Welcome to the "Culture of Collaboration" Writing Seminar
"Of all things the measure is Man, of the things that are, that they are, and of the things that are not, that they are not." Protagoras
"If what each man believes to be true through sensation is true for him - and no man can judge of another's experience better than the man himself, and no man is in a better position to consider whether another's opinion is true or false than the man himself, but...each man is to have his own opinions for himself alone, and all of them are to be right and true - then how, my friend, was Protagoras so wise that he should consider himself worthy to teach others and for huge fees? And how are we so ignorant that we should go to school to him, if each of us is the measure of his own wisdom?" Socrates reply to Protagoras, according to Plato in the Theatetus.
One of the major movements in twentieth century intellectual development has been the creation of, not just social consciousness, but social reality. From the concentration on the individual as having an interior life in such movements as modern art, to the construction of totalized politics such as the mid-century fascist movements, to the social construction implied early by postmodern theory and later by social construction itself. We have increasingly come to rely on each other to make the laws and values of our culture, just as we have come to place greater emphasis on our role as members of a society involved in projects that extend beyond ourselves. In the 21st century, collaboration has ceased to be the subject of theory and has become a practical consideration. On-line universities turn the world into a campus, MMORPGs like World of Warcraft provide fantasy social lives for their players, and Facebook creates social networks that can span great areas and award us opportunities for friendship in a way (and in numbers) never seen before.
In this class we will look at collaboration as a way of making meaning both theoretically and in practice. We will look at critiques of the collaborative spirit and even engage in some collaboration ourselves via on-line collaborative tools. In order to accomplish our goal, we will be reading and watching a number of works of both non-fiction and fiction. Most notably, we will be reading, as primary materials, Walther Benjamin's seminal essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Thomas Kuhn's now famous (or infamous depending on who you ask) work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the novels The Crying of Lot 49 and Pattern Recognition (by Thomas Pynchon and William Gibson respectively). We will also be watching and reading short works concerning the social networking revolution (Facebook, Wikipedia, the Blogosphere). However, this class is not entirely devoted to critiquing collaboration from afar. We will also be using internet based tools to allow us to create master documents on some of our readings-versions that will include all of our notes as a class, allowing us to experience the arguments collaboratively, and to engage in the analysis as a social experience.
Ultimately, as a writing seminar, we will use our concerns to generate writing for the class in the form of three major papers. Discussion of the class materials (texts, films, internet material) will alternate with conferences and writing workshops.