Micro / Macro / Reading

ENGL 149: Media and Information Culture

Archived site exported from Moodle. (Please forgive the many formatting errors and some broken links.)

Instructors:  Jeremy Douglass & Zach Horton
Meetings:  Tu/Th 11:00AM - 12:15PM 2635, SH (South Hall)
Contact:  jeremydouglass@english.ucsb.edu / zhorton@umail.ucsb.edu
Office:  SH 2518 (Douglass) -- Tu/Th 12:30-2p or by appt.
  SH 2509 (Horton) -- Tu/We 12:30-2:30p

Syllabus - ENGL 149 - Micro-Macro-Reading v3 PDF document

7 January - 13 January

Banner image of picnic and park taken from the Powers of Ten video

Unit 1: Intro to reading non-textual and difficult objects

14 January - 20 January

Banner image for week 2 -- Barthes and Gibson

TU Jan 15


Google Docs assignment [with set-up handout]

Google Docs assignment PDF document


Roland Barthes, “Operation Astra” (“Operation Margarine”), “Plastic,” from Mythologies[H]

Donald Barthelme, “The Balloon” [handout] [H]

William Gibson, “Johnny Mnemonic” [handout] [D]

Donald Barthelme- The Balloon PDF document

William Gibson- Johnny Mnemonic PDF document

TH Jan 17


Roland Barthes, “Einstein's Brain,” “Striptease,” from Mythologies

William Gibson, Neuromancer[excerpt, reader]

21 January - 27 January

Week 3 banner image of Simpsons poster logo (family on couch) and Gapminder logo (Hans reaching for bubble chart data)

Unit 2: Too Big / Too Complex / Too Fragmented

28 January - 3 February

4 February - 10 February

Solaris Banner

Unit 3: Too Alien

Midterm (in-class): Units I & II -- overview sheet Resource

Saussure and Barthes slides for review PDF document


11 February - 17 February

Unit 4: Too Unstable / Unfixed

  • Banner image of Wikipedia and Twitter visualizations -- History Flow, We Feel Fine, Twistori

    TU Feb 12

    The Simpsons: episode annotations due in your Google Spreadsheet (9-10)


    Reading Wikipedia: [D]
    Optional Reading

    TH Feb 14

    The Simpsons: episode annotations due in your Google Spreadsheet (11)


    Reading Blogs / Twitter
    • Harris and Kamvar. "We Feel Fine: an exploration of human emotion in six movements" -- http://www.wefeelfine.org/
    • Hoy and Fuchs. "Twistori" -- http://twistori.com/
      • Once you have read We Feel Fine, visit the Twistori website ( http://twistori.com/ ), and spend a few minutes watching it scroll by. Pay attention to the details of how it works. Try comparing the contents of different channels (e.g. "love" vs. "feel"). For context, check out brief reviews online [1] [2]. If you have a Mac, you can optionally try downloading the desktop software and creating your own word sets [3].

    Optional Reading
    • You may also be interested in a guided tour of "We Feel Fine." If so, try watching the 2-minute video "We Feel Fine: Mapping the Emotive Quotient of the Earth in a Really Beautiful Way" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lotjo64R-eo ).
    • Two pages spreads from the "We Feel Fine" book appear in the course reader. How do the examples (and statistics) compare and contrast betweek these two examples?
    • There is extensive academic literature on Twitter, with approaches to data mining and visualizing social network analysis, news propogation, and even stock market prediction. Try browsing: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=twitter 

Simpsons Montages: Season 18 (example)


18 February - 24 February

Banner image for A Humument by Tom Phillips
  • TU Feb 19

    The Simpsons: episode annotations due in your Google Spreadsheet (12-13)

    Tom Philips, A Humument (pgs 1-105) [D]

    When reading A Humument, try reading it quickly (like a comic book) and slowly (like a painting). Rush through, then browse. Try reading parts of it out loud, and see if this helps the words make more sense. Who are characters? What are the settings, the conflicts, the events?

    TH Feb 21

    The Simpsons: episode annotations due in your Google Spreadsheet (14)

    Tom Philips, A Humument (pgs 106-165) [H]


    For additional perspective on the work, try experiencing it through an alternate interface:
    If you are interested in a critical perspective on A Humument, read the chapter by N. Katherine Hayles from Writing Machines (2002). [attachment below]

Hayles, N. Katherine. Writing Machines. MIT Press. 2002. Ch6--A Humument. p76-99. PDF document


25 February - 3 March

Unit 5: Projects and Collaborations

Banner for week 8 -- Simpsons montage (season 18 episode 2)
  • TU Feb 26


    The Simpsons: episode annotations due in your Google Spreadsheet (15-16) FINAL


    Queneau, Raymond. "A Story As You Like It." Online handout (below).
    This very short two-page story should be read several times to explore different possibilities.

    Berge, Claude. "For a Potential Analysis of Combinatory Literature." OuLiPo: a Primer of Potential Literature. In course reader pages 86-96.
    This ten-page theory article should be read slowly. Pay attention to the concepts and vocabulary that Berge uses in trying to come to grips with difficult experimental narrative works.


    Discussion areas are set up in the four corners of the room for different topics. This excercise will help you brainstorm topics for course final projects and meet project group-mates.

    Get up and move to a topic area that you are interested in.
    Once everyone arrives, your topic group will have 10 minutes to discuss and brainstorm.

    * What was interesting about how this topics appear in the Simpsons?
    * What questions do you have?
    * What are might a group focus on and investigate?

    When time is up, you should now move to a second topic area that you are interested in. Mix it up, and repeat the process about a new topic with a new group of people.

Queneau, Raymond. "A Story As You Like It." OuLiPo--a Primer of Potential Literature. 156-158 PDF document

Queneau, Raymond. "A Story As You Like It." Interactive web edition


  • TH Feb 28

    During this class meeting we will:
    1. Discuss the final project assignment. The handout with full details is linked on the website below.
    2. Reading review / lecture on visualization methods (to be used in projects)
    3. Form project groups and discuss

    This brief, fun overview of visualization methods is designed to orient you towards creative possibilities for your final projects. Browse and enjoy!

    1. Visual Complexityhttp://www.visualcomplexity.com/vc/ ) is "a unified resource space for anyone interested in the visualization of complex networks" -- while it has an emphasis on network data, in practice this becomes a survey of a vast number of visualizations of all kinds. Browse the gallery and search projects for a few minutes to get a sense of the diversity.
    • What is one interesting example of visualizing complexity that catches your eye?
    • How might the approach be relevant to exploring The Simpsons?
    2. Infostheticshttp://infosthetics.com/ ) "explores the symbiotic relationship between creative design and the field of information visualization. More specifically, it collects projects that represent data or information in original or intriguing ways."
    • What is one interesting example of information aesthetics that catches your eye?
    • How might the approach be relevant to exploring The Simpsons?
    3. Data Driven Documentshttp://d3js.org ) is "a JavaScript library for manipulating documents based on data. D3 helps you bring data to life using HTML, SVG and CSS. D3’s emphasis on web standards gives you the full capabilities of modern browsers without tying yourself to a proprietary framework, combining powerful visualization components and a data-driven approach to DOM manipulation." While the previous sites are examples of various advanced projects, D3 offers simple tools to create such images yourself with minimal technical expertise. Focus on browsing the D3 Gallery ( https://github.com/mbostock/d3/wiki/Gallery ), in particular considering:


4 March - 10 March

Banner for week 8 -- Simpsons montage (season 18 episode 2)

  • TU Mar 5
    EXTRA CREDIT ANNOTATIONS DUE: BEGINNING OF CLASS (All extra credit annotation done after this time will count for half credit.)

    Digital Humanities Lab: aggregating Simpsons Data
    Visualizing Simpsons Data 1

    TH Mar 7

    FINAL EXAM  (in class)

    Visualizing Simpsons Data 2

Final (in-class): Units III, IV & V -- overview sheet Resource


11 March - 17 March

Week 10

TU Mar 12

Final Projects Lab

TH Mar 14

Final Projects Lab


18 March - 24 March: Finals Week

Wed Mar 20 12p

FINAL PROJECTS DUE (no class meeting)

Final projects are due on finals week, and should be turned by the beginning of our assigned course final period: Wednesday March 20th at 12p noon.

Each final project must be submitted in both digital and hard copy format by the deadline.

Each group should designate one person to submit the final project.

This is also the final date for turning in Simpsons Extra Credit Annotations (worth half credit).

Final Assignment Handout

Example Visualizations from Final Projects

Simpons Diegetic TV Programming by Genre

Environmental Presence

Lisa's Imagination and Dream Types

Dreams and Affect

Telecomm Technology in The Simpsons

TV Shows Represented in The Simpsons