This week’s featured program is the Code as a Liberal Art Minor at The New School. From the website:
The Code as a Liberal Art minor aims to develop skills in code and computational thinking as part of a liberal arts education, and use them as tools for critical and creative inquiry and for better understanding how computational systems impact different aspects of society. Students in this minor will explore algorithmic thinking and consider questions of access, equity, and social justice in relation to technological systems.
Two Interesting Courses
LCOD 2432 Free Software: The Culture And Politics Of Open Source
As software and digital machinery continue to mediate ever more aspects of human activity and the natural world, the majority of computer code driving these circulations remains hidden from public view: protected by proprietary software regimes and “black boxed” systems. This course will examine the practices and politics of “opening” these “closed” systems by studying free, libre, and open source software (FLOSS): a movement, ethos, set of practices, and international network of communities all committed to the idea that the source code which undergirds our digital lives should be freely accessible to all who wish to view it, to read and modify liberally. The FLOSS movement challenges norms of intellectual property, copyright, and patent law, and yet, many corporations today embrace open source software in their business models. We will examine how a set of practices seemingly oriented towards a politics of resistance, critique, and anti-commercialism can nonetheless be taken up by profit-oriented endeavor. Considering examples including the Firefox web browser, Apache web server, Linux, LibreOffice, and GNU project, we will look at the history of FLOSS, its cultural, technical, and legal significance, and the evolution of its ethos of freedom as rooted in liberal ideology. We’ll pay close attention to ways that open source practices are intertwined with meritocracy and exclusionary gatekeeping, often with gender and racial biases. Course material will include videos, podcasts, and readings from both popular and academic sources including work by Friedrich Kittler, Gabriella Coleman, McKenzie Wark, and Mar Hicks. This seminar will also include an “ethnography of code” and short Python coding exercises conducted in the “Open Source Way” as a collaborative community of practice.
LCOD 2227 Digital Network Infrastructure
While digital objects are often imagined to exist in an immaterial or virtual cyberspace, code and data actually exist in material forms and places in the physical world: data centers, routers, wired and wireless data flows, and physical computers in our homes, pockets, and public spaces. This hybrid theory/practice seminar will take these physical infrastructures of the digital as our primary objects of inquiry, developing both critical analysis and hands-on techniques to test, build, and intervene in these networks and data circulations. We will ask political economic questions such as: who owns and operates this apparatus, who governs its use, and who extracts the value that it generates? We will consider questions of social justice and the so-called digital divide – the inequity of access that exists along the lines of race, class, and gender – and study projects that directly work to redress these disparities. Texts will be included from a diverse array of scholars including Grace Lee Boggs, Alex Galloway, Lewis Mumford, and Simone Browne in fields including network studies, cultural studies, and science and technology studies (STS). We will explore themes such as the decentralization of communication networks, community activism, critical design, and mutual care. We will examine objects such as mesh networks, offline networks, sneakernets, wireless routers, and portable network kits. This course will include project work experimenting with various techniques in network hardware and protocols
Five Possible Complementary Majors at The New School
Unique Opportunities within the Minor
Students in the minor are able to take advantage of The New School’s New York location:
While it offers the atmosphere and intimacy of a small college, Eugene Lang College is part of The New School, a major progressive university in New York City. The Code as a Liberal Art Minor introduces students to a variety of code-based researchers and practitioners through guest speakers and opportunities to participate in coding events around the city, including events sponsored by Data & Society, Processing Community Day NYC, and Babycastles artist’s collective.
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This program is one of a kind!