in each set in your own words. Ideally, your definitions should be relatively short and as clear as possible. It should be clear from your definitions why each of the terms in each of the three sets are conceptually connected to each other, but it is also crucial that no terms within a set are treated as synomymous, and that your definitions distinguish terms from one another (even if the resulting distinctions are sometimes matters of nuance).

Once you have defined all these terms, provide a short quotation (feel free to edit and prune to keep your chosen citations properly pithy) from one of the texts we have read this term to accompany your definition. The quotation you choose can be a definition you found helpful in crafting your own definition, it can be an example or illustration you found especially clarifying, it can a matter of contextualization, framing, or history that you found illuminating, it can even be something you disagreed with so strongly it helped you understand better what you really think yourself.

Obviously, there are indefinitely many different ways of organizing these terminological sets, defining these terms, distinguishing them from one another, and connecting them up to the texts we have read. What matters for this first part of the exam is that you follow the rules of the exercise, not that you arrive at some single "right answer" you may think I have in mind. It's, like, you know, the journey and not the destination, man.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Backlash and Queer in America

Last thing first: I've been calling the book Queer in America by the wrong title. It's not Out in America, it's Queer in America.

We're spending the next three class meetings (starting Thursday) reading from Susan Faludi's Backlash. The book as a whole is too long for us to read it all closely (although I do recommend the whole thing) so we'll focus on the discussions relevant to our media concerns.

For Thursday: 1 (Introduction), 2 (Myths of the Backlash), 3 (Then and Now).

For next Tuesday: 4 (Media), 5 (Movies), 6 (TV).

For next Thursday: 7 (Fashion), 8 (Beauty), 12 (Pop Psychology).

Friday, April 06, 2007

As Promised

Juan Cole's Informed Comment. This is the blog I suggested we all read over the weekend to supplement the last assigned passages from Said's Covering Islam for Tuesday. By the way, those of you who were wondering what further riches might await one on the intrawebs for the contemplation of Middle Eastern (as it were) political complexity, check out Cole's blogroll for literally endless hours of education.

The other blog I mentioned Thursday was Laura Rozen's War and Piece. Not assigned -- her topics range outside those that preoccupy our class -- but, nevertheless, generally recommended.