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Spring 2014

ENGL 3915/6915 Digital Humanities Lab: Illicit Knowledge

Dennis Tenen


Where? First meeting at Hamilton 607. Subsequent meetings at the Butler Studio.

When? Tuesdays 4-6pm + Lab 6:30-8pm

Every year the Digital Humanities Lab convenes to advance research in computational culture studies understood both as the study of computational culture and as computational approaches to the study of culture and society. In addition to traditional reading, discussion, and writing components of the class, participants are expected to work on a semester-long data-driven lab-based research project. Students and scholars from any field, at any stage of their academic or professional career, and at all levels of technical and critical proficiency are welcome to attend.

The course was designed with two goals in mind: first, to expand our shared methodological toolkit (aka, learn to code),[^1] and second, to examine the critical literature on a selected topic related to texts, information technology, and online communities.

The theme for the spring of 2014 is illicit knowledge. In working with several large datasets related to information piracy we will explore the ethics of stealing and sharing, the history and the future of censorship, the infrastructure and the social dynamics of underground library archives, laws protecting and punishing whistleblowers, the difference between remix and plagiarism, copyright regimes and free culture.

What are the Digital Humanities?

Digital humanities are a diverse set of overlapping academic practices which usually include some mixture of 1) computational and otherwise experimental approaches to the study of the human condition; 2) modalities of cultural preservation, content curation, and knowledge design; and finally, 3) social advocacy and professional reform in response to developments in information technology.

Course Requirements and Grading

25% Class participation

25% Online participation

25% Midterm annotated biblio

25% Final project proposal

Ethics Charter

Because our research may involve sensitive materials, we will spend some time in class drafting an ethics charter. Last year’s charter can be found here. When working with others, it is important to give credit where credit is due. When in doubt, cite! Plagiarism is insulting to your peers, your instructors, and to the research community at large. It wastes my time and yours, and ultimately is not worth the risk. Consult Columbia’s guidelines or ask me for help early in the writing process.

***Provisional Schedule ***

Week 1: Introduction

The spirit of the class. Ethics charter. Structure. Assignments, participation, grading, schedule.

Week 2: Copyright Regimes

Hughes, Justin. “Philosophy of Intellectual PropertyGeorgetown Law Journal 77 (1989- 1988): 287-367; “Copyright And `The Exclusive Right' Of Authors” by Lyman Ray Patterson; Against Intellectual Property by Brian Martin.

Explore:* Cohen, Julie. “Creativity and Culture in Copyright Theory” U.C. Davis Law Review 40 (2007 2006): 1151; “Economic Analysis of Property Rights in Information” by Steve Calanrillo;

* Read the main selections carefully and in full. The explore section is an opportunity to delve deeper selectively.

Lab: Zotero

Week 3: Public and Common Knowledge

Of Property” John Locke; Public Libraries, Thomas Greenwood pp. 1-49; Faith in Reading, Thomas August; The Tragedy of the Commons, Garrett Hardin; The Commons, by David Barry.

Explore: http://publicknowledge.org/

Lab: Ethics charter. Zotero signup. 6pm-Computational Thinking w/ Jeannette Wang of Microsoft Research (Lecture Hall, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism)

Week 4: Open Access and Open Source

Information wants to be valuable” by Tim O'Reilly; Ch. 1-3 "Open Access" by Peter Suber; Richard Stallman, “Why ‘Free Software’ is better than ‘Open Source’”; “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto”, Aaron Swartz; selections from "Coase's Penguin, or, Linux and The Nature of the Firm” by Yochai Benkler (at your discretion).

Explore: Timeline of the Open Access Movement

Lab: Command line basics

Week 5: Peer Production and Remix Culture

Authoritarian and Democratic Technics” by Lewis Mumford (1964); “Commons-Based Peer Production and Virtue” by Yochai Benkler and Helen Nissenbaum; “Cooperation and Attribution in an Online Community of Young Creators” by Andres Monroy-Hernandez and Benjamin Mako Hill; “The Evolution of Authorship in a Remix Society” by Nicholas Diakopoulos, et.al.

Explore: Wikipedia, Policies and guidelines

Lab: Version control with Git

Week 6: Creative Commons, Copyleft, Free Culture

Explore: Richard Stallman, The Free Software Movement and the Future of Freedom; Freedom in the Commons by Benkle; selections from Cultural Software,

Lab: Markdown + Pandoc

Week 7: Piracy and Shadow Libraries

Explore: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) documents

Lab: Mining text

Week 8: Crypto-anarchism, Cypherpunks

Explore: http://www.i2p2.de/; Cyphernomicon; New Directions in Cryptography; Circumventing Encryption Frees NSA’s Hands Online

Lab: Tor/Onion, Encrypting Email

Week 8: Hacker Culture

"Do Artifacts Have Politics?" by Langdon Winner

McKenzie Wark, “A Hacker Manifesto

Andrew Ross, "Hacking Away at the Counterculture"

Hackers and the contested ontology of cyberspace, Helen Nissenbaum

Explore: A Brief History of Hackerdom, by Eric Steven Raymond

Lab: Cloud Computing

Week 9: Leaks and Whistleblowers

Statement of Thomas Blanton, Director, National Security Archive

The Wikileaks Manifesto, by Julian Assange

Disclosure's Effects: WikiLeaks and Transparency, by Mark Fenster

Lab: Cloud Computing

Week 10: Secrecy and Transparency

Zittrain; Pozen on “Deep Secrecy

A Free Irresponsible Press” by Yochai Benkler

Freedom of Information Act

U.S. Code Chapter 37 - Espionage and Censorship

Lab: Scripting w/ Python

Week 11: Privacy and Surveillance

Thomas Nagel, “Concealment and Exposure

Philip E. Agre, “Surveillance and Capture: Two Models of Privacy

Roger Dingledine, et. al., “Tor: The Second-Generation Onion Router

Explore: HIPAA, Google TOS, Facebook TOS, USA Patriot Act

Lab: Scripting w/ Python

Week 12: Open Session

Schedule a make up lab on encryption. Brainstorm final projects. Python lecture.

Lab: Scripting w/ Python

[^1]: With an emphasis on working on large, text-based corpora, web-scraping, natural language processing,