Course: Introduction to Digital Media
Instructor: Marco Deseriis
Class Time: MW 12:30-1:45
Class Location: SILVER 206

Required Texts:

  • Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001.
  • Steven Johnson, Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create & Communicate, New York: Basic Books, 1997.
  • Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations, New York: Penguin, 2008.

Recommended Texts:

  • Albert-László Barabási, Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life, New York: Penguin, 2003.

Selected articles provided by the instructor in PDF format. Available on Blackboard.

Please note that you are required to bring texts to class when readings have been assigned; class discussion and activities will call for reference to reading material.

Schedule of Classes, Readings, and Assignments

Introduction: The Blue Pill or the Red Pill?

September 9
Introduction and Course Overview
Students sign up for personalized mid-terms

September 14
Descartes, Meditations, I-II, available at
Watch Andy & Larry Wachowski’s The Matrix, USA, 1999. Available at the Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media ( and from Netflix.

Section I. Historic Context: How Media Became New

September 16
Alan Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” available at

September 21
Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, pp. 27-48

September 23
Lev Manovich, How Media Became New, pp. 21-26
Manuel De Landa, The War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, pp. 142-155

September 28
Manuel de Landa, The War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, pp. 84-105. Available on Blackboard.
Watch Adam Curtis’ The Trap (Part I), available on Google Video,

September 30
Paul Baran, “On Distributed Communication.” Available on Blackboard.
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, “On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge,” Grey Room 18, Winter 2004. Available on Blackboard.

Section II. The Computer as a Symbolic Machine

October 5
Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think,” Available at
Steven Johnson, Interface Culture (Links), pp. 106-37.

October 7
Josephine Bosma, “Interview with Jodi,” available on Nettime,
Watch Ted Nelson, Google TechTalk,

October 12
Steven Johnson, Interface Culture, pp. 11-41
Watch Doug Engelbart, The Mother of All Demos, available at

Applying the Visions of the Pioneers: Hyperwords, Ubiquity, and Shiftspace

October 14
Steven Johnson, Interface Culture (The Desktop), pp. 42-65
Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Teleaction), pp. 161-175

Section III. New Media as Narrative, Action, and Play

October 19
Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (The Database), pp. 218-243
Watch John Withney, Catalog, USA, 1961, available at
Watch Tziga Vertov, Man With the Movie Camera (excerpts), USSR, 1927 available at

October 21
Espen Aarseth, Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, Introduction available at

Marco Deseriis, No End in Sight: Networked Art as a Participatory Form of Storytelling, available at

October 26
Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media (Navigable Space), pp. 244-253
Gonzalo Frasca, “Simulation vs Narrative: Introduction to Ludology,” available at

October 28
Alexander Galloway, Gaming, Chapter 1, available on Blackboard.

Section IV. Networks, Social Software, and Social Media

November 2
Albert-László Barabási, Linked, pp. 9-54. Available on Blackboard.

November 4
Albert-László Barabási, Linked, pp. 55-92. Available on Blackboard.

November 5-7
Take-home midterm

November 9
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, Chapters 1-3, pp. 1-54
Watch “Clay Shirky on institutions vs. collaboration,” available at

November 11
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, Chapters 4, 6, and 7 (part), pp. 55-80 and 143-171.
Watch Clay Shirky, “How Social Media Can Make History,” available at

November 16
Anna Notaro, “The Lo(n)g Revolution: the Blogosphere as an Alternative Public Sphere?,” available at
Cory Doctorow, Scroogled, available at

November 18
Danah Boyd, “Social Network Sites, Public Private or What?” available at
BJ Fogg, “Mass Interpersonal Persuasion: An Early View of a New Phenomenon,” available at

Section V. Open Source Software and the Politics of Collaborative Production

November 23
Gabriella Coleman, “Code Is Speech: Legal Tinkering, Expertise, and Protest, among Free and Open Source Softare Developers.” Available on Blackboard.
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, Chapter 10, 233-259.

Thanksgiving Recess

November 30
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, Chapter 5, pp. 109-142
Michel Bauwens, “The social web and its social contracts,” available at

December 2
Kevin Kelly, “The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online,” available at
Jaron Lanier “On Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism,” available at

December 7
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, Chapter 11, 260-92

December 9-16
Final Take-Home Assignment

Course Work and Evaluation

Three Mid-term Assignments: 60% (3 x 20% each)

There are two different kinds of midterms: two personalized midterms, and a midterm common to all students.

Personalized midterms are chosen by students who sign up at the beginning of the semester to summarize and present the assigned readings for a specific class (twice per semester). The evaluation of each personalized midterm (worth a maximum of 20 points) is based on the ability of the student to summarize the assigned readings in writing, and deliver an effective presentation in class. Each summary shall be posted online, on the class web log (, no later than 24 hours before the beginning of class, so that other students will have the time to read it and comment on it.

The common midterm is a take-home assigned by the instructor to all students (see schedule of classes). Details will be explained when the exam is distributed.

Final Assignment: 20%

This exam is a comprehensive take-home, provided on the last day of class (December 9) and due no later than December 16 in the Blackboard Digital Dropbox. Details will be explained when the exam is distributed.

Attendance and Participation: 20% (2x 10%)

Attendance and participation are comprised of two parts: class attendance and participation (10%); and online participation (10%).

While some background information must be provided via lecture format, the course is structured to encourage student participation and discussion. This is a thinking- and discussion-intensive course; you will be expected to be in attendance and to actively engage with the course material in a regular and meaningful way during class time.

In order to meet these requirements, it is necessary that you be in attendance. Two absences will be allowed (with reasons considered valid at my discretion), and each additional absence will affect this segment of your grade. More than 6 classes missed will result in a failing grade for the course, as you will have missed too much material to be considered a part of the learning experience.

Online participation is measured by your ability to leave meaningful comments on other students’ posts (personalized midterms) on the class blog ( In order to obtain a grade for online participation (worth a maximum of 10 points) you must post a minimum of six comments in the course of the semester. Meaningful comments stay on topic, and may include relevant links to external sources such as blog posts, art projects, videos, or podcasts. The ability to answer other students’ questions on technical or related issues, and to create an environment conducive to collaboration, is also a positive aspect of online participation.


Late assignments: Late assignments will be marked down one grade per day late. Please discuss any extenuating circumstances with me before the due date.

Format of written work: All written work must be typed, double-spaced, and paginated. For the common mid-term and final assignment you are expected to follow a formal style manual for guidelines on citations, quotations, etc. Style manuals are available at the bookstore.

Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism:  Plagiarism is the conscious or unconscious using of words, ideas, structures, or evidence that are not your own without giving proper credit to the original source. The consequences of plagiarism are severe: in this course, plagiarism will result in a zero on the assignment. Please consult university rules and guidelines regarding this serious breach of ethics. If you are concerned about your use of evidence or citations, ask me before the essay is due.

Fair warning of things I will take note of, but may not call you on: Coming to class late, leaving class early, sleeping in class, playing on your laptop or other electronic device, doing work for other courses in class—these activities will negatively affect your participation grade.

Before class begins, please turn off all cell phones, pagers, global positioning devices, and any other items that might ring, buzz, play Beethoven’s Fif9th or Busta Rhymes, or otherwise call attention to themselves and disrupt class.

Standards of Evaluation

A = Outstanding. “A” students demonstrate commitment to class, in attendance, participation, and preparation; this means virtually perfect attendance, reading assignments fully, and showing interest during class time. They ask questions, are able to connect past learning with the present, show initiative, and aren’t afraid to be creative. Written work demonstrates comprehensive and solid understanding of the material, and presents thoughtful interpretations, well-focused and original insights, and well-reasoned commentary and analysis. Students also demonstrate skillful use of source materials, illuminating examples and illustrations, fluent expression, and no grammar errors. Since an A student has to demonstrate exceptional qualities, you may not expect an A in this class. [A = 94-100 points; A- = 90-93 points]

B = Good. “B” students may miss class from time to time, but are generally prepared and try to participate. They have interest in the subject and have the ability to master novel material. Some students under-utilize their skills, but such students tend to improve over the duration. Written work demonstrates a complete and accurate understanding of the material, presents a reasonable degree of insight and broad levels of analysis. Work reflects competence, but stays at a general or predictable level of understanding. Source materials, examples, illustrations, are used appropriately and articulation/writing is clear. Papers have been carefully proofread. [B+ = 87-89 points; B = 84-86 points; B- = 80-83]

C = Fair. “C” students miss class too frequently and show little interest in course readings and class discussion. They are not visibly committed to class and body language often expresses boredom. Such students may be incredibly talented, but for whatever reasons have clearly not mastered the given material. Written work is generally correct, superficial, incomplete, or expresses some significant errors or weaknesses. Source materials may be used inadequately or inappropriately, and arguments lack concrete, specific examples and illustrations. Writing/articulation may appear vague, hard to follow, or loaded with other technical errors. [C+ = 77-79; C = 74-76; C- = 70-73]

D = A student in difficulty. “D” students miss class frequently, rarely participate, show disinterest, and have generally misunderstood almost everything we have done, said, and/or read (if they prepared or read anything to begin with).  Written work demonstrates serious errors in understanding, fails to express the most rudimentary aspects of the material, and may contain little logical development in its arguments. Sources may be used entirely inappropriately or not at all, and writing/articulation appears deficient.

[D+ = 67-69; D = 64-66]

F = Failed. Work was not submitted or attempted; and the student failed to participate at every level. [63 and below]