What is a crowd? Is it a swarm of bodies on the street, a dancing flash mob, or a set of data points culled from social media? This class investigates how digital cloud technologies cluster us together into formations that could be understood as both pleasurable and dangerous. We will look at how visual artists and social theorists have addressed issues such as self-tracking, fears around immigration, and crowdsourcing. We will also investigate how surveillance, big data, and social media are used by current governments and reframed by insurgent political movements. From the ubiquity of cloud computing to the crowds that have redefined contemporary mass politics, innovations in media platforms, data collection, and digital labor are redefining the ways that collectives are imagined, produced and defined. Crowds and Clouds examines the shared trajectories of technology and sociality, approaching the cloud and crowd through historically grounded, interdisciplinary scholarship in the visual arts, art history, ethnography, literature, and geography.
The course has no prerequisites and is open to all undergraduates, but anyone enrolling should be prepared to think hard, read deeply, question preconceived notions, and work.