Announcing: Media Theory/Media Practice

I’m super excited to announce my course for next semester, taught under our ENG 7006: Media Theory number, Media Theory/Media Practice. It meets Thursdays, 6–9:45pm.

The course description and flier are below.

ENG7006: Media Theory/Media Practice
A quick and dirty distinction between new media studies and the digital humanities might go like this: the former makes knowledge about digital media, while the latter makes knowledge with digital media. This course is dedicated to discovering what can happen to each of these practices when we pursue them simultaneously.

The course will run in two concurrent halves. The “media theory” half of the course will consist in a substantial preparation in the field of media theory as a body of thought and theoretical mode of analysis, including its historical origins as well as its contemporary practice. This portion of the course will cover the history of theories of media (what we might call both “classical” and “contemporary” media theory), media archaeology, games studies, software studies, critical code studies, and the rise of digital humanities as a set of scholarly practices. We will read work by thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Marshall McLuhan, Donna Haraway, Friedrich Kittler, N. Katherine Hayles, Alexander Galloway, and others.

The second half of the course, dedicated to “media practice,” will consist largely in lessons in how to program computers, in various ways relevant to “the digital humanities.” This will not, quite, be a digital humanities preparation as such—the goal is not a fully professionalized set of DH skills. Rather, the approach we will take is “coding slowly,” in which students learn the basics of programming as a set of practices and as a habit of mind, which might then serve as a base for other DH practices. Topics will include the foundations of computer programming (variables, control structures, conditionals), elementary computer graphics, interaction, textual manipulation, and prototyping. In addition to the humdrum business of WordPress blogs, we will work primarily with p5.js, Makey Makey, and Twine. Working with these tools will entail a substantial preparation in JavaScript.

Final projects can take just about any form, from traditional papers to typical DH projects to “critical making” as a form of research. Students will be encouraged to work in groups.

Download the flier.

WEB BUDDHA MACHINE and CardboardQuest

We at get easily distracted by “more pressing matters”—committee meetings, tenure and promotion dossiers, and so on—and therefore the best things in life often occur on timelines that are slower than we’d like.

I am very proud, indeed kvelling, to present some really exemplary student work from last semester’s Experimental Media class. Here are two Twine games students made that I just adore:

WEB BUDDHA MACHINE, by Mike Holloway. This piece is inspired by Nam June Paik’s Television Buddha, but reinterpreted for the contemporary internet. It almost plays itself, but it does require some light interaction from the player. It also connects virtual and physical space in strange, wonderful ways. I recommend following its instructions with as much loud, laughing dedication as you can muster. It also works well in groups.

CardboardQuest, by Jake Nickell. Jake’s game works as a critique of gamification, and it does so by refracting a few different aesthetic questions, including Andy Warhol’s aesthetics of wasted labor and the sort of endurance and repetition of something like Bruce Nauman’s Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square.

I have brilliant students.

Ditching Blackboard, Hacking WordPress

One of the more time-consuming experiments I have recently made in my teaching was to get rid of Blackboard.

I hate Blackboard. It is the absolute fucking worst. It’s broken in nearly all of the ways, including but not limited to: it has absolutely terrible interface design (if design we can indeed call it); I don’t know how much it costs, but it has to be way too expensive for its quality; and it’s always a walled garden. Continue reading Ditching Blackboard, Hacking WordPress