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Summer 2015 Courses

NWMEDIA 90-001, 3 units


What this class is about:
These days it is common to regard one’s digital devices as tools for creativity, communication, and self-expression. In fact, long ago, in a time when institutions (rather than individuals) owned computers and generally regarded them as powerful calculators, poets were among the first to explore the ways that machines could be harnessed to produce art. With each technological shift, from the spread of personal computers to the popularization of hypertext in the form of the World Wide Web, poets deployed these technologies in ways that their creators could not have imagined. This course serves as an introduction to the diverse artistic tradition of “digital poetics.” As we survey historically significant works of digital poetry, we will read these texts for meaning and form while simultaneously “reverse engineering” their design and, when possible, examining and altering their source code in order to make new poetic machines.

As its title suggests, this course is primarily a “lab.” Each week students will choose from one of several possible hands-on exercises meant to illustrate and illuminate course readings. These will vary in the amount of technical skill required to complete. At the end of each week students will volunteer to share products of lab exercises. The course will culminate in a final project, either a critical reflection upon a piece of digital poetry or a piece of digital poetry paired with a shorter critical reflection upon one’s own work.

Who this class is for:
While students with programming or computer science experience are welcome and encouraged to join, such experience is not required; this class is for anybody interested in the intersection of poetry and digital technologies. Students with limited programming ability will be expected to try some basic programming exercises drawn from Natural Language Processing with Python (Bird, Klein, & Loper, 2009).

NWMEDIA R1B-001, 4 units

SESSION A | MWF 9:30AM-12PM, W 1:00PM – 3:30PM | 340 MOFFITT

Once cutting edge and “futuristic,” domestic computer and videogame technologies are emblematic of pastness for the now-adult first-wave Nintendo generation. The nostalgia that young academics hold for early video and computer games has even been credited with a recent surge in interest in the scholarly study of games technologies. This phenomenon raises the question: what does it mean to be nostalgic for technology’s recent past in the midst of ongoing rapid and widespread changes? Is nostalgia a way to help make sense of these changes, and does it contribute to or counteract generational divides around technology?

This course is designed around the challenges of thinking and writing critically about media during a time of rapid change. The course is designed to train students in the skills of college-level academic research and writing. The readings will be manageable in length and difficulty, and are intended to offer students a broad foundation for independent study culminating in the production of an original research paper. All students will be required to read broadly, but will be given the option (and resources) to read more deeply on topics of personal interest. In this class, we will investigate videogames, wearable technologies (smart-watches and self-trackers), and computer hardware that are sold as leisure devices through the lens of critical nostalgia. Our goal will be to think about how nostalgia might be a key textual element for media and the advertising campaigns that unveil them, as well as a way to describe personal connections to media and to the past. While the syllabus offers a mere sampling of the major texts and related academic discourses, students will have an opportunity to pursue their own interests in a final research project of their own design.

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