Impact of New Information Resources: Multimedia and Networks
Class meets: Ann Arbor, F 1-4, course ILS 609; Berkeley, F
10-1, course LIS 296A
Weekly Working Group Meetings: to be arranged
Dr. Howard Besser
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Winter 95 Class Homepage
Newspaper articles discussed in class
Howard's Office Hours
As new technology makes the shift from broadcasting to narrowcasting more
feasible, how will people get their news, culture, and other information? This
course will examine past predictions (Goodbye Gutenberg), currently available
services (Prodigy, America Online, San Francisco Chronicle's The Gate,
Listservers and Newsgroups, Time Magazine, multimedia CD ROMs, etc.), and future delivery
mechanisms (Media Lab's Newspaper of Future, movie delivery to the home,
Over the course of the semester we will try to track the shifting alliances
between the networks, the telecommunications companies, newspapers, and the
entertainment industry. We will focus our attention on a wide variety of
aspects of the changing landscape: technological, public policy, indexing
& access, marketing of services, social, cultural, etc.
We will examine the structure and interaction promoted by the various new
information technologies. What kind of language and discourse are they
Though this course deals extensively with information technology, it is not a
technical course. It is essentially a communications course that examines new
multimedia and networking information systems from a variety of different
social science perspectives: sociology, critical theory, public policy,
communications theory, structuralism, political science, etc. Students will
learn a lot about the new technologies and how they operate, but from the
standpoint of a consumer, regulator, or social analyst rather than the
standpoint of a technician.
This course will be taught simultaneously in Berkeley and Ann Arbor. Using the
latest technologies for distance education, students in both locations will be
able to query the instructor and guest lecturers, and students from both
campuses will hold group discussions and collaborate on projects.
In the past this course has been accompanied by a weekly
lecture series where leading public figures and visionaries addressed the
fundamental issues raised in class. Because of the ambitious technological infrastructure
being planned for this semester, guest lecturers will not be invited until all
the distance learning aspects of the class are working smoothly.
This is an experimental graduate-level course that will present a wide range
of material within the course of the semester. Because such a wide variety of
perspectives will be presented, classroom time may not be devoted to delving
deeply into all the perspectives offered. The insturctor expects that students
will be motivated and self-directed, and will focus on and pursue the topics
and perspectives that interest them the most. We will form working groups that
will meet weekly to look at the material more intensively through a particular
set of lenses (such as critical theory).
Readings will be selected from among the following. You will not be expected
to read all of the following, but you will be exposed to ideas from all of
these in class. In addition, the Working Groups will select readings
appropriate to their focus and perspective.
- Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. New York : Noonday Press, c1972 (1990
- Brand, Stewart. The Media Lab: inventing the future at MIT. New
York: Penguin, 1988.
- Besser, Howard. Assorted Papers
- The Changing Role of Photographic
Collections With the Advent of Digitization Discussion Paper for Working
Group for Digital Image in Curatorial Practice, George Eastman House,
June 4, 1994
- The Information SuperHighway:
Social and Cultural Impact Chapter from
Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of Information,
edited by Jim Brook and Iain Boal, City Lights Books, 1995
- A Clash of Cultures on the Internet
Op Ed piece appearing in San Francisco Chronicle August 25, 1994
- Movies-on-demand May Significantly
Change the Internet From the October 1994 ASIS Bulletin theme issue
on Entertainment Technology and Information Services
- Elements of Consciousness,
(unpublished excerpt from dissertation), Berkeley, 1988
- Besser, Howard. The Changing Museum, in Ching-chih Chen (ed), Information:
The Transformation of Society (Proceedings of the 50th Annual Meeting
of the American Society for Information Science), Medford, NJ: Learned Information,
Inc, 1987, pages 14-19
- Besser, Howard. Poland: the making and unmaking of the news, Berkeley:
Anti-Authoritarian Studies, 1983.
- Besser, Howard. Fast Forward: The Future of Moving Image Collections,
in Gary Handman (ed), Video Collection Management and Development: A Multi-type
Library Perspective, Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1994, pages 411-426
- Besser, Howard. Adding an Image Database to an Existing Library and
Computer Environment: Design and Technical Considerations, in Susan Stone
and Michael Buckland (eds.), Studies in Multimedia (Proceedings of
the 1991 Mid-Year Meeting of the American Society for Information Science),
Medford, NJ: Learned Information, Inc, 1992, pages 31-45
- Besser, Howard. Education as Marketplace, in Robert Muffoletto and
Nancy Knupfer (eds), Computers in Education: Social, Political, and Historical
Perspectives Cresskill, NY: Hampton Press, 1993, pages 37-69
- Birkerts, Sven. The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic
Age. New York: Faber and Faber, 1994.
- Carlsson, Chris. Bad attitude: the Processed World anthology. New
York : Verso, 1990.
- Debord, Guy. Society of the spectacle, Detroit : Black & Red,
- Electronic Frontier Foundation, various
- Gibson, William. Neuromancer, New York: Ace Books, 1984.
- Postman, Neil. Technopoly: the surrender of Culture to Technology,
New York: Knopf, 1992.
- Kroker, Arthur and Michael A. Weinstein. Data Trash: The Theory of the
Virtual Class. New York: St. Martin's, 1994.
- Prichard, Peter. The making of McPaper: the inside story of USA today.
Kansas City : Andrews, McMeel & Parker, 1987.
- Ronell, Avital. The telephone book: technology--schizophrenia--electric
speech, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.
- Sheff, David. Game Over: How Nintendo has enslaved your children, captured
your dollars & zapped the competition & why it has Apple, Sony, &
IBM running scared, New York: Random House,1993.
- Smith, Anthony. Goodbye, Gutenberg: the newspaper revolution of the
1980s, New York : Oxford University Press, 1980.
- Sterling, Bruce. Hacker Crackdown: Law and disorder on the electronic
frontier, New York: Bantam, 1992.
- Zerzan, John and Alice Carnes (eds). Questioning technology : tool,
toy or tyrant?, Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1991.
- Additional readings from:
Examine Multimedia Programs
All students will examine at least one multimedia program. You may substitute
a paper on another subject for your multimedia programs paper,
but you must still examine a multimedia program and be prepared to discuss it
in class. If interested in such a substitution, please discuss with instructor.
Online Information Sources
Students will explore various types of online information resources.
All students must follow a news group and/or listserver for 2 months and be
prepared to discuss their observations with the class. In addition, all students
must spend at least ten hours working with an online service (such as America
Online, Compuserve, or MindVox), and be prepared to discuss these in class
as well. You may substitute a paper on another subject for your online
information sources paper, but you must still examine online sources
and be prepared to discuss them in class. If interested in such a substitution,
please discuss with instructor.
During the course of the semester, all students will
watch at least two science fiction films and report back to the class on their
- One film from the past (1950s or before) to examine whether past visions
of future information technologies have come true:
Metropolis (1927), *Things to Come (1936), Just Imagine
(1930), *Wonderful World of Tomorrow (1939), Time Machine
(1960), War of the Worlds (1953), Charleston (1927, Renoir),
Transatlantic Tunnel (1935), *Woman in the Moon (Lang, 1929),
Aelita (1924), *You Can't Get There From Here: Ephemeral Films
1946-60 (1987), To New Horizons: Ephemeral Films 1931-45 (1987),
Fantastic Planet (1973)
- One modern film that contains visions of future information technologies:
Emphasis on how collective memory/information will be handled, stored,
destroyed: Total Recall (1990), Rollerball (1975), *Farenheit
451 (1967), *1984 (1956, 1984), *Forbidden Planet (1956),
Solaris (1972), Dreamscape (1984), Death Watch (1980),
*Outer Limits (Robert Culp)
Emphasis on how major aspects of society will change due to new information
technologies: They Live (1988), Wild Palms (1993),
Until the End of the World (1991), *Bladerunner (1982),
Brazil (1985), Terminator (1984), *T-2 (1991)
Examination of future societies and capabilities: The Jetsons
(1990), *THX-1138 (1971), *Star Wars Trilogy (1977,
1980, 1983), *2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Born in Flames
(1982), Tron (1982)
- 8% Multimedia Programs (Short) Paper:
Review a multimedia program and analyze it from at least one of the following
perspectives: its language and structure, educational potential, user interface
design, etc. Or you may design a multimedia program. Or you may plan for the
set-up of a multimedia production center. With permission of instructor, you
may substitute a paper on another topic.
- 8% Online Information Sources (Short) Paper:
Discuss your observations of the commercial online services, listservers,
and/or news groups. Compare the news group and/or listserver as an information
source versus the online service. Consider such aspects as: question-answering,
general learning, one-way versus two-way communication, the building of virtual
communities, etc. With permission of instructor, you may substitute a paper
on another topic.
- 40% Term Paper/Project:
Do a term paper or project on some aspect covered in class. This may be a
follow-up to one of your earlier exercises/papers/group discussions. Please
check your proposed topic with the instructor before the middle of the semester.
- 44% Class and Working Group Participation:
Includes class discussions, working groups, participation in online discussions,
questions to outside speakers, interaction with other student presentations,
short assignments, science fiction viewing reports, etc.
Students will divide into working groups to focus their studies during the
course of the semester. The instructor expects that many individual and group
projects will come out of these working groups. These groups will allow for
more in-depth discussions from particular perspectives, and should be
especially helpful in formulating ideas for the final projects. The groups
will also periodically report back to the class as a whole to encourage a
cross-fertilization of perspectives. Each group will consist of students from
both campuses. Group members in each city will hold weekly meetings, and will
periodically communicate with one another using distance learning tools like
CUSeeMe. From time to time, groups will be given class time for discussions.
Each group will start and manage its own electronic communications forum to
discuss relevant topics between face-to-face meetings. The group will choose
subject headings within the forum, periodically purge older messages, and
perform all necessary management functions. Each forum will be open to
students in other groups and (to a limited extent) to the general public.
The following is a sample list of groups likely to form, and the topics they
are likely to discuss. Which of these are actually formed depends upon student
interest, and some of these groups might be combined.
- Creative Arts -- Use of high technology and interactive media in the
visual arts. Changing physical media (film to video to digital media) and
distribution channels (theaters to the home) for media arts. The changing role
of cultural institutions (such as museums) in an age of widespread digital
distribution. Effects of a digital society on creativity (including
Virtual Communities -- How does one-way communication differ from
two-way communication? Is there a difference in information produced for mass
consumption from that produced as part of a helping community? How can
computer networks be used to help bring people together who may not have met
otherwise? What is the nature of new online communities which develop without
any sense of "place"? How will commercialization of networked information
affect virtual communities?
Critical Theory -- Can information be a commodity? How can we extend
an analysis of representation to computer-based communication? What is
the changing nature of discourse in a mediated electronic environment? What is
the relationship between communications, information, and technology? Is there
an ideology to the information age? What is the likely result of the loss of
community spaces (movie theaters, museums, and even department stores) that is
likely to accompany the new "information age"? What is the likely impact of
the disembodiment that will accompany virtual reality and its
descendants? Is the attraction to cutting-edge technologies really a form of
spectacle? How can we apply theories from Lyotard, Baudrillard,
Derrida, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Habermas, Debord, etc. to answer these and other
questions arising from new information technology?
Public Policy -- What is the government's role in relation to
telecommunications and high technology? What kind of projects does (and
should) the government fund? What are the effects of licensing the air waves
as the distinction between television, telephones, and computers begins to
blur? Can government regulation protect the public interest in the battles
between newspapers, broadcasters, the cable companies, the telephone companies,
computer companies and the entertainment industry? What are the issues around
privacy raised by the new information technologies? What about the role of
intellectual property? What issues are raised in the flow of information into
developing countries? What are the pros and cons of privatizing the Internet?
Should Internet access be free?
Future of Publishing -- Will electronic books, online newspapers, and
on-demand news (via phone, cable, or computer) become the major delivery
systems for information? What are the technical, economic, social, and
cultural issues involved in these coming into widespread use? How will these
change the nature of publishing, and how will people use these published
materials in new ways? What are the ethical, preservation, and copyright
issues around digital photography?
Information Retrieval -- What are the issues in networked multimedia
information retrieval? How can one find the desired information somewhere on
the network? What does one need in order to find it (indexing, standards),
retrieve it (coordinating stream data, bandwidth), find the correct portion of
it (scene in a film or paragraph of text), play it (decompression, storage
standards, user interface)? What are the issues involved in creating entities
(such as knowbots) to search the networks for the information we need? How can
we filter through large bodies of information, and what are the consequences of
relying on filters?
Media Views of New Technologies -- How does the contemporary mass media (television, newspapers, magazines) cover the Internet, electronic communication and related issues? What framing devices are used, and why do those frames shift between distopian and utopian views? What is the interplay between the media and popular views (and which influences the other)? What spurs the development of magazines like Wired and Internet World?
Sample Class Subjects
* Personal Communication Devices
* Digital video/audio on Networks, Talk Radio
* Video on Demand to Home
* Interactive Video
* Video Conferencing/Image Telephones
* Motion Picture Browsing (Pickers)
* Networking Superhighway
* Future/Present of Newspapers
* Tailored information, knowbots, artificial intelligence
* Digital Production for Hollywood
* Standards for viewing and exchanging multimedia
* Electronic democracy
* New input devices (visualization, speech recognition)
* Virtual Reality
* Public Policy, Regulatory Issues
* Economics of Large Corporations
* The Changing Information Industry Workplace
* Environmental Impact
* Social Effects
* Media as social change or protest
* Technical Issues
* Standards Issues
* Changing Cinema
* Structure/Language of the interaction
* Recent Commercial Services
* Decentralized Information Sources
* Internet Resources
* Text encoding
* Electronic Art
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