Teaching the cybertext taxonomy with dice
This morning I got to meet our new Bachelor of Digital Culture students teaching the class on cybertext in our Digital Genres: Digital Art, Electronic Literature, and Computer Games course. I was going to just walk students through the taxonomy and try analysing some examples with them, but happily I found a blog post about how I taught this class ten years ago (!) and was able to use the same stratgey.
I showed the students some examples of net.art, handed out copies of Alexei Shulgin and Natalie Bookchin’s Introduction to net.art (1994-1999) (I even had copies of the Norwegian translation, although I had to find it on the Internet Archive as it was offline) and walked them through some of the key points, in particular under post 2: Short Guide to DIY net.art.
Then we split into groups of four, and I gave each group a dice and instructions to come up with a concept for a net.art work by tossing a dice and picking from options in the DIY guide.
We met back in the auditorium 45 minutes later. I talked us through the elements of the cyber taxonomy, using the white board, and then each group presented their art project and we decided how to classify it according to the typology.
Some of the terms in the taxonomy are a bit dense – I have to look these up every time I teach them, so expecting students to remember exact terms and differences is a bit optimistic. But I do think the taxonomy is valuable as a reframing of ways to think about different kinds of texts and works and “things”, and it’s useful to have words to discuss these aspects of how texts can work. Its important historically, too, both to understand the field, and the importance the cyber text concept had, and in terms of our local history – Espen Aarseth was one of the founders of humanistic informatics, as digital culture used to be called here at UiB.
Anyway, a good class, with interesting discussions and great ideas from the students. I’ll teach it again this way, I’m sure.