AME494 // Engineering Alternative Socioinformatic Spaces

Location: Stauffer B204 /  Matthews Center 240C  

Time: Mondays 4.30-7.15


Garrett Johnson (office hours Tuesday 3pm Matthews 240; Friday 11-3pm iStage, by appointment); Brandon Mechtley (Friday 11-3pm iStage, by appointment)

Description: Cyberpunk and counterculture visions of the internet from early developers and visionaries such as Tim Berners-Lee, virtual-reality pioneer Mark Pesce, and speculative fiction authors such as William Gibson and Neal Stephenson propheted new social spaces and global enlightenment. Prototypical media ecologies such as SRI’s NLS, Pesce’s VRML, etc.  disrupted the centralized mass media hierarchy and yearned instead towards what thinker Felix Guattari called “post-media age in which the media will be reappropriated by a multitude of subject-groups.” While social media networks such as FaceBook and Twitter have become platforms for niche groups, social media by-and-large continues to effect an alienation of individuals.

Failing state protections against the commercialization of digital media spaces, the internet will become increasingly inaccessibile as a free commodity. How can we leverage the ubiquitousness of hardware microcomputers unleashed through the Internet of Things, the so-called Maker Movement, along with the sheer volume of information to bootstrap a different kind of technically mediated social space? One which is not optimized for (corporate profit through) data aggregation and surplus value extraction, but organized by the stakeholders themselves? Recent projects such as Ethereum’s decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) orbit tightly around questions of governance and consensus and propose interesting models for such spaces.

In this seminar-lab, we will split time between different formats. Students will be expected to study and prepare texts related to the course as they would an upper-level undergrad seminar. Instructors will give introductory and intermediate lectures on the programming language Solidity which students will use to write their Ethereum smart contracts. Finally, students will use computational media skills to develop responsive  and interactive socio-technical systems which expressively instantiate transactions.  

Recommended: This intensive course assumes developing proficiency with media languages. This may include languages for mobile development such as Swift and Java (Mac Development for Media Arts, Programming for Media Arts, Programming the Internet of Things) digital-physical systems using Arduino or Raspberry Pi (Digital Physical Systems). Students should have familiarity with experimental design discourse through a class such as Prototyping Dreams, Technical Lives, Media Installations, or Responsive Media Environments. 

Course evaluation:

Research Paper First Draft 5% // 8-10 page research paper. Due Midterm.

Research Paper Final 25% // 8-10 page research paper. Due Exam Week.

Final project 30% // Final projects should intertwine with your papers. Due the final week of class.

Presentation 10% // 20-minute presentation on a particular reading from the semester. Sign-ups at the beginning of semester.

Assignments 10% //

Participation, Attendance // 20%

Tentative schedule:

9/9/19 Internets and Lost Futures

Readings //

Barlow, John Perry. “A Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace.”  

Curtis, Adam. All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. BBC Documentary Film, 2012. Episode one: Love and Power. learning materials.

Glaser, April. “Another Network is Possible,” Logic 8, pp. 155-169, 2019.

Sterling, Bruce. A Short History of the Internet.

Assignment // In groups of one, observe and describe two social systems forms.  

The first should be strictly non-computationally mediated (no forums, facebook group, etc.) The other should be some particular group or social form hosted on a contemporary social media network, video gaming environment, or similar. This could be an interest group, a gaming guild or clan, discord channel, tiktok, etc.    

Consider the following in both networks: manner and styles of communication, decision making and consensus building, authority and power, dimensions of individual/collective/larger than collective, transactions, (self/collective) expression, identity performance, construction, and emergence.

Take as much space as you need to fully describe the social systems (probably at least two pages). You may find including diagramming to be helpful.

9/16/19 Countercultural Computational Aspirations, pt. 1


Readings //

Odell, Jenny. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. Brooklyn: Melville House Press, 2018. Chapter 6.

Turner, Fred. From Counterculture to Cyberculture. University of Chicago Press, 2006. Introduction, Chapters 1 & 3.  

Curtis, Adam. All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace. BBC Documentary Film, 2012. Episode Two. “The Use and Abuse of Vegetal Concepts.”

Extra reading:

Hermosillo, Carmen. “Pandora’s Vox: On Community in Cyberspace.” 

Fuller, Buckminster. Operating Manual to Spaceship Earth. Fuller Institute.

9/23/19 Countercultural Computational Aspirations pt. 2


Readings //

Barbrook, Richard and Andy Cameron. “The Californian Ideology.Mute 1, no. 3 (September  1995).  

Bardini, Thierry. Bootstrapping: Douglas Engelbart, Coevolution, and the Origins of Personal Computing. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2001. Chapters 1 + 6.

Community Networks: Building a Participatory Medium. Communications of the ACM, January 32 no. 1 (1994). community-networks.pdfPreview the document

Extra Reading:

Engelbart, Douglas and Stanford Research Institute. “The Mother of All Demos.”


9/30/19 Guest Seminar: Cody Jones, UChicago, DMWG; “Accelerationism & Xenofeminism”  

Readings  //

Lovecraft, H.P. "Call of Cthulhu." (cw; tw: racism)

Stevens, Wallace. "The Idea of Order at Key West". + poetry guide.

Stevens, Wallace. "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" + poetry guide.

Cuboniks, Laboria. Xenofeminist Manifesto

Goodman, Nelson. Ways of Worldmaking. pg 1-22.

10/7/19- Guest seminar: Will Hallett, NYU; Decolonizing Cyberspaces

Readings  //

Oculus Rift + Facebook. Blog Post Announcing Facebook Horizon.

Mbembe, Achille. "Borders in the Age of Networks"

Ettinger, Bracha. Maternal Subjectivity in the Matrixial Subject.

Pause and Select. Miyazaki, Lineage, and Depth.

Theory, Culture, and Society: Interview with Celia Lury, Luciana Parisia, and Tiziana Terranova.

Winnecot. Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena.Preview the document

A. Bronstein. Numerical Geometry of Non-Rigid Shapes.Preview the document

10/14/19 Fall Break // No Class

10/21/19--  Network Effects? Media, Mediums, and Messages

Readings  //

Network (1976).

10/28/19--  “How Do We Regain Control?”: Algorithmic Governance + Subjectification

Readings  //

Deleuze, Gilles. “Postscript on Societies of Control.

Foucault, Michel. “Technologies of the Self.” Seminar from University of Vermont. 1982.  


Cuck Philosophy. “What are Societies of Control?” YouTube.

Guattari, Felix. “The Three Ecologies.” Translated by Chris Turner. New Formations 8 (Summer 1989).

Assignment // First draft of Papers due.

11/4/19 Cyberpunk, Cypherpunk, and Cryptoanarchism: Technocratic Underbellies  

Readings  //

Gibson, William. “The Gernsback Continuum.” In Sterling, Bruce ed. Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology. TW/CW: mention of sexual assault.

Ursula K. Le Guin. “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction.”

Hugh, Eric. “A Cypherpunk Manifesto.”

May, Tim. “A Cryptoanarchist Manifesto.”


Cuck Philosophy. “The Cultural Importance of Cyberpunk.” YouTube.

11/11/19 - Veteran’s Day // No Class

11/18/19 Virtual Social Spaces: Animation, Expression, and Experiment + IoT: Computers, Computers Everywhere……

Readings  //

Lamarre, Thomas. The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation. 2009. Selections.


Bogost, Ian. “The Internet of Things You Don’t Really Need”, The Atlantic 2015.

Greenfield, Adam. Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing. New Riders 2006.  Chapters 1 + 2.


Philco-Ford Corporation. 1999 AD. Advertising Video, 1967.  

11/25/19 Shannon and Simondon: A Tale of Two Informations Project Studio in iStage

Shannon, Claude. “A Mathematical Theory of Information.” (first two pages)

Simondon, Gilbert. “The Position of the Problem of Ontogenesis.Parrhesia 7 (2006).

Studio in iStage

12/2/19 Project Studio in iStage

Studio in iStage

12/9/19 (4pm-6pm?)

Projects, showing.

Class Expectations

Assignment submissions

All assignments must be submitted in the correct format and place per the assignment instructions, or they will not count for credit. Emailed assignments do not count unless specifically designated.

Electronic Devices

Our computer lab has laptops that are available for check out of any student enrolled in a Digital Culture course with an ASU student ID. You can check one out during class or during any open lab hours as long as they are not being used by another class. Laptops must remain in the classroom during class and in the building otherwise. Please be respectful of your learning and that of your peers and remain on topic during class:

Group work

This course, and life, involves an abundance of collaborative work. All members of the group should contribute equally as best they can, and grades will be assigned individually based on demonstrated contributions to group projects.

Written assignments

Proper grammar, spelling, sentence structure, professionalism, style and other writing skills are important, in this class, in school, and in life. Graded assignments may be marked off if they do not meet college level writing standards. If you, like me, struggle with writing, spelling, or typos, try something like Grammarly, which is available as a free cChrome extension and checks everything you type when you type it.

Studying and Preparation Time

A three-credit course requires 135 hours of student work. This is standard across American universities. Therefore expect to spend approximately 6 hours a week average outside of class preparing and studying for this or any 3-credit course.


Threatening, violent or disruptive conduct will not be tolerated. If any student commits violent, threatening or disruptive acts, he or she will be asked to leave and reported to the appropriate authorities, including ASU Campus Police and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. This applies to any conduct, including both virtual and in-person communication with instructors, TAs, guests, and other colleagues. For more information on ASU’s policy regarding threatening, violent, or disruptive conduct, see

Email Communication

Student responsibilities

As an ASU student, you are required to use your official ASU email address (i.e., for course communications. Messages sent from your personal email account may not be answered due to privacy or delivery concerns. Please make sure you know how to access the account to receive and send mail. For information on setting up aliases or forwarding in Gmail, go to Settings>Accounts or Forwarding.  For more on ASU’s policies on student responsibilities, please see

Response time

Please allow 24-48 hours for an email reply. Emails received after 5:00m on Friday may not be answered until the following Monday. If you do not get a response after 48 hours, please feel free to email again or contact us in person.


Rude, argumentative, threatening, abusive or repetitive emails will not be answered. Please be aware of your “netiquette” in all online communications. For a primer on professional emailing, please read:


Important Dates

Fall Break: October 14 & 15, 2019 - classes excused

Thanksgiving: November 28-29 - classes excused

Course Withdrawal Deadline: Nov 6, 2019

Final project TBD.

Attendance Policy

Students are expected to attend class. In-class work relies on interactions happening in the room and cannot be made up in the event of an unexcused absence. Absences may be excused for religious observance and for university-sanctioned events. Please email us before taking an excused absence under either of these policies. For illness or medical emergency, please contact as soon as possible and be prepared to provide proper documentation. Reasonable accommodations will be made in the event of medical emergency or extended excused absence.

See ASU’s policy on missed classes due to University Sanctioned Activities here: and ASU’s policy on accommodations for religious practices here:

Documentation for Excused Absences and Make-ups

Obligatory fine print description of documentation: in order to excuse an absence, you must provide official documentation electronically that contains a contact name and is from verifiable sources who can detail specifics. All submitted documentation will be checked for authenticity; those who submit false documentation will be sanctioned according to the Student Code of Conduct. All documentation of expected absences must be presented prior to missing the class. Documentation for unexpected absences must be presented promptly after the absence.

Late Assignment Policy

Every student gets an allotment of 7 days total to be spent whenever they deem necessary during the semester, for no late penalty, no questions asked. This means if you forget an assignment and turn it in one day late, you have spent 1 day. If you are sick and you need 2 extra days on an assignment, you have spent 2 days and have 5 left. If you run out of days, you will not be able to turn in anything late. When you need to take late days, make a note on the submission indicating how many days you are taking once you turn in the late work.

The late policy does not apply to any deadlines during the last week of classes as these must be completed on time due to our grading deadlines.

Grading Scale

A+: 97-100%         A:   93-96.9%         A-: 90-92.9%         

B+:  87-89.9%   B:   83-87.9%        B-: 80-82.9%         

C+:  77-79.9%        C:   70-76.9%         

D:   60-69.9%         

E:   0-59.9%

A curve may be applied to scores or assignments at the instructor’s discretion.

The Digital Culture Tutor Center

This is a great resource for DC specific curriculum. It’s also a great way to meet peers and find out what other people are working on.

Current hours and location are maintained on the ASU website. Please stay tuned to emails from Kayla Elizondo regarding changes in the schedule.

ASU Writing Centers 

You will be doing some writing as documentation for your projects this semester. If you find that you need help with this, the ASU writing centers offer in-person and online feedback at any stage of the writing process. Trained tutors can help students specifically with the following:

Tutors work with students to improve and hone their writing skills.  Students are encouraged to bring any assignment instructions, source materials, and printed drafts of their work to their appointment in order to get the most out of the session. Students are encouraged to not only take advantage of this free service, but to utilize it frequently. Call any of ASU’s centers below to book your writing appointment today. You can also access more location or information as well as schedule appointments at

Downtown Phoenix – Post Office L1-34 (602) 496-0354

Polytechnic – Academic Center Building CNTR 160 (480) 727-1452

Tempe – W.P. Carey BA 202A; Undergraduate Academic Services Building UASB 140;

Hassayampa Academic Village Mesquite Hall MSHAL F 124; Palo Verde West PVW 127; and

Sonora SCD H-15 (480) 965-4272

West – Fletcher Library LL2 (602) 543-6169

Online (480) 965-9072


Academic Integrity

Students are expected to follow the Student Code of Conduct and Student Academic Integrity Policy.  

Plagiarism, meaning copying work or ideas from somewhere else without citation, is not permitted, nor is any other form of academic dishonesty in violation of the code of conduct.

Please note that work submitted for assessment in one class may not be submitted in full or in part for assessment in a second class.

Please also note that in working with media, you will likely be using work from someone else in some ways. There is a way to do this legally and ethically. If you’re unsure if you should cite something or not, cite it. If you make the media yourself but it’s not abundantly clear that you did so, you should also cite yourself.

Students must refrain from uploading to any course shell, discussion board, or website used by the course instructor or other course forum, material that is not the student's original work, unless the students first comply with all applicable copyright laws; faculty members reserve the right to delete materials on the grounds of suspected copyright infringement.

Harassment Prohibited

Arizona State University is committed to providing an environment free of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation for the entire university community, including all students, faculty members, staff employees, and guests. ASU expressly prohibits discrimination, harassment, and retaliation by employees, students, contractors, or agents of the university based on any protected status: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and genetic information. Please see ACD-401 "Prohibition Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation" at        

Title IX

Title IX is a federal law that provides that no person be excluded on the basis of sex from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity.  Both Title IX and university policy make clear that sexual violence and harassment based on sex is prohibited. An individual who believes they have been subjected to sexual violence or harassed on the basis of sex can seek support, including counseling and academic support, from the university.  If you or someone you know has been harassed on the basis of sex or sexually assaulted, you can find information and resources at As an employee of ASU, I am a mandated reporter and obligated to report instances of reported or suspected incidences of sexual harassment.


Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact the ASU Disability Resource Center (; Phone: (480) 965-1234; TDD: (480) 965-9000). This is a very important step as accommodations may be difficult to make retroactively.  If you have a letter from their office indicating that you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, in order to assure that you receive your accommodations in a timely manner, please present this documentation no later than the two weeks into the semester so that your needs can be addressed effectively.

Footnote 18

Footnote 18 pertains to Barrett Honors College students. These contracts are formalized arrangements in which the student and faculty negotiate course requirements during the first week of classes. Contracts should be clear and fully detail the expectations of the work. I am happy to offer them - please come talk to me in the first few weeks.


Incompletes are awarded under only very special circumstances and are only considered for students in good standing. Each incomplete is considered on a case-by-case basis to determine the extent to which they are warranted. The “Request for Incomplete” form must be signed and submitted by the instructor to the School of Arts Media + Engineering office for final approval by the School Director.  The incomplete form can be downloaded from the following website: