MDST110 Electronic Coursebook for Students
Information Technology and Digital Media Studies
Prof. David Golumbia
University of Virginia
Fall 2005
MDST110 main pageMDST110 syllabus

Final Exam Questions

Final Exam Location & Time

Exam Goals and Format

The blue book exam is composed of two essay questions. Your goal is also to write two thoughtful, clear essays that represent your own original thoughts about the issues raised by the class. It may be helpful to plan to write essays that satisify each of the following criteria, each of which will be weighted equally in grading the exam (the same criteria will apply to the final exam for this course):

Exam Questions

On the day of the midterm, you will be presented with three of these questions. You will choose two of the three presented questions and write essays on them of approximately one blue book or less in length. In each case, knowledge of one or more of the required readings will be helpful in answering the question, and reference to the text in your exam is expected. Since the exam is taken without notes, it is expected that these references will be in summary form rather than exact quotations. Nevertheless, you should carefully indicate which text you are referencing in your answer.

Some of these questions require knowledge of secondary or recommended texts as well as required texts. It is possible to answer each question by referring only to required texts, but the recommended text may make possible a more complete answer. You are not expected to do extensive original-source research in answering these questions, but (unless otherwise noted) to use the appropriate texts on the syllabus when answering the questions as well as your class notes. You may, of course, do your own research to fill in specific examples for questions that allow you to pick your own examples (such as Question 1). You should be able to clearly and directly indicate what source you are using in your exam.

  1. Compare and analyze in detail some of the cultural and social functions of one or more computer (digital) games with one or more offline (analog) games.
    ("Computer games" may include any platform, from arcade games to Xbox 360 to PC games.) Choose examples that emphasize the differences and similarities between online and offline games. You may choose to compare games that are almost identical in the online and offline worlds (computer chess and offline chess, for example), or games that are very different (for example, Parchesi and The Sims). Describe each game in enough detail to support your analysis. What conclusions can you draw about the purposes and roles of games in both the online and offline worlds? Why do we play games--as individuals, as a society, as members of one or more cultures? In what ways do online games fulfill or not fulfill these needs? You may discuss sports as a kind of game. You may reflect on the conceptual difference between the digital and the analog as part of your answer.
        - Some offline games you might consider: Trivial Pursuit, Parchesi, Monopoly, football,basketball, poker, chess
        - Some online games you might consider: The Sims, Madden 2006, Call of Duty, Halo, Tony Hawk, Baldur's Gate, Everquest, World of Warcraft, Robotron, Pong, online poker, chess (Deep Blue version, Chessmaster version, etc.)
  2. Discuss and analyze the cultural relationships between gender roles and computing as they are depicated in at least one each (two total) of the following four works: either Prey or Ronin and either Close to the Machine or Life on the Screen.
    You may illustrate your essay with examples from other media, but be sure to discuss your two choices at length. You are allowed (but not required) to include reference to historical figures such as Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and Brenda Laurel and others. You are allowed (but not required) to include material from other media and from the history of computing in your answer, but you must at least discuss your two major works in detail.
  3. Discuss and analyze the way an artistic, media or creative process or product has changed due to the advent of the computer.
    You should choose a major media or creative form, for example: cinema, painting, music, sculpture, architecture, radio, television, etc. You may choose a more specific creative genre, such as "orchestral music," "abstract art," "horror movies," and so on. (You may not choose a game or sport, as these are covered in another question.) Discuss the kinds of tools an artist or creator in one of these fields worked before computers were widespread in that field, and how an artist or creator works today. In what ways has the artist's relationship to the media created changed and remained the same? How does the tool provide the creator with more and/or better tools? Are there any ways in which digital technology limits what the artist or creator can accomplish?
  4. Discuss and define the notion of simulation and explain and analyze in detail one of the ways in which simulation functions in digital media.
    Explain what Baudrillard means by simulation and the simulacra in "The Precession of Simulacra." Do you think Baudrillard is right about the essence of our technology being simulation? Provide examples from contemporary culture to support your view. You may also wish to consider the question of whether simulation might be said to be the "essence" of digital technology, in the way that Heidegger talks about technology having an "essence" in "The Question Concerning Technology." Use examples of simulation in digital technology itself, and in media about computers and digital technology, to illustrate your answer.


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