This course introduces students to the critical study of digital media and participatory cultures, focusing on the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Subfields and topics may include history of technology, software studies, platform studies, videogame studies, electronic literature, social media, mobile media, network aesthetics, hacktivism, and digital publics. We will also think about ways that new media theory has intersected with, ignored, and complicated work coming from critical theory, especially transnational, feminist, Marxist, and queer theory. Readings may include work by theorists such as Ian Bogost, Wendy Chun, Alexander Galloway, Mark Hansen, Katherine Hayles, Friedrich Kittler, Alan Liu, Lev Manovich, Franco Moretti, Lisa Nakamura, Rita Raley, and McKenzie Wark.
Through a study of contemporary media theory, we will also think carefully about emerging methods of inquiry that accompany this area of study, including multimodal and practice-based research. In addition to short assignments, students will focus on a final project that will take the form of either an experimental research paper or a creative digital media piece with included commentary (e.g., a piece of electronic fiction, a Machinima film, a digital visualization, a Game Design Document, or a videogame). Students need not be technologically gifted or savvy, but a wide-ranging imagination and interest in new media culture will make for a more exciting quarter.