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Spring 2006 Course Introduction

Required texts:

• Marshall MacLuhan, The Medium is the Massage
• Christian Bök, Eunoia
• Kymberlee Weil, Macromedia Flash MX Hands-On-Training

Recommended texts:

• The New Media Reader, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort

Course description:

“Electronic writing” can mean several things (see my extended gloss here), and it will be part of the project of this class to discover for ourselves what the genre is – if it is a genre, in the way that poetry and the novel considered to be. If it is a genre, then learning to write in it will affect the way you write in other genres – i.e. in the way that learning how to write poetry could open up new dimensions in your fiction writing.

But it could also be a sub-genre of sorts, in the way that screenwriting is not considered a genre of “writing” so much as a version of playwriting that forms a component of filmmaking. “Electronic writing” could be a version of poetry, documentary, etc. that requires an electronic component – graphics, sound, interactivity, or the ability to be changed or added to by other writers, etc. – to do it justice. (It might not be “writing” at all but a program or web environment that produces new texts – spooky.)

This course will focus partly on writing as it is conventionally understood – something that “just comes out of your head” – and partly on the ways language and computer processes – whether these be computational, presentational, collaborative on the web, etc. – augment and affect each other.

Writing assignments will be geared:
1) toward creative of ways of using language in the manner that a computer might – thinking in terms of processes (iterations of loops and control structures), customization, etc. – and
2) toward figuring out how to write in conventional genres – poetry, fiction, drama, etc. – so that they “work” in an electronic environment. Hopefully, somewhere between these two poles will be the place you would like to be in terms of your writing.

Periodically, short, half-page critical assignments describing an existing electronic writing project of your choice – how it was made, whether it worked for you, etc. – will be required. These will be posted to the blog. These don’t have to be finished pieces of writing so much as raw thought for classroom discussion.

Additional reading assignments not listed in this syllabus might be given, but these will be brief. I’d like to reserve the option to change the reading for a particular week if I feel that something else out there is more pertinent to the discussions we are having.

Writing assignments will encourage the student to think of writing as a modular, recombinant process that can rely on non-traditional organizational principles – the database versus the book, for example.  This general idea of “electronic writing” can encompass hypertext fiction, web-based projects such as blogs, animated and interactive poetry, gaming and experimental performance.
We will explore this concept via related projects in video and film (Michel Gondry, David Lynch), music (Steve Reich, John Osbourne), conceptual poetry and text art (Vito Acconci, Harryette Mullen) and drama (Jeffrey Jones, Caroline Bergvall).  Of course, electronic projects by artists such as, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, jimpunk, Juliet-Ann Martin, mouchette, Snoop Dogg’s “Shizzolator,” etc. will enter into the mix.

Students are expected to learn, by the halfway point of the semester, the rudiments of Flash MX and to acquire a basic understanding of an imaging software package such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. 

I expect everyone to be at class on time, and to notify by me by phone or email ahead of time if you think you will be late or will miss the class. Labs are largely voluntary – some will be mandatory. If we have made an agreement to have a lab session together and you don’t think you will make it, please email me or call me a few hours in advance so that I know not to show up. 

Missing more than two classes without a legitimate reason might put you in jeopardy of failing, so please make it to class!

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