Blog Post

"This Is Your Brain on the Internet": Feedback Welcome!

When we launch our new HASTAC website, we will have a space where wecan invite anyone and everyone teaching a HASTAC-y course to launchsyllabi. I put up my course description for ISIS 120, "This Is YourBrain on the Internet" earlier and have been working with the researchassistant, teaching assistant, and teaching apprentice (Patrick, Katy,and Lindsey) this semester to get this closer to finished. Here's thesyllabus in progress for anyone who might be interested in seeing workin progress. That, after all, is the HASTAC way. We're also delightedfor feedback. Next up: working in the social networking affordancesinto the structure of the class. Facebook? Or as a Facebook friendsuggested this morning: Google Friend Connect? That is the question. Even now, with the clunky affordances of our ancient HASTAC site, Ihope others out there will post their syllabi and even theirsyllabi-in-progress so we can all learn together!


ISIS 120S-01, English 173S-05: ?This is Your Brain on the Internet?
Spring 2009

Prof. Cathy N. Davidson, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of
Interdisciplinary Studies, Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English
Kathleen McClancy, Teaching Assistant, Ph.D. student
Lindsey Andrews, Teaching Apprentice. Ph.D. student

?This is Your Brain on the Internet? is open to any student fascinated by how we come to know the world and how we may or may not know differently in the Information Age. It does not see ?cognition? as divorced from social concerns but as deeply rooted in cultural arrangements, so the second focus on the course will be on new ways that humans interact with one another as friends, business partners, and members of a global information community.

The course is conceived as a trans-disciplinary exploration in which we will consider the deep structure of cognition and community in a digital age. We?ll learn from theoretical and expressive books and articles ranging from neuroscience to films and literature, from various experimental and mainstream films as well as from a range of non-traditional sources (websites, interactive games and virtual environments, new media art exhibits, a backstage tour, conversations with social networking activists and community organizers, demonstrations by performance artists and illusionists, Virtual Reality tours, etc.) We will also learn from engaged collaboration (?collaboration by difference?) with others who have complementary skills, strengths, attitudes, and assumptions. ?This is Your Brain on the Internet? is an educational remix that examines the aesthetic, digital, linguistic, psychological, political, philosophical, computational, ethical, and socio-cultural factors influencing how we know ourselves and our worlds. For students proficient in science or technology, ?This is Your Brain on the Internet? will provide insights into the cultural assumptions that shape the quantitative methods and scientific assumptions of our time. For students in the humanities and social sciences, ?This is Your Brain on the Internet? will examine how the computational capacities that make ours one of the great scientific eras also shape global social and cultural intellectual flows.

This course has a large student-driven component. If you know how to write code, you might lead us in a session on authoring in 3D environments; if you are English major, you might analyze the narrative forms are at work in that authoring; if you are a sociology major, you might use GPS to chart ?weak? and ?strong? ties in our course; if you are pre-law student, you can help us think through issues of intellectual property; if you are pre-med student, you can remind us of global health and environmental concerns facilitated or exacerbated by digital culture. In other words, the issues are so vast that we will draw upon the collective wisdom of the class as well as from many outside sources.

The first half of the course focuses on cognition (?This Is Your Brain?) and the second is more student-driven, project-based, and collaborative (?This Is Your Brain on the Internet?). We will experiment with online environments, games, virtual worlds, and collaborative multimedia digital publication.

Required Reading (in alphabetical order; * denotes books from which we will be reading selections)
Jean-Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Pat Cadigan, Synners
*Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself
*Anna Everett, ed., Learning Race and Ethnicity: Youth and Digital Media (MacArthur
Foundation Digital Media and Learning Series) [selections online]
Temple Grandin, Animals in Translation
*Christopher Kelty, Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software
*Daniel Levitin, This Is Your Brain on Music
Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Jeff Hawkins, On Intelligence
*Tara McPherson, ed., Innovative Uses and Unexpected Outcomes (MacArthur
Foundation Digital Media and Learning Series) [selections online]
*Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations

Two major reports on Digital Youth and Learning have been issued this fall as part of the MacArthur Foundation's Initiative on Digital Media and Learning. We will be referring to the information and analysis in these reports often (both are available on line). These are:Pew Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Survey: Read the survey (PDF) »

Digital Youth Project, "Living and Learning with New Media." Living and Learning with New Media is available as an executive summary, a white paper, or a full research report, now available online and forthcoming as a book from MIT Press. Press release, video interviews, and additional information about the study can be found on MacArthur?s website.


Class Schedule: Overview
Readings must be completed and blogged about before the class session in which they will be discussed. Most class sessions will also have student leaders who will have been responsible for reading all the blog postings before the class and who will help direct class participation.

In the second half of the course, Wednesdays will be devoted to the collaborative group presentations. There will be a number of opportunities for in-class planning discussions, with the three instructors available to give guidance. On the Monday before each collaborative presentation, the group will give the class online reading/viewing/listening assignments to help prepare us for the presentation.

Class Schedule

Wed Jan 7 Introduction to the course readings, requirements, and syllabus. Discuss logistics for film screening on January 12.

Two in-class experiments in attention and cognition
(1) The Rheingold Experiment?record on blog, discuss
(2) Locked-in Syndrome Experiment?partner will record this on your blog

Mon Jan 12 Jean-Dominque Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Also: Schedule student discussion leaders?sign-up sheet

[?? 7:00 pm] Film screening of Julian Schnabel?s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly --time and place tbd

Wed Jan 14 Discussion of movie and book.
Student discussion leaders: ______________________

[Mon Jan 19--MLK HOLIDAY No class]

Wed Jan 21 Reading, Daniel Levitin, This Is Your Brain on Music, and TENTATIVE FIELD TRIP: Thinking Without Words. Shen Wei Dance Residency

The brilliant MacArthur-winning Shen Wei Dance company will have an unprecedented two-week residency here. If we are able, our class will visit them as they plan their performance to see non-Internet forms of "collaboration by difference" which have been key to the performative arts for centuries and in multiple national traditions.

Required: We will also go to the performance of their new work as a class.


Mon Jan 26 Levitin, This Is Your Brain On Music (Chapters )
Student discussion leaders:________

Wed Jan 28 Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself (Chapters 1-5)
Student discussion leaders:____________

Mon Feb 2 Doidge , Continued
Student discussion leaders: ¬________________

Wed Feb 4 Temple Grandin, Animals in Translation (all)
Student Discussion Leader(s): ____________

Mon Feb 9 Michael Haddon The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
Student Discussion Leader(s): ____________

Wed Feb 11 Haddon and retrospective of first half of the course.

Mon Feb 16 -- In-class MIDTERM [See ?Course Requirements,? below, for further information]

Wed Feb 18---FIELD TRIP: BACKSTAGE at Reynolds Theater, a guided tour with TA Kathleen McClancy Purpose: Putting on a performance or a play requires the model of ?collaboration by difference? that we will be discussing in the second part of the course, where each person has a highly specialized and distinctive contribution to a goal. The purpose of the field trip will to talk about the individual and the collective roles and how they relate to one another.

PART II: This Is Your Brain on the Internet

Mon Feb 23 Jeff Hawkins, On Intelligence (excerpts). Second half of the class: collaboration working groups form
Student discussion leaders:_____________

Wed Feb 25 Jeff Hawkins, On Intelligence [cont.] Second half of the class: collaborative working groups form
Student discussion leaders: ________________

Mon Mar 2 Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody

Guest: Dr. Tony O'Driscoll is a Professor of the Practice at Duke University?sFuqua School of Business. His current research focuses on how emergingtechnologies like virtual worlds can rapidly disrupt existing industrystructure and business models. Professor O'Driscoll's research has been published in leading academic journals such as Management Information Sciences Quarterly, the Journal of Management Information Systems and the Journal of Product Innovation Management. He has also written for respected professional journals, including Harvard Business Review, Strategy and Business, Supply Chain Management Review and Chief Learning Officer Magazine. He has been a keynote speaker, workshop leader, moderator,speaker and panelist at over 100 national and internationalconferences. He also frequently provides expert analysis and interviewsto media outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Virtual Worlds News, Chief Learning Officer magazine, Wired magazine, Training magazine and for industry analysts like Gartner and Forrester.

Wed Mar 4 Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody Second half of the class: collaborative working group meeting.
[Discussion continued by Katy and/or Lindsey]
Student Discussion leaders:-________
SPRING BREAK Friday March 6-Monday March 16

Mon Mar 16 MacArthur Foundation and Pew Reports on how kids use games, online social networking sites, and other interactive media [online]
Student discussion leaders:______________
[Online Assignments to prepare us for our first presentation?]

Wed Mar 18 Collaborative Student Project Presentation

Mon Mar 23 Christopher Kelty, Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Chapters 1-5)
Student discussion leaders: _____________
[Online Assignments to prepare us for our next presentation?]

Wed Mar 25 Collaborative Project

Mon Mar 30 Christopher Kelty, Two Bits (continued)
Student discussion leaders:______________
[Online Assignments to prepare us for our next presentation?]

Wed Apr 1 Collaborative project

Mon Apr 6 Anna Everett, Learning Race and Ethnicity: Youth and Digital Media
[online; excerpts]
Student discussion leaders: _____________
[Online Assignments to prepare us for our next presentation?]

Wed Apr 8 Collaborative Project

Mon Apr 13 Due in Class Today: 1-Page Abstract of Final Paper
Anne Balsamo and Steve Anderson, ?Pedagogy for Original Synners,? in Tara McPherson,
Innovative Uses and Unintended Consequences [online]
Student discussion leaders: ______________

Wed, April 15 Overview of the Course

Mon April 20?Epilogue: This is the Internet On Your Brain. (Science Fictions of the
Future Past)
Pat Cadigan, Synners (1991) Discussion led by Kathleen McClancy and Lindsey
Student discussion leaders:_________

Wed April 22? Synners, continued. Last class and wrap up
Student discussion leaders:______________

April 23-26 Undergrad Reading Period; Instructors McClancy and Andrews will be hold office hours to consult on final essay.

April 27 Final Essay due

Course requirements:
(1) Public Blogs:
Students will post weekly (approximately 300-500 words) on the assigned readings and in-class and out-of-class projects, with the posts available to the class before the discussion date. Some of these posts will be shared with a larger public and at least one must be converted into a public multimedia presentation. Our class will have a dedicated ?This is Your Brain on the Internet? space on the HASTAC website and a group on Facebook, Ning, or another social networking site. Our class will be joined online by a class taught by Professor Howard Rheingold at Stanford and a class taught by Professor Eric Wertheimer at Arizona State University. Our class will also be contributing regularly to the HASTAC Scholar forums at [15% of grade]

(2) Public Knowledge:
Students will also be expected to contribute to public knowledge through editing Wikipedia entries or by contributing to online collaborative book projects such as Christopher Kelty?s Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software and the Internet, Siva Vaidhyanathan?s The Googlization of Everything, or Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg?s The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. (The last three are all available on line on interactive sites that accept feedback and comments.), or by contributing to Professor Rheingold?s Social Media Classroom or other online collaborative efforts. [5% of grade]

(3) Midterm exam: February 16
In-class essay exams. 4 or 5 short answer essay questions based on the reading, class discussion, and other class experiences. May use your books, notes, and any online resources you wish while writing the exam. [20% of grade]

(4) Collaborative Project:
Students will work in groups of three to five (depending on class size) to produce some kind of collaborative, online final project on Web 2.0, social networking, collaboration by difference, online interactivity and or another aspect of digital thinking. Approximately 20 minute formal presentation plus an online archive plus leading the class in discussion of the issues raised by the project and the collaborative process. Projects must be approved in advance. Group will assign appropriate online readings to the rest of the class by the Monday before the class presentation.
Evaluation: Assessing the success of the collaborative projects will also be a collaborative effort. All students in the class will be required to fill out a Survey Monkey assessment form giving feedback about the presentation and rating the overall success of the presentation. The grade for the presentation will be determined by compiling and comparing these ratings and comments, plus evaluation from the three instructors. All students in a collaborative group will receive the same grade for the project. It is the group?s job to ensure that everyone contributes. [20% of grade]

(5) Final Exam: Due April 27
Out-of-class essay. May use any resources. 5-7 pages of text plus (optional) multimedia supplements. Abstract must be approved in advance by Monday, April 13. [5% of grade] It is assumed this will be a single-author paper but I will entertain abstracts that make a case for collaboration; for collaborative projects, all participants will receive the same final grade. Topic may address the implications of the group presentation or take off in a different direction from that presentation. Final paper due: Monday, April 27 (first day of exam period). [15% of grade].

(6) Seminar Participation:
Class attendance is mandatory. You are expected to attend every class. More than two absences will result in a lowering of your participation grade. This is a collaborative class about collaboration and cognition, and requires class attendance, online communication outside of class via blogging and social networking sites, reading and blogging in advance of class, contributing energetically and considerately to the class discussion, serving as student discussion leader for one class, and an in-class collaborative presentation. Your participation in this class is extremely important.
[20% of grade]

Statement on Academic Integrity:
Intellectual property will be an ongoing concern in this class. What is mashup culture? What is theft? What is plagiarism? These are issues we will address. At the same time, developing your own vision and voice (individually and collectively) are another key aspect of our course. Plagiarism is not only a violation of someone else?s intellectual property but is also a sign that you have failed to create your own voice and, accordingly, will result in an automatic failing grade (a 0%) on the relevant assignment. Unattributed quotations or paraphrases of any sources constitute plagiarism. Plagiarism is also submitting someone else?s work as your own, without credit and citation. If your project or final paper is based on mashup, you must include credits for all the original source material. If you have any questions whatsoever about whether or not your work is a plagiarism, please consult with one of the course instructors in advance of submitting your work. Duke has an honor code so plagiarism violations will also be submitted to the University for due process.



Special thanks to Flickr community member "Ocean Flynn" for this image of creativity among the synapses. Please click on the image for more of this photostream and full documentation.


1 comment

Great video "This Is Your Brain on Adolescence"


And a great story, basically, "This Is Your Brain on Poverty":


Basically, this study has been redone over and over for the last thirty years (something analogous was the impetus for Head Start), showing that poor kids use their brains differently than rich kids because the brain operates, basically, on a "use it or lose it" basis. This one is unique in its sorting out of lots of variables that people have used to discount previous studies and ends by asking "Can this be replicated?" My goodness. What more proof do we need? When will we learn?


As one of the researchers involved in this study notes: "The study is suggestive and a little bit frightening that
environmental conditions have such a strong impact on brain
development," said Silvia Bunge, UC Berkeley assistant professor of
psychology who is leading the intervention studies on prefrontal cortex
development in teenagers by using functional magnetic resonance imaging