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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


FSS Digital Forms

FSS Digital Forms: Digital Forms

Course Convenor: Prof Caroline Bassett, Director, Cambridge Digital Humanities (

Digital technologies are transforming cultures. Older forms are being re-mediated, new forms are emerging. Computational operations are expanding to become pervasive, operating at multiple scales, taking different material forms, combining into new assemblages. This is a matter of medium change, of the expansion of mediation itself, perhaps a matter of it becoming environmental. The world into which we are emerging is conditioned by developments in computing; machine learning and AI expand the realm of the computable - of what may be handled through machine logics, while the expansion of sensors, drones, platforms make environments and bodies newly available - for capture, treatment, processing. 

This course explores the stakes of these transformations, asking how they have been, and are now, understood and articulated, how they are taking material form - as literature, film, media art, everyday ephemera, re-organizing our sense of the boundaries between image, sound, and text, for instance. The intention is to consider the operations and cultural imaginaries of the computational. 

A key question to be explored concerns determination. Today ‘capitalist realism’ - that powerfully operating myth of the ultimate determination of the market – co-exists with claims for technological destining. The proposition that ‘by now’ technology delivers our future and organizes our present seems to suggest a form of autonomy - but the shape of the computational is also given by the conditions in which it is made – as algorithmic bias illustrates. With these tensions in mind, this thoroughly non-exhaustive course explores critical theorizations of media technologies – including new materialisms, media archaeology, code studies, automatic writing, and considers cultural forms and productions that engage with or evidence the cultural logics of the computational. 

Week 1: Sensors, Data, Algorithms, Networks: The Processing Logics and architectures of a New Media System

Week 2: New Media Materialism (and Its Discontents)

Week 3: Almost Touching: Drone Fever to Zoom fatigue

Week 4: Clever things? Artificial Beings and AI

Week 5: The Cyberspace Imaginary and the (Afro)Future?

Week 6: Do Electric Sheep dream of Robots? Writing and Automation

This module is offered by the Faculty of English but is also available to Film MPhil students.  There will be a cap of approximately 13 students, so if this proves to be particularly popular then there is a possibility that some students may need to be allocated their second preference of module.

Although this module is offered through the Faculty of English, Film students will still need to abide by the MMLL timetable for essay submissions and guidelines for assessed work.

Preliminary Reading  

(All or any of the below would suggest some of the themes of the course and would be helpful to read beforehand. The first five readings point to various approaches that will be taken up and would be particularly helpful). 

Matthew, Fuller (2008). Software Studies: A lexicon. London: MIT. 

Safiya Umoja Noble (2018). Algorithms of Oppression. New York: NYU Press.

Barad, Karen (2003). ‘Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of

How Matter Comes to Matter’ in Signs: Journal of women in Culture and Society, 28(3). (Spring, 2003):  801-831.

Elsaesser, Thomas. (2016). ‘Media Archaeology as Symptom’, in New Review of Film and Television Studies, Vol 14, 2016, issue 2.

Turing, A. M. (1950).  ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’, in Mind, Oct, 1950, 433-60.


Mark Dery Flame Wars (1993). 559 – 568, and Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose. 735-778, in South Atlantic Quarterly, Fall 1993.

Andrew Goodman (2020).  ‘The Secret Life of Algorithms: speculation on queered futures of neurodiverse analgorithmic feeling and consciousness’ In Transformations, 34.


Tade Thomson (2016). Rosewater. London, Orbit

William Gibson (1984). Neuromancer, London: Gollancz

Donna Haraway, (2016). Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. United States of America: Duke University Press

Quentin Meillassoux. (2015). Science Fiction and Extro Science Fiction.  Univocal: London

Franco Moretti. (2013) ‘The Slaughterhouse of Literature’. Chapter in Distant Reading. London, Verso.


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