ENGL 667: Infrastructure Tales: Narrative, Persuasion, and the Built Environment of Modernity, Spring 2018
To get credit for participation, you need to say at least one thing of substance per week in seminar. Such substantive statements can include answering someone’s question with your own reading of the text, pointing out additional supporting claims, showing at length a comparison between the text and something else we have read, or asking a question that generates further discussion.
I will be keeping track of who speaks in class.
At the end of each class, I will give you five minutes to write an exit ticket, registering your attendance in class. An exit ticket is a 3”x5” notecard on which you write:
- Your name
- One of the following:
- An issue we did not address that you would like addressed
- A question you have based on today’s discussion
- A point you still do not understand that you want clarified
- A question you wanted to ask but did not
I will collect these cards at the end of class and, based on your feedback, will structure the beginning of next week’s seminar accordingly.
You will be required to bring a 3”x5” notecard with you to each class.
For this class, you will be required to review a book that touches on the topic of infrastructure. I have compiled a list here, though you may speak to me in office hours about a different text. Have a target journal in mind, though keep in mind that most book reviews are around 750 words in length. Your review should situate the book in the field covered by your target journal, while critiquing the specific accomplishments and impact of the book itself.
On book review day (designated on the schedule), you must bring four printed copies of your review to class for group evaluation and upload the rough draft to eCampus (before class). We will workshop these in class.
After you have received feedback from your group, you may choose to revise your review before submitting your final version, due one week after the review.
For your seminar paper, you will be asked to explore some aspect of infrastructure in your field of study. I realize that most of you will not be working in rhetoric and/or composition as your research field, so I want to read papers that expand on infrastructural topics in your area of expertise. Alternately, if you would like, you may develop a theoretical or methodological concern or theme from the readings themselves, and thus intervene in the development of infrastructure studies as a field.
Seminar papers should be 20 pages (give or take 5 pages), include sources documented in MLA format, and should constitute a polished, focused, and sustained argument on a particular topic.
During the last week of class (or two depending on enrollment), you will present 10 minute versions of your paper. You will need to condense your entire argument into a shorter form and may end up offering an overview or report on the longer essay.
You will group yourselves into panels of 3 to 4 and, working together, submit an abstract for your panel, just as you would for a conference. Based on this submission, I will give you a report on if I would except the panel or not and how you might improve upon it. Whether accepted or rejected, your panel will present as a group on the last day of class and take questions from the audience. One of you will need to chair the panel.
The following books are available at the university book store.
- Bruno Latour, Aramis, or, The love of technology (Harvard UP, 1996)
- Gabriella Coleman, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy (Verso, 2014)
The following eBooks are available from the library, but feel free to purchase them, if you prefer paper copies.
- Benjamin Bratton, The Stack (MIT UP, 2015)
- Nicole Starosielski, The Undersea Network (Duke UP, 2015)
- Matthew Kirschenbaum, Track Changes (Harvard UP, 2016)
- 12 3”x5” notecards
Books to Review
Here are some books on the study of infrastructure that we are not reading that could work for your book review. If nothing interests you, please contact me to discuss what else you would like to write about.
- *Once Upon an Algorithm: How Stories Explain Computing * by Martin Erwig
- MP3: The Meaning of a Format by Jonathan Sterne
- A Vast Machine by Paul N. Edwards
- Molecular Red by McKenzie Wark
- Mechanization Takes Command by Sigfried Gideon (reprint edition)
- Still Life with Rhetoric by Laurie E. Gries
- Rhetoric, Through Everyday Things ed. Scot Barnett and Casey Boyle
- The Available Means of Persuasion: Mapping a Theory and Pedagogy of Multimodal Public Rhetoric by David M. Sheridan, Jim Ridolfo, and Anthony J. Michel
- Extrastatecraft by Keller Easterling
- The Container Principle by Alexander Klose
- Paper Knowledge by Lisa Gittelman
- World Projects: Global Information Before World War I by Markus Krajewski
- The Geology of Media by Jussi Parikka
- Technosystem by Andrew Feenberg
- Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life by Adam Greenfield
- Life in the Age of Drone Warfare ed. Lisa Parks & Caren Kaplan
- Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real by Bernhard Siegert
- The Grid: Biography of an American Technology by Julie A. Cohn
Week 1 – What Is Infrastructure?
- Infrastructure Examples:
- Susan Leigh Star, “Power, Technology, and the Phenomenology of Conventions: On Being Allergic to Onions”
- Susan Leigh Star, “The Ethnography of Infrastructure”
- Paul N. Edwards, “Infrastructure and Modernity”
- Benjamin Bratton, “Introduction” in The Stack alt
Week 2 – Why Storytelling?
- Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges”
- Joanna Zylinska, “Poetics” from Minimal Ethics for the Anthropocene
- Alexis Shotwell, selections from Against Purity
- Anna Tsing, “Arts of Noticing” and “Interlude: Smelling” from The Mushroom at the End of the World (also PDF on eCampus)
- Ingrid Burrington, “A Network of Fragments”
- Benjamin Bratton, “Platform and Stack, Model and Machine” in The Stack alt
Week 3 – What Does this Have to do with Rhetoric?
- Julian Dibbell, “Info Tech of Ancient Democracy”
- Roxanne Mountford, “On Gender and Rhetorical Space”
- Marilyn M Cooper, “The Ecology of Composition”
- Jenny Edbauer, “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies.”
- Mary E. Stuckey, “On Rhetorical Circulation”
Week 4 – How Does Rhetoric Circulate?
Week 5 – Where is Rhetoric Stored?
- Microsoft, “What is Cloud Computing?”
- Shannon Mattern, “Cloud and Field”
- Plantin et al., “Infrastructure studies meet platform studies in the age of Google and Facebook”
- Niels van Doorn, “Platform labor”
- Ariadna Matamoros-Fernández, “Platformed racism: the mediation and circulation of an Australian race-based controversy on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube”
- Benjamin Bratton, “Cloud Layer” in The Stack alt
Week 6 – What Becomes of the Polis?
- Ingrid Burrington, “Why Amazon’s Data Centers Are Hidden in Spy Country”
- Ingrid Burrington, “Why Are There So Many Data Centers in Iowa?”
- Ingrid Burrington, “How to See Invisible Infrastructure”
- Casey Boyle, “Pervasive Citizenship through #SenseCommons”
- Benjamin Bratton, “Nomos of the Cloud” in The Stack alt
- Benjamin Bratton, “City Layer” in The Stack alt
Week 7 – What Else Could Have Been?
- Jussi Parrika, selections from What is Media Archaeology?
- Slava Gerovitch, “InterNyet: Why the Soviet Union Did Not Build a Nationwide Computer Network”
- Julien Mailland and Kevin Driscoll, selections from Minitel: Welcome to the Internet
- Amy Slaton and Janet Abbate, “The Hidden Lives of Standards: Technical Prescriptions and the Transformation of Work in America”
- Benjamin Bratton, “Address Layer” in The Stack alt
Week 8 – Why Do Technologies Fail?
Week 10 – How Does Infrastructure Shape Writing?
Week 11 – What is a Book Review?
- Book Review Day!
- Rough Book Report Due
- Bring Four Print Copies To Class
Week 12 – Is Infrastructure Exciting?
- Ridley Scott, The Martian
- Final Book Report Due
Week 13 – Who Builds the Future?
Week 14 – Where is the New Politics?
Week 15 – What do you think?
- Conference Presentations