Mediascapes: 19th C. US Railroads, Whole Earth Catalog Cover, The Searchers

Working draft of the course description for my Summer 2015 course at the Humboldt University (Berlin). It will meet on 23 April, 9 May, 30 May, and 6 June. If you're interested in participating please feel welcome to get in touch with me. 

The Times of the Technosphere

Scientists, engineers, policymakers and philosophers have vied with one another to come up with a term that would capture the strange mixture of culture and technology composing our contemporary world. The anthropocene, postmodernism, technoscience, neoliberalism and Gaia are among the nominees for a grand term that describes our current world system. Although another concept or course will not bring an end to these debates, this course is motivated by the belief that we should take part in cooperative efforts to develop styles of reason and forms of life more adequate to this strange new world. In that spirit, this course borrows environmental engineer Peter Haff's concept of the technosphere in an attempt to describe our contemporary modes of existence.  In four block-session seminar meetings we will discuss how technological infrastructures, media networks, and ecological systems interweave to form a technosphere that variously creates, destroys, and transforms conditions for earthly life. In addition to reading texts by authors such as Martin Heidegger, Isabelle Stengers, Peter Sloterdijk, Bruno Latour, and Karen Barad, class participants will undertake practical experiments outside the classroom—such as the use of smart devices (iPhones, tablets, etc.) to track their own movement and physical activity—that generate data and experiences for in-class discussion. Platforms such as blogs, YouTube and Twitter will also be used to expand and supplement classroom discussions.

Lectures will be in English. Readings will be in German and English. English fluency is not necessary for participation. Presentations and homework may be completed in German or English. If you are uncertain about whether or not your English is up to the level required for the course, please feel free to contact the instructor with questions. This course is designed to allow and encourage participation by students of diverse linguistic levels and backgrounds.

All participants in the course (including auditors) must complete at least one in-class presentation or performance. Students seeking to receive credit for their participation must complete a creative work or a critical paper.