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Technology and Cultural Form: A Liquid Reader

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On Liquid Reading

Joanna Zylinska, On Liquid Reading I, 2010


About this reader


This is a ‘liquid reader’, which presents a series of texts that interrogate the notion of ‘technology’ as a specific cultural form. Originally devised as a reader for a course on the MA Digital Media at Goldsmiths, University of London, titled 'Technology and Cultural Form: Debates, Models, Dialogues', by the course tutor Professor Joanna Zylinska in collaboration with her students, this reader is now being made available to the international academic community on an open access, open content and open editing basis. To find out more about how this reader has been put together, read the project description. Key readings for Goldsmiths students are HIGHLIGHTED IN GREEN - just click on the title to read the appropriate text.


The reader as such does not host any texts: instead, it makes use of open Internet data by providing links to the already available external resources. (Many texts are available under the Creative Commons and fair use licenses. However, the open, liquid nature of the reader - and of the Internet itself - does not allow us to constantly control all the links. Please notify us should you wish for any of the links to be removed.)


The reader is divided into three parts. The first part focuses on questions of power, politics and networks. In the context of the relation between technology and power, it looks at issues of surveillance, control and globalisation. The second part explores questions of human and non-human becoming with, or by means of, technology. It looks at Foucault’s notion of technologies of the self and at the more recent work on posthumanism and bioethics. The third part of the reader highlights a more creative engagement with technology. They key opposition that is being tested and contested there is that between ‘media theory’ and ‘media practice’.


About ‘technology’


Both experiential and theoretical developments in the areas of new technologies and new media are calling on us to radically rethink the mainstream understanding of technology as just a tool that can be applied to discrete entities. It seems more productive to envisage instead a mutual co-constitution between the entity that gets designated as ‘the human’ and its technology. In other words, if we think technology beyond its Aristotelian concept of a mere tool, and see it instead as an environment, or a field of dynamic forces, we will arguably have a more interesting and more critical framework for understanding both ourselves and the world of which we are part. This repositioning will also allow us to analyse the political vector of many of these forces, their cultural signification and their material consequences.








1 Surveillance, Power and Control: Technological Modulations

1. Foucault, M. (1975), ‘Panopticism’ in Discipline and Punish, Allen Lane (KEY READING; WEEK 1) See also: Foucault.info website.

2. Cascio, J. (2005) 'The Rise of the Participatory Panopticon', Open the Future

3. The Surveillance Camera Players (KEY MATERIAL; WEEK 1)

4. Curtis, A. (2007) Documentary The Trap: What Happened to Our Dreams of Freedom?, BBC, part I. Search YouTube for more parts and/or for different editions.

5. Coley, R. & Lockwood, D. (eds) (2015) Drone Cultures, special issue of the Culture Machine journal.

6. IOCOSE (2014) ‘Drone Selfies’, Photomediations Machine (KEY MATERIAL; WEEK 1)


2 The Being of Technology: Tool or Environment?

1. Poster, M. (2001) ‘The Being of Technologies’ (pp. 21-28 only) in What’s the Matter with the Internet, University of Minnesota Press (KEY READING; WEEK 2)

2. Poster, Mark (1998), 'What's the matter with the Internet', available at http://www2.cddc.vt.edu/lol/pdf/vpi.pdf 

3. Stiegler, B. (1998) ‘Prometheus’s Liver’ in his Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus, pp. 185-204, Stanford University Press (KEY READING; WEEK 2)

4. (2009) Bernard Stiegler and the Question of Technics, special issue of the journal Transformations

5. Morello, J. (2007) 'e-(re)volution: Zapatistas and the Emancipatory Internet' A Contracorriente Journal of Social History and Literature in Latin America, vol. 4, no. 2, 54-76, available in http://www.ncsu.edu/project/acontracorriente/winter_07/Morello.pdf

6. Kelly, K. (ongoing) The Technium

7. Video clip from No Maps for These Territories (2002): 'William Gibson on technology'


3 Globalisation and Empire

1. Hardt, M. & Negri, A. (2000) Empire, Harvard University Press (KEY READING; WEEK 3; PREFACE & CH. 1.2, 'BIOPOLITICAL PRODUCTION')

2. Terranova, T. (2004) Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age, Ann Arbor: Pluto Press

3. Carr, Nicholas (2010) ‘The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains’, May 24, Wired June.

4. Galloway, A. R., (2004) Protocol, MIT Press.

5. Balakrishnan, G. (ed.) (2003) Debating Empire. London: Verso.

6. Foucault, M. (1975), 'Society Must Be Defended'

7. For a more ‘on the ground’ argument challenging the ‘Global North’ perspective see this essay by Dayo Olopade, 'The End of the "Developing World",' The New York Times, February 28, 2014, (KEY READING; WEEK 3).

8. Please also see this essay by Indian writer and political activist Arundhati Roy, ‘Is There Life After Democracy?’ (2009), Dawn.com, May 7.  


4 Spaces of Flows in the Network Society

1. Castells, M. (2000) ‘The Space of Flows’, in The Rise of the Network Society, Blackwell (KEY READING; WEEK 4)

2. Castells, M. ‘Identity and Change in the Network Society: an Interview with Manuel Castells’

3. Castells, M. 'Information Technology, Globalization and Social Development'

4. Sterling, B. (2007) 'Dispatches from the Hyperlocal Future', Wired 15.07

5. Lovink, G. & Riemens, P, (2011) 'Twelve Theses on Wikileaks', Eurozine (12 July)

6. For a different narrative about London as a global 'space of flows’ see the website ‘9 Important London Black History landmarks’ and watch the included videos (KEY READING/WATCHING; WEEK 4)




5 Life Digitised: the Cyborg and/as the Posthuman

1. Haraway, D. (1991) ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’, Simians, Cyborgs and Women, Free Association Books (KEY READING; WEEK 5)

2. Haraway, D. (2010) 'Staying with the Trouble: Becoming Worldly with Companion Species' (November): Audio Files & PowerPoint Slideshow

3. Video clip from Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004): 'Haraway on anthropomorphisation'

4. Hayles, N. K. (2009) How We Became Posthuman (excerpts)

5. Hall, G. (ed.) (2011) Digitize Me, Visualize Me, Search Me, Open Humanities Press (sections 'Digitize Me' and 'Visualize Me') (KEY READING; WEEK 5)


6 Reading Week


7 Technologies of the Self, or We're All Facebook

1. Foucault, M. (1990) ‘Technologies of the Self’ (excerpt), in L. Martin et al. (eds) Technologies of the Self, Tavistock Books, pp. 16-31 (KEY READING; WEEK 7; scroll down the linked web page to 1988 to access the text)

2. Munster, A. & Murphy, A. (eds) (2009) 'Web 2.0': vol. 14, fibreculture

3. Gopnik, A. (2011) 'The Information: How the Internet Gets Inside Us', The New Yorker (14 February)

4. Deresiewicz, W. (2011) 'Generation Sell', The New York Times, November 12.

5. See a queer/critical art project by Zach Blas, Facial Weaponization Suite (2011-2014)  (KEY MATERIAL, WEEK 7).


8 Nature/Culture and the Question of Bioethics

1. Zylinska, J. (2009) 'Preface' and Ch 1 'Bioethics: Critical Introduction' ‘, in Bioethics in the Age of New Media, The MIT Press. (KEY READING; WEEK 8)

2. Zylinska. J. (ed.) (2011) Bioethics™: Life, Politics, Economics, Open Humanities Press (KEY MATERIAL; WEEK 8, please browse through the whole of this online book)

3. Zylinska, J (2014), Minimal Ethics for the Anthropocene, Open Humanities Press

4. Critical Art Ensemble, 'The Coming of Age of the Flesh Machine'

5. Berger, K. (2006) 'The artist as a mad scientist', Salon (an article about the artist Natalie Jeremijenko)




9 Information Systems and the Body (Case study: new media art)

1. Hall, G. and Zylinska, J. (2002) 'Probings: An Interview with Stelarc', in Zylinska, J. (ed) (2002) The Cyborg Experiments: the Extensions of the Body in the Media Age, Continuum (KEY READING: WEEK 9)

2. N. Katherine Hayles, 'Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers' (KEY READING: WEEK 9)

3. Stelarc: website (KEY MATERIAL: WEEK 9) [Flash required]

4. Stelarc. 'The Body is Obsolete'. Contemporary Arts Media.

5. Critical Art Ensemble, 'The Coming of Age of the Flesh Machine'

6.  0100101110101101.org aka Eva and Franco Mattes (2007- ongoing), 'Synthetic Performances'


10 Everyone Is a Publisher Now: The Book As an Open Medium

1 Adema, J. and Hall, G. (2013) 'The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists' Books and Radical Open Access'. New Formations, volume 78 (1): 138-156. (KEY READING: WEEK 10) 

2. Hall. G. (2010) 'Fluid Notes on Liquid Books' in T. W. Luke and J. W. Hunsinger eds, Putting Knowledge to Work and Letting Information Play: The Center for Digital Discourse and Culture, Center for Digital Discourse and Culture (CDDC) @ Virginia Tech.

3. Hall, G. 'Pirate Philosophy': a special issue of Culture Machine (2009)

4. Hayles, Katherine N. (2003) 'Deeper into the Machine: The Future of Electronic Literature', Culture Machine vol. 5.

5. Kuc, K. (2015) ‘A Curated Object and a Disruptive e-Anarchive’, Photomediations Machine, 24 October. (KEY READING; WEEK 10).

6. Adema, J. (2009) 'Scanners, collectors and aggregators. On the ‘underground movement’ of (pirated) theory text sharing', Open Reflections, 20/09/2009

7. Kelty, C. (2008) Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. Duke University Press.

8. Lessig, L. (2004) Free culture : how big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity. New York : Penguin Press.

9. Manovich, L. (2009), 'How to Follow Global Digital Cultures, or Cultural Analytics for Beginners'

10. Liquid Author (2010) 'Future Books: A Wikipedia Model?', Technology and Cultural Form: A Liquid Reader, Open Humanities Press. 


11 Digital Futures, or Who's Afraid of the Amateur Photographer?

1. Zylinska, J. (2016) ‘Photomediations: An Introduction’ in K. Kuc & J. Zylinska (eds) Photomediations: A Reader (Open Humanities Press). Please read through as much of the book as you can (KEY READING; WEEK 11).

2. Jack, I. (2009) ‘The Unstoppable Rise of the Citizen Cameraman’, The Guardian, 11.04 (KEY READING; WEEK 11).

3. Manovich, L. (2011) 'Inside Photoshop', Computational Culture, November.

4. Gilmor, D. (2006) 'The Decline (and Maybe Demise) of the Professional Photojournalist', Center for Citizen Media Blog



SUPPLEMENT I: LIQUID READING (click on this link to some some pictures)




Carr, Nicholas (2010) ‘The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains’, May 24, Wired June 2010,

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