April 2010 Archives

We will spend time in class discussing Fast Company's ongoing coverage of the "leaked iPHone" story.  (You don't need to read or blog about this in advance.)

The backstory... a prototype of the next iPhone was recently found in a bar.  Somehow that prototype ended up being purchased by a popular technology publication (variously described as a blog, an online tabloid, or some variety of online journalism).

Was the phone lost or stolen? Should the website have paid for the phone? Does it make a difference that this was a huge scoop, and there would have been no other way to get this story (since Apple doesn't let anyone preview its products)?  Cops raided the office of the blogger who posted an analysis of the prototype... yet journalists are supposed to be exempt from this kind of intrusion, since it would have a chilling effect on the coverage of police and political corruption. (Is Apple using the cops as thugs-for-hire, to control the free press? Who decides when a blogger is a journalist?)

The situation is still unfolding, and there are so many unanswered questions that Fast Company has published an infographic (by Sheryl Sulistawan and Tyler Gray) and a series of hyperlinked blog entries by Dan Nasowitz.

For this activity, I'd like you to spend a few minutes exploring the issue in class. Then, I will ask you to comment on
  • the substance of the story (as you interpret it based on the infographic and the blog entries) and
  • the form of the story (both visual and hypertextual, with special reference to Aarseth's Cybertext).
If you prefer, here is a more traditional layout of the same story.
Assigned Text:

Darnton (Ch 2-4)

What can we learn from the anxieties, and hopes, expressed by Darnton -- a traditionalist who (by Ch 4) explains his reasons for wanting to write an e-Book?
Assigned Text:

Memex & Buckland

In 1946, Vannevar Bush published "As We May Think" (I assigned it in EL236, but I'm not assigning the whole article this time -- this online handout should provide you with what you need to know).  It provides you with background information that will help you understand the assigned text, which is Buckland's analysis of the pre-history of the imaginary machine Bush described.

Bush proposed (but nobody ever built) a mechanical device that would permit a reader to locate, annotate, and connect individual microfilm pages. 

The actions he describes seem trivial to us today, just as a photocopier, or a spill-proof ball-point pen, or an eraser-tipped pencil are so much a part of our scholarly life that we can hardly comprehend their revolutionary impact upon our productivity.

Due Today:

Ex 4

Topic: Of Interaction and Knowledge in the Amazon/Google Era

Demonstrate your ability to relate what you have learned so far to a recent magazine article or news feature that describes a current trend or a recent innovation (within your lifetime) that relates to the development of the book (or related concepts, such as authorship/publication/reading/archiving).  By "relate" I mean please quote from, and use meaningfully, the assigned readings in order to defend a position on a current topic.

  • Defend a specific, debatable claim (rather than explaining a situation or describing progress).
  • Note that I am going to ask you to speculate about the future in Ex 5, so stick to the recent past and the present for Ex 4. 
  • While "interaction" and "knowledge" are both very broad subjects, note that were are exploring those topics from within the perspective of the history and future of the book, so please try to keep some grounding in issues of reading/writing/authorship/publication/reproduction, while still making room for a treatment of the characteristics of new media.
  • Demonstrate your ability to apply the readings to your chosen topic. 
  • You may choose a popular source such as Wired, or a source that relates to your career or cultural interests.  You may also choose to respond to an academic article.
  • Cite your sources according to MLA style  (including a Works Cited list).
Assigned Text:

Aarseth (Ch 6 & 9)

Focus on a passage that you consider to be comprehensible (or accessible, etc.), and a passage that you consider to be challenging (or confusing, or difficult, etc.). 

What makes the passages different?

As a student who has been asked to demonstrate an ability to engage with this text, what are some good strategies that can help you make sense of advanced material?
(Originally assigned for Apr 20; discussion moved to today.)

In this excerpt from The Republic, Plato spins an extended metaphor that uses the fuzzy shadows cast from firelight to stand for the imperfect way that we comprehend our world when we do not use the light of reason. Without the light of reason, we are like prisoners chained in a cave, who never see daylight, and never look at objects themselves. As prisoners, we base all that they know on their understanding of the fuzzy shadows of things, rather than the direct observation of things themselves. (How can we apply this story to our own exploration of media?)

Due Today:

Portfolio 2

Due Today:

Paper 2 Draft

At this stage, I'm asking for 8-10 pages.  (The final version will be at least 15 pages long.)

Use brief, direct quotations from scholarly sources to support a debatable claim -- something that a reasonable person would disagree with -- that arises from the readings.

Avoid vague references to what "some people may say" -- give the name of a person who holds that view, and quote the exact words that make you think the person holds that view. (You may paraphrase, but you still need to cite the source of a paraphrase.)
Assigned Text:

Aarseth (Ch 8)

Assigned Text:

Darnton (Ch 1)

Assigned Text:

Blank, Deadline

Spend at least 20 minutes playing this online version of Deadline, the 1982 game that Aarseth examines in Ch5.

This IF command cheat sheet will help.

You are welcome to go online to look for tips and hints, but if you do, please mention them in your blog entry.
Assigned Text:

Aarseth (Ch5)

Read this after watching the "Jerz & Jerz" video.
Assigned Text:

Jerz & Jerz

Brief introduction to interactive fiction. This is part 1 of 3; I'm only assigning the first part (about 10 minutes).
Due Today:

ELO Collection

In keeping with Aarseth's observation (from Ch 1) that reading about an interactive work is no substitute for interacting with a work, this reading assignments asks you to spend 1 hour interacting with "electronic literature" (plus about a half hour blogging your reactions).

Visit the Electronic Literature Organization's online anthology.
  1. Spend 10 minutes sampling the offerings, and blog your initial reactions.
  2. Choose 3 works you'd like to explore in greater detail, and explain why. (If you took "Writing for the Internet" in 2008, when we did a very similar activity, please pick different works.)
  3. Spend 10 additional minutes exploring each work. (If you exhaust the work before 10 minutes, pick a different work to fill out the time.) Blog your reactions to each.
  4. Spend 20 more minutes interacting with the works in the anthology; spend this time any way you wish. (You may spend 20 minutes on a particular work, or flit from work to work as whimsy moves you.) Explain why you chose to spend your time this way, and explain what you learned.
  5. Apply some aspect of Aarseth's writing to what you learned through this activity. (Come to class ready to discuss this experience.)
Assigned Text:

Aarseth (Ch 2-4)

Due Today:

Paper 2 Proposal

Paper 2 (minimum 15 pages) is a research paper that demonstrates your ability to research at an advanced college level.  Personal experiences and journalistic interviews must take a backseat to scholarly information from peer-reviewed sources, textual analysis, literary interpretation.

Quick Overview
1) Brainstorming (a half a page; informal; feel free to post it on your blog)
2) Preliminary Research Questions (what will you need to research?)

The Details

Assigned Text:

Darnton (Ch 10)

Assigned Text:

Cybertext (Ch1)

Lots of fancy words in this section.  Have a dictionary handy. I'll get you started by posting links to a few definitions,

And that's just from the first page! 

Strategies for Reading a Complex Text

Aarseth is not writing for the general reader. He expects his readers to have a large vocabulary, and he expects his readers to be motivated enough by a desire to learn the material that they will look up unfamiliar words.

But if you look more carefully, you'll find that Aarseth often does explain an unfamiliar word.  For instance, he uses "aporia" for the first time on page 2, but on page 3 he say "inaccessibility, it must be noted, does not imply ambiguity but, rather, an absence of possibility -- an aporia."  So the careful reader will find an explanation of what Aarseth means by "aporia."

When you come across an unfamiliar word, I recommend that you underline it. If you can guess at the meaning of the word, or you find Aarseth provides a definition, draw a box around the definition.  If you aren't sure what the words means, put a question mark in the margin, and keep reading.  Then, when you get to the end of a chapter, go back and see whether you can figure out what those words mean.  If not, now is the time to look them up (and write their definition in the margin).
Due Today:

CP 3

The evaluation criteria will be the same as CP2.

I have not distributed any special media to use, but I am asking you to use analog technology (not digital technology) in a 7-min presentation that defends some part of printing press technology.

From the syllabus:

CP3: In Defense of Print Culture
(use analog tools; rubber stamps, typewriter, cut-and-paste, etc.; no computer

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