Not available in 2021/22
MC439      Half Unit
Media, Technology, and the Body

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Dylan Mulvin PEL 7.01C

Availability

This course is available on the MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and Fudan), MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and UCT), MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and USC), MSc in Media and Communications, MSc in Media and Communications (Data and Society), MSc in Media and Communications (Research), MSc in Media, Communication and Development and MSc in Politics and Communication. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

With permission of the instructor and depending on availability, the course is open as an option to postgraduate students from outside of Media & Communications

Course content

Every day we re-encounter our bodies through the mediations of technology. A sleep tracking app tells you about your bad night’s sleep; your phone tells you which Underground stations are “step-free” but doesn’t know about the broken lift at Victoria station, and it doesn’t know about your knee pain; in the mail you receive some DNA results from a popular ancestry website (it’s not the one that partners with drug companies; but it is the one that partners with law enforcement); your job, your university, and your grocery store ask you to select a race and a gender every time you fill out a form; on your way home your noise-cancelling headphones run out of battery; and adding insult to injury your phone tells you your “screen time” has increased 8% since last week. This class is prompted by such moments, by asking how sites of conflict and breakdown can illuminate the ways our bodies are understood, tested, and reconfigured through technology.

Beginning with the assumption that there is no single, stable understanding of “the normal human body,” this course introduces a wide range of interdisciplinary theories to interrogate human bodies and their relationships to technology. From the measurement of perception, to the micro-analysis of bodily gestures, to the surveillance of bodily functions, to the representation and coding of race, gender, and sexuality, media and communication studies has long interrogated the technologization of human bodies.

In addition to key readings from our field, this course also introduces students to the encounter of body–technology problems from the perspective of science and technology studies, disability studies, surveillance studies, feminist and queer theory, critical design studies, and the history of technology. Through these theories and debates, we will familiarise ourselves with approaches for documenting, describing, and analysing how notions of human bodily similarity and difference are encoded and hardwired in the technologies, media, and environments of everyday life.

Teaching

10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 exercise in the LT.

The formative coursework includes a two-part mapping exercise:

1) Individual students will catalogue sites of conflict and friction between bodies and technologies. They will mark the site on a map and include 500-800 words describing the site and the conflict it produces.  The compilation of these sites will serve as a shared database of techno-bodily conflict;

2) Students will outline how these sites could become research prompts for a larger project and annotate 3 potential sources to analyse a single site.  Annotations should total between 300 and 500 words.

3) Participation will be measured based on the completeness of the above.

Indicative reading

  • Simone Browne, "Branding Blackness: Biometric Technology and the Surveillance of Blackness." In Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness, 88–129: Duke University Press, 2015.
  • Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, "Race and/as Technology, or How to Do Things to Race." In Race after the Internet, 44-66: Routledge, 2013.
  • Sasha Costanza-Chock, “Design Justice, A.I., and Escape from the Matrix of Domination.” Journal of Design and Science (2018).
  • Mack Hagood, "Quiet Comfort: Noise, Otherness, and the Mobile Production of Personal Space." American Quarterly 63, no. 3 (2011): 573–589.
  • Aimi Hamraie, "Normate Template." In Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
  • Georgina Kleege, "Audio description described: Current standards, future innovations, larger implications." Representations 135, no. 1 (2016): 89–101.
  • Lisa Nakamura, “Digital Racial Formations and Networked Images of the Body.” In Digitizing Race: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
  • Anson Rabinbach, "From Idleness to Fatigue." In The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity, 19–44. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.
  • Sarah Sharma, "Dharma at the Desk: Recalibrating the Sedentary Worker." In In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics, 81–107. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.
  • Susan Leigh Star, "Power, Technology and the Phenomenology of Conventions: On Being Allergic to Onions." The Sociological Review, vol. 38, no. S1, 1990, pp. 26-56.

Assessment

Essay (90%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (10%).

1) Based on the mapping exercise undertaken in the formative assessment, and drawing on two theoretical models from the course, undertake a critical analysis of a site of techno-bodily conflict

OR

2) Write an essay from a list of topics that contrasts two approaches to a single problematic of the intersection of bodies and technologies.

Key facts

Department: Media & Communications

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication