FACS 4900B 3.0

Contemporary Issues in the Arts: Hypermedia

W 2000


Dr. Caitlin Fisher

208 Winters, 736-2100 x 20744


Office Hours:  Friday 3-5  and by appointment


Course meets: Fridays   11:30-2:30 2005 Vari Hall    

Prerequisite:  4th year standing, or permission of instructor.


Course Description:

This seminar aims to introduce key figures and arguments in the area of hypermedia theory. Hypermedia theory and practice are approached in terms of their relation to some key issues in contemporary cultural theory: conceptions of authorship, text, relations of word and image, theories of narrative, metaphors of space, identity performances, reading practices, power, the canon, production, consumption and distribution. At the same time, consideration is given to feminist understandings of authorship, narrative, identity, space, reading practices etc. as gendered and raced. A significant amount of time is devoted to viewing CD ROMs, videotapes, websites and other visual material and these encounters are used to focus the discussion of theoretical issues. Emphasis is placed on exploring common strategies and themes inherent in the research and creative work of interdisciplinary artists, technologists and theorists working in this area, and building conceptual tools for the critical analysis of their work. I feel that understanding hypermedia theory will be easier for you and that the class will be more rewarding for you if you also have the opportunity to construct hypermedia as you develop responses to it. Students will receive basic instruction and access to the CAWC. You will be given the option of producing traditional essays or hypermedia projects.

Required Texts:

1. J. Yelowlees Douglas. The End of Books or Books Without End? Reading Interactive Narratives. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

2. George P. Landow.  Hypertext 2.0: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997.


3. Essays about hypertext/hypermedia available on our class website. 

4. Hypertexts/hypermedia projects, as assigned.  The nature of hypermedia work is that, for the most part, these works must be read onscreen. Some of these texts will be available online. Others can only be accessed at the Centre for Computer Assisted Writing, 530 Scott Library.  You will all be provided with accounts at the CAWC and be given a lab orientation. We will often meet in the lab to view and read  hypermedia projects – don’t worry if you have no background in computing, you will be given plenty of assistance. Please take assigned hypertexts seriously – besides, they’re fun.   

Course Bibliography

Storyspace mini-assignment: 5%
A very short document in Storyspace.


Dreamweaver mini-assignment: 5%
A very short document demonstrating ability to use Dreamweaver to produce a two-page discussion of the place of images alongside text (yes, we’ll show you how to do this!) 


Reading Responses: 20%

Seminars can’t work the way they are intended to work if people do not do the readings.  In order to reward and encourage careful reading, 20% of your grade will be awarded to reading responses.  In the reading response I would like you to record questions and responses to the readings and hypermedia texts and engage with the arguments and claims they make.  Every second week you will be required to submit  an analysis of a key text for that week.  There is some potential for overlap with webct contributions (that’s fine) but I see these responses as a more formal and careful reading of a particular text.  I know you’re all busy, so it’s up to you to select what week you’ll be ‘on’ and what week ‘off.’   Reading responses are submitted to the entire class via webct the night before class (Thursday evenings).  I anticipate that we might be able to construct a hypertext of our responses.


Major project 40%.  This will be either a formal essay or a hypermedia project chosen in consultation with Caitlin. It can be scholarly, critical, theoretical, creative, experimental, or all of the proceeding and must investigate some aspect of a major theoretical issue in relation to hypermedia. This project might take the form of a demonstration of the ways hypermedia illuminates theory. Conversely, it might show how theory illuminates this new information technology or the new textuality that it produces. I know that you will bring diverse experiences and perspectives to this class and I am  prepared to entertain any ideas you may have.


Seminar leadership                    10%                  various
Reading responses                    20%                  every second week
In-class participation/webct       20%                  ongoing  
Mini-exercise: Storyspace          5%                   March 23
Mini-exercise; Dreamweaver    5%                   March 30
Discuss your ideas for the major project by         April
Major Project                           40%                  May 4


This syllabus lays out deadlines for assignments clearly, and you will have some flexibility in choosing your own deadline for the seminar presentation. If any of these dates pose a problem for you, please consult me well in advance to negotiate a different due date. Exceptions can be made for reasons of domestic affliction or illness, with proper documentation; otherwise, work must be turned in on time.

A note on participation: being part of an intellectual community means attending class regularly and punctually, reading thoughtfully in advance and involving yourself in class discussions in a way that enables you and other students to learn.

Lastly, I encourage you to contact me whenever you are having trouble with your work for this course. You should get in touch with me whenever you have concerns about your grade. I am in my office regularly on Friday afternoon in the Winter term, following this class, but I realize that since you all lead busy lives, these times may not work for you. I am available at other times, too. The best way to ensure that I'll be around is to set up an appointment in advance.

Seminar leadership 10%: This course will be run as a seminar and all students will have an opportunity to formally lead the discussion.  Try to come up with provocative questions, bring in outside material of interest (if appropriate to a given week) and help the class to make connections with other course materials. Give the kind of presentation you’d like to listen to others give.



Participation 20%: In-class (see groundrules, above)+ webct


Computer Assisted Writing Centre <http://www.yorku.ca/cawc/>

Our class has been registered with the Computer Assisted Writing Centre, located in the Scott Library, room 530.  Because so much of our class material is online, it is important that everyone have access to basic instruction. You will also be able to access Storyspace webs from the CAWC. (Storyspace is a platform for hypertext – and different from html used on the web). Being a part of the centre means that you will be able to get hands on computing instruction in Dreamweaver and Storyspace -- you will also be able to drop in during library hours to work on the computers, or sign up for additional workshops, if you like.  Students must have an account for the CAWC's "Laurence" Netware server. This account is activated through MAYA, York's central computer account management system. Please do this as soon as possible! If you enrolled late and LAURENCE does not appear as an available account in MAYA, you must obtain a signed letter of permission from me and take it along with student identification to the advisor on duty at 530 Scott Library or 109 Vanier. No accounts will be activated without the signed permission form and I.D. (YorkCard, or sessional card plus photo I.D.). 


Webct (part of your participation grade)

All students must register with webct. You will have an opportunity to do this during our first session at the Centre for Computer Assisted Writing (or on your own with MAYA).  You can access webct for this class via the main course webpage.  Essentially, webct operates like a security-protected webspace, just for our class.  In addition to finding readings available only to the York community, webct will be used to circulate announcements, house discussion boards and host an informal chat space. You can also post your own webpages, if you like.  In addition to the ability to provide secure access to course materials, one of the main reasons I’ve signed up our class for webct is to foster a sense of the intellectual community we are building here.  I  expect you to use webct as a space to ask questions about assigned texts, cite passages you found particularly challenging/intriguing, send URLs of interesting hypermedia work online, identify a larger topic or question that you think connects different texts;  offer a critique of one or more of the pieces, offer a reading of how these texts construct/make legible new media, what is at stake in these constructions? etc.  Ideally, these responses not only engage the readings/hypermedia pieces, but also other email postings. In general, they make our time together more rigorous and focused (I go over them carefully in order to come up with a "road map" for the seminar). Responses can be as long or as short as you think appropriate, but everyone must contribute at least once every week.  You will be shown how to use webct during an introductory session at the Computer Assisted Writing Centre. 

Academic Honesty:

York Students are subject to policies regarding academic honesty as set out by the Senate of York University and by the Faculty of Fine Arts. Please read the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty in the University Policies and Regulations section of the Undergraduate Programmes Calendar.




March 2 Introductions

Course outline and design, Assignments and expectations
Online:  My Body a Wunderkammer

Mark Amerika. "Stitch Bitch: The Hypertext Author As Cyborg-Femme Narrator."

March 9

Meet at the Centre for Computer Assisted Writing (530 Scott Library) for an orientation and an introduction to Storyspace software.

Vannevar Bush

Landow: chapter 1  Hypertext: an Introduction 
Vannevar Bush, As We May Think
Douglas:  The book is Dead, Long Live the Book!
Storyspace web:  Patchwork Girl (you might find the following link helpful: Jackson: Stitch Bitch -- the Patchwork Girl ) (**you can access the hypertext via the materials page in webct)

March 16

Landow ch 2 :  Hypertext and Critical Theory
Douglas The Intentional Network
Radhika Gajjala  Cyborg Writing and Mestiza Écriture: Visible Absences and Audible Silences (online)
Storyspace web: Bolter, Writing Space

March 23  Hypertext as lens, or using (the experience of reading with) hypertext to read print
Fragments of the Passagenwerk: A meander through the Arcades project of Walter Benjamin (online)
Barthes The Pleasure of the Text

Bookchin, Natalie. The Intruder. Website - Based on a story by Jorge Luis Borges. (online)
Carole Maso Rupture, Verge and Precipice (poem, online)
Brief Storyspace exercise due: create a Storyspace web with three kinds of links and 10 lexias about any aspect of hypertext theory that interests you. Include images.

March 30th

Landow ch 3 : Reconfiguring the text
Douglas Books without pages- novels without endings
Bernstein, Charles. "An Mosaic for Convergence."
Web:  City of Bits

April 6th

Landow 4:  reconfiguring the author
Douglas: what interactive narratives Do that print Narratives cannot
Jaishree Odin: The Edge of Difference: Negotiations Between the Hypertextual and the Postcolonial
Film: Trinh T. Minh-Ha:  Reassemblage (click here for her bio and filmography)

url from melodie's presentation: http://turbulence.org/Works/solitaire

April 12th  -- Last day to drop Winter term courses without receiving a grade. 

April 13th  Good Friday – no classes


April 20th

reconfiguring writing/Reconfiguring narrative
Landow ch. 5/ch.6 

Douglas:   Charting Maps and raising the Dead:  reader’s encounters with Hypertext Fiction

Recommended additional reading: Gregory Ulmer,  Teletheory; Mark C. Taylor and Esa Saarinen, Imagologies: Media Philosophy

Discuss your ideas for the major project by this date.

April 27

Ch 8 the politics of hypertext: who controls the text?

Arnold, Josi. "Feminist Poetics and Cybercolonisation." Cyberfeminism: Connectivity, Critique and Connectivity. Eds. Susan Hawthorne and Renate Klein. Melbourne: Spinifex, 1999. 250-277.
Gisele Regatao
First ladies of IT

Guest lecturer: Gita Hashemi. Gita will discuss her recent multimedia project, Of Shifting Shadows (the CDRom will be available for you to view beforehand @ the Computer Assisted Writing Centre).
Click here for background information on the cd.

Brief Dreamweaver exercise due

May 4



Landow : an open-ended conclusion

Douglas  Just tell me where to stop:  hypertext and the displacement of closure
tuart Moulthrop, "Rhizome and Resistance: Hypertext and the Dreams of a New Culture, " online

Storyspace web:  afternoon

May  11 (Last day for Winter term classes).

Final Projects Due.  Students will discuss and/or  present their final projects in class