MDST412-1/ENMC481H-1 (Schedule #305RP/3306D)
University of Virginia
Fall 2008
TR 9:30am-11am :: Clemons 322A
Mr. David Golumbia
Office: 449 New Cabell Hall
Fall 2008 Office Hours: M 12:30p-3:30p

Cyberspace, Race, Ethnicity

Cyberspace is most often depicted as an environment in which one can turn away from or avoid the most problematic "real-world" social conditions. This class starts from the presumption that, in fact, such escape is not possible. As such, the course examines the profound and to some extent covert connections between sociocultural representations of race and ethnicity and the formal and material organization of computers and the internet. We will look both directly at computer technology and also at representational media in which cyberspace, race, and ethnicity play determinative roles. We will address questions including the so-called digital divide, the provision of computing resources to people in the global south, racial ideologies, and technoscientific progressivism. We will focus special attention on movies and television programs where cyberspace and race or ethnicity are presented together; among those we will watch are the Terminator films; The Matrix; and Virtuosity. In addition we will read fiction (William Gibson's Neuromancer), graphic novels (Frank Miller's Ronin) and nonfiction that addresses questions of race and cyberspace together. We will also briefly look at some digital media in which race is at issue--especially games (World of Warcraft) and social networking websites (e.g., Facebook and MySpace). Students will write response papers, give oral presentations, and should be prepared to engage in sustained class discussion; a significant part of the grade will be based on a substantial final research paper or project. Restricted to juniors and seniors who have taken a prior Media Studies, English, or American Studies course, or by instructor approval. Under the ENMC481H rubric only, this course can fulfill the second writing requirement.

Required texts (available at UVa Bookstore; used editions are acceptable for all the books in this course)

Media (on reserve in Robertson Media Center; you are responsible for viewing media in its entirety prior to the assigned class)

Reserve texts (in Robertson Media Center)

Texts from the internet

Assignments and Evaluation

Evaluation will be based on written exercises and course participation as follows:


Week-by-Week Syllabus

Week 1. Introduction

Week 2. The Ultimate Computer

Week 3. Ronin

Week 4. Virtuosity

Week 5. Critical Race Theory

Week 6. Social Networking & Advertising

Week 7. Minority Report

Week 8. Reading Period

Week 9. Judgment Day

Week 10. Neuromancer

Week 11. The "Digital Divide"

Week 12. Games

Week 13. The Matrix

Week 14. Thanksgiving Break

Week 15. Summary

Final paper due by final exam time for this course: Weds Dec 10, 2pm. There is no final exam for the course.

Last updated August 25, 2008.