how to do literary research

  1. What is the difference between a primary source and a secondary source? Should a research paper include primary sources, secondary sources, or both?
  2. What is an example of a nonacademic source and what do you use these nonacademic sources for?
  3. What is the difference between a library catalog and a database? Name some databases relevant to our class.
  4. What is the difference between Chinook and Prospector and Interlibrary Loan?
  5. What is the difference between subject word searching and keyword searching?
  6. What does “peer reviewed article” mean and why do you want to include these sources in your papers?
  7. Which literature-related databases are full text? What IS “full text”? Which database is the most complete and extensive for doing literary research?
  8. When you’re doing an advanced search, what function does the Boolean operator “and” serve?
  9. When you’re doing an advanced search, what function does the Boolean operator “or” serve?
  10. When you’re doing an advanced search, what function does the Boolean operator “not” serve?
  11. When you’re doing an advanced search, what function does the Boolean operator “*” or “?” serve?
  12. When evaluating a source for a research project, what aspects of the source should you consider?
  13. What do you need to do to conduct research on your computer at home/off-campus?

Weapons of Math Destruction small group work

1) What is a predictive model? How does it work in an app or a piece of software? How is racism like a predictive model, according to O’Neill?

2) What are the three elements of a WMD? What, then, is the connection between the reading you did from The Blackbox Society and predictive models in apps/software?

3) Choose an online platform for your group to analyze. Have each member of your group access the platform and compare experiences from one person to another (looking at either search results or targeted advertising). See if you can reverse engineer the predictive model for each person in your group and discuss the underlying assumptions and larger implications of the predictive model.

privacy and security workshop

Please only follow these steps as we go through them in class! I will have explanations and cautions for each step that I will go over.

  1. Open up Firefox; go to and download “Lightbeam”
  2. Now open up Chrome; go to
  3. Other extensions you can download include Privacy Badger, HTTPS everywhere, and AdBlock
  4. Now try downloading and installing Tor Browser. Click Finish once the installation is complete, and Tor will launch for the first time. You’ll be greeted by a settings dialog that is used to control how you connect to the Tor network.
  5. Try these sites::The Hidden Wiki, a community-edited wiki full of site indexes that is one of the oldest link directories on the dark web (http://zqktlwi4fecvo6ri.onion/wiki/index.php/Main_Page; DuckDuckGo, a search engine (https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/); Daniel, a website that hosts a list of over 7,000 .onion address (http://danielas3rtn54uwmofdo3x2bsdifr47huasnmbgqzfrec5ubupvtpid.onion/)
  6. If you want to take your privacy to the next level, you can connect to a VPN before starting the Tor browser. Try either the CU Boulder VPN or the free version of TunnelBear.

small group on Nakamura reading

  1. What’s the problem with a purely biology-based definition of race? (Nakamura 40-41)
  2. What’s the problem with a purely cultural-based definition of race? (Nakamura 42-43)
  3. How is eugenics a technology that tries to deal with race? (Nakamura 44-45)
  4. How is segregation a technology that tries to deal with race? (start at the bottom of Nakamura 45 to 46)
  5. What is the potential benefit to seeing race as technology, in addition to looking at the relation between race and technology? (elaborate on last paragraph 56-57)

lecture notes on Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto”

  • ok! so for the next part of class today, I’d like to spend some time on the historical part of the reading, discussing Donna Haraway’s “cyborg manifesto” since it’s in many ways the founding document of any discussion of gender and especially feminism in relation to cyberspace or digital media
  • Soland brought this up in his presentation last class and I’ve also already touched on Haraway earlier in the semester
  • her essay “The Cyborg Manifesto” is one of the most important essays of the 20th century on the relationship between power, gender, and technology
  • it’s also VERY long and very difficult so I couldn’t assign it for our class; but again, you might have noticed that many of the readings that touch on gender and race invoke Donna Haraway
  • read the first couple paragraphs of “The Cyborg Manifesto”
  • let’s begin with some basic vocabulary
  • cyborg: cybernetic organism
    • term implies a mixture or hyrbid of culture and nature, artificiality and necessity, control and whatever exists outside of human control
    • cyborgs have some autonomy but they are also always aware that their existence can be traced back to, for example, the military industrial complex
    • whatever degree they try to escape control, they must recognize that control is built into them by their very nature
    • we might say that their very nature is contradictory, accidental, ironic
  • Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto not simply an essay – it is a call to action, as in the Communist Manifesto or the Manifesto of Surrealism
    • manifestos are modernist forms and they are usually associated with the avant garde of that period; they are also seen as very macho and masculinist
    • Haraway is well aware that it’s difficult to have a manifesto for something like a cyborg, whose identity is so slippery and difficult to pin down
    • she’s also aware of the problems of manifestos in general, which is why this one is ironic
  • more on irony:
    • irony usually refers to the way in which a linguistic act’s actual meaning is in conflict with its literal meaning
    • because of this conflict, we learn to not take ironic statements very seriously
    • so when Haraway writes that hers is an “ironic political myth” she is referring to a story that we don’t take too seriously, an explanation of origin that we don’t take as a literal truth, or we only take it as a truth insofar as we are willing to admit to some problem with this truth
  • myth
    • a story that explains something, frequently an origin
    • also, a story in which a person or a society BELIEVES
  • “ironic dream of a common language”
    • feminists, here most specifically Adrienne Rich and other second wave feminists from the 1970s (ones advocating for a “goddess” model of feminism – a celebration of femininity), wanted to find a common language that women could speak
    • this language would allow women to speak in one voice, to understand one another perfectly, etc
    • Haraway hopes for such a dream as well, but she hopes for it ironically – why? any guesses?
    • her hope is ironic because the dream of a common language, the dream of becoming goddess, is a dream of origin and original wholeness
    • the world is full of myths of wholeness
      • one such myth is that of Eden, in which Adam and Eve were not subjects and where there was no object
      • they were at one with the world, speaking the language of nature rather than those of humans
      • we also have the Babel story, the Old Testament’s second genesis story
      • in this story, everyone spoke the same language, and everyone could communicate with one another perfectly
      • they accomplished great things but this perfect communication also became the cause of their downfall as they built a tower (Tower of Babel) that challenged god and was struck down, result of which was that from that point on humans speak many languages rather than one
      • any common language now would carry similar problems
  • so, to be clear, this essay is ironic all the way down
    • it is a call to arms for a group (women, cyborgs etc) that has no coherent identity
    • it is a myth that one cannot take seriously
    • it is an attempt to create a common language that must come with a warning label
  • blurring boundaries
  • key point of “The Cyborg Manifesto” is that wholeness and resolution are twin practices designed to deal with the issue of boundaries
    • something that is whole is well-defined, without any open borders that would confuse the self/other or subject/object distinction
    • resolution is the process by which contradictions are resolved into wholes so that there is no longer any contradiction
    • these practices construct external conflicts (the difference between one whole or essential thing and another) and minimize internal contradictions (internal contradictions that would call into question essentialist notions of “whiteness”, “masculinity,” “self”, etc.)
  • these practices of making whole and resolving conflict/contradiction, H argues, are becoming harder and harder to maintain in the late 20th century as the distinction between humans and animals, humans and machines, etc are blurring
  • BLURRING OF DISTINCTION, existing ON the boundaries of any number of things, is the dream and desire of the cyborg and also of many feminists in the era of digital media
  • rather than asserting womanhood, femininity, essentialism, their strategy is to blur
  • the trick for all of us is to think about how this might actually look like online – what would a cyborgian social media platform look like?

small group work on cyberfeminism

1) Quickly review the notes you just took on my lecture introducing you to the work of Donna Haraway.

2) Reread this quote from the entry on “Cyberfeminism”:  “‘Cyberspace does not exist in a vacuum; it is intimately connected to numerous real-world institutions and systems that thrive on gender separation and hierarchy’; cyberfeminism, accordingly, should be a political undertaking committed to creating and maintaining real and virtual places for women in regard to new technologies—such as creating new feminist platforms and resources, including hands-on techno-education for women and working directly with code—while also critically assessing the ‘impact of new technologies on the lives of women and the insidious gendering of technoculture in everyday life'” (108).

3) Now, I’d like you to pick a specific digital media platform or piece of software and try to reimagine it as a specifically feminist platform or piece of software. For example, what would a feminist word processor look like? A feminist videogame? A feminist Canvas/D2L/Blackboard? A feminist search engine? The point here is to think as far outside of the current status quo as possible in order to imagine what could be possible.

Matthew Fuller lecture notes

  • in the last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at how media “mediate” discourse—how media affect what and how we think and write because they affect the way we physically interact with the machine…
  • the essay I had you read by Fuller marks the beginning in media studies of a couple of different branches: software studies, platform studies, and code studies (define)
  • Fuller was really at the fore-front of the software studies movement

Take away points:

  • Software is not neutral – as we learned from McLuhan and Kittler, no tool is neutral and software is no different from any other tool
  • MS Word has, if not an agenda, a limiting effect on our abilities when we use it
  • this effect is not limited to MS Word, but is extended to other software so what Fuller is doing for us is basically demonstrating how you can or should be able to read any piece of software; if you can’t read it (because of nonsensical icons or interfaces or closed source code then that is problematic for Fuller)
  • if we begin at the end of his piece (SHOW QUOTE 1): “Software is too often reduced to being simply a tool for the achievement of pre-existing, neutrally formulated tasks. Culture becomes an engineering problem.”
    • What does it mean that “Culture becomes an engineering problem”? What is the difference between culture and engineering?
    • let’s consider what MS Word is: a word processor
      • what is the difference between saying “word processor” and “typewriter”  or simply “writing”?
      • what does a process do? it standardizes, it “algorithmizes”, it follows a procedure which usually produces the same result
      • it makes writing less a creative act of an autonomous individual and rather a product of a cog in the machine, or of the human-machine interface
    • at issue here is the question of how SOFTARE, not just writing and not just technology in general, structures us and impacts our ability to communicate and to create
  • Standardization:
  • next quote: In word “the work of literary writing and the task of data-entry share the same conceptual and performative environment, as do the journalist and the occasional HTML-coder”
    • this is even more the case because of the interoperability of Word with Excel and other parts of the office suite
  • And so Fuller implies that we have “to discover what kind of user is being imagined” by the creators of the program
    • what he discovers is that the user being imagined is everyone, and so no conceivable function is left out of the program
    • “what this means contemporarily is that the disappearance of the worker is best achieved by the direct subsumption of all their potentiality within the apparatus of the work”
      • with the insane number of commands, toolbars, menus, etc, the worker disappears: far from offering choice and freedom, the numbers of tools limits it, or makes of it simply a step by step process: an algorithm, the very opposite of the creative
    • 140: “a program like Word doesn’t deny autonomous work or the desire for it, but parasitises it, corrals and rides it at the same time as entering into an arrangement of simultaneous recomposition of scope”
      • the program shapes what we do; it does not take away our autonomy per se, but it latches onto it and guides it in a way;
      • we are free to choose from among Word’s many options, but this choice is itself limited and something of a false choice;
      • the number of commands give us the illusion of the limitless but only to hide the limits inherent to the software
  • Interface instead of information:
  • Thus (142) “The user becomes an object, but at a particular position in the hierarchy of the others. The user-object is excluded from the internal transmission of information, and instead allocated representations of this information as interface”
  • F describes the various pictures and words that are used to represent the things we can do in Word
    • What we are never privy to is exactly how these tasks function, or what their exact relationship to one another is
      • anyone who has ever tried to rescue a document from some weird formatting issue knows the nature of this problem
  • the processes are glossed over with familiar icons so we can never actually understand how they work
  • F writes (143): “It should be possible to analyze a piece of software on the basis of procedurally documenting every point which constitutes an event, to record the points at which we move from one state to another or at which boundaries are produced to certain behaviors, not merely within the modes but at every level of the software”
    • it should be possible, but it is not
    • what F is saying is that we should be able to know what will, does, and did happen when we click a certain command
  • unfortunately, we  cannot know this:
  • so, again: What do we get instead of this information, which is deemed unnecessary for us to have?
    • We get the interface, the gloss, the reduction of information or its transformation into something else
  • a key point on interface:
    • 149: “The interface is the threshold between the underlying structure of the program and the user. As a threshold it contains elements of both”
      • in this coming together, the first problem is that “users are conjured up as a class with needs that can be met en masse”
      • in terms of the second problem of the interface: while there are elements of both the user and the machine present in the interface, what is missing is those characteristics that are foreign to one another; for the user, the information is absent, replaced by symbols that gloss it without actually providing any real information; what’s missing of the human is the autonomy of actual creativity, the non-algorimthic
  • In the end, we have to think about the products we are being sold; they are not simply tools in the sense that the hammer is
  • they are more tools in the sense that a gun is; although it does not need to do violence, it is predisposed towards it and if we are not educated in its potential uses then we suffer

small group work on Politics & New Media / Hackers

Politics and New Media:

  1. Why and how (in what specific ways) do people tend to think that the Internet provides the possibility of undermining traditional political institutions, hierarchies, and power relations? To get you thinking ahead to the reading that’s coming up, how do social media sites seem to support this belief and how do they undermine this belief?
  2. What is communicative capitalism and how does it express a skepticism toward the possibility of the power of networks (and, by implication, social networks) to bring about any kind of meaningful social change?
  3. Tactical media use “shifts the aim of politics away from traditional revolutionary aims into a ‘micropolitics of disruption, intervention, and education.'” Go to and choose one tactical media project to look at. Then, discuss the project in terms of the previous quote.
  4. And finally, what exactly does Joss Hands mean by this sentence: “Early notions that the abstract geometry of cyberspace would allow an escape from binary structures and the concrete constraints of power (Haraway 1991) have been challenged by a recognition of the integration of cyberspace and everyday life.” Can you come up with some examples to support what Hands is saying here?


  1. What is a hacker? (just to spell out the obvious: the definition is in the reading)
  2. Who are the heirs of hackers?
  3. What’s the distinction between a hacker who’s a builder and a hacker who’s a breaker?
  4. What is UNIX? Speculate about why it attracts hackers. Also, why are hackers who work on UNIX said to be part of “a recursive public”?
  5. Given this definition, come up with a way in which you have hacked or could hack something, some system, whether computer-based or not. Be creative and keep in mind that hacking does not necessarily have to involve a high degree of expertise in coding!