Monday, September 25, 2006

My new composition course debuts...

ENGL111: Imagining Cyberspace: Representations of Cyberspace in Literature, Film, and Culture

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD CYBERSPACE? WHAT DO YOU SEE? WHAT DO YOU KNOW? Since the inception of the Internet and the World Wide Web and the discipline of ‘digital studies’, the notion and imagining of cyberspace has been deeply celebrated, contested, and colonized. Long before Keanu Reaves donned sunglasses and leather trenchcoat, William Gibson in the early 1980s coined the term ‘cyberspace’ and jacked the culture into the (many-layered) world of cyberpunk. From Burning Chrome, Gibson describes cyberspace, describes the matrix as “an abstract representation of the relationships between data system...bright geometries...Towers and fields of it ranged in the colorless nonspace...the electronic consensus-hallucination...” So what is cyberspace? Is it a place? Is it a space? Is it thought or body or machine or all of the above? Cyberspace has been touted as the ultimate frontier, the promise land where all ground is level for all people, the time and place where you can be anything you want. Cyberspace has been criticized for its lack of definition, its commercialization, its slipperiness when it comes to identity, community, and access. Cyberspace has even been demonized as the shadowy lair of thieves, perverts, sexual predators, terrorists, and subversives. Is cyberspace any of these things? All of these things and more?

This class, in broad strokes, will investigate and interrogate the idea, the material, and the manifestations of cyberspace, primarily in the US, through the lenses of literature and writing. This class will look at, explore, and tease apart what we believe to be a monolithic, all-powerful (and now completely naturalized) construction and convention and take into consideration historical context, commodification, technology, and the intersection of race, gender, class, and identity on- and off-line. We will spend the quarter reading, thinking, writing about (and surfing, mining, and clicking) cyberspace in literature, in film, in theory, and in everyday use. In other words, we will look at texts about cyberspace and cyberspace itself as text.

(The course is really ambitious. It's still a composition class with a literature component. I'm going to have my students reading a lot. It'll be a challenge for them and for me. This will be the first time I've taught a "digital studies" class. The course website is up as well: -- it lists all the readings.)