The Anthropology of Cybercultures

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  • Level: Graduate
  • Instructor: Prof. Lucy Suchman

See all materials on the MIT Open Courseware Page.

Course Description

This course explores a range of contemporary scholarship oriented to the study of 'cybercultures,' with a focus on research inspired by ethnographic and more broadly anthropological perspectives. Taking anthropology as a resource for cultural critique, the course will be organized through a set of readings chosen to illustrate central topics concerning the cultural and material practices that comprise digital technologies. We'll examine social histories of automata and automation; the trope of the 'cyber' and its origins in the emergence of cybernetics during the last century; cybergeographies and politics; robots, agents and humanlike machines; bioinformatics and artificial life; online sociality and the cyborg imaginary; ubiquitous and mobile computing; ethnographies of research and development; and geeks, gamers and hacktivists. We'll close by considering the implications for all of these topics of emerging reconceptualizations of sociomaterial relations, informed by feminist science and technology studies.


Syllabus

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Overview

This course explores a range of contemporary scholarship oriented to the study of 'cybercultures,' with a focus on research inspired by ethnographic and more broadly anthropological perspectives. Taking anthropology as a resource for cultural critique, the course will be organized through a set of readings chosen to illustrate central topics concerning the cultural and material practices that comprise digital technologies. We'll examine social histories of automata and automation; the trope of the 'cyber' and its origins in the emergence of cybernetics during the last century; cyber geographies and politics; robots, agents and humanlike machines; bioinformatics and artificial life; online sociality and the cyborg imaginary; ubiquitous and mobile computing; ethnographies of research and development; and geeks, gamers and hactivists. We'll close by considering the implications for all of these topics of emerging reconceptualizations of sociomaterial relations, informed by feminist science and technology studies.

Teaching Approach

The course will be conducted as a graduate reading seminar – with contextualizing comments by the instructor followed by student-led discussion of readings. Each week two students will be asked to lead the discussion. Active participation in discussions based on reading, related studies and/or experiences is expected. Be sure to bring marked-up copies of required readings to class.

Each week we'll discuss the required readings intensively and in relation to each other. The emphasis here is on careful reading rather than quantity; that is, the assignments are not extensive in terms of pages so that you have time to read closely and think about what you're reading. There are also supplementary readings provided for each week that you can draw on for your Final Projects (see Assignments).

On-line Facilities

See the class Web site for required readings and other course materials, as well as updates from the instructor through out the term.

Texts

Required readings will be made available on the class Web site, however these are books that we'll be drawing from that would make good additions to your library if you're interested in these topics.

Required

  • Adam, Alison. "The Knowing Subject in AI." Chapter 3 in Artificial Knowing: Gender and the Thinking Machine. New York, NY: Routledge, 1998. ISBN: 9780415129626.
  • Boellstorff, Tom. Coming of Age in Second Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008, chapter 1, pp. 3-31 and chapter 4, pp. 89-117. ISBN: 9780691135281.
  • Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780226321462. See especially chapter 4, 'Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Wiener and Cybernetic Anxiety'.
  • Kelty, Christopher. Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008, introduction, pp. 1-23; chapter 2, pp. 64-94. ISBN: 9780822342649.
  • Orr, Jackie. Chapter 3 in Panic Diaries: A Genealogy of Panic Disorder. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006, pp. 79-164. ISBN: 9780822336235.
  • Fox Keller, Evelyn. "Booting up Baby." In Riskin, J. Genesis Redux: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007, pp. 334-345. ISBN: 9780226720814.
  • Taylor, T. L. Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Gaming Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009, introduction, pp. 1-19; chapter 4, pp. 93-124. ISBN: 9780262512626.

Recommended

  • Edwards, Paul. The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780262550284.
  • Helmreich, Stefan. Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780520208001.
  • Kember, Sarah. Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life. London, England: Routledge, 2003. ISBN: 9780415240260.
  • Suchman, Lucy. Human-Machine Reconfigurations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780521675888. See especially chapters 12 and 13.
  • Turkle, Sherry. The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (20th anniversary edition). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780262701112.

Evaluation

Grading for the course will be done through a portfolio consisting of:

Response to Readings Each week you will be asked to write a one-page response to the required readings, concluding with questions or topics for discussion. These will be discussed in the seminar and distributed to other members of the class via the class Web site. (20% of mark).

Oral Presentation Each student will give one 15-minute seminar presentation during the term, based on a their final project-in-progress (see item 3). The aim of this presentation will be to give co-participants in the seminar a sense of the project (its materials, references and arguments) and to get helpful feedback toward its completion (20% of mark).

Final Project Paper (15-20 pages) to be handed in before class on Week #13.The paper will report on a research project chosen from one of the three options described below. Students are encouraged to develop projects that contribute to their wider graduate work-in-progress (60% of mark).


Week 1 - Course introduction

In this first meeting I'll offer an overview of the course and we'll discuss expectations (both mine and yours) for the work that you'll be asked to do and what you hope to learn. Students are asked to come prepared to speak briefly about their research interests and hopes for the course. We'll clarify how theory and methods from anthropology and science and technology studies will inform our discussions, and begin to explore the anthropological terrain of the course with a viewing of the documentary Gamer Revolution (2007), Part 1 (45 mins.), Red Apple Entertainment.


Week 2 - Automata ancestries

Required

  • Riskin, Jessica. "Eighteenth Century Wetware." Representations 83 (2003): 97-125.
  • Fox Keller, Evelyn. "Booting up Baby." In Riskin, J. Genesis Redux: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Artificial Life. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007, pp. 334-345. ISBN: 9780226720814.

Supplementary

  • Channell, David. The Vital Machine. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1991. ISBN: 9780195060409.
  • Morus, Iwan Rhys. Bodies/Machines. Oxford, England: Berg, 2002. ISBN: 9781859736951.
  • Riskin, Jessica. "The Defecating Duck, Or, The Ambiguous Origins of Artificial Life." Critical Inquiry 20 (2003): 599-633.
  • Standage, Tom. The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous Eighteenth Century Chess-Playing Machine. New York, NY: Walker & Co., 2002. ISBN: 9781422360040.
  • Wood, Gaby. Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life. London, England: Faber and Faber, 2002. ISBN: 9780571214662.



Week 3 - Automation

Required

  • Schaffer, Simon. "Babbage's Intelligence: Calculating Engines and the Factory System." Critical Inquiry 21 (1994): 203-227.
  • Wise, M. Norton. "The Gender of Automata in Victorian Britain." pp. 163-195 in Genesis Redux.

Supplementary

  • Beniger, James. The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989. ISBN: 9780674169869.
  • Cockburn, Cynthia. Machinery of Dominance: Women, Men, and Technical Know-How. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 1990. ISBN: 9781555530464.
  • Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1985. ISBN: 9780465047321.
  • Forty, Adrian. Objects of Desire: Design and Society Since 1750. London, England: Thames & Hudson, 1992. ISBN: 9780500274125. See especially chapter 9.
  • Foucault, Michel. Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York, NY: Vintage, 1995. ISBN: 9780679752554. See especially pp. 135-169, "Docile Bodies".
  • Freeman, Carla. High Tech and High Heels in the Global Economy: Women, Work, and Pink-Collar Identities in the Caribbean. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780822324393.
  • Grier, David. When Computers Were Human. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780691133829.
  • Noble, David. Forces of Production. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1986. ISBN: 9780195040463.
  • Thomas, Robert. What Machines Can't Do: Politics and Technology in the Industrial Enterprise. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780520087019.

Week 4 - Cybernetics, cold wars and closed worlds

Required

  • Bowker, Geoffrey. "How to be Universal: Some Cybernetic Strategies, 1943-1970." Social Studies of Science 23 (1993): 107-127.
  • Orr, Jackie. Chapter 3 in Panic Diaries: A Genealogy of Panic Disorder. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006, pp. 79-164. ISBN: 9780822336235.

Supplementary

  • Bateson, Gregory. "Cybernetic Explanation." In Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780226039053.
  • Bush, Vannevar. "As We May Think." The Atlantic Monthly 176 (1945): 101-108. Charles Babbage Institute Archives
  • Campbell-Kelley, Martin, and William Aspray. Computer: A History of the Information Machine. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780813342641.
  • Ceruzzi, Paul. A History of Modern Computing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780262532037.
  • Edwards, Paul. The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780262550284.
  • Eglash, Ron. "Cultural Cybernetics: the Mutual Construction of People and Machines." Vienna, Austria: Society for Social Studies of Science, 2000.
  • Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780226321462. See especially chapter 4, "Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Wiener and Cybernetic Anxiety". National Archive for the History of Computing, University of Manchester
  • Plant, Sadie. "The Future Looms: Weaving Women and Cybernetics." Body and Society 1 (1995): 45-64.
  • Rosenbluth, Arturo, Norbert Wiener, and Julian Bigelow. "Behavior, Purpose and Teleology." Philosophy of Science 10 (1943): 18-24.
  • Tomas, David. "Feedback and Cybernetics: Reimaging the Body in the Age of the Cyborg." Body and Society 1 (1995): 21-43.
  • Wiener, Norbert. Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1965. ISBN: 9780262730099.

Week 5 Cybergeographies, cyberpolitics and postcolonial computing

Required

  • Eglash, Ron, and Julian Bleeker. "The Race for Cyberspace: Information Technology in the Black Diaspora." Science as Culture 10 (2001): 353-374.
  • Philip, Kavita. "What is a Technological Author? The Pirate Function and Intellectual Property." Postcolonial Studies 8 (2005): 199-218.

Supplementary

  • Adams, Paul C., and Barney Warf. "Introduction: Cyberspace and Geographical Space." Geographical Review 87 (1997): 139-145.
  • Bleecker, Julian. "Urban Crisis: Past, Present and Virtual." Socialist Review 24 (1995): 189-221.
  • Chan, Anita. "Coding Free Software, Coding Free States: Free Software Legislation and the Politics of Code in Peru." Anthropological Quarterly 77 (2004): 531-545.
  • Dodge, Martin, and Rob Kitchin. Mapping Cyberspace. London, England: Routledge, 2000. ISBN: 9780415198844.
  • Eglash, Ron. "When Terabyte Makes Right: The Changing Role of Computing Power in the Social Authority of Simulations." San Francisco, CA: American Anthropological Association, 2000.
  • Fischer, Michael. "Worlding Cyberspace: Toward a Critical Ethnography in Time, Space, and Theory." In Critical Anthropology Now. Edited by George E. Marcus. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research, 1999, pp. 245-304. ISBN: 9780933452503.
  • Gajjala, Radhika. "An Interrupted Postcolonial/Feminist Cyberethnography: Complicity and Resistance in the 'Cyberfield'." Feminist Media Studies 2 (2002): 177-193.
  • Helmreich, Stefan. "Flexible Infections: Computer Viruses, Human Bodies, Nation States, Evolutionary Capitalism." Science, Technology and Human Values 25 (2000): 472-491.
  • Kumar, Amitava, Alondra Nelson, Thuy Linh N. Tu, and Alicia Headlam Hines. "Temporary Access: The Indian H-1B Worker in the United States." In TechniColor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life. New York, NY: NYU Press, 2001, pp. 76-87. ISBN: 9780814736043.
  • Nelson, Diane. "Maya Hackers and the Cyberspatialized Nation-State: Modernity, Ethnostalgia, and a Lizard Queen in Guatemala." Cultural Anthropology 11 (1996): 287-308.
  • Sundaram, Ravi. "Recycling Modernity: Pirate Electronic Cultures in India." In Sarai Reader 01: Public Domain. Delhi, India: Sarai, 2001, pp. 93-99. (PDF)#

Week 6 Robots, agents and humanlike machines

Required

  • Turing, Alan. "Computing Machinery and Intelligence." Mind 59 (1950): 433-460.
  • Adam, Alison. "The Knowing Subject in AI." Chapter 3 in Artificial Knowing: Gender and the Thinking Machine. New York, NY: Routledge, 1998. ISBN: 9780415129626.

Supplementary

  • Agre, Philip. Computation and Human Experience. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780521386036.
  • Breazeal, Cynthia. Designing Sociable Robots. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780262524315.
  • Button, Graham, Jeff Coulter, John R. Lee, and Wes Sharrock. Computers, Minds and Conduct. Cambridge, MA: Polity, 1995. ISBN: 9780745615714.
  • Collins, H. M. Artificial Experts: Social Knowledge and Intelligent Machines. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992. ISBN: 9780262531153.
  • Dreyfus, Hubert. What Computers Still Can't Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992. ISBN: 9780262540674.
  • Forsythe, Diana, and David J. Hess. Studying Those Who Study Us: An Anthropologist in the World of Artificial Intelligence, Writing Science. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780804742030.
  • Halberstam, Judith. "Automating Gender: Postmodern Feminism in the Age of the Intelligent Machines." Feminist Studies 17 (1991): 439-460.
  • Powers, Richard. Galatea 2.2: A Novel. New York, NY: Picador, 2004. ISBN: 9780312423131.
  • Suchman, Lucy. "Feminist STS and the Sciences of the Artificial." In The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. 3rd ed. Edited by E. Hackett O. Amsterdamska, M. Lynch and J. Wajcman. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007, pp. 139-163. ISBN: 9780262083645.
  • ———. Human-Machine Reconfigurations. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780521675888. See especially chapters 12 and 13.

Week 7 - Bioinformatics and artificial life

Required

  • Helmreich, Stefan. "'Life is a Verb': Inflections of Artificial Life in Cultural Context." Artificial Life 13 (2007): 189-201.
  • Fujimura, Joan. "Postgenomic Futures: Translations Across the Machine-Nature Border in Systems Biology." New Genetics & Society 24 (2005): 195-225.

Supplementary

  • Doyle, Richard. On Beyond Living: Rhetorical Transformations of the Life Sciences. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997. ISBN: 9780804727648.
  • Franklin, Sarah, C. Lury, and J. Stacey. "Life Itself: Global Nature and the Genetic Imaginary." In Global Nature, Global Culture. London, England: Sage, 2000. ISBN: 9780761965992.
  • Hayles, N. Katherine. "Narratives of Artificial Life." In FutureNatural: Nature, Science, Culture. Edited by G. Robertson, et al. London, England: Routledge, 1996, pp. 146-164. ISBN: 9780415070133.
  • Helmreich, Stefan. Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780520208001.
  • Kember, Sarah. Cyberfeminism and Artificial Life. London, England: Routledge, 2003. ISBN: 9780415240260.
  • Thacker, Eugene. "Biocomputing: Is the Genome a Computer?" In Biomedia. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2004, pp. 87-114. ISBN: 9780816643530.

Week 8 - Virtual identities and second lives

Seminar prep: post a paragraph that offers a sci fi representation of cyberspace to the class Web site (William Gibson, Neil Stephenson are the best known, but others are welcome), or bring a scene from a relevant film to class.

Required

  • Boellstorff, Tom. Coming of Age in Second Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780691135281. Chapter 1, pp. 3-31 and chapter 4, pp. 89-117.
  • Taylor, T. L. Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Gaming Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009 introduction, pp. 1-19 and chapter 4, pp. 93-124. ISBN: 9780262512626.

Supplementary

  • Abbate, Janet. Inventing the Internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780262511155.
  • Bell, David. An Introduction to Cybercultures. London, England: Routledge, 2001. ISBN: 9780415246590.
  • Cherny, Lynn, and Elizabeth Reba Weise. Wired Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle, WA: Seal Press, 1996. ISBN: 9781878067739.
  • Dibbell, Julian. "A Rape in Cyberspace (Or TINYSOCIETY, and How to Make One)." Chapter 1 in My Tiny Life. New York, NY: Holt, 1998. ISBN: 9780805036268. (Village Voice)
  • Harcourt, Wendy. Women@Internet: Creating new Cultures in Cyberspace. London, England: Zed Press, 1999. ISBN: 9781856495721.
  • Hine, Christine. "The Virtual Objects of Ethnography." Chapter 3 in Virtual Ethnography. London, England: Sage, 2000. ISBN: 9780761958956.
  • Jones, Steven. Virtual Culture: Identity and Communication in Cybersociety. London, England: Sage, 1997. ISBN: 9780761955269.
  • Kolko, Beth, Gilbert Rodman, and Lisa Nakamura. Race in Cyberspace. London, England: Routledge, 1999. ISBN: 9780415921633.
  • Mikula, Maja. "Virtual Landscapes of Memory." Information, Communication & Society 6 (2003): 169-186.
  • Munt, Sally. Technospaces: Inside the New Media. New York, NY: Continuum, 2001. ISBN: 9780826450036.
  • Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity and Identity on the Internet. London, England: Routledge, 2002. ISBN: 9780415938365.
  • Nelson, Alondra, Thuy Linh N. Tu, and Alicia Hines. Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life. New York, NY: New York University Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780814736043.
  • O'Riordan, Kate, and David Phillips. Queer Online: Media Technology & Sexuality. New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2007. ISBN: 9780820486260.
  • Phillips, David. "Negotiating the Digital Closet: Online Pseudonymity and the Politics of Sexual Identity." Information, Communication & Society 5 (2002): 406-424.
  • Shields, Bob. Cultures of the Internet: Virtual Spaces, Real Histories, Living Bodies. London, England: Sage, 1996. ISBN: 9780803975194.
  • Slater, Don. "Social Relationships and Identity, Online and Offline." In Lievrouw, Leah, and Sonia Livingstone. Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Consequences of ICTs. London, England: Sage, 2002, pp. 533-546. ISBN: 9780761965107.
  • Slater, Don. "Making Things Real: Ethics and Order on the Internet." Theory, Culture & Society 19 (2002): 227-245.
  • Smith, Mark, and Peter Kollock. Communities in Cyberspace. London, England: Routledge, 1999. ISBN: 9780415191401.
  • Stone, Allucquere Rosanne. "Will the Real Body Please Stand Up? Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures." In Benedikt, M. Cyberspace: First Steps. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991, pp. 84-118. ISBN: 9780262521772.
  • Taylor, T. L. Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Gaming Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780262512626.
  • ———. "Does WoW Change Everything? How a PvP Server, Multinational Playerbase, and Surveillance Mod Scene Caused Me Pause." Games & Culture 1 (2006): 1-20.
  • Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1997. ISBN: 9780684833484.
  • ———. The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. 20th anniversary ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780262701112.
  • Webb, Stephen. "Avatarculture: Narrative, Power and Identity in Virtual World Environments." Information, Communication & Society 4 (2001): 560-594.
  • White, Michele. "Visual Pleasure in Textual Places: Gazing in Multi-user Object-oriented Worlds." Information, Communication & Society 2 (1999): 496-420.
  • Wilson, Samuel, and Leighton Peterson. "The Anthropology of Online Communities." Annual Reviews of Anthropology 31 (2002): 449-467.



Week 9 - Cyborgs and technobodies

Required

  • Sobchack, Vivian. "Beating the Meat/Surviving the Text, or How to Get Out of this Century Alive." Body and Society 1 (1995): 205-214.

For the second reading, choose from the Supplementary Readings. For books, select a chapter if none is suggested.

Supplementary

  • Allison, Anne. "Cyborg Violence: Bursting Borders and Bodies with Queer Machines." Cultural Anthropology 16 (2001): 237-265.
  • Balsamo, Anne. Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780822316862.
  • Clines, Manfred, and Nathan Kline. "Cyborgs and Space." Astronautics (September 1960): 26-27 and 74-75.
  • Davis-Floyd, Robbie, and Joseph Dumit. Cyborg Babies: From Techno-Sex to Techno-Tots. London, England: Routledge, 1998. ISBN: 9780415916035.
  • Downey, Gary, Joe Dumit, and Sarah Williams. "Cyborg Anthropology." Cultural Anthropology 10 (1995): 264-269.
  • Featherstone, Mike, and Roger Burrows. Cyberspace, Cyberbodies, Cyberpunk: Cultures of Technological Embodiment. London, England: Sage, 1995. ISBN: 9780761950844.
  • Graham, Elaine. "Cyborgs or Goddesses? Becoming Divine in a Cyberfeminist Age." Information, Communication & Society 2 (1999): 419-438.
  • Gray, Chris Hables. The Cyborg Handbook. London, England: Routledge, 1995. ISBN: 9780415908498.
  • Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York, NY: Routledge, 1991. ISBN: 9781853431395.
  • Hayles, N. Katherine. "The Materiality of Informatics." Chapter 8 in How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780226321462.
  • Ihde, Don. Bodies in Technology. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780816638468.
  • Jain, Sarah. "The Prosthetic Imagination: Enabling and Disabling the Prosthesis Trope." Science, Technology and Human Values 24 (1999): 31-54.
  • Kirkup, Gill. The Gendered Cyborg: A Reader. London, England: Routledge, 2000. ISBN: 9780415220910.
  • Lykke, Nina, and Rosi Braidotti. Monsters, Goddesses and Cyborgs. London, England: Zed Books, 1996. ISBN: 9781856493826.
  • Michael, Mike. "These Boots are Made for Walking: Mundane Technology, The Body, and Human-Environment Relations." Body and Society 6 (2000): 107-126.
  • Moore, C. L. "No Woman Born." In Scotia, Thomas, and George Zebrowski. Human-Machines: An Anthology of Stories About Cyborgs. New York, NY: Vintage, 1975, pp. 63-118.
  • Piercy, Marge. He, She and It. New York, NY: Faucett, 1993. ISBN: 9780449220603.
  • Stone, Allucquère Rosanne. The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995. ISBN: 9780262691895.
  • Sundén, Jenny. "What Happened to Difference in Cyberspace? The (Re)turn of the She-Cyborg." Feminist Media Studies 1 (2001): 215-232.
  • Wright, Melissa. "Desire and the Prosthetics of Supervision: A Case of Maquiladora Flexibility." Cultural Anthropology 16 (2001): 354-373.
  • Wiener, Norbert. God and Golem, Inc. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1966, pp. 71-95. ISBN: 9780262730112.

Week 10 - Ubiquitous, mobile and ambient computing

Required

  • Green, Nicola. "On the Move: Technology, Mobility, and the Mediation of Social Time and Space." The Information Society 18 (2002): 281-292.
  • Ito, Mimi, Daisuke Okabe, and Ken Anderson. "Portable Objects in Three Global Cities: The Personalization of Urban Places." In The Reconstruction of Space and Time Through Mobile Communication Practices. Edited by R. Ling and S. Campbell. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 2008. ISBN: 9781412808095. (PDF)#

Supplementary

  • Barfield, Woodrow, and Thomas Caudell. Fundamentals of Wearable Computers and Augmented Reality. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001. ISBN: 9780805829020.
  • Brown, B., N. Green, and R. Harper. Wireless World: Social and Interactional Aspects of the Mobile Age. London, England: Springer-Verlag, 2001. ISBN: 9781852334772.
  • Bull, Michael. "The World According to Sound: Investigating the World of Walkman Users." New Media & Society 3 (2001): 179-197.
  • Humphreys, Lee. "Cellphones in Public: Social Interactions in a Wireless Era." New Media & Society 7 (2005): 810-833.
  • Ito, Mimi, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese life. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780262590259.
  • Mann, Steve, and Hal Niedzviecki. Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer. Doubleday Canada, 2001. ISBN: 9780385658256.
  • Sheller, Mimi, and John Urry. "Mobile Transformations of 'Public' and 'Private' Life." Theory, Culture & Society 20 (2003): 107-125.
  • Viseu, Ana. "Simulation and Augmentation: Issues of Wearable Computers." Ethics and Information Technology 5 (2003): 17-26.

See also the journals Personal and Ubiquitous Computing and Pervasive and Mobile Computing.


Week 11 - Making machines: inside the R&D lab

Required

  • Newman, Susan. "Here, There, and Nowhere At All: Distribution, Negotiation, and Virtuality in Postmodern Ethnography and Engineering." Knowledge and Society 11 (1998): 235-267.
  • Born, Georgina. "(Im)materiality and Sociality: The Dynamics of Intellectual Property in a Computer Software Research Culture." Social Anthropology 4 (1996): 101-116.

Supplementary

  • Bucciarelli, Lawrence. Designing Engineers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780262522120.
  • Button, Graham, and Wes Sharrock. "The Organizational Accountability of Technological Work." Social Studies of Science 28 (1998): 73-102.
  • Downey, Gary. The Machine in Me. London, England: Routledge, 1998. ISBN: 9780415920223.
  • ———. "Virtual Webs, Physical Technologies and Hidden Workers." Technology and Culture 42 (2001): 209-235.
  • Englebart, Douglas. "A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect." San Francisco, CA, 1968.
  • Hacker, Sally. Pleasure, Power and Technology. London, England: Routledge, 1989. ISBN: 9780044452041
  • Helmreich, Stefan. Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780520208001.
  • Henderson, Kathryn. On Line and On Paper: Visual Representations, Visual Culture, and Computer Graphics in Design Engineering. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780262082693.
  • Kidder, Tracy. The Soul of a New Machine. New York, NY: Little, Brown, 2000. ISBN: 9780316491976.
  • Kunda, Gideon. Engineering Culture. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1992. ISBN: 9781592135462.
  • Latour, Bruno. Aramis, or The Love of Technology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780674043237.
  • Law, John. Aircraft Stories: Decentering the Object in Technoscience. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780822328247.
  • Suchman, Lucy. "Affiliative Objects." Organization 12 (2005): 379-399.
  • Suchman, Lucy, Randall Trigg, and Jeanette Blomberg. "Working Artefacts: Ethnomethods of the Prototype." British Journal of Sociology 53 (2002): 163-179.



Week 12 - Project presentations

  • No Readings

Week 13 - Computing and social movements/Geeks and hactivists

Required

  • Ross, Andrew. "Hacking Away at the Counterculture." In Technoculture. Edited by C. Penley and A. Ross. Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1990, pp. 107-134. ISBN: 9780816619320.
  • Kelty, Christopher. Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008, introduction, pp. 1-23; chapter 2, pp. 64-94. ISBN: 9780822342649.

Supplementary

  • Atton, Chris. An Alternative Internet: Radical Media, Politics and Creativity. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780748617708.
  • Callon, Michel. "The Role of Lay People in the Production and Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge." Science, Technology & Society 4 (1999): 81-94.
  • Coleman, Gabriella. "The Political Agnosticism of Free and Open Source Software and the Inadvertent Politics of Contrast." Anthropological Quarterly 77 (2004): 507-519.
  • Hess, David, Steve Breyman, Nancy Campbell, and Brian Martin. "Science, Technology, and Social Movements." In Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. 3rd ed. Edited by Hackett, et al. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007, pp. 473-98. ISBN: 9780262083645.
  • Kahn, R., and D. Kellner. "Oppositional Politics and the Internet: A Critical/Reconstructive Approach." Cultural Politics 1 (2005): 75-100.
  • Meikle, Graham. Future Active: Media Activism and the Internet. London, England: Routledge, 2002. ISBN: 9780415943222.
  • Pfaffenberger, B. "The Social Meaning of the Personal Computer: or, Why the Personal Computer Revolution was no Revolution." Anthropological Quarterly 61 (1989): 39-47.
  • Schleiner, Anne-Marie. "Parasitic Interventions: Game Patches and Hacker Art."
  • Turkle, Sherry. "Hackers: Loving the Machine for Itself." In The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780262701112.
  • Turner, Fred. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780226817422.
  • Ullman, Ellen. Close to the Machine: Technophilia and its Discontents. San Francisco, CA: City Lights, 2001. ISBN: 9780872863323.

Week 14 - Sociomaterial re(con)figurations

Much of the debate surrounding contemporary technoscience takes as a starting place longstanding commitments about the nature of the human, frequently set over against the artifice of the machine. In this last session we'll turn to some recent reconceptualisations of sociomaterial relations and boundaries that aim to challenge simple oppositions while recognizing particularities, politics and differences

Required

  • Suchman, Lucy. "Reconfigurations." In Human-Machine Reconfigurations. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2006, chapters 14-15, pp. 259-286. ISBN: 9780521675888.
  • Myers, Natasha. "Molecular Embodiments and the Body-work of Modeling in Protein Crystallography." Social Studies of Science 38 (2008): 163-199.

Supplementary

  • Barad, Karen. "Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28 (2003): 801-831.
  • Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780822339175.
  • Berg, Marc, and Annemarie Mol. Differences in Medicine. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780822321743.
  • Castañeda, Claudia. "Robotic Skin: The Future of Touch?" In Thinking Through the Skin. Edited by S. Ahmed and J. Stacey. London, England: Routledge, 2001, pp. 223-236. ISBN: 9780415223560.
  • Franklin, Sarah. "Re-Thinking Nature-Culture." Anthropological Theory 3 (2003): 65-85.
  • Haraway, Donna. Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium. FemaleMan Meets OncoMouse™: Feminism and Technoscience. New York, NY: Routledge, 1997. ISBN: 9780415912457.
  • Latour, Bruno. "A Collective of Humans and Nonhumans." Chapter 6, pp. 174-215 in Pandora's Hope. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780674653368.
  • Law, John, and Annemarie Mol. Complexities: Social Studies of Knowledge Practices. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780822328469.
  • Mort, Maggie, Dawn Goodwin, Andrew Smith, and Catherine Pope. "Safe Asleep? Human-machine Relations in Medical Practice." Social Science & Medicine 61 (2005): 2027-2037.
  • Schull, Natasha. "Digital Gambling: The Coincidence of Desire and Design." The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 597 (2005): 65-81.

Research Project

Your paper should be developed around one of the following three project options. Project 1 involves research drawing on multiple sources, and reading across historical, popular and academic texts. Projects 2 and 3 involve some empirical research – Project 2 is aimed at exploring aspects of 'cyberculture', 3 the design and use of a computer-based information system intended to provide online services. Whichever project alternative you choose, your paper will be evaluated according to:

  • The care and creativity demonstrated in your investigation of your topic;
  • Your ability to draw on diverse sources and work them together into a coherent narrative;
  • The quality of your writing in terms of structure, clarity and scholarship.

A project plan of 500-1000 words will be due on April 15. This plan will not be marked, but will be used to help guide the development of your project. The suggested form for your project plan is described at the end of each project option description.

Project 1

New information and communications technologies, along with a growing number of other computationally enhanced artifacts, figure prominently in recent rethinking about the sites, subjects, objects and practices of anthropological research. Pick a topic that interests you from the range of issues covered in the course. Your focus might be debates within contemporary anthropology regarding the location or practice of ethnographic study in relation to technology-mediated practices; the cultural foundations of information theory and the trope of the 'cyber'; some aspect of practices of technology design and/or use; debates regarding online sociality, artificial intelligence, artificial life, and/or cyborg studies; or hactivism and new social movements as just some examples. Select at least one principal source from each of a) relevant course readings, b) the World Wide Web, and c) popular media (e.g. magazines, novels, television, films). Beginning from your principal sources and following the references that you find there, develop an analysis that includes:

  • Some aspect of the history of your topic;
  • Ways in which your topic appears in fictional and/or popular accounts (e.g. advertising, films, TV shows, science fiction, magazines articles);
  • Academic discussion of your topic in the social sciences (e.g. sociology, anthropology, feminist research, science and technology studies, cultural studies).

The aim of your paper should be to compare and contrast representations of the topic that you're investigating, both over time, and across your various sources. What continuities are evident, and where are there interesting differences? How does the comparison help to deepen your understanding of the issues that you find interesting? Your project plan should provide 1) a brief abstract of your topic and the aspects of it that you want to explore, and 2) a list of the principal sources that you'll draw on.

Project 2

This project is organized around an empirical study of everyday practices of 'cyberculture'. You might begin with a particular technology, or with an event, a relevant social group, a current debate, or some other topic that interests you. Whatever you choose, your investigation will focus on the ways in which your subject of study figures in or operates through the social and technical infrastructures of information and communications technologies (the Internet/WWW, mobile phones, digital cameras, etc.) Your project will be to establish a set of relevant 'field sites' for your study, and to explore your chosen topic through both secondary sources and original research. The latter should include some form of participation in relevant technology-mediated practices, as well as interviews with selected other participants. Your report on your project should include the rationale for your research design, selected 'fieldnotes' on your observations and participation, and an account of the analytic insights that you were able to draw from your inquiry, informed by current discussions within the academic literature. You're encouraged to incorporate as well supporting materials, e.g. photos, printouts, media representations. Your project plan should 1) describe your chosen topic and the grounds for your interest in it, 2) explain how your study will be sited and 3) identify the resources you will draw on in your analysis.

Project 3

Investigate the design and use of a computer-based information system intended to provide services to clients or to the general public. Examples could include a travel-related service, banking, the online catalogue system at the library, or the various information services provided by the University to students regarding resources available on campus. For whatever service you choose, your assignment is to investigate it both from the point of view of a member of the public approaching the organization as a would-be user of the service, and from the point of view of professionals within the organization providing the service. A strategy for your fieldwork could be the following:

  • First, formulate a query that exemplifies the kinds of information one might seek from that service, and then pursue answers to your question starting first 'online,' then 'offline' (that is, finding a person to ask). For each mode, you should describe your experience from the point of view of a client or user of the system. Central issues might include: Which approach (online or face-to-face) seemed most effective? Did getting your answer require crossing over from one medium to another? For each case, what aspects of the interactions worked well? Where were the gaps or breakdowns? How might the service be redesigned to fit more usefully with the interests of its users?
  • With this analysis in hand, identify at least three people involved in developing or providing the service and interview them. Central issues in this phase of your project might include: What initiated the move to online services? What role did the members of the organization have in the online system's development? How does the system work (or not) from the point of view of information providers?
  • Finally, compare and contrast the perspectives that you gain from your experience attempting to make use of the system with those of the information providers that you interview. In your essay, relate your findings to discussions in the course readings on social practices of design and information technologies-in-use.

Your project plan should 1) identify the service that you plan to investigate, 2) state the question(s) that you'll bring to the service, and 3) list some academic resources that you'll use to frame your analysis.