Anthropology 375/575: Abracadabra: Language and Memory in Science and Technology
What's the difference between natural language and mathematics? Between logic and language? Between memory and storage? Between information processing and thinking? Do words do things? Do algorithms have meaning? What's the relationship between technology and thinking, or between remembering and archiving? What does Dracula have to do with all this?
This is lecture and discussion course in the history and social study of science, technology and language. It is eclectic in its scope and variety, but it sticks to the above questions with each shift. Your lives are saturated with "new media"--computer assisted, created, or manipulated images, texts, tools, and practices. Databases, computer languages, interfaces, standards, protocols: what are the contours of this present? How did we get here and how can we reinterpret the past in the midst of the objects, tools and products of computing? Just how "new" are the "new media"?
There are five sections. We begin by reading about new media technologies
-- the various ways in which the computer as a medium dominates our contemporary
world-- and we will return to this subject throughout the semester. Second,
we will look at "ars memoria": systems for organizing and remembering
words and things that emerged in Ancient Greece with Simonides and reached
their apotheosis at the time of the scientific revolution, but did not
exactly disappear. Third, we look at the growth of "universal language"
schemes, scientific taxonomy, and the calculus of Leibniz and Newton.
These schemes, like memory systems, were intended to organize all human
knowledge, or give names to all possible thoughts. Fourth, we follow language
as it becomes an object of study in the nineteenth century, and look at
the "graphic method", the birth of the grammophone, the cinematograph,
and psychoanalysis. Finally, we end by reading Bram Stoker's Dracula;
we investigate memory, recording technologies, science and scientific
language and ask what bodies and blood might have to do with all this.
Requirements are the following:
Assignments happen approximately every two-three weeks, students
will be responsible for assignments varying in length and complexity.
They constitute the bulk of your grade. Mandatory Participation and
attendance will make up the rest.
Required Texts, available at the bookstore:
Also Required is an electronic reserves reader which will be prepared and available by February 1 for download from the library.
From New Media to Old
Jan 14: Introduction: memory, language and technology.
Jan 16: Lev Manovich Language of New Media, pgs 1-26.
Jan 18: Manovich, pgs. 27-61
Jan 21: MLK day, no class.
Jan 23: Francis Yates, The Art of Memory, Chapter 1.
Jan 25: Discussion - New and Old Media, New and Old Memory.
Jan 28: Yates, Chapter 5.
Jan 30: Yates, Chapter 6.
Feb 01: Discussion: What do you remember?
Feb 04: Paul Saenger, The Space Between Words, Chs. 1,15.
Feb 06: Patricia Crain, The Story of A, Chapter 1.
Feb 08: Discussion. Literacy and printing presses, technological determinism vs. social change.
Feb 11: Yates, chs. 10 and 17.
Feb 13: Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think," from The Atlantic
Monthly, July 1945, Volume 176, No. 1; pages 101-108.
Feb 15: TBA (Discussion: Method and Data)
Week 6Film screening: "Memento" Time TBA
Feb 18: Jorges Luis Borges, "Funes, his memory" and "Library
Feb 20: Discussion
Perfect Languages: from tables to algorithms
Feb 22: Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language,
Introduction, Chs. 1, 2, (ch. 5 optional).
Feb 25: Eco, Chapter 4.
Feb 27: Yates, Chapter 8.
Mar 01: Discussion
Mar 04-08: midterm break
Mar 11: Eco, Chapter 14.
Mar 13: Mary M. Slaughter, Universal Languages and Scientific
Taxonomy in the Seventeenth Century, Intro, Ch. 2.
Mar 15: Discussion
Mar 18: Slaughter, Ch. 5; Eco, Ch. 10.
Mar 20: Eco, Ch. 12. Borges, "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins" Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, Chapter 1, Las Meninas. The classical idea of order.
Mar 22: Discussion
Mar 25: Eco Ch. 15.
Mar 27: Martin Davis, The Universal Computer, Ch. 7.
Mar 29: No Class (Begin reading Dracula)
From the Graphic Method to Psychoanalysis
Apr 01: Robert Brain, "Standards and Semiotics"; E.J. Marey:
"Introduction to the The Graphic Method."
Apr 03: Friedrich Kittler, Film, Grammophone, Film, Typewriter, pgs21-50, (which contain short texts by Jean-Marie Guyau and Rainer Maria Rilke.)
Apr 05: Discussion
Apr 08: Sigmund Freud, "The Mystic Writing Pad" and Psychopathology of Everday Life, Chs. 1, 4.
Apr 10: Bram Stoker, Dracula, Chs 1-10.
Apr 12: No Class
Apr 15: Stoker, Chs. 10-15
Apr 17: Stoker, Chs. 15-17
Apr 19: Discussion.
Apr 22: Stoker, Chs. 18-23.
Apr 24: Stoker, Chs. 24-27.
Apr 26: Conclusion, Reprise.
Other Important Information:
Incompletes are not given.
Honor Code issues: For the assignments, group investigation and research
is encouraged, but each assignment must be the student's own work. In
the case of group assignments, division of labor will be up to the students,
and any necessary honor code guidelines will be provided.
Any student with a documented disability needing academic adjustments or accommodations is requested to speak with me during the first two weeks of class. All discussions will remain confidential. Students with disabilities will need to also contact Disability Support Services in the Ley Student Center.
Any student with a disability requiring accommodations in this course is encouraged to contact me after class or during office hours. Additionally, students will need to contact Disability Support Services in the Ley Student Center.
If you have a documented disability that will impact your work in this class, please contact me to discuss your needs. Additionally, you will need to register with the Disability Support Services Office in the Ley Student Center.