Week 5

Monday 7/17
Discuss Morrow and EFF readings. Go over legal definitions of obscenity. And think more about how the Internet has changed access to—and even attitudes toward—pornographic material.

Homework: Listen to the Codebreaker episode, “Is It Evil? Internet Porn.” Be prepared to weigh in on the question in the title. As you listen, take notes on parts that you find interesting and be sure to keep track of the time so we can reference them in class. What makes them interesting? Are the sections you note arguments for or against Internet pornography? Pay attention to how the featured guests answer that question—does anyone have a strong yes or no? We’ll try to come to our own conclusions during class, while also thinking about different questions we might ask about Internet pornography beyond good and evil, as Friedrich Nietzsche would put it.


Tuesday 7/18
Discuss Codebreaker episode. Introduction to electronic literature and Dennis Cooper’s blog.

Homework: Read Roxane Gay’s article, “The Blog That Disappeared.” Notice how questions of obscenity and censorship shift when we consider communications that rely on commercial Internet platforms like Google’s Blogger. Why does Roxane Gay describe using Google services as a kind of risk? What sort of relationship do we enter into when we use their services? And how did that become a problem for Dennis Cooper? Now read Casey Michael Henry’s article, “How Dennis Cooper Turns GIFs Into Fiction.” In what way can a collection of GIFs count as literature? You’ll read (if that’s the right term) one of the GIF novels tomorrow, but based on the way Henry describes them, do you expect them to be obscene? If so, how so?


Wednesday 7/19
Discuss Gay and Henry. Look at terms of service agreements. Introduction to Dennis Cooper’s GIF works.

Homework: Read (or view?) Dennis Cooper’s GIF novel Zac’s Freight Elevator. For the best results, follow the directions for downloading the novel to your computer. As you work your way through the chapters, take note of how they’re different from one another. If you had to summarize their content or theme, how would you do it? Make a note of any GIFs you recognize and any of the sequences that you find especially compelling. Also take note of anything you think may count as obscene. Be prepared to discuss why. If you want to see more, you can also find Zac’s Haunted House and Zac’s Control Panel at Kiddiepunk.com. Be aware that those other two include NC-17 material.


Thursday 7/20
Discuss Cooper’s GIF novel, Zac’s Freight Elevator. Apply different tests for determining obscenity while thinking through both the formal and the social issues involved in the work.

Homework: Write or find some text that you might like to use for your GIF poem. It can be anything—a random thought, a line from a book or movie, a lyric, a favorite truism, or even just a handful of words that capture the tone of what you want to create. We’ll use that text to make GIFs. Bring a laptop if you want to follow along using GIPHY.


Friday 7/21
Look at GIPHY’s Loop Dreams exhibit and related press. Reflect on artists’ rights. Discuss how to find, make, and edit GIFs. Prepare for week six.

Homework: Having read about obscenity law, free speech online, and private commercial Internet platforms that we all use for everyday communications, it’s time to write your final blog post. This one should review Zac’s Freight Elevator with a goal of answering the question: is it obscene or is it art? In one way the answer is obvious: the GIF novel has not been found legally obscene and at least one community of readers has recognized it as art. Moving beyond those facts, however, your blog post should consider the law in its ideal sense as systematic protection for our highest social values. Should we consider Cooper’s GIF novel obscene? Why or why not? If it is art, what artistic qualities does it exhibit? Give specific examples. And, how has digital culture forced us to rethink the line between obscenity and art? Be sure to incorporate and link to at least one of the reading’s we’ve discussed this week. And, as always, follow general blogging instructions for our course page. Blog Post #3 due Sunday, July 23 at 11:59pm.