Significant Post Guidelines

As people begin their significant posts (thanks to Hassan for going first), and pursuant to our class discussion on Tuesday (before the Woodward Ave. construction people so rudely ruined our day by causing a gas leak), here are the quasi-democratic significant post guidelines:

Unlike regular weekly blog posts, significant posts will be graded on the 10-point scale described on our grading page.

As always, I reserve a point for brilliance, to reward truly exceptional work. (This extra point take you from an A to an A+, a grade I cannot in fact give you for the semester. Do not trust fans of American football; extra points are not foregone conclusions.)

The remaining 9 points break down as follows, with 3 points to be assessed in each category not according to a specific tallying of sub-points, but rather in an overall assessment of performance, responding to the following criteria:

• Writing, style, and argument. Is the piece grammatically written? Is the punctuation correct? Are the mechanics working? Is the diction clear? Is the jargon substantially correct? Does the writer develop a humane voice? Is it enjoyable to read? Is the prose stylish? Does it pursue a clear agenda? Does it make points in a manner that is easy to follow? Does it make its points concisely? Does the writing have purpose beyond course requirements?

• Engagement and analysis. Does the piece explain the text (or selected parts of it) well? Is the scope of explanation narrow or specific enough? Does it develop a largely correct summary account of the piece (or selected parts of it)? Does the piece address questions, lacunae, problems, or failures to understand? Does it engage conversations that have been playing out on the blogs? Are the pingbacks substantial? Does it address the specifics of the texts and conversations? Does the piece pursue analysis of the text?

• Sophistication and creativity. Are the stakes clearly articulated? Does the post teach its readers something new? Are there surprises? Do the examples or anecdotes lead to new discoveries? Or, does the post lead us to new questions we didn’t know how to ask before? Is there an argument? Is it unexpected? Does it put the texts into new contexts? Does it transform our understanding of those contexts? Does the analysis lead to novel arguments about the text, or to new ways of reading it?

You’ll get a grade and comments on significant posts within 1-2 weeks of the post. I will offer comments along the above lines, according to these three categories. I will also give you a cumulative grade whenever I deliver such comments.

Snowden on Extraterrestrials

Perhaps of interest (I had heard about this, but thanks to Ed for the signal boost—no pun intended): Snowden was recently on “Star Talk” with Niel Degrasse Tyson. The sensational bit that’s been echoing around the intertubes is that Snowden hypothesized that perhaps the reason we haven’t yet heard from aliens is that maybe all their communications are encrypted to such a degree that we can’t distinguish said communication from the noise of cosmic background radiation. To my knowledge, this is a novel solution to the Fermi paradox (NB: if you want to feel enjoyably paranoid, spend some time reading/thinking about the Fermi paradox, which is deeply unsettling). Apparently, however, Snowden isn’t right on the facts. But it’s definitely worth keeping this little nugget in mind as a cultural phenomenon when we read Accelerando later in the semester.

Eight Theses on Networks

These are the main organizing points for the lecture portion of Tuesday’s class:

  1. Networks have three basic facts: connectioncommunication, and compression. (To which we might add two more: content and control.) (McLuhan, Galloway, Sterne)
  2. There are many different types of networks. (Galloway, Sandvig)
  3. Most times we use the term “network,” we mean (or at least invoke) “the internet.” But the internet itself is a complex, layered assemblage of many different types of networks. (Mattern, Sandvig)
  4. Different kinds of networks demand different kinds of analysis. (Galloway, Jagoda)
  5. Control and organization are embodied in network form. (Galloway)
  6. Different things flow through networks in different ways: power, but also affect. Different network forms channel these differently. (Galloway, Jagoda)
  7. Network analysis demands an attention to things other than content. Our position here is one of network formalism.
  8. That said, nobody really knows what follows from these analyses, or what responses to take. (Galloway, Cohen, Jagoda)

Blogging this week

A quick note: I will be out of town this week, giving a lecture in Berkeley. I realize I have not made provisions for blogging in this short—or our several others. Ordinarily, I’d say all blog posts are due on Tuesday, but that’s not enough lead time on my end. So: please ensure that you post this week on your blog before 1:30pm on Wednesday. If you are writing a retrospective blog post, please be sure to address some element of our classroom discussion in your post. Pingbacks, of course, as usual.

Reminder: Sign up for “Significant” Posts

This will serve as a reminder that you must sign up for “significant posts” by class time tomorrow. You may do so here. Undergraduates must sign up for two; MA students must sign up for three, one of which must be recommended for undergrads/required for MA students—the starred texts in the list.

As a brief reminder, significant posts will be no less than 1,000 words (approximately 3 pages), and are due by 1:30pm on the day the reading is due. Unlike regular weekly posts, I will accept late significant blog posts. (See more: Significant PostsGrades and Grading, and Missing & Late Work.)

As we discussed in class on Thursday, good blog posts are two things in particular: they address other students and anonymous other humans on the internet as a part of an ongoing conversation; and they are specific. (Remember: good bullshit is specific bullshit.) The most successful posts we have seen so far do one of a few different things: (1) they summarize, in a critical and clear manner, one or more points from the reading; (2) they ask good questions, often about things the author genuinely does not understand, that arise from close, careful reading of the text; or (3) they spin out some ideas from the reading in a different, highly specific, context.

And next week, we will get to the part where we design a rubric for ourselves.

Citizenfour: on HBO

Just a quick note: Citizenfour is available to stream for free for subscribers of HBO (or people who have their friends’ or parents’ passwords) on HBO Go. In case screening doesn’t work.

Screenings this Week

Just a quick reminder to you all: I will be running screenings of our film for this week, Citizenfour, at 6pm on Monday and 2pm on Tuesday. If you cannot make these screening times, please make provisions for watching the film on your own.

A Brief History of the Internet

Because Galloway touched on it, and it is a major theme in Sandvig, you may want to learn more about the history and present of internet architecture. This story on Gizmodo tells that history, along with a healthy dose of why it might be that we shouldn’t consider the United States the center of the network.

Please excuse the neoliberal “the reason why things suck is there isn’t enough competition” bias. It’s just in the air we breathe these days.