COURSE INFO: ENGL 50013: Center for Disciplinary Innovation, PhD Seminar

MEETING TIME: Tuesdays 1:30-4:20pm

CROSS-LISTED IN: English, Art History, Cinema and Media Studies, and Visual Arts

INSTRUCTORS: Patrick Jagoda, English ( and Eivind Røssaak, CMS (

OFFICE HOURS: Patrick Jagoda (Thursday 1:30-3:30pm or by appointment, Walker 504) and Eivind Røssaak (by appointment)

In the mid-twentieth century, the network emerged as a dominant structure and prevailing metaphor of our globalizing world. In recent years, across various disciplines, networks have been used to describe cellular structures, viral ecologies, terrorist organizations, economic markets, social communities, and, most of all, the Internet. In this course, we turn a critical eye to the network structure and try to determine what is at stake in claiming that everything is interconnected. In this seminar, we explore what happens when we imagine things as networks. How does this paradigm shift affect, art, narratives, philosophy, politics, and archival thought? What is the explanatory power of networks? What is the longer history of networked media? How do networks shape the digital humanities? In our turn to network aesthetics, we propose to explore the effect of networks on both narrative and procedural forms, including novels, films, electronic fictions, videogames, and new media art. In our exploration of network culture, we will delve into theories that include the work of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Manuel Castells,Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, N. Katherine Hayles, Tara McPherson, Bernhard Siegert, Tiziana Terranova, and others. In addition to regular blog posts and a final conference paper, we will explore networked digital environments and experiment with new media methods throughout the quarter.

 COURSE MATERIALS (Required Materials for Purchase)

  • The Crying of Lot 49 (Thomas Pynchon)
  • Uplink (Introversion Software, purchase for Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X)
  • Minecraft (Mojang, available for multiple platforms)
  • All other readings are available online or on Chalk.

COURSE SCHEDULE (Subject to Revision)

WEEK 1 (October 1): Pre-Digital Networks (Pre-Circulated Reading)

  • The Crying of Lot 49 (Thomas Pynchon, novel)
  • “An Epoch of the Postal System” from Relays (Bernhard Siegert, pp. 1-19)
  • “Introduction: Rhizome” from A Thousand Plateaus (Deleuze & Guattari, pp. 3-25)

WEEK 2 (October 8): Archives and Montage: On Memory and Connection

WEEK 3 (October 15): Electronic Fictions and Network Aesthetics

October 20 (7pm, Logan 603): Journey Group Play Session

WEEK 4 (October 22): Systems Simulations and Network Games

  • Play Uplink (Introversion Software, purchase for Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X)
  • Play Between (Jason Rohrer)
  • Play Journey (thatgamecompany, PS3, group gameplay session)
  • “Are Some Things Unrepresentable?” from The Interface Effect (Alexander Galloway, pp. 78-100)
  • “Countergaming” from Gaming (Alexander Galloway, p. 107-126)
  • “Between: An Interview with Jason Rohrer” (Patrick Jagoda and Jason Rohrer)

October 27 (7pm, from home): Second Life Scavenger Hunt

WEEK 5 (October 29): Digital Environments: Virtual Worlds and Alternate Reality Games

November 1: Network Visualization Collaborative Exercise DUE

WEEK 6 (November 5): Social Media

  • The Culture of Connectivity (José van Dijck, Ch. 1-2, pp. 3-43)
  • “Memory” in Critical Terms for Media Studies (Bernard Stiegler, pp. 64-87)
  • “Machines of Memory” in Memory (S. Goodman and L. Parisi, pp. 343-363)
  • “Engineering Pre-Individual Potentialities” in SubStance (Mark Hansen, pp.32-59)

WEEK 7 (November 12): New Media Art

November 13: Abstract for Final Paper DUE

 WEEK 8 (November 19): Empire Theory in the Network Era

  • “Postscript on the Societies of Control” (Gilles Deleuze, pp. 177-182)
  • “An Introduction to the Information Age” (Manuel Castells, pp. 6-16)
  • Preface of Commonwealth (Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, p. vi-xiv)
  • “How Histories Make Geographies: Circulation and Context in a Global Perspective” (Arjun Appadurai)
  • “Nodes” from The Exploit (Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, pp. 25-100)
  • “Communication Biopower” from Network Culture (Tiziana Terranova, pp. 131-157)

November 25 or TBD: Syriana Screening

WEEK 9 (November 26): Network Activism

  • “Terror and Play, or What Was Hacktivism?” from Noise Channels (Peter Krapp, Ch. 2, pp. 27-42)
  • “Edges” from The Exploit (Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, p. 105-147)
  • Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movement in the Internet Age (Manuel Castells, read final chapter, pp. 218-243)
  • Discuss Syriana (screened outside of class)
  • “Terror Networks and the Aesthetics of Interconnection” in Social Text (Patrick Jagoda, pp. 65-90).

 WEEK 10 (December 3): New Media and Digital Humanities: Network visualization and Social Network Analysis

 December 3: Special Mock Conference with 4 panels (1:30-5:30pm)

 December 12: Final Papers DUE


  • We only meet for a few weeks, so arrive on time for each seminar session.
  • Film screenings, virtual world involvement, and seminar participation are mandatory. If you absolutely can’t attend one of the special sessions, you must pre-approve this absence and prepare the material prior to our class discussion.
  • Do the reading. Meaningful discussion depends on your engagement with these texts, films, games, and other media. Readings are to be completed for the date on which they are listed.
  • Assignments and papers are due when they appear on the syllabus. Extensions are discouraged but, if necessary, must be requested well in advance of the deadline. Late assignments will immediately entail a grade reduction.
  • Print out readings or bring your annotated pages to class.
  • Always feel free to ask questions either in class or during office hours.


  • Class Attendance, Preparation, and Participation: 20%
  • In-Class Presentation: 5%
  • Weekly Blog Posts: 15%
  • Network Visualization Collaborative Exercise: 10%
  • Final Paper/Project Abstract: 5%
  • Mock Conference Paper: 20%
  • Final Paper/Project: 25%


Weekly Presentations (5 minutes)

Given the short duration of the quarter, we will not have time to consider a number of major topics related to networks. In order to incorporate some overviews of these topics, you will give short presentations, in pairs, about a number of predetermined topic areas. You may take any path through these broad topic areas. But you have only 5 minutes, so you’ll have to be organized and disciplined about your presentation. These presentations will generally take place at the very start of class. Given the short duration, this overview should orient the class to your area with a handful of appropriate examples, dates, and concepts. Even as the presentation is short, you will be expected to do some minimal research.

Final Paper Abstract (300-400 words)

About a month before the final essay is due, you will turn in a brief abstract. You can adjust your topic during the research process, but it’s useful to have a starting point — a working fiction, if you will — well in advance of the deadline. The abstract should succinctly state your argument, name your key work or object of analysis, explain the way you’re positioning your intervention in the broader scholarly field, and demonstrate why a reader would care about the argument that you’re making. The abstract should also comment upon the type of research that will be necessary to complete your work in the final month of the quarter. If you wish to include a bibliography (which is recommended but not required), it will not be included in the word count. Your abstracts will be posted on the course site, so you should take this assignment seriously. Also, this exercise will connect to the final mock conference. So write the abstract as if you are submitting it to an actual conference. The instructors will play the part of a conference organizer and either accept or reject your proposed paper.

Final Mock Conference (12-15 Minutes)

About a week before the final research paper is due, you’ll have a chance to present a slightly shorter version of your paper in class. You should present your argument and its implications in a clear and persuasive manner. You should also prepare the presentation, in advance, so that it fits within the allotted 12-15-minute slot (you will be timed). Visual aids (from powerpoints to images to videos) will certainly strengthen your presentation. The primary purpose of the assignment is to prepare you for conference presentations and to give you useful feedback that will help you with your final set of revisions. After your presentation, we will have a short question and answer period. You may pre-circulate your paper among the other members of your panel.

Final Paper or Project (10-12 Pages)

Your 10-12 page final paper can be related to any aspect of the material covered in the course. To clarify, you need not necessarily write about one of the primary texts we cover in class. For this assignment, you will work up to your final essay through an abstract (due November 13) and a conference presentation (on December 5). If you write a paper, it should be a research paper that cites at least seven sources (you may of course include additional sources and/or sources covered in our shared discussions but there must be at least five external texts in the mix). If you choose the project option, you should include with it a brief artist’s statement about the theoretical foundations of your work.

Weekly Blog Posts

Over the course of the quarter, you will contribute to a class blog (on this site) through original posts and responses to your peers. These posts are intended to influence and extend the conversations we have during our shared meetings. You are required to post at least 5 entries over the course of the quarter. Each entry should respond to that week’s readings or multimedia works, expand substantively on an ongoing topic of class discussion (without simply reproducing or documenting an exchange), or call our attention to articles or media about related phenomena. The 5 minimum entries can be posted anytime over the course of the quarter but you may post no more than one post a week for credit (so plan ahead!). Each post must also comment on a topic from the week in which it is posted (so you can’t, for instance, return to a topic from Week 2 on Week 9 unless it is in some way related to a current discussion). While the content of these entries can be wide-ranging and less formal than your essays, you should observe formal citation standards and be mindful of your prose. You are also required to read posts by your classmates and respond briefly to at least one entry per week.

Network Visualization Collaborative Exercise

Collaboration is an increasingly vital skill in a cultural landscape dominated by digital technologies. In academic work, both in the digital humanities and new media studies, individual production is increasingly being supplemented by collaborative projects. For this project, you will work in a group of about 4 to create a vision of a network that departs from the conventional node and link model that is so common in network visualizations. You will turn in a text, image, sound file, website, or interactive piece along with a one-page artist statement that describes your intervention. Rather than a complete departure from academic work and new media theory, we would like you to engage in a process of what Walter Holland, Henry Jenkins, and Kurt Squire have called “theory by design.” In other words, instead of working through ideas in an expository fashion, you will do so through creative development.


  • Alan Liu, Local Transcendence (especially “Escaping History”) e-book at Reg
  • Matteo Pasquinelli, “Google’s Page Rank Algorithm: A Diagram of the Cognitive Capitalism and the Rentier of Common Intellect” (online)
  • Robert W. Gehl, “The Archive and the processor: The Internet logic of Web 2.0,” New Media & Society, 13/ 2011
  • Gordon Bell, Total Recall
  • Terry Cook, “Archival Science and Postmodernism: New Formulations for Old Concepts.” Archival Science, vol. 1, no. 1 (2000): 3-24, The International Journal on Recorded Information.
  • Borges’s “Library of Babel” and “Garden of Forking Paths”
  • Ken Wark, The Hacker Manifesto
  • Yvonne Spielmann,  “Thinking in Networks.” Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, Vol. 3, 2011 (on surveillance and art)
  • The Wire (on network aesthetics and seriality) and “Wired” (Patrick Jagoda)

One thought on “Syllabus

  1. Pingback: 5 Questions: Dr. Patrick Jagoda (UChicago), Donald D. Harrington Faculty Fellow in American Studies « AMS :: ATX

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s