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Help! "Aesthetics and Secrets: Wikileaks" Course

 

I am teaching a course in the spring, "Aesthetics and Secrets: Wikileaks," that attempts to think about the the sharing and dissemination of knowledge as an aesthetic practice dependent upon networks. I am overarchingly concerned with the concept of "the secret," who is allowed to have and hold them, under what circumstances or constraints. Admittedly, I think that a secret that forms the "state" is different in value and function from a secret that problematizes marginalizing and oppressive practices often done in the name of the state. So the course is attempting to think through these differences. Here is the description and schedule for next semester: the big problem is that I have no idea what sorta final project my students should construct. I'm pretty much sure i don't want them to write conventional end-of-semester papers; a collaborative group project would be cool, maybe one with a multimeida platform, though I don't know what to suggest ... I also have no idea if I should have film/video, so if you have suggestions, that would be great! also, if you know of any writing/video about Wikileaks that are rigorous...and good, please let me know!

 

Aesthetics and Secrets: Wikileaks

 

Course Goals and Philosophy:

 

This English 26 course will allow you to think about critical engagement of a variety of “text,” to think about analysis of as a mode of academic practice. Regardless of your disciplinary background, the various ways we communicate and withhold information – especially in our information age – are important concerns about aesthetic practice. The major goals of this course is for us to consider the possibilities for holding or disseminating information, to think about who is allowed to have “Secrets” and the production of power when one has such knowledge, such information.

 

How have people told and kept secrets in the past? Or does social media like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and YouTube make this a now impossible act?   Our course will think through the concept of “secrets,” and how they function in literature, video, music and the discourse of the everyday.  We will discuss how secrets are both technologies and ethics.  Wikileaks declares itself a “non-profit media organization dedicated to bringing important information to the public” – secret governmental information, we might say – and our course will consider the relationship of knowledge and publics, of the sharing and withholding of information.  Our course will think historically about different revolutionary moments that have taken place by way of secret and secreted information. 

 

 

 

Assignments:

 

  • Students will be responsible for constructing weekly blog responses to reading materials that build off the theme for that week. These will be due each Monday by 11:59pm.
  • Secretbiography – Students will construct a secret biography using writeboard.com: what information would you share if anonymous about yourself? Constructed as a collaborative project, how can you share secret information? Due February 2, 2012 by 5pm.
  • OTHERS ARE NEEDED!

 

Schedule:

 

Week 1: Introduction: What is a secret?

Wednesday

1/11/12

"Conspiracy as Governance" - Assange; "The Blast Shack"http://bit.ly/w586EV

 

Friday

1/13/12

"US railway blocked phones to quash protest" - Americas - Al Jazeera English http://bit.ly/timk9R; "Prisoner Advocate Elaine Brown on Georgia Prison Strike: 'Repression Breeds Resistance'" - Democracy Nowhttp://bit.ly/tOic6P

 

Week 2: What is the aesthetic?

Wednesday

1/18/12

"The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanichal Reproduction" - Benjamin; "Aesthetics and Anaesthetics" - Buck-Morss

 

Friday

1/20/12

Invisible Man (Introduction) - Ellison; Bedouin Hornbook (excerpts) – Mackey

 

Week 3: Blackness and the Secret

Wednesday

1/25/12

The Gospel Sound: Good News and Bad Times (Ch1) - Heilbut; Narrative (Ch2) - Douglass; Harriet Tubman(excerpts) - Bradford

 

Friday

1/27/12

"Words don't go there" - Moten; "Black Mo'nin'" in In the Break - Moten

 

Week 4: Performance and the Secret

Wednesday

2/1/12

A Spectacular Secret (Ch5) - Goldsby

 

Friday

2/3/12

Bodies in Dissent (Ch2) - Brooks

 

Week 6: Queerness and the Secret

Wednesday

2/8/12

The History of Sexuality: Vol 1 - Foucault

 

Friday

2/10/12

"Queer Temporality and Postmodern Geographies" - Halberstam; “Why does the media still refer to ‘Bradley” Manning?’ The Curious Silence Around a Transgender Hero” http://bit.ly/vRZtzx

 

Week 7: Art and the Secret

Wednesday

2/15/12

"Swamp Sublime: Ecologies of Resistance in the American Plantation Zone" - Allewaert; Maroon Arts - Price and Price

 

Friday

2/17/12

Maroon Communities in South Carolina: A Documentary History - Lockley; Maroon Arts - Price and Price

 

Week 8: Nationhood and the Secret

Wednesday

2/22/12

Diggers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://bit.ly/vHBiip; "The True Levellers Standard Advanced" - Gerrard Winstanley http://bit.ly/soI8y3;"Society Must Be Defended" - Foucault

 

Friday

2/24/12

"The Secret State" - Thompson; "Creating Commons: Divided Governance, Participatory Management, and Struggles Against Enclosure in the University" - Kamola and Meyerhoff;

 

Week 9: Networks

Wednesday

2/29/12

"Tweet This, Deny That: Social Media and the End of Denial" - Weldonhttp://huff.to/v3Ng3F; "The Truth According to Hermes: Theorems on the Secret and Communication" - Galloway

 

Friday

3/2/12

Research Day

 

Wednesday

3/7/12

Spring Break

 

Friday

3/9/12

Spring Break

 

Week 10: The Subject/ivity of the Secret

Wednesday

3/14/12

 

Giving an Account of Oneself - Butler

 

Friday

3/16/12

Giving an Account of Oneself - Butler

 

Week 11: Wikileaks and Performatives

Wednesday

3/21/12

"Lecture I" - How To Do Things With Words - Austin; "Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; 'To destroy this invisible government'" - Bady -http://bit.ly/tYhdmK

 

Friday

3/23/12

"Sovereign Performatives" in Excitable Speech - Butler;" Cablegate One Year Later: How WikiLeaks Has Influenced Foreign Policy, Journalism, and the First Amendment" - Common Dreams http://bit.ly/swNbE9

 

Week 12: Wikileaks and Networks

Wednesday

3/28/12

"Introduction: Rhizome" in A Thousand Plateaus - Deleuze and Guattari

 

Friday

3/30/12

"Introduction: Concrete Is as Concrete Doesn't" in Parables of the Virtual - Massumi

 

Week 13: Wikileaks and the University

Wednesday

4/4/12

"Cables Spilled by WikiLeaks Portray Campuses as Ideological Battlegrounds" - The Chronicle of Higher Education http://bit.ly/sTOgCT;"The Future of the Profession or the Unconditional University" - Jacques Derrida http://bit.ly/uChmU3

 

Friday

4/6/12

"Flow Favorites: Wikileaks’ Lessons For Media Theory and Politics" - Jayson Harsin http://bit.ly/rVCc3e

 

Week 15-16

Wednesday

4/11/12

Research Day

Friday

4/13/12

Research Day

Wednesday

4/18/12

In-Class Presentations

Friday

4/20/12

In-Class Presentations

Wednesday

4/25/12

Course Wrap-Up

Wednesday

5/2/12

Final Due by 5pm

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5 comments

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks so much for the suggestions! I hadn't thought about the movie J Edgar nor the show "Bewitched," but they're both worth engaging. As for the final project, I told them yesterday that I was not certain the direction that the project would take but that it would emerge from our general conversations and discussions throughout the weeks. Certainly, Cathy's way of giving students open-ended possibilities has been useful for their learning, from what I have seen. And you've given me the idea of having them think through issues of anonymity and identity via social networking media, as secrets "take on strange powers and complex meanings" when one person engages all of those different media simultaneously. 

Thanks again!

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was having the students figure out the process by which secret information is secreted. i wanted to use wikileaks as an example of the methods by which information that is sealed off from particular publics is secreted into the publics. wikileaks seeks transparencey of government which necessitates the non-transparence of leakers. i want them to think about that process, if that makes sense. but i felt it would be safer if they did it with their own information and histories. and since wikileaks is a collective, collaborative project, i figured a group investigation would be most beneficial, form as following function through reenactment. 

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anyone have thoughts? or does the course sound corny...lolol

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Hi Ashon

Your course sounds fascinating and I wish I could enroll. As for your question about a final project, do you need to have one in mind before the course begins? If not, in the spirit of Cathy Davidson, at the beginning of the term tell your class that they will have to decide the nature of the final project. Something involving Twitter, Facebook, and other forums and contexts studied by the class where "secret" takes on strange powers and complex meanings might be part of the project. Obviously, you can set deadlines for when the project proposal is due and give them guidelines and guidance for conceiving the project.

As for media, the recent movie J. Edgar is about secrecy and paranoia in the United States. There's also the old TV show Bewitched, which can be interpreted as relating to any number of secret behaviors--communism, homosexuality, witchcraft, etc. It's so ironic that Darren Stevens, husband of the witch, Samantha, is in advertising.

Please keep us updated about the progress your class makes and what you learn.

 

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Secretbiography – Students will construct a secret biography using writeboard.com: what information would you share if anonymous about yourself? Constructed as a collaborative project, how can you share secret information?

Ashon, would you mind talking a bit more about that assignment?

What is the difference between a secret about an anonymous person and a secret about a known person? Do we really share "secrets" about ourselves if we're anonymous? How does someone construct and maintain a truly anonymous, undetectable presence on the internet? How does aesthetics come into play here?

How do you imagine the students collaborating on this assignment?

Thanks for the tip about Writeboard. Have you used it before? Would it be fair to say that it is a comibnation combination of GoogleDocs and a wiki?

 

 

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