Sunday, January 13, 2008

Graded Blog #1

Mechanics: First, please remember to have these posted by 8:00 a.m. on Thursday morning. I will give partial credit to late entries, but I will not generally comment on them. The reason for the relatively firm deadlines is, as I said before, so the blog entries can provide a consistent starting point for our conversations. Include "Graded Blog Entry" as part of the title, just to avoid any possible confusion.

Grading: Remember, you will be graded on the quality of your argument: you should pursue interesting ideas, develop them in detail, and (possible/occasionally) provide research as needed. You should always plan on citing passages from the relevant text.

Options: Sometimes I will give a single option, sometimes two or occasionally three. If you really feel like you can't work well with a particular option, email me with an alternative idea at least two days in advance.

Formatting: I don't much care how your posts are formatted, but if you cut and paste from a Word document (as you probably should, to avoid losing your work), be sure to do any formatting necessary to make your paragraph breaks clear - a blank line between paragraphs is a wise choice on a blog.

Now, finally, the options for this week.

Option #1: Read the following quote:

In handicrafts and manufacture, the worker makes use of a tool; in the factory, the machine makes use of him. There the movements of the instrument of labor proceed from him, here it is the movements of the machine that he must follow. In manufacture the workers are the parts of a living mechanism. In the factory we have a lifeless mechanism which is independent of the workers, who are incorporated into it as its living appendages (Marx, Capital 548)*

One basis of Marxism and Communism (but which is hardly exclusive to these ideologies - many right-wing thinkers, e.g. Martin Heidegger, have though the same thing) is the idea, as detailed above, that industrial workers under capitalism become little more than cogs in the machine themselves.

Analyze a particular passage in either Twain or Davis in depth using the above passage from Marx's Capital. Some questions you might purse: do Twain/Davis have a similar understanding of industrial labor to Marx's? Where, if anywhere, does he/she differ from Marx? If you were going to present a theory of industrial labor rooted in Twain or Davis, would you need to alter Marx's language? Try to have something to say about both similarities and differences.

Option #2:

As we discussed at length in class, and as some of your informal posts have continued to discuss, if we remember the Greek roots of "technology," techne and logos, we might realize that practically all human activities, and perhaps many animal activities, have technologies (techniques); for instance, it's hard to imagine constructing a narrative without using some set of technologies to do so. Yet, we also have a habit of using "technology" to talk about a certain range of sophisticated machines, tools and techniques.

Keeping the complexity of "technology" in mind, write a blog entry discussing in detail
the technologies (techniques) that Davis or Twain use to represent technology (in the sense of industry, hi-tech, etc). Does either author use special or particular "technologies" to represent "technology"? As with the previous option, focus on a single passage, or at most a small set of passages: it's better to discuss one thing in depth than several things incoherently.

* Marx, Karl. Capital, Volume 1. Trans. Ben Fowkes. New York: Penguin, 1976.

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