“Hypermedia – Futures of Reading”

Terry Harpold
Spring 2012

Tues., 10:40–11:30 AM (period 4)
Thurs., 10:40 AM – 12:35 PM (periods 4–5)
CSE E211A

voice: (352) 294-2808
email: tharpold@ufl.edu
office hours: Tu & Th, 5:30–7 PM & by appt. (TUR 4105)
home page for Terry Harpold: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/tharpold/
home page for ENC 3414: http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/tharpold/courses/spring12/enc3414/
e-Learning site & ENC 3414 wiki (registered students only): https://lss.at.ufl.edu/


Zippy the Pinhead

Course description

“Writing,” observes Vilém Flusser, “in the sense of placing letters and other marks one after another, appears to have little or no future.” Flusser’s claim may seem less shocking if we understand that he associates the invention of writing with the invention of historical consciousness, which he correlates with a transformation by writing of experiential scenes into serial processes of representation. A way of thinking about and figuring causality and sequence, which is fundamental to writing and thus to modern literate thought, Flusser claims, is of diminishing relevance in the age of electronic and programmable – what Flusser calls technical – images.

This course takes as its founding assumption that we may substitute “reading” for Flusser’s “writing,” and perhaps “interpreting,” or “decoding” (or “re– or displacing”) for his “placing.” Reading, then, according to senses that the term may have had in the age of print – during which it was bound to basic structures of reason – appears not to have the future we might have formerly imagined for it.

Reading in the age of electronic textuality – the age Jay David Bolter has referred to as the “late age of print” – must have some kind of future or futures, even if they are vexed or dire (it is hard for literate beings to think otherwise), but what these futures are, exactly, appears now unclear. (They will be, as Gregory Ulmer proposes, electrate rather than literate. But what that means, exactly, also remains to be determined.) By all accounts, literate populations with ready access to electronic text read as much or more than they did before. But they read differently (they “browse” and “interact”), and the objects they read (hypertexts, e-books, etc.) engage language, the hand, the eye, and the mind differently from printed works. (Perhaps. The degree and nature of this apparent difference is one of the puzzles we will consider.) The ongoing transformation of reading practice must, scholars such as Flusser, Bolter, and Ulmer have proposed, result also in a transformation of readerly consciousness.

In this course, we will address some of the futures of reading. Our discussions will draw on a few canonical texts of new media studies, but they will shaped primarily by collective practices of reading and writing about imaginative works of the digital field. We will read closely from a small corpus of important digital fictions and poetry of the last two decades and we will compose our responses to them in a collaborative scholarly writing environment. (All graded written work for the course will be completed in a course wiki. Basic knowledge of WWW- and image–editing applications may be to students’ advantage for some assignments, but is not required.)

The course will incorporate two important events at UF related to our research agendas. “Digital Platforms and the Future of Books,” the sixth annual symposium of the Digital Assembly, UF’s graduate research group in new media studies, will be held on January 20–21, 2012. Participants in the symposium will include major scholars in new media studies, electronic scholarship and publishing, and the future of the book. Their presentations will be a cornerstone of our discussions thereafter. “The Art of Google Books,” a gallery show at the UF’s J. Wayne Reitz Union based upon Krissy Wilson’s curatorial blog of the same name, will run from March 15–April 3, 2012. Wilson will give a guest lecture and tour of the exhibit for the class, and will tutor us in the discovery of new and significant oddities and errata of Google’s would-be Library of Babel.

Written course requirements include individual student critical responses to some assigned readings, collaborative group responses to the Digital Assembly conference and Wilson’s exhibit, a collaborative group critical response to an assigned reading, and two exams.

Course syllabus

The course syllabus, including the calendar of readings, assignments, and other course requirements, may be downloaded in .pdf format from this link:

PDF Icon  ENC 3414, Spring 2012 (approx. 220K)

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Image ©2011 Bill Griffith. (Click image to see larger version)


© Terry Harpold. All rights reserved.
Last revision: 1/13/12