Dr. Ron Eglash

Cultures of Computing
Comparative Studies 651, Winter 1998


This course will examine the cultures that have produced, and are produced by, the information revolution. From virtual worlds of cyberspace to third world electronic sweatshops, new computing technologies have dramatically transformed many aspects of both personal identity and social community. Using techniques from ethnography, literary analysis, and other areas of cultural studies, we will explore the intersections between traditional categories such as race, sex, and class with new issues of embodiedness, virtual reality, cyborgs, and global networks. Course material will include social critics such as Donna Haraway and Tricia Rose, as well as science fiction literature and film.

Class meetings: Mon-Wed 1:30-3:18. Office Hours: Mon 11:00-1:00 and by appointment, 485C Mendenhall Labs. Email -- eglash.1@osu.edu, dept phone -- 292-2559, my office -- 292-5365.

Evaluation will be based on the course project (75%) and class participation (25%). It is important to bring the reading to class so that we can discuss the texts in detail. The course project can range from ethnography of cyberspace to community service computer programming, and may be done in teams (although each student must complete an individual write-up).

Texts: Available from SBX bookstore

Star, Susan L. The Cultures of Computing. Oxford: Blackwell 1995.

Dery, Mark (ed). "Flame Wars." Duke University Press 1994.

Turkle, Sherry. "Life on the Screen" Simon & Schuster 1995.

Steven Jones, Virtual Culture. Sage 1997.

Reader (Grade A notes)-- marked by * in schedule.

Course Schedule:

Week 1-2) Historical Introduction

Jan 5. Intro: survey of approaches to social studies of computing.

Jan 7. *Alec, Margaret, "Ada Lovelace and the origins of computing."
*Heims, Steve, "Norbert Wiener and John von Neumann."
*Hodges, Andrew "Alan Turing."

Jan 12. *Eglash, Ron, "Cybernetics and American Youth Subculture."
Week 2-3) Psychological approaches to computing
Jan 14. Turkle part I and II
Jan 19. MLK day -- no class
Jan 21. Turkel part III

Week 4) Virtual sexuality
Jan 26. Sandy Stone, "Sex and death among the disembodied" in Star.
Gareth Branwyn, "Compu-sex: erotica for cybernauts" in Dery.

Jan 28. David Shaw, "Gay men and computer communication" in Jones.
Dawn Dietrich, "(Re)-fashioning the Techno-Erotic Woman" in Jones.

Week 5) Ethnicity in cyberspace
Feb 2. Margaret Riel, "Cross-classroom collaboration in global learning circles" in Star.
Ananda Mitra, "Virtual commonality: Looking for India on the internet" in Jones.

Feb 4. Eric Davis, "Technosis, magic, memory, and the angels of information" in Dery.
Mark Dery, "Black to the Future" (including interviews with Rose, Delany, Tate) in Dery.

Week 6) Virtual communities
Feb 9. Nancy Baym, "From practice to culture on Usenet" in Star.
Nessim Watson, "Why we argue about Virtual Community" in Jones.

Feb 11. Jans Fernback, "The individual within the collective" in Jones.
Margaret McLaughlin et al, "Virtual Community in a Telepresence Environment" in Jones.

Week 7) Cultural politics of cyberspace
Feb 16. Vivian Sobchek, "New Age Mutant Ninja Hackers" in Dery
Gary Chapman, "Taming the computer" in Dery
Susan Zickmund, "Approaching the Radical Other" in Jones.

Feb 18. Julian Dibble, "A rape in cyberspace" in Dery.
Richard MacKinnon, "Punishing the Persona" in Jones.

Week 8) Political economy and computing
Feb 23. Susan L. Star, "Introduction" in Star.
Joseph Schmitz, "Structural relations, electronic media and social change" in Jones.

Feb 25. Randi Markussen, "Constructing easiness" in Star.
Harris Breslow, "Civil society, political economy and the internet" in Jones.

Week 9) Cybernetics and Science Fiction
Mar 2. Pat Cadigan, "Synners" excerpt in Dery.
Anne Balsamo, "Feminism for the incurably informed" in Dery.

Mar 4. Claudia Springer, "Sex, memories and angry women" in Dery.
Paul Edwards, "Cyberpunks in Cyberspace" in Star.

Week 10) Student project presentations

Mar 9. (Grad. senior project due)
Mar 11. All other projects due.