At the final exam, we will exchange written (blogged) responses to each other's term papers, and hold what I trust will be a lively final discussion.
When a virtual society determines that a one member has virtually violated another, is symbolic punishment enough? Words hurt.. bits carry psychological weight... this article was written long before suburban parents worried their teenage daughters would be lured away by instant-messaging strangers...
"A Rape in Cyberspace" The remaining facts tell us a bit more about the inner world of Mr. Bungle, though only perhaps that it wasn't a very cozy place. They tell us that he commenced his assault entirely unprovoked, at or about 10 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. That he began by using his voodoo doll to force one of the room's occupants to sexually service him in a variety of more or less conventional ways. That this victim was exu, a Haitian trickster spirit of indeterminate gender, brown-skinned and wearing an expensive pearl gray suit, top hat, and dark glasses. That exu heaped vicious imprecations on him all the while and that he was soon ejected bodily from the room. That he hid himself away then in his private chambers somewhere on the mansion grounds and continued the attacks without interruption, since the voodoo doll worked just as well at a distance as in proximity. That he turned his attentions now to Moondreamer, a rather pointedly nondescript female character, tall, stout, and brown-haired, forcing her into unwanted liaisons with other individuals present in the room, among them exu, Kropotkin (the well-known radical), and Snugberry (the squirrel). That his actions grew progressively violent. That he made exu eat his/her own pubic hair. That he caused Moondreamer to violate herself with a piece of kitchen cutlery. That his distant laughter echoed evilly in the living room with every successive outrage. That he could not be stopped until at last someone summoned Iggy, a wise and trusted old-timer who brought with him a gun of near wizardly powers, a gun that didn't kill but enveloped its targets in a cage impermeable even to a voodoo doll's powers. That Iggy fired this gun at Mr. Bungle, thwarting the doll at last and silencing the evil, distant laughter.
These particulars, as I said, are unambiguous. But they are far from simple, for the simple reason that every set of facts in virtual reality (or VR, as the locals abbreviate it) is shadowed by a second, complicating set: the "real-life" facts. And while a certain tension invariably buzzes in the gap between the hard, prosaic RL facts and their more fluid, dreamy VR counterparts, the dissonance in the Bungle case is striking. No hideous clowns or trickster spirits appear in the RL version of the incident, no voodoo dolls or wizard guns, indeed no rape at all as any RL court of law has yet defined it. The actors in the drama were university students for the most part, and they sat rather undramatically before computer screens the entire time, their only actions a spidery flitting of fingers across standard QWERTY keyboards. No bodies touched. --Julian Dibbell
Come prepared to talk about how your ideas for your term project have developed over the past few weeks.
Jerz, "The Experimental seduction of mechanistic modernism..." (handout; available online, but I've annotated a printout to emphasize what's important for our purposes)
Jerz, Technology in American Drama (excerpts; handout)
A short poem and a painting inspired by it. A classic multimedia pairing of modernism. Williams, "The Great Figure" & Demuth, "The Figure 5 in Gold"
(See also Commentary on Williams & Demuth)
Catch-up date. We've read a lot of material, so I'm just keeping this day open for further discussion.
I'm not sure why, but this blog isn't displaying permalinks correctly. I'll look into it later tonight.
When must art delight, when must it instruct? Must it do both?
More than two thousand years ago, the Roman poet Horace claimed that literature is "sweet" and "useful." Since then, literature has been traditionally understood, at least in Western cultures, as having the dual purpose of entertaining and educating its audience. Literary texts are constructed in effect as objects of beauty, sources of pleasure and as conveyors of messages and information. While authors often claim no practical purpose for their works, all literature constitutes an attempt at persuasively conveying certain values and ideas. The entertaining and beautiful aspect of literary works acts in reality as part of the appeal and attractiveness which the work tries to attach to the ideas which it seeks to convey. The beauty of literature is therefore a part of its rhetoric, a device intended to strengthen the overall persuasiveness and influence of the work on its audience. While the entertaining aspect of literature may be rather obvious, understanding the ideas or values which a text advances is not always a simple task. Part of the problem is the fact that the ideas of a literary text are almost always presented in indirect or "symbolic" form. --Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, "Understanding Literature"
The bookstore tells me they have six copies of PICK UP AX, which I seem to recall some of you said you had trouble locating. The bookstore plans to return all unsold copies soon, so you should make a point to drop by and pick it up.
Introduction of the "agenda item" blogged disucssion.