Courses / Undergraduate

Fall 2019

  • The Craft of Writing – Film Focus – The Interface

    R1A 005 | CCN: 31531

    Julia Irwin

    Location: Dwinelle 89

    Date and Time: TU, TH 5:00pm - 6:29pm

    4 Units

    The word “interface” suggests the graphical user interfaces (GUIs) of our devices that facilitate human-computer interactions. With the “internet of things” and “metaverse,” we encounter digital technologies whose interfaces become difficult to perceive, as they are designed to seamlessly integrate with both our environments and our bodies. Indeed, our attention to an interface as such may only come into our awareness when a technology stops working. While technological breakdown may seem like the exception rather than the rule these days, interfaces are in fact spaces of extreme tension. In the field of Software Studies, they have been defined as junctures, whether it be a machine-machine or a human-machine coupling, where two incompatible systems with an “asymmetry of powers” meet and exchange information. This course will treat the interface as any such site of exchange between two things that must be made legible to and compatible to one another. We will trace the ways in which interface operations negotiate, consolidate, or distribute various forms of power (e.g., computational, political, environmental). We will ask how interfaces contend with, overcome, or exacerbate asymmetries between phenomenological experience, computational procedures, and geological and other natural processes.

    The semester will begin with a focus on familiar hardware and software interfaces, as well as cultural and artistic representations of them (e.g., as in Minority Report (2002). We will analyze the ways in which digital technologies integrate with the built and natural environment, as well as with users’ (differently abled) bodies. Then, we will expand our focus to look at interfaces at different scales, from the planetary to the cultural, from the bodily to the microscopic. We will read media studies and digital studies scholarship theorizing, for example, the mining of geological substrates, the infrastructural conditions of the internet, the political and social implications of networked culture, phenomenological encounters with digitally rendered images, and manipulations of DNA. Students will learn to analyze visual texts and technical objects, as well as perform close readings of theoretical texts. Through a weekly writing journal and two formal papers, students will learn to write analytically, work with evidence from primary and secondary sources, and develop clear and convincing arguments.