UC Berkeley LS 160E: Technology, New Media and Contemporary Experience

L&S Discovery

Spring 2010

New Course Website with Updated Syllabus
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LS 160E: Technology, New Media and Contemporary Experience
Lecture: W 2:00-5:00pm, Location: 100 Wheeler
Discussion: Th 10:00-11:00 or F 11:00-12:00, Location: 101 Wheeler
4 Units
Professor Hubert Dreyfus, Philosophy
Phone: (510) 642-7463
e-mail: dreyfus[at]berkeley[dot]edu
office hours: Tuesdays 4-6 PM
Location: 303 Moses Hall
Professor Ken Goldberg, IEOR, EECS, School of Information
Phone: (510) 643-9565 (office, but please try email first)
e-mail: goldberg[at]berkeley[dot]edu
office hours: Monday 2:15-3 PM
Location: BCNM Commons, 340 Moffitt
GSI Kris Fallon, Rhetoric & Film Studies
e-mail: krisfallon[at]berkeley[dot]edu
office hours: Monday 4-5:30 and by appt.
Location: BCNM Commons, 340 Moffitt

Course Description
This Discovery course explores the question: What is the 'essence' of technology? The goals of this course are to provide students with skills to understand technology in a broad historical context and to gain insight into the perils and promises for contemporary experience.

20th Century ("modern") technologies such as the assembly line and the highway system emphasize efficiency, control, and optimization. In contrast, "post-modern" technologies such as the internet, Google, smartphones, and Facebook are characterized by flexibility and their ability to be reconfigured, as exemplified by genomics, stem cells, robotics, and nanotechnology.

We can view post-modern technologies as "new media" in the sense that they are available for a variety of uses: they are "transformable" and promise to be "transformational". Building on Heidegger's 1954 essay, "The Question Concerning Technology" and related essays, our inquiry will include perspectives from Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Roland Barthes, and Brian Arthur. We will establish a theoretical basis for thinking about technology and new media and apply it to a selection of technologies that shape our contemporary experience.

This course has no prerequisites but is geared toward ambitious and mature juniors and seniors who are willing to read carefully, engage in discussions, and think deeply about technology and western values.  This course can be used to fulfill the Breadth requirement in Philosophy and Values.

Required Texts

Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays. Harper Colophon Books. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.  Available at Campus Bookstore

Course Reader: Available at Replica Copy
2138 Oxford Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 549-9991
Attendance, Participation, Notetaking 30%
Mid-Term Paper 30%
Final Project/Paper 40%

Attendance is required at all lectures and discussion sections.  Students are granted 1 unexcused absence from lecture and 1 unexcused absence from discussion.  Any additional absences from either lecture or discussion will decrease the student’s grade by one mark per absence (A- becomes B+, B+ becomes B, etc.).

Week 1- Introduction
January 20th
Show and Discuss Film:  Being in the World, (2010) Directed by Tao Ruspini
Week 2- Epochs of History, Part I
January 27th
DISCUSS: Heidegger’s "The Origin of the Work of Art"
Week 3- Epochs of History, Part II
February 3rd
DISCUSS: Heidegger's "Age of the World Picture", pp. 115-137
Week 4- The Essence of Technology, Part I
 February 10th
DISCUSS: Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology" pp. 3-35
Week 5- The Essence of Technology, Part II
February 17th
DISCUSS: Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology"
Week 6- Meso-Modern Technologies: Disciplinary Power
February 24th
DISCUSS: Michel Foucault "Docile Bodies"
Week 7- Modern Technologies: From Efficiency to Hyper-Efficiency
March 3rd
DISCUSS: Frederick Taylor "Principles of Scientific Management" Dover, pp. iii-32.
DISCUSS: Gilles Deleuze "Postscript on the Societies of Control"
Week 8- Post-Modern Technologies:  Transformable, Interchangeable, Reconfigurable, Available
March 10th
REVIEW: Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology"
DISCUSS: W. Brian Arthur, The Nature of Technology, Free Press, 2009. pp. 203-216.
“Technacidy” / “Technicity”
Week 9- The Promise of Plastic: the Universal Material
March 17th
DISCUSS: Dupont's Utopian Vision:
DISCUSS: Roland Barthes. Essay on Plastic (1972)
**Midterm Paper, 5 Pages, Due Mar 31 **
Choose any Technology not discussed in class and describe how it either fulfills or challenges Heidegger's notions of technology (similar to the way Heidegger analyzes the hydroelectric dam and the the Rhine river.)
Week 10- Spring Break
Week 11- The Universal Representation: The Computer and Digitalization
March 31st
Midterm paper due
DISCUSS: Vannevar Bush, As We May Think. Atlantic Monthly (1945)
DISCUSS: Selections from Lev Manovich’s Language of New Media: “Principles of New Media: Numerical Representation” and “Myths of the Digital”
Week 12- The Universal Network: The Internet
April 7th
DISCUSS: Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron. Californian Ideology. http://www.arpnet.it/chaos/barbrook.htm
DISCUSS: Selections from Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization by Alex Galloway,  “Introduction” by Eugene Thacker, and “Chapter 2: Form”
Week 13-  The Universal Code of Life: DNA and Genomics
April 14th
DISCUSS: Craig Venter. My Genome: My Life. Excerpts
 DISCUSS: “Biocolage”  Katherine Hayles, Critical Art Ensemble, et al. in Art Journal, Vol. 59, No. 3 (Autumn, 2000), pp. 44-63
Week 14-  The Universal Panacea: Stem Cells
April 21st
DISCUSS: Intro to Stem Cells, http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/basics1.asp
DISCUSS: Ronald Bailey, A Stem Cell Christmas Miracle?, http://reason.com/archives/2004/12/01/a-stem-cell-christmas-miracle
DISCUSS: Selections from Science: “Selling the Stem Cell Dream” and “Stem Cells: Golden Opportunities with Ethical Baggage.”
Week 15-  The Universal Building Block: Nanotechnology
April 28th
DISCUSS: Eric Drexler, Molecular engineering: An approach to the development of general capabilities for molecular manipulation
DISCUSS: Selections from The Economist, “Silver Tongues” “The Wizard of Small Things” and “The Smaller the Better”
DISCUSS: William McCray, "Will Small Be Beautiful: Making Policies for Our Nanotech Future"
Week 16- Reading - Review Week
May 5th
Week 17- Final Exam Week
Tuesday, May 11, 11:30-2:30pm location TBA
**Final Project Presentations (Due also: 5 Page Final Papers) **