Metaphors and Narratives

Posted by Sanchia de Souza at May 11, 2009 03:36 PM |
A course designed for Christ College, Bangalore

Status of Course: Basic, Semester II

Duration: 4 credits, 45 hrs.

Course Objectives

The course will serve as an introductory study of Internet technologies and the various social phenomena associated with them to investigate how the Internet becomes a catchall word for contemporary times. Students will explore the several layers of internets to look at the basic debates around questions of identity, subjectivity, gender, and governance, as they have emerged in the last four decades of cybercultures theory. The course will try and initiate new pedagogic practices of thought and research, looking at the several narratives of the internets available to us – from online communities, gaming and pornography to the wider debates around censorship, surveillance and privacy. The emphasis of the course is to de-mystify and consolidate the various narratives of the internet that are available to us from different disciplines and to provide a comprehensive and pedagogic frameworks to make meaning of the digitally inflected world that we live in. 

Course Evaluation: Individual assignments from a list of topics or a topic worked out in consultation with the course instructors, depending upon the individual choice of the student.

Course Pedagogy: Contact session class room teaching, film screenings, seminars and discussion groups.

Course Content:

Module 1: Surfing the internets

The ‘Internet’ has become one of the most persuasive and prevalent metaphors of our times. As more and more sections of life and being get inflected by Information and Communication Technologies, more narratives of the ‘Internet’ are produced. These narratives often mystify the Internet – through misnomers or through frameworks from earlier technological paradigms which fail to understand or explain the ‘Internet’ – and are not in synchrony with one another. The first Module introduces the internets in their plurality and looks at the various disciplinary approaches to disentangling the internets.

A brief history of the internet technologies

·     Origin and intentions

·     The principles that built the internet

·     The emergence of the WWW

Internet - Cyberspace

·     Understanding Cyberspaces

·     Convergent Histories of earlier technologies

·     Bridging the virtual-real divide

Pre-Lecture Readings:

Gibson, William. Neruromancer. New York: Ace Books, 1984.

Huston, Geoff. “A Decade in the Life of the Internet”. The Internet Protocol Journal. Volume 11 No. 2. 2008.

Lyon, Katie Hafner and Matthew. Where Wizards Stay up Late: The Origins of the Internet. New york: Simon and Shuster, 1996.

Robbins, Kevin. "Cyberspace and the World We Live In." In The Cybercultures Reader, edited by David Bell and Barbara M. Kennedy. London: Routledge, 1992.

Manovich, Lev. “The Database as a Symbolic Form” in The Language of New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press. 2001.

Michael L. Benedikt, 1991, Cyberspace: First Steps, Cambridge: MIT Press


Module 2: The body in the digital paradigm

One of the most significant debates, across disciplines trying to engage with internet technologies, is on the site of the body. With cyberspaces providing multiple conditions within which the narratives of the body can be produced, there has been a radical revisiting of what it means to be human, to be gendered, to be sexual, and to be subject to various kinds of regulation and processes of censorship. This module looks at some of the seminal debates around these issues, by exploring various sites of cyberspatial identity and networking.

The body in the cyberspace

·     The real body and the virtual body

·     Spaces of regulation and bodies of surveillance

·     Anthropomorphisation and the need to be human

Gender and Sexuality Online

·     Obscenity, pornography and the sexual body

·     The gendered being and the cyborg

·     Subject to punishment: Role playing and fantasizing online

Pre-lecture readings:

Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1996.

Balsamo, Anne. "The Virtual Body in Cyberspace." In The Cybercultures Reader, edited by David Bell and Barbara M. Kennedy. London and New York: Routledge, 1996.

Dibbell, Julian. "A Rape in Cyberspace, or How an Evil Clown, a Haitan Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database into a Society." The village voice (1994).

Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Social-Feminist in the Late 20th Century." In The Cybercultures Reader, edited by David Bell and Barbara M. Kennedy. London: Routledge, 2000.

Shah, Nishant. "Material cyborgs; asserted boundaries" European Journal of English Studies 12.2 .2008.

Sengupta, Suddhabrata. Signatures of the Apocalypse”. Mute: Culture and Politics after the Net. (2003) 5th July, 2005

Module 3: Circulation, Regulation and Intellectual Property

The economics of being online is closely related to the circuits of transmission, the viral networking and the questions of ownership and possession. As the boundaries between the State and the Market blur, there is an increased public and legal discourse on Intellectual Property, the processes of piracy and the need for regulation and intervention. The third module in the paper brings to the fore, the questions of freedom, of open access and equality, and the conditions of regulation that restrict a free flow of information online.

The value of Information

·     Knowledge and Copyright

·     Notions of possession and value of information online

·     Digital Commons and the freedom of expression

Intellectual Property and the law

·     Theft and piracy online

·     Ownership and usage rights

·     IPR and the role of digital technologies

Pre-Lecture Readings:

Lawrence Lessig. Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity. Penguin. 2005.

Liang, Lawrence and Mayur Suresh. “Copyright/Copyleft : Myths about Copyright”.

(2006) 21st August, 2008.

Rosemary J. Coombe. The Cultural Life of Intellectual Property.  Duke University Press.




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