Philosophy of Information and Media
Foundations of Philosophy
PL339 Fall, 2020
Dr. Jeffrey C. Witt | jcwitt [at] loyola [dot] edu | ext. 2947
Philosophy Department 050M
Office Hours: By Appointment Tuesday and Thursday 1-4pm
Today we are living through one of human history's great media shifts, on par with the invention of the written language and the printing press. A shift of this magnitude invites philosophical reflection: both historical and phenomenological reflections on the nature of information and a general examination of the way media affects consciousness. In this course, we will consider the history of media shifts and their impact by looking at thinkers as diverse as Plato and Marshall McLuhan, Immanuel Kant and Ted Nelson. After first tracing the history of the "informational turn", we will then look at the impact of media shifts on the way we think about texts, and the nature of reading and writing. Finally we will look at the social implications of these shifts, considering especially the values of a deliberative democracy and how digital media positively or negatively affect our pursuit of those values.
Gleick, James. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. London: Fourth estate, 2011.
Lessig, Lawrence. Code. New York: Basic Books, 2008.
Sunstein, Cass R. #Republic. Princeton University Press, 2017.
Moodle Readings: All other readings will be made available as Pdfs through Moodle
Annotation Participation (20%): Involvement in the class discussion will be one of the most essential activities of this course. Our small seminar format offers us the chance to do more than simply passively consume what others have written. We have the opportunity to be active participants in this discussion. The opportunity to participate in this discussion will begin asynchronously as we prepare and respond to the readings for each class period. We will be using an "annotation tool" called "hypothes.is" to facilitate this discussion. Please the annotation discussion handout for a description of participation expectations and grading rubric. Our "synchronous" discussion will build off of this discussion and largely revolve around the questions and ideas that have emerged during our asynchronous discussion.
Journal Reflections (5%): Because this is a class about our encounters with information through diverse media forms, and this is something we do everyday, we need to be reflecting critically on our own experience. To help with this reflection, I ask that you keep a small journal (via moodle) where you document the kinds of information you encounter over the semester (in this class and others), the media through which you encountered it, and the various kinds of effects that resulted. While I'm not looking for a specific word count per journal entry, I'm looking for something that is "substantive, interesting, and relevant". I would like to see at least 10 entries spread across at least 10 weeks. But feel free to write as often as you would like.
Information Applied (10%)
Class Presentation (2.5%) and Written Review (7.5%): Working in groups I will ask you to take responsibility for a few different chapters in our course sequence. I'll ask your group to make a presentation of your findings, and then submit a written report.
Digital Edition Review (15%)
Class Presentation (2.5%) and Written Review (12.5%): Working in pairs, I will ask you select an online digital edition and evaluate its use of the digital medium. I will ask you to give a small in class presentation and submit a written review.
Regulation Proposals (15%)
As a final paper, I will ask you to absorb our readings about "Deliberative Democracy", and the effect new and old communications media have on the possibility of "Deliberative Democracy". Then in light of our considerations of various types of social regulation, I will ask you to offer some policy proposals for how to best shape the internet in a way that would further the life and health of a deliberative democracy.
Unit 1 Exam (15%): We will have an exam after our first unit focused around our reading from Gleick
Final Exam (20%): We will have a cumulative final exam covering the material discussed throughout the course of the semester.
Final Grade Distribution
93% A, 90% A-, 88% B+, 83% B, 80 B-, 78% C+, 73% C, 70% C-, 68% D+, 60% D
Honor Code and Plagiarism
Students are expected to follow the university's honor code:
"The Honor Code states that all students of the Loyola Community have been equally entrusted by their peers to conduct themselves honestly on all academic assignments. The Students of this University understand that having collective and individual responsibility for the ethical welfare of their peers exemplifies a commitment to the community. Students who submit materials that are the products of their own minds demonstrate respect for themselves and the community in which they study. All outside resources or information should be clearly acknowledged. If there is any doubt or question regarding the use and documentation of outside sources for academic assignments, your instructor should be consulted. Any violations of the Honor Code will be handled by the Honor Council."
See the honor code for further information. https://www.loyola.edu/academics/honor-code.
Remember that while you have five teachers, I have more than 70 students. Thus, while I'm eager to connect with you, I can do this best by enforcing a few procedure.
For questions about the course, both content and procedure questions, please use our moodle help discussion board. Using this system will help ensure that I see and respond to your email. It will additionally ensure that others who have similar questions can also receive an answer. So, if you send me a direct email about course content and procedure, I will politely ask you to ask it via our moodle "help" discussion board and I will be eager and glad to respond.
For other issues, I will be glad to discuss these with you. But I would ask that you try to use our booking service and reserve a time slot to discuss it with me. We can generally always communicate better when we speak in person and this is an opportunity for me to get to know you better. This also helps me manage my time and provide you with the best response I can. So again, if you send me a direct email, I'll will be glad to discuss it with you, but I will often direct you to the booking system so that we can schedule a chance to talk about the issue.
Zoom Participation and Zoom Recording Policy
During our live Zoom sessions, the expectation is that your video is on, unless there is a reason for it not to be on, such as poor internet connectivity or student concerns about privacy in a shared living or work environment. If there are valid reasons why someone may not be able to participate via video and sound during our Zoom discussion period, please schedule any appointment with me to discuss alternative ways of ensuring attendance and participation.
Class sessions conducted via Zoom may be visually and audio-recorded for later reference by students and approved faculty and staff associated with the class (e.g., Messina instructors and administrator). Students who participate with their video-feeds activated or use a personal image on their Zoom profile acknowledge and agree that their videos and/or profile images will be recorded. If you do not wish to have your video and/or profile image recorded, ensure that your camera is turned off and do not use a personal image on your Zoom profile. Likewise, any students who un-mute their audio during class and participate orally in class agree to have their voices recorded. If you do not wish to have your voice recorded in a class recording, ensure that you have muted your Zoom audio prior to the beginning of class.
**This is a tentative schedule, subject to revision depending on our progress and extenuating circumstances**
I. Philosophy and Leisure
Mon Aug 31 - Introduction.
Wed Sep 02 - McLuhan, The Medium is the Message, Chapter 1, pp. 7-21
Mon Sep 07 - No Class - Labor Day
Wed Sep 09 - Plato, Phaedrus, focus, pp. 12-18 (speech in praise of the lover), pp. 28-30 (criteria of true rhetoric), pp. 32-36 (in defense of speech over the written word); Ong, The Orality of Language, chapter 1, pp. 5-15, focus: p. 78-96, 101-103; Ong, Writing Restructures Consciousness, chapter 4, pp. 77-113; Gleick, The information: a history, a theory, a flood, cc. 1-3, pp. 13-77
Mon Sept 14 - Gleick, The information: a history, a theory, a flood, cc. 4-5
Wed Sept 16 - Gleick, The information: a history, a theory, a flood, cc. 6-7
Mon Sept 21 - Gleick, The information: a history, a theory, a flood, cc. 8-10; Class Presentations
Wed Sept 23 - Gleick, The information: a history, a theory, a flood, cc. 8-10; Class Presentations
Mon Sept 28 - Ilari, What is the Philosophy of Information Today, chapter 2, pp. 28-42, recommended; Ilari, Naturalized Information, chapter 3, pp. 43-53, focus: pp. 1-8
Wed Sept 30 - Exam
Mon Oct 05 - Bush, As We May Think; Nelson, Hyperworld, chapter 0; Nelson, Hypertext, chapter 1; Nelson, Proposal for a universal electronic publishing system and archive, chapter 2; Zundert, Barely Beyond the Book, pp. 83-106
Wed Oct 07 - Landow, Reconfiguring the Text, chapter 3, pp. 70-124, focus: pp. 70-85; Landow, Reconfiguring the Author, chapter 4, pp. 125-143; Barthes, The Death of the Author, pp. 142-148; Foucault, “What is an Author?”, pp. 141-160
Mon Oct 12 - Activity: Hypertext and Digital Editions
Wed Oct 14 - Moretti, The slaughterhouse of literature, pp. 207–227; Ascari, The Dangers of Distant Reading: Reassessing Moretti's Approach to Literary Genres, pp. 1-19; Marche, Literature Is not Data: Against Digital Humanities; Weinberg, Philosophers On GPT-3 (updated with replies by GPT-3); GPT-3, Response to Philosophers 1; GPT-3, Response to Philosophers 2;
Mon Oct 19 - Carr, The Very Image of a Book, Chapter 6, pp. 99-114; Carr, The Juggler's Brain, Chapter 7, pp. 115-143; Birkerts, Hypertext: Of Mouse and Man, chapter 11, pp. 151-164
Wed Oct 21 - Class Presentations
Mon Oct 26 - Class Presentations
Wed Oct 28 - Lessig, Code, cc. 1-2
Mon Nov 02 - Lessig, Code, cc. 3-5
Wed Nov 04 - Lessig, Code, cc. 6-8
Mon Nov 9 - Lessig, Code, cc. 9-10
Wed Nov 11 - Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book 1, c. 6, The social compact; Kant, An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?; Sunstein, The Daily Me - Chapter 1, pp. 1-30; Sunstein, An Analogy and an Ideal - Chapter 2, pp. 31-58; US Supreme Court, Whitney v. California (1927)
Mon Nov 16 - Mill, On Liberty, c. 2; Habermas, Popular Sovereignty as Procedure, pp. 35-65
Wed Nov 18 - Habermas, The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article (1964), pp. 49; Louw, Sites for Making Meaning III: Commercialization and the 'Death of the Public Sphere', chapter 4, pp. 91-103
Mon Nov 23 - Barlow, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace; Shapiro, We have Revolution Now, chapter 1, pp. 3-12; Shapiro, Gaining Control, chapter 3, pp. 25-33; Shapiro, Liebling's Revenge - The Power of Interactivity, chapter 4, pp. 34-43; Shapiro, Masters of our own domains - Personalization of Experience, chapter 5, pp. 44-52;
Wed Nov 27 - [Thanksgiving Break]
Mon Nov 30 - Sunstein, Polarization - Chapter 3, pp. 59-97; Sunstein, Cybercascades - Chapter 4, pp. 98-136
Wed Dec 02 - Roose, Start Here; Roose, One: Wonderland; Roose, Two: Looking Down; Roose, Three: Mirror Image; Roose, Four: Headquarters
Mon Dec 07 - Sunstein, What's Regulation? A Plea - Chapter 7, pp. 176-190; Sunstein, Freedom of Speech - Chapter 8, pp. 191-212; Lessig, Code, c. 12
Wed Dec 09 - Sunstein, Proposals - Chapter 9, pp. 192-213
Friday, December 11th, 1pm - Final Exam