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Prof. Élika Ortega ||

Prof. Alex Saum-Pascual || 

We are in the midst of a pandemic, trying to learn together #firstdisclaimer

This graduate seminar will explore how certain works of digital art and literature place digital production within a web of material accountability that rejects the binaries implicit in capitalist logic in pursuit of a new type of materiality. Although it may sound counterintuitive, the destruction of natural resources and human life is directly related to the evolution of digital technologies that project a perverse sense of immaterial existence. Rethinking digital materiality calls for a double framework of interpretation; one that looks both at the place of digital works within the web of life (Moore), as well as a new methodological approach that is based on a multi-directional relational logic. This requires not only a new framework to understand a new historical context (the Capitalocene) or new politics to frame digital objects (Haraway’s ontological politics) but also a different type of methodology and language such as Braidotti’s posthuman theory and politics, where new relationships of knowledge emerge from epistemic accountability and transversal ethics. In this seminar we will think with posthuman, environmental and material feminist critics, as we experience and discuss art and literature that exploits the affordances and limitations of the digital web. Particular emphasis will be given to artists working in the Spanish and Portuguese speaking world.

This seminar is taught simultaneously by Prof. Élika Ortega (University of Colorado Boulder, CUB) and Prof. Alex Saum (University of California Berkeley, UCB). Students enrolled in these courses will interact with both professors and students from both universities. Their participation will be carried out both asynchronously (via chat discussion and written responses) and synchronously (during video conference). There will also be a series of online interviews with scholars and art practitioners that will be shared publicly. This class also includes a creative making component, students will engage with materials by producing original works of “digital” “literary” “art”.

Joint Schedule

This schedule is a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities. Classes will not meet for the whole scheduled time slot synchronously. Instead, the 2.5-3 hrs of seminar time, according to each group’s scheduled time, will be spread out among activities (students responses, instructor feedback, and synchronous discussion) following this order:


Assessment Descriptions:


The main challenges of teaching remotely and across institutions in different time zones is building a sense of co-presence for all involved and avoiding a proliferation of platforms and the confusion and burnout they tend to cause. Therefore, a goal of this course (the silver lining to teaching during a pandemic in heavily technologized environments) is to be able to form scholarly communities that do not depend on enrollment and geographical location. To this end, we will forgo institutional platforms like canvas that can be more readily available but impose a series of limitations for interinstitutional work. Instead we will have central “locations” for this joint class that are based on widely used platforms and will be available to all students enrolled at both UCB and CUB.

Software Requirements

This is not a heavily technical class. But you do need access to a few pieces of software.

For general class proceedings you’ll need to use Google Drive, Zoom, and Discord

Additionally, a lot of the creative works we’ll examine use Adobe Flash This is literally the last semester these works can be taught live, as Adobe is discontinuing Flash at the end of 2020, so we must take full advantage of it. Please make sure you have installed Flash on your computer and that you have given the proper permissions on your browser. How to do it varies from browser to browser, but you can find step by step instructions through a simple web search.

We will also use a text editor like Sublime Text Some other softwares we may use speculatively include Google Forms, PPT, Excel, etc.

Reglas de convivencia

Screen names and pronouns: Please share respectful screen names, and we invite you to use pronouns. If participants do not include pronouns, please refer to those participants by their name.

Online video participation: Depending on the circumstances and external environments from which you are joining online classes or meetings, you may or may not be comfortable participating by video. We prefer if you use video for the synchronous sessions, and if video is used, care should be taken with screen backgrounds to ensure they do not include flashing lights or other visuals that can make it hard for some people to participate. Participants should be mindful as well of the background that appears behind them, keeping privacy considerations in mind.

Student interventions: Please mute your microphones during video sessions, unmuting when it’s your time to speak. Please use the raised hand feature in Zoom if you want to speak.

As Zoom chat and Discord participation goes, please remember interventions will have to relate to course content (mostly).

Violations of virtual norms: All participants should be responsible for creating a safe, healthy, inclusive and belonging space for all. Just like in a physical classroom, misconduct in a virtual space may be subject to campus disciplinary action.

CU Boulder students please also refer to official University Policies available in this document.

Class plan

E-lit and Digital Materiality

WEEK 1: AUGUST 24-28

Class intro, tech check, show and tell of DLA, and community building

Nothing due


What’s e-lit and what does materialism have to do with it?

Mandatory reading

Mandatory viewing

Suggested reading

Due: First response *1 page* via google docs by 8am. Describe the importance of materialism for the study of digital media. How does this relate to DLA? Name your document following the prompt : [your institution UCB or CUB]_[your last name]_[week_#]. Eg. UCB_Saum_week_2

WEEK 3: SEPT 7-11. Labor day

Literary and Embodiment : the digital and the book

Mandatory viewing

Suggested reading/browsing:

Due: Second response *1 page* via google docs by Tuesday 8am. Why is the book still important to consider the materiality of DLA? How has the book changed because of digital technologies? Name your document following the prompt : [your institution UCB or CUB]_[your last name]_[week_#]. Eg. UCB_Saum_week_2

CUB students will forgo live discussion this week to observe Labor Day. Please contribute to asynchronous discussion on Discord.

Digital materialities

WEEK 4: SEPT 14-18

Mandatory reading:

Attend online colloquium “Algorithmic Cultures,” organized by the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo, on Sept 17,  7:30am-11am PST


Suggested reading:

Due: Third response *1 page* via google docs by 8am. Think of the materiality and body of the word and explain how this can be exploited for poetic purposes.

[UCB students: In lieu of class mtg, add a short written response to Thursday morning’s talk to your Monday discussion on digital materialities]

WEEK 5: SEPT 21-25

Creative project week

Engage with the materiality of everyday digital tools and platforms in a poetic way. How can you make poetry out of twitter, excel, power point, survey forms, paper and glue, etc.?

Watch and read your professor’s tutorials to get ideas and learn new tricks.

Mandatory viewing:

Suggested reading:

Due: Creative work #1 Due Friday via discord, discussion on the projects will take place next week. Ask Profs about further submission queries if there are doubts about format.

The Digital and the Web of Life (Anthropocene criticism)


Earth and time: digital temporalities

Mandatory reading

Suggested reading

Due: Fourth response *1 page* via google docs by 8am.


History vs Archeologies

Mandatory reading

Mandatory viewing

Suggested reading:

Suggested viewing:

Ruth Hopkins, Dakota/Lakota Sioux writer

How are indigenous communities affected by Trumps’ border wall, and how is coronavirus in some ways a repeat of the transmission of invader’s disease? A widely published columnist with bylines from The Guardian to Teen Vogue, Ruth Hopkins’s lecture will focus on how indigenous spirituality relates to advocacy, and how ancestral voices are speaking to the world through social media.

Presented as a part of BCNM’s Indigenous Technologies initiative and History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series.

Due: Fifth response *1 page* via google docs by 8am.

WEEK 8: OCT 12-OCT 16

Anthropocene vs Capitalocene vs Chthulucene

Mandatory reading

Mandatory viewing

Due: Fifth response *1 page* via google docs by 8am.

New Materialism

WEEK 9: OCT 19-OCT 23

Troubled Materialism

Mandatory viewing

Due: Sixth response *1 page* via google docs by 8am.

WEEK 10: OCT 26-OCT 30

Historical and New Materialism

Mandatory reading

Mandatory viewing

Due: Seventh response *1 page* via google docs by 8am.

WEEK 11: NOV 2-NOV 6

Feminist and indigenous materialism: ontology and beings

 Mandatory reading

Suggested reading

Mandatory viewing:

Suggested/Mandatory viewing

Skawennati, Artist & Co-Director of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace and Skins Workshops in Aboriginal Storytelling in Digital Media

Skawennati is a Mohawk multimedia artist, best known for her online works as well as Machinima that explore contemporary Indigenous cultures, and what indigenous life might look like in futures inspired by science fiction. Her lecture will present the artwork and ideas of the Indigenously-determined research/creation networks she has helped to found, lead and coordinate.

This event is mandatory for UCB students. UCB students will meet on class Zoom after the event 6:30 - 7:00

Due: Eight response *1 page* via google docs by 8am

Posthumanist turn

WEEK 12: NOV 9-NOV 13

Humans, machines and other species

Mandatory reading

Suggested reading

Mandatory viewing

Due: Ninth response *1 page* via google docs by 8am


WEEK 13: NOV 16-NOV 20

Mandatory reading

Suggested Reading

Mandatory viewing

Due: Tenth response *1 page* via google docs by 8am

Making, writing

WEEK 14: NOV 23-NOV 27- Thanksgiving break  

UCB and CUB students will forgo live Zoom discussion to respect Thanksgiving break. All discussion this week will take place on the relevant Discord channels. Students are encouraged to start work on final creative projects and their artists statement.

WEEK 15: NOV 30-DEC 4

Making, writing

Zoom and Discord channels will serve for one on one consultations.

WEEK 16: DEC 7-DEC 11

Making, writing, and sharing

Due Dec 10: share your final creative project and artist statement on Discord by 8am, we’ll meet as a full group to present these materials