Networked media technologies, from the Internet to mobile phones, are reshaping many aspects of daily life, selfhood, and society. While digital and electronic media seem to make the world smaller, ostensibly facilitating global flows of capital, people, goods, and ideas, this course examines how these technologies co-constitute particular kinds of subjects, accommodating some uses and modes of living more than others. Digital platforms and services, for example, are often designed with elite, technically savvy users in mind, yet are taken up transnationally in diverse and unexpected ways. Media, like other technologies, never exist separately from social life as independent agents of change, but instead emerge through contingent histories, material realities, constellations of discourse, and unequal distributions of power. This course introduces students to the anthropology of digital media and culture, drawing on empirical, ethnographic accounts from a variety of theoretical perspectives, including feminist technology studies, actor-network theory, queer theory critiques, new materialisms, postcolonial studies, and social informatics. Topics include space and place online, media publics, new transnationalisms, design anthropology, big data, social networks, virtuality and embodiment, the social construction of users, mobility and disability, and telecommunication infrastructures.
We will consider emerging media practices in cross-cultural and transnational settings to examine the situated contexts of design and use, while asking broadly what consequences these technologies have for our social worlds. This course requires intensive reading and writing, including a final project that can be undertaken in a variety of ways, such as an original ethnographic or creative project exploring an emerging media practice.