Thursday 4:00-6:40pm

Tawes 0134

Dr. Jason Farman


Office: Tawes 3328

Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00-4:00pm or by appointment

Office Phone: 301.405.9524

Course Website:

Description: In our digital age, many of the objects we interact with seem immaterial and intangible since “all existing media are translated into numerical data…[and all] graphics, moving images, sounds, shapes, spaces, and texts become computable, that is, simply sets of computer data” (Manovich, The Language of New Media). This course seeks to redeem the materiality of networked society by investigating the ways that our digital spaces and objects are always tied to embodied physicality and material infrastructures. We will study the histories of new media, issues around simulation and tangibility, the industrial designs behind our objects, planned obsolescence, the labor conditions for our digital devices, the impact they’re having on the environment, and even take a trip to one of the East Coast’s most important internet hubs in the DC area to see the physical infrastructure of the internet.

Required Texts:

  • Nicole Starosielski, The Undersea Network. Duke University Press, 2015.
  • Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young. Stanford University Press, 1999.
  • Graham Harman, Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects. Open Court, 2002.
  • Jussi Parikka, Geology of Media. University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
  • Andrew Blum, Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet. Ecco, 2012.
  • Matthew Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. The MIT Press, 2008.

Assignments:  Reading assignments are listed on the day they will be discussed in class. You are expected to arrive to class having read the works listed. You must cite all of your sources accurately according to MLA, APA, or Chicago style and type all work in Times New Roman, 12-point font. Any plagiarized work will receive an “F” and may lead to a failing grade for the course.


  • Presentation 1: Lead the class in a discussion driven analysis of the assigned reading for a particular day: 10%
  • Presentation 2: Media Archaeology and Tracing Flows of Digital Objects Presentation: 10%
  • Book Review or Op-Ed: Present a review of a relevant, recently published book – or – based on a topic we’ve discussed that’s of interest to your work, you will write a 1000-word (maximum) op-ed that presents this work to a broad readership: 10%
  • Questions/Definitions: Students must come to each class with three well-developed questions and connections based on the assigned reading (with e-mailed copy to instructor). This should be coupled with on-going definitions of key terms: 15%
  • Participation: 10%
  • Research Prospectus and Presentation: 10%
  • Final Research Paper (15-20 pages): 35%

—Please Note: This syllabus is subject to change at any time according to the professor’s discretion. The assignments below may also include readings handed out in class, which each student is responsible for completing.


Week 1: Introduction to the Course

Jan. 28 —

  • Introduction. Watch documentary Objectified
Week 2: Global Internet Objects

Feb. 4 —

  • Nicole Starosielski, The Undersea Network
  • Deborah Lupton, “The Embodied Computer/User” in Cybercultures Reader
  • Alexander Galloway, “The Unworkable Interface”
Week 3: Historical Tracings and Media Archaeology

Feb. 11 —

  • Friedrich A. Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter
  • Erkki Huhtamo, “Kaleidoscomaniac to Cybernerd: Notes Toward an Archaeology of the Media” Leonardo 30:3 (1997): 221-4
  • Lisa Gitleman, Always Already New Ch. 1
  • Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation, Introduction, Ch. 2
Week 4: When Objects Lost Their Bodies: Materiality and Media Specificity

Feb. 18 —

  • N. Katherine Hayles: “Print is Flat, Code is Deep”
  • Walter Benjamin, “Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction”
  • Jean Baudrillard, Simulation and Simulacra 
Week 5: Virtual or Real?

Feb. 25 —

  • Adriana de Souza e Silva and Daniel Sutko, “Theorizing Locative Technologies Through Theories of the Virtual.”
  • Giles Deleuze, “The Crystals of Time,” Cinema 2
  • John Rajchman, “The Virtual House,” in Constructions
Week 6: Thing Theory

March 3 —

  • Graham Harman, Tool-Being.
  • Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter, Preface and Ch. 1
  • Arjun Appadurai, “The Thing Itself” Public Culture 18:1 (2006): 15-21
Week 7: Networked Labor, Global Flows, and E-Waste

March 10 —

  • Jussi Parikka, A Geology of Media
  • Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, Preface and Part 1.
  • Christian Fuchs, “Labor in Informational Capitalism and on the Internet.”
  • In Class: Presentations on Flows of Digital Objects
Week 8: Spring Break

March 12-20

Week 9: Design and Planned Obsolescence

March 24 —

  • Donald Norman, Design of Everyday Things
  • Vilém Flusser, The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design, Introduction
  • Giles Slade, Made to Break
  • Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence
Week 10: Repair and Maintenance

March 31 —

  • Steven Jackson, “Rethinking Repair”
  • Steven Jackson and Laewoo Kang, “Breakdown, Obsolescence and Reuse: HCI and the Art of Repair” CHI 2014
  • Society of Cinema and Media Studies Conference (class potentially rescheduled)
Week 11: Repair Workshop

April 7 —

Week 12: Infrastructure

April 14 —

  • Andrew Blum, Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet.
  • Geoffrey Bowker, et al, “Toward Information Infrastructure Studies: Ways of Knowing in a Networked Environment.”
  • Lisa Parks, “ ‘Stuff You Can Kick’: Toward a Theory of Media Infastructures”
Week 13: Site Visit to Equinix Internet Peering Point, Ashburn, VA

April 21

Week 14: Infrastructure, Platform, Code, Interface

April 28 —

  • Matthew Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms
  • Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost, Racing the Beam, Ch. 1
Week 15: Conclusions and Final Research Presentations

May 6 —

  • Final Presentations
Week 16:
  • Final Papers Due