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Cyberspace in its Plurality: Cybercultures Workshop at TISS, Mumbai

Posted by Nishant Shah at Sep 23, 2008 05:35 PM |
Cyberspace has become one of the most potent and persuasive metaphors of our times, enveloping and embracing a wide range and scope of areas across disciplines and perspectives. The cybercultures workshop is designed to be an introduction to the multiplicity of cyberspaces and internet technologies and the key questions which have emerged in the almost four decades of cyberculture theory. The workshop is designed across four days; each day dealing with a certain understanding of cyberspace – in its materiality, in its imagination, in its instrumentality – in order to present a comprehensive view of the vast terrain of cyberspace and its intersections with the contemporary worlds we live in.

Workshop @ Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai

The four day workshop at the Centre for Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, sees CIS engaging with one of the most exciting spaces in the Indian academia; we design and administer an introduction course on cyberspace and its plurality to students of media and cultural studies. The workshop is a part of the Centre for Internet and Society's larger concern on providing a multidisciplinary, multi-media approach towards the internet and contextualising it in India.

Structured on a seminar model, the workshop hopes to bring together the questions in academic debate as well as in the realm of cultural production, for students to understand the internet technologies and cyberspaces as not only important cultural outputs but also crucial forms that shape the world we live in.

Objectives: The four day cybercultures workshop hopes to achieve the following objectives:

  1. To introduce the students to the multiplicity and complexity of ‘cyberspace’.
  2. To introduce ‘cyberspace’ as an epistemological category to emphasise the centrality of cyberspaces in understanding the mechanics of urban survival in the contemporary.
  3. To orient the students towards understanding the textuality of cyberspace; rescuing it from the confines of digital networks and locating it in the transactions of globalization and urbanization in Asia.
  4. To introduce the key debates in cybercultures theory: body, gender, sexuality, authorship, ownership, access and information democratization.

Design: The cybercultures workshop is designed to be conducted over four days with two sessions (of three hours each) per day. Each day is thematically divided to look at a particular idea of cyberspace; the sessions are further sub-divided to introduce a particular perspective on the day’s theme. Each session has its set of individual pre-readings which will serve more as indicators of the stake of the debate rather than as texts around which the class will be centred. The readings shall remain as introductory material, and the class room discussions, while referring to them, will not concentrate on explaining the material.

Day 1: Cyberspace – Form, Textuality and Frameworks

Session 1: Exploring Cyberspace:

Definitions, explanations, locations

Cyberspace and Digital Technologies

Form, text, textuality

Pre-reading:  Shah, Nishant, 2005. “Playblog: Pornography, Performance, and Cyberspace” available here

Session 2: The Digital DNA – Database, Networks, Archives

The Database Imperative: Sorting, information, databases

The Networking Impulse: Social Networking Systems and the condition of networking

The Archiving Aspirations: Intention, aspiration and archiving the present

Pre-reading:  Manovich, Lev, 2001. “The Database as a Symbolic Form” available here

Day 2: Information technology and human engineering

Session 3 :  Gender, Technology and Cyberspace

Gendering of Technology; Gendered Technologies

The body and its boundaries

Physical bodies; Digital selves; cyborgs

Pre-reading: Light, Jennifer, 1999. “When Computers Were Women” available here

Dibbell, Julian, 1991. “A Rape in Cyberspace: How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database into a Society” available here

 Session 4: Techno-social Worlds

 Orkut Deaths : The distributed self

 Role playing and identity : The real and the authentic

 DPS MMS: The trajectories of selves

Day 3- 4 : Cyberspace and the Infobahn

Session 5: Movie Screening: Good Copy, Bad Copy (followed by discussion)

Session 6: Who owns Cyberspace?

Ownership and Possession

Licensing and access

Open source and the gift economy

Pre-reading: UNCTAD essay on copyright and related questions, available here

Session 7: 18 Reasons Why Piracy is Good for You

The need for piracy

Piracy, theft, and property

Session 8: The Cultural Value of Intellectual Property

The Digital Millenium Rights

The Copy Right and the Copy Left

Open Access and the Creative Commons





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Nishant Shah

Dr. Nishant Shah is the co-founder and board member of the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore, India, and is a professor at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media at Leuphana University in Germany, and is Dean of Research at ArtEZ Graduate School, the Netherlands.