|Bruce Umbaugh at Webster.edu|
|Philosophy on the Web|
By Bruce Umbaugh
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
It's nice (sometimes) to think that
technology will save us and make the world
perfect. It's nice (sometimes) to think that
we can blame technology for
what's wrong with the world today.
It's nice (sometimes) to think that
technology makes no difference -- that
we can justly ignore it.
Those ways of thinking,
nice though they may be, are
superficial and sadly suspect.
We can -- and should -- do better.
Philosophy and Film -- PHIL 3310.01
Topics in Film -- FILM 3160.04
This course aims at reviewing diverse visions of technology with an eye towards crafting a sensible viewpoint. We will focus on
- the role of television and newer information technologies,
- changes in the character of and control we have over our work and over privacy, and
- the personal and social consequences of adopting or investing oneself in a given technology,
to try to understand
- how technologies embody values, and
- how we might make responsible technological choices.
The course is "Philosophy and Film." We will watch films in class. The movies we view will span more than forty years, present various visions of diverse technologies, and star Katherine Hepburn, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Jim Carrey, Angelina Jolie, and Gene Hackman, among others.
The course is "Philosophy and Film." We will read, reflect, write, and discuss. Readings will all be of relatively recent vintage. Grading based on three short essays, class presentations, and participation. Details below.
Packet of readings prepared by the instructor, available from the Pearson House office.
Week 1 (January 14)
Introduction. Read Andrew Feenberg, "Preface," from Questioning Technology, and Gary T. Marx, "The Case of the Omniscient Organization." (Yeah, I know. This mean students are already behind. We'll deal with the Marx piece in class, though, and it should be easy enough to catch up. Don't worry.)
Week 2 (January 21)
Read Corlann Gee Bush, "Women and the Assessment of Technology," from Machina ex Dea, and Gene I. Rochlin, "Taylorism Redux," from Trapped in the Net.
Week 3 (January 28)
Read Sissela Bok, "Secrecy and Moral Choice," from Secrets: the ethics of concealment and revelation, and Lawrence Lessig, "Privacy," from Code: and other laws of cyberspace.
Week 4 (February 4)
Read Raymond Williams, "Effects of the technology and its uses," and "Alternative technology, alternative uses?" from Television: technology and cultural form.
Week 5 (February 11)
Read Justin Hall, "Howdy, I'm Justin," and "Doug Block," Carl Steadman, "Carl," Julie Petersen, "Frequently Asked Questions about me and the movie," Ellen Ullman, "Out of Time," Peter Ludlow, "How Should We Respond to Exploratory Hacking/Cracking/Phreaking," and The Mentor, "Conscience of a Hacker."
Week 6 (February 18)
Read Majid Yar, "Panoptic Power and the Pathologisation of Vision: Critical Reflections on the Foucauldian Thesis."
Week 7 (February 25)
Read Hakim Bey, "The Temporary Autonomous Zone," and Simon Frith, "Rock and Mass Culture" and "Making Music" from Sound Effects.
Week 8 (March 3)
Read Lester Bangs, "Black Oak Arkansas: Keep the Faith," "My Night of Ecstasy with the J. Geils Band," "From the Cloud of Lester Bangs," from Psychotic Reactions and Carburator Dung, and "Every Song a Hooker," and "Bye Bye Sidney," from A Lester Bangs Reader.
Students will each write two short essays in the course, prepared on their own and outside class. Finished work should be typewritten or word-processed and double-spaced. All written work should be relevant, clear, coherent, grammatically correct, and should show evidence of having been proofread as necessary. The two essays account for forty percent of your grade for the course.
Collegial participation is expected of every student. Much of the class will be taught as a seminar, and that works only if students carry a measure of the burden for making class time worthwhile. I expect you to contribute to your colleagues' education in class discussion and to learn to express your own views and respond to others'. You should discuss the films we watch in light of the themes of the course. Contributions should relate the films to main points of a relevant reading. Finally, they should go beyond restating the reading or situating the film to say something relevant to the course, for example critically analyzing the author's argument, or perhaps showing how the author's claims or concerns are illustrated by films viewed in the class. Your collegial participation is worth thirty percent of your overall grade in the course.
A final examination on the last night of class furnishes opportunities to sum up your thinking about the main threads of our conversation throughout the course and to explicate one particular film in light of a perspective suggested in class. The exam is worth thirty percent of the total grade for the course.
To review that:
- 40% Essays
- 30% Collegial participation
- 30%Final exam
Attendance in class is required, and you would be foolish to blow it off. Class meetings are an occasion for you to learn. All sorts of information will presented in class, including elaboration of the assigned texts. Announcements will be made. Films will be screened. Essays will be assigned, writing on them begun, and advice offered. You are responsible for knowing everything covered in class and for having any additional materials distributed in class. Besides, there is ordinarily a strong correlation between good class attendance and good grades in a class such as this one, not least due to the role of participation in grading. Although I will make myself available to help students outside of class, students who do not attend class meetings should not expect to be rewarded with intensive assistance. Finally, note that I reserve the right to reward students who have attended class faithfully, displayed significant effort, and made important contributions to the class.
Policy on academic dishonesty
You are adults, attending a university. I expect you to behave responsibly. Students in this class are expected to do their own work and not to rely on the work of others. Students are welcome to work with one another to understand the material, but any student plagiarizing, cheating on an exam, aiding another student to cheat, or committing any other act of academic dishonesty will be referred for appropriate disciplinary action. Please consult with me if you have questions in this regard, either about your own work or that of another person.
Philosophy Department home page
The Webster University home page
PHIL 3310.01 / FILM 3160.04
Spring 1, 2004
Pearson House Room 2 W 5:30-9:30 p.m.
RL office: Pearson House basement
phone: 968-7172 (office) or 968-7170 (PHIL office)