Shapeshifting texts in the classroom

During the Summer Semester 2017, the project “Shapeshifting Texts” will offer a course titled “Human-Machine: the process of meaning-making in digital texts” to students of the Universität Bremen. In this seminar, we will focus on the way meaning is originated while reading shapeshifting, multimodal and responsive texts comprised of code, verbal language, images, icons, audio or video files.

The relationship between human and machine has been depicted in various ways by different forms of text, and continues to develop with huge diversity. Even though human and machine have often been considered as members of a dichotomic pair, there seems to be rather a strong affinity, and even symbiotic link, between both. From the nineteenth century luddite attacks on factories, to the almost inevitable dependency on computers and other digital devices, the “human-machine” theme has been intensely explored by writers, film-makers, and scholars.

During this seminar, debates concerning human identity, as well as the place of print book in a digital age, might emerge. We will begin by focusing our attention on how the “machine” has been described throughout the history of humankind. In a second part of our seminar, we will discuss some examples of the impact of digital media on the use of verbal language among social media users and gamers. Finally, the reception of digital texts, namely, of electronic literature (a literary form read and created on a computer), will be analysed by focusing on human-machine interaction. The materials selected for this course will range from science fiction’s cautionary tales (along with filmic reinterpretations), and news articles about human-machine co-existence/binarism, to literary digital works which offer multiple reading experiences, often turning the reader into a player or a viewer.

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