Details about weekly topics and readings can be found in the dropdown links or the menu to the right. Below is an overview of the schedule.


Week 1: Visions of the Internet (Aug 28)

  • Lecture: Course overview; England’s Victorian Internet and Nineteenth-Century Science Fictions of a Future Internet
  • Discussion: What are today’s dreams of the internet’s future?

Sept 4: NO CLASS, Labor Day

Sept 8: Assignment 1—Representation and Identity: AI Visions of Technology

Week 2: ARPANET (Sept 11)

  • Reading: Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think,” Will F. Jenkins, “A Logic Named Joe,” J. C. R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor, “The Computer as a Communication Device”
  • Lecture: The Cultures of ARPANET and the Soviet Internyet
  • Discussion: Midcentury predictions of the promises and perils of computers

Week 3: Bulletin Board Systems (Sept 18)

  • Reading: Benj Edwards, “The Lost Civilization of Dial-Up Bulletin Board Systems,” Vernor Vinge, True Names
  • Lecture: Online Services Before the Web: France’s Minitel, Telenet, Tymnet, CompuServe, and BBS Networks
  • Discussion: Minitel vs. BBSs

Sept 22: Assignment 2—Representation: Personal Computer and Online Experience, 1978–1990

Week 4: Usenet (Sept 25)

  • Reading: Michele Tepper, “Usenet Communities and the Cultural Politics of Information,” Clay Shirky, “A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy”
  • Lecture: Open Networks and Walled Gardens
  • Discussion: Comparing Usenet to online service providers and BBSs

Week 5: World Wide Web (Oct 2)

  • Reading: Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web
  • Lecture: Hypermedia and the World Wide Web
  • Discussion: Bush’s Memex revisited, AOL vs. WWW, Wikiracing

Oct 6: Assignment 3—Production and Regulation: Usenet and Community Regulation

Week 6: Web Hosting (Oct 9)

  • Reading: Reynolds and Hallinan, “The Haunting of GeoCities and the Politics of Access Control on the Early Web”
  • Lecture: Personal Creation on the Web from GeoCities to WordPress
  • Discussion: Micropayments vs. advertising

Week 7: Navigation (Oct 16)

  • Reading: Borges, “The Library of Babel”; Asimov, “The Last Question”
  • Lecture: The Information Problem, the Web Browser, and Internet Search
  • Discussion: How to search for websites vs. how to search for academic resources; overview of the final project

Oct 20: Assignment 4—Identity and Consumption: Archaeology of a GeoCities Site, 1994–2000

Week 8: Social Media (Oct 23)

  • Reading: Patricia Lockwood, “The Winged Thing,” Jennifer Egan, “Black Box”
  • Lecture: Friends, Feeds, and the Hidden Work of Content Moderation
  • Discussion: How social media has transformed the way we talk and think

Oct 27: Final project topic

Week 9: Peer-to-Peer Networks (Oct 30)

  • Oct 30: Reading: Matthew David, “A Brief History of File Sharing,” Tom Astley, “The People’s Mixtape: Peer-to-Peer File Sharing without the Internet in Contemporary Cuba”
  • Lecture: Peer-to-Peer Networks, from Pirated Music to Blockchain
  • Discussion: The tradeoffs between centralization and decentralization

Week 10: Streaming (Nov 6)

  • Nov 6: Reading: Michael Schrage, “What Recommenders Are/Why Recommenders Matter”
  • Lecture: From Jennycam to TikTok
  • Discussion: How recommendation systems are transforming the circuit of culture

Nov 10: Assignment 5—Production: Personal Creation on NeoCities

Week 11: The Future of Connection (Nov 13)

  • Watch: Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, dir. Werner Herzog
  • Discussion: Conversation about the film and chance to present your NeoCities site

Nov 17: Final project annotated bibliography

Week 12: Final Presentations (Nov 27)

Nov 27: Final Presentations

Week 13: Final Presentations (Dec 4)

Dec 4: Final presentations
Dec 6: Final webpage due