Current Issues in Media and Communications Studies: Drones, Driverless Cars, and Data Janitors – IIT 2015

Current Issues in Media & Communications Studies:
Drones, Driverless Cars, and Data Janitors

18690 – COM 380 – 03
IIT Humanities / M. HOGAN
Aug 24, 2015 – Dec 05, 2015


Drones, Driverless Cars, and Data Janitors! This course explores current issues in media and communications studies. Each week we will look at a ‘hot topic’ through theory, popular culture, journalism and the media. The goal of this class is to have you think creatively and critically about media and communications technologies.



1/ Ethics and Politics

Nathan Ensmenger (2007) Computers as Ethical Artifacts

Langdon Winner (1980) Do Artifacts Have Politics? Daedalus, Vol. 109, No. 1, Modern Technology: Problem or Opportunity? (Winter, 1980), pp. 121-136 Published by: The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Rena Bivens (2015) “Under the Hood: The Software in Your Feminist Approach” Feminist Media Studies,  v. 15,  no. 4, pp. 714-717


2/ Surveillance

Nicole S. Cohen (2008) “The Valorization of Surveillance: Towards a Political Economy of Facebook” Democratic Communiqué 22, No. 1, Spring 2008

→ Police Body Cameras

→ DIVORCE YOUR METADATA: A conversation between Laura Poitras and Kate Crawford, DuckDuckGo, Signal, etc.


3/ Selfies and Face Recognition

Paul Frosh (2015) “The Gestural Image: The Selfie, Photography Theory, and Kinesthetic Sociability” International Journal of Communication 9(2015)

→ Selfie City

→ Elizabeth Losh (2015) Beyond Biometrics: Feminist Media Theory Looks at Selfiecity

→ A Civil Rights Leader Has Disguised Herself As Black For Years, Her Parents Say

→ Who Owns your Face?

→ Alise Tifentale and Lev Manovich Selfiecity: Exploring Photography and Self-Fashioning in Social Media


4/ Drones

Lisa Parks (2014) “Media, Hot & Cold: Drones, Infrared Imagery, and Body Heat International Journal of Communication 8 (2014)

Mark Andrejevic (2014) “Drone logic: Distributed, ubiquitous monitoring and the “Big Data” deluge”
*watch at home and take notes.

→ Drone Footage Captures the Shocking Reality of Rainforest Destruction

→ Angry ram takes down a drone… and its owner  


5/ Science

Stacy Alaimo (2011) “Chapter 9 ECOLOGY” In: The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science, Routledge. pp. 100-111.

Sandra Harding (2009) “Postcolonial and feminist philosophies of science and technology: convergences and dissonances.” Postcolonial Studies, Dec 01, 2009; Vol. 12, No. 4, p. 401-421


6/ E-waste and Climate Change

Jennifer Gabrys “five: Media in the Dump” In: Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics

→ Techno-Trash (*optional assignment, 10% – ask me about it)

Margaret Atwood “It’s Not Climate Change — It’s Everything Change”


7/ Content Moderation

Sarah T. Roberts (forthcoming 2015) “Commercial Content Moderation: Digital Laborers’ Dirty Work,”  in The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Class and Culture Online. Noble, S.and Tynes, B. (Eds.). Peter Lang, Digital Formations Series, Steve Jones, Series Editor.

Kate Crawford and Tarleton L. Gillespie (2014) “What is a Flag for? Social Media Reporting Tools and the Vocabulary of Complaint” New Media & Society.

→ Viktor Mayer-Schönberger (2011) “Chapter 1-Failing to Forget the “Drunken Pirate”” (pp 11-18) In Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting

→  This gross website is where all your deleted twerking videos end up

→ Ned Resnikoff (2015) “Invisible data janitors mop up top websites behind the scenes” Al Jazeera

→ Jillian C. York (2015) “The Myth of a Borderless Internet” The Atlantic


8/ Proposals due


9/ Big Data

Rob Kitchin “Big Data, new epistemologies and paradigm shifts” Big Data & Society July–December 2014: 1–5

Kate Crawford, Kate Miltner, Mary L. Gray “Critiquing Big Data: Politics, Ethics, Epistemology” International Journal of Communication (19328036), Jan 01, 2014; Vol. 8, p. 1663-1672

→ Steve Lohr (2014) “For Big-Data Scientists, ‘Janitor Work’ Is Key Hurdle to Insights”

→ Guest Editorial: What’s so big about Big Data? Finding the spaces and perils of Big Data


10/ Algorithms

Nick Seaver (2014) “Knowing algorithms” Media in Transition 8, Cambridge, MA, April 2013 Revised, February 2014

Taina Bucher (2012) “Want to be on the top? Algorithmic power and the threat of invisibility on Facebook.” New Media & Society. 14(7):1164-1180.

Orito, Yohko. (2011) “The counter-control revolution: “silent control” of individuals through dataveillance systems.” Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society 9 (1), 5-19.

Ted Striphas (2015) “Algorithmic culture” European Journal of Cultural Studies 2015, Vol. 18(4-5) 395–412.  

→ Designer Algorithms (assorted links)
→ Cracking the Facebook Code: How does the social media giant decide who and what to put in your feed? Tom Weber conducts a one-month experiment to break the algorithm, discovering 10 of Facebook’s biggest secrets.
→ When Algorithms Discriminate


11/ Quantified Self

James N Gilmore (2015) Everywear: The quantified self and wearable fitness technologies New Media & Society June 1, 2015.

Amelia Abreu (2014) |Quantify Everything: A Dream of a Feminist Data Future”

→ Rob Horning (2012) “Notes on the Data Self” The New Inquiry. February 2.

→ Allison Meier (2015) “Personal Data Surveillance as Modern Portraiture”


12/ Internet of Things

Keller Easterling. 2012. “An Internet of Things”

Phil Howard (2015) Pax Technica *selection coming soon

→ With ‘Internet of Things,’ your fridge will know when milk is low

→ The internet of things – who wins, who loses?


13/ Communicating Infrastructure

Nicole Starosielski “Signal Tracks” Journal of the New Media Caucus

Shannon Mattern (2013) “Infrastructural Tourism” Design Observer

Sean Cubitt, Robert Hassan and Ingrid Volkmer (2011) “Does cloud computing have a silver lining?” Media, Culture & Society 33(1) 149–158

→ Jason Farman 2015 “The Materiality of Locative Media On the Invisible Infrastructure of Mobile Networks”

→ James Glantz (2012) “Power, Pollution and the Internet” New York Times

→ Apple promo video:   

→ Ingrid Burrington The Cloud Is Not the Territory May 20, 2014

→ Seeing Networks: A rough field guide to network infrastructures.

→ Water in the data desert, Bluffdale, UT


14/ Driverless Cars

Bilger, B. (2013) “Auto Correct Has the self-driving car at last arrived?”

John Urry and Margaret Grieco (2012) Chapter 11: “What We do Whilst Driving: Towards the Driverless Cars” Mobilities: New Perspectives on Transport and Society

→ GM Motorama Exhibit 1956

→ Uber riles irate cabbies further with plans to buy 500,000 driverless cars (2015)  

→ Machine ethics: The robot’s dilemma (2015)

→ To Feed Billions, Farms Are About Data as Much as Dirt


15/ Digital Sublime

Sabine LeBel (2012) “Wasting the Future: The Technological Sublime, Communications Technologies, and E-waste” communication +1 Volume 1 Futures of Communication

→ “Technology Is Not Driving Us Apart After All”