21A.850J / STS.484J The Anthropology of Cybercultures

As taught in: Spring 2009

 A black and white photo of a computer-rendered head projected on a screen.

The Instructor in interaction with Stelarc's Prosthetic Head at the InterAccess Gallery, Toronto, Canada, 29 March 2003. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Clement.)

Level:

Graduate

Instructors:

Prof. Lucy Suchman

Course Description

This course explores a range of contemporary scholarship oriented to the study of 'cybercultures,' with a focus on research inspired by ethnographic and more broadly anthropological perspectives. Taking anthropology as a resource for cultural critique, the course will be organized through a set of readings chosen to illustrate central topics concerning the cultural and material practices that comprise digital technologies. We'll examine social histories of automata and automation; the trope of the 'cyber' and its origins in the emergence of cybernetics during the last century; cybergeographies and politics; robots, agents and humanlike machines; bioinformatics and artificial life; online sociality and the cyborg imaginary; ubiquitous and mobile computing; ethnographies of research and development; and geeks, gamers and hacktivists. We'll close by considering the implications for all of these topics of emerging reconceptualizations of sociomaterial relations, informed by feminist science and technology studies.