Wikipedia is one of the largest and most heavily-trafficked websites in the world, and its structure and collaborative model make the world’s knowledge available to anyone. It’s been blamed for killing off encyclopedias, for enabling plagiarists, and for making Internet users intellectually lazy. It has also been called “The greatest work of literature by humans.”
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We use our phones and our devices for social media purposes, but do we ever think about the work that goes into producing our hardware, coding our software, or the work we ourselves do for these companies? From the mines where the metals are retrieved, to the factories that put the phones together, to all of the likes and shares we do each day, do we know how much of our labor goes into our social media and who does it?
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To call any aesthetics “new” is, on the one hand, to assert an arbitrarily diachronic axiology onto cultural phenomenon. On the other hand, the phrase does provide a convenient shorthand for calling attention to certain, digitally-inflected patterns that give shape to everyday life. One popular phrase defines the New Aesthetic as the “eruption of the digital into the physical”
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These words with #’s in front of them aren’t just collating social media content around specific interests. Instead, these conversations and their participants come to think of these more like an event or social movement. In cases like “#1reasonwhy”, the hashtag becomes a platform for voices that otherwise might not be heard. For #Ferguson, the hashtag becomes a platform for citizen journalism. In either case, something new seems to be happening around how users leverage different social media platforms to do something that matters. Your job in this module is to learn more about the history of hashtag activism (including any precursors) and think critically about its impact and possible future.
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In the early 2000s, the end of the “.com” era saw the rise of “Web 2.0” as a loosely defined trend in online content generation where everyday users — not traditional media producers — created the content that defined digital culture. Blogs more than any other modality came to symbolize the freedom and autonomy made available by new networks and new platforms. In some ways, that role has since been supplanted by social media, but blogging remains an accessible and powerful tool for sharing one’s ideas. In this module, your challenge is to become a blogger.
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Code is. Poetry is code? Code is poetry. Is code? Code? Is poetry is? Code. There are many reasons to write computer code. As we read from Nelson and Rushkoff (and plenty of others), learning how computers work and how to make them work is a fundamental competency of human existence. Yet putting it in those terms raises the stakes on what can also simply be used to create something interesting, something annoying, or something beautiful.
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The animated GIF is a form of digital image that is almost 30 years old, but recent years have seen its resurgence through popular use in social content sites like Tumblr and Reddit. In this module, students research the history of the animated GIF and learn how to produce their own.
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Video games are an interactive medium capable of engaging their players with beautiful imagery, actively involving players in the creation of epic stories, or demonstrating complex ideas or philosophies. Games can also be massive wastes of time or worse. For good or ill, video games are ubiquitous digital media, and the tools for creating and sharing video games are getting easier and easier to use. In this module, explore the processes and tools of game design and game programming and produce your own game by the end of the two-week module.
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Adaptations, remixes, and mashups are related in that they take existing materials and repurpose them. But technology and digital culture has opened up new and creative avenues to explore and experiment with these techniques. But questions of copyright, authorship, and originality, however, can make these kinds of projects fraught and complex.
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