Reinventing Humans

Here is the course description for my ENGL 1102 course this spring.

Any suggestions?

In this course, we will examine the commercial viability, social implications, and ethical consequences of posthuman technology that appears in selected science-fiction series.

Our social and cultural critiques of this technology will serve as inspiration for our own inventions to change the way humans interact with each other and with the material world.

During the first half of the semester, students will pitch ideas and designs for a new invention, focused primarily on the advantages to science and business.

During the second half of the semester, students will integrate these inventions into a science-fiction narrative that interrogates the social and ethical consequences of these technological advancements.

In our final reflection on these inventions, we will consider the ways in which these technologies might become a reality.

Dollhouse image courtesy of Bright Lights Film Journal


TechShares Symposium

On December 8th, my students will showcase their capstone projects on collaborative consumption, a rising movement in consumer culture that promotes community, sustainability, and economy, defined by Rachel Botsman in What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.

I asked students to bring collaborative consumption to Georgia Tech’s campus. The college campus is fertile ground for collaborative consumption, and it is a market that has yet to be tapped. Here are a few of their ideas:

  • Nexus Connections: a campus transportation system consisting of solar-powered carts with zipcar-style access (don’t miss the video!)
  • Buzz2Buzz: a campus network for buying, selling, and trading goods
  • Buzz Bikes: a bike-sharing program built from a repository of pre-owned bikes
  • Food for the Forgotten: a volunteer program that redistributes leftover food from GT dining to the homeless population
  • Tech Hubs: collaborative work spaces designed to facilitate group projects (see especially the Google Sketch-Up rendition)

How to Annotate Digital Texts

(Cross-posted on TECHStyle.)

In a recent discussion on “The Real Cost of College Textbooks” in the New York Times, Anya Kamenetz, author of the controversial book DYI U, proposes: “Get Rid of Print and Go Digital.” Kamenetz suggests that professors abandon print textbooks in favor of eBooks and online resources. She asks:

Why should we be content with static, rapidly outdated, heavy print textbooks that can cost community college students as much as their tuition, when professors and students can work together to create dynamic, rich-media learning environments instead using free and open source software tools?”

While her proposal inspired some readers to reflect on new ways of looking at reading material in the classroom, it also caught the attention of staunch traditionalists. Many critics who wrote in response to Kamenetz’s proposal suggest that reading on the computer is characterized by short attention spans and excessive distractions.

Print books, the critics argue, force students to shut off the technology and focus, enabling them to more fully engage in the material object of the book, complete with highlighting, annotating, and tagging the pages directly. One respondent writes:

Paper texts are easier to make notes in and to reference, both critical processes for students. If you want to read throw-away novels, go for the e-text. If you want a tool to use for passing a class and for ongoing use in your educational or professional life, use the traditional technology.”

I agree that what is most important in the college classroom is how students interact and respond to reading material.

However, for the many critics who lamented the loss of the ability to annotate print textbooks, I have a mini-guide to several tools now available, for mostly free, that not only facilitate student-text interaction, but improve upon it. (more…)

Virtual Living

I previously wrote on the idea of my life as a character, i.e. what if I had an author hovering above me, narrating my every thought, sensation, memory, or basically any quality not visibly or audibly expressed. I think of the novel as a technology for reconfiguring the presentation of the individual, and as such, the novel enables me to conceive of additional categories for understanding my life. (more…)