The internet was supposed to save the world. What happened? In this course we study its history as a set of technical cultural social and political practices shaped by powerful ideas about how media technologies themselves shape democracy society and even human nature. Our syllabus pays special attention to key metaphors for what the internet is and doesóincluding the network and catalog frontier and superhighway hivemind platform and cloud. At the same time we explore the contradictions and conflicts embedded in each of these imaginaries. How did a set of control protocols come to be seen as instruments of freedom? Does personalization let us express ourselves or make selfhood meaningless? Is a public sphere controlled by a few private companies and sorted by blackbox algorithms a public sphere at all? Through readings and screenings archival visits and hands on infrastructural and digital ethnographies students learn key concepts and research methods in media and technology studies. By the end of the course they are prepared to participate in our digital democracy as informed and reflective makers users and citizens and to engage in the pressing debates that will shape its future.
Harvard Division of Continuing Education
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