I will take away quite a lot from this course. Before the first session I was unfamiliar with most of the individuals we have been reading and speaking about throughout the course. I had a minimal generic knowledge of the early days of the Internet but did not give much thought to the historical background of the digital technology we take for granted today or the players who were responsible for bringing it to life. I feel that we have covered a lot of territory in this class and it has significantly expanded my way of thinking about digital media. As for the readings, each of the authors brought something different to the discussion but some spoke to me more than others.
I enjoyed Astra Taylor’s writing quite a bit. My favorite chapters in “The People’s Platform” were “For Love or Money” and “The Double Anchor.” Since my presentation was on the “The Double Anchor,” I probably spent the most time with that chapter which may be a reason it has stayed with me. But I also found that he Copyright/Copyleft wars resonated with me because Taylor gave such simple examples, such as that of filmmaker Jem Cohen who speaks of mutual respect between the creator and the receiver and used the wonderful analogy about the farm stand collection box. I also appreciated Taylor’s use of her personal history and anecdotes from her experiences as a film-maker and writer.
I did not find Trebor Shulz’s “Digital Labor” as accessible, although I did enjoy the Ahyan Aytes piece, “Return to the Crowds” and the comparison between the Automaton “Mechanical Turk” and Amazon’s crowdsourcing platform. I agreed with some of the other students in the class that “Free Labor,” by Tiziana Terranova was the most difficult reading to absorb.
As for Fred Turner’s “From Cyberculture to Counter Culture,” I found the history of Stewart Brand, the New Communalists, The Merry Pranksters, the Whole Earth Catalog and The Well very illuminating and valuable in understanding the transformation of computer technology from the military/industrial world to that of counterculture and community. I admit I had never really thought about the link between the hippie culture and the internet and after Turner’s in-depth history of the progression, it all seems so clear that I don’t know how I missed it. While I did feel that Turner often repeated himself, I appreciated his attention to detail.
I really enjoyed this class overall, especially the format of having a different student presenter for each reading. I was not sure at first how that would be but after the first presentation I looked forward to that segment of class each week.
I really enjoyed this class. When I signed up I didn’t know what to expect, however I was pleased to have learned all of the historical background surrounding digital media. Some of the main themes and ideas that I am taking with me are the influences of large corporations and advertisements in digital media and the effects it has on people’s daily lives. Astra’s Taylor’s book shed some light on the inner workings of digital media and what is so wrong with it today. She also shed light on the notion that we should be more cognizant of how our digital use affects the world and us while emphasizing what could transpire if we do not take a bigger stand and make modifications. It started some really interesting and engaging conversations in class about what rights we truly have online, and the concept of power and control.
I will also take away an understanding of the motive behind formulating THE WELL, its self-governing plan and the key players behind the movement that influenced the counterculture of media we see today. Beginning with the way scientists and differing disciplines all collaborated during the war to utilize technology. The way the hippie movement had an influence in the thinking behind John Barlow, and Rheingold’s notion of technology and the online culture. Before this class, I was unaware of the impact of The Communalist, the New Left and the divide that essentially shaped the digital online culture and its progression.
I enjoyed Astra Taylor’s book since I found it to be a bit of an easier read. However Fred Turner’s book really went into depth on the economy and a detailed historical account. His book put things into perspective and I was able to see the bigger picture and understand it. Turner’s book was more challenging, but necessary and helpful in comprehending the course as a whole. The course definitely made me more interested to read more than the one or two books I have read on Marx to connect how those theories correlate with this notion of labor/leisure.
I have mentioned in class that I could never go back to thinking and seeing digital media as I once had before taking this course and I mean that. It truly expanded my thinking on media use, and its influences.