Before Cyberpunk: Science Fiction and Early Personal Computing (for the 13th City Tech Poster Session)

ellis-40x31_poster-template-landscape

For the New York City College of Technology, CUNY’s 13th Annual Research Poster Session, I created the poster embedded above to illustrate my current research on pre-cyberpunk science fiction (SF) about computing and personal computing. The poster discusses my focus and provides a timeline with SF about computing matched with key technological innovations that made the personal computing revolution in the late-1970s possible.

What I am interested in is the fact that William Gibson’s “cyberspace” captured the popular imagination about the metaphorical place where computing, processing, navigating, interacting, and communicating occurs, but some of the very good SF about computing that predates Gibson’s coining the term cyberspace failed to leave an indelible impression. Certainly, these stories were read and circulated, but the reach of their images and metaphors seem to have been limited in scope as compared to Gibson’s writing.

One of the ideas that I have had since creating the poster is that the idea of hidden computing or outlaw computing is something central to Vernor Vinge’s “True Names.” This, of course, features large in Gibson’s fictions, and it is the image that I am looking for in other SF of this transitional era.

At the poster session, I will carry my Raspberry Pi-based touchscreen-computer-in-a-Suntory-box-from-Japan to demonstrate the idea of hidden computing. I will post a step-by-step instruction post soon about assembling the Raspberry Pi-based computer and offer some additional thoughts about how I would like to use them in my technical communication classes.

In this post, I want to provide some of my notes and links to relevant resources as a record of the initial research that I did in preparation of this poster. It is my hope that it might lead to conversations and collaborations in the future.

 

Fiction Sources

Murray Leinster’s “A Logic Named Joe” (1946): Home computers connected to a large scale network. [Couldn’t fit within poster dimensions, but a significant work that needs mentioning.]

Isaac Asimov’s “The Fun They Had” (1951): Children discovering a print book are agog at what it represents while their classroom/desktop teaching computers flash mathematical fractions at them. [Couldn’t fit within poster dimensions, but another important work in this genealogy.]

Poul Anderson’s “Kings Who Die” (1962): Human-computer interface, according to Asimov and Greenberg in The Great SF Stories #24, “one of the first stories to address this question” (69).

Daniel F. Galouye’s Simulacron-3 (1964): Also published as Counterfeit World. Adapted as Welt am Draht/World on a Wire (1973). Simulated reality for artificial beings programmed to believe (except in the case of one character) that they are real and living in the “real world.”

Philip K. Dick’s A Maze of Death (1970): A crew in a disabled spacecraft while awhile their remaining lives in a computer generated virtual world.

John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider (1975): Computer programming and hacking. First use of the term “worm” to describe a type of self-propagating computer program set loose on the computer network. Protagonist as outlaw.

[Five year gap during the personal computing revolution. Were the SF writers playing with their new personal computers?]

John M. Ford’s Web of Angels (1980): The “Web” is a communication and computing network connecting humanity. “Webspinners” are an elite group of programmers who can manipulate the Web in unique and unexpected ways. Protagonist as outlaw.

Vernor Vinge’s “True Names” (1981): Computing power hidden from view of a watchful government–literally under the floor boards. Early MMORPG/virtual reality experience of what was later called cyberspace. Protagonist as outlaw.

Damien Broderick’s The Judas Mandala (1982): First SF to use the terms “virtual reality” and “virtual matrix.” Protagonist as conspirator/outlaw?

 

Nonfiction Sources

Cavallaro, Dani. Cyberpunk and Cyberculture: Science Fiction and the Work of William Gibson. New Brunswick, NJ: Athlone Press, 2000. Print.

Ferro, David L. and Eric G. Swedin. Eds. Science Fiction and Computing: Essays on Interlinked Domains. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011. Print.

Kay, Alan C. “A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages.” ACM ’72 Proceedings of the ACM Annual Conference – Volume 1. New York: ACM, 1972. n.p. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Mowshowitz, Abbe. Inside Information: Computers in Fiction. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1977. Print.

Murphy, Graham J. and Sherryl Vint. Beyond Cyberpunk: New Critical Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.

Slusser, George Edgar and TA Shippey. Eds. Fiction 2000: Cyberpunk and the Future of Narrative. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992. Print.

Stableford, Brian. Science Fact and Science Fiction: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.

Timeline of Computer History. Computer History Museum, 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

Warrick, Patricia. The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction. Cambridge: MIT, 1980. Print.

 

 

My Poster for SAMLA 2013: The Brittain Fellowship’s DevLab: Space, Resources, Expertise, and Collaboration

My DevLab Poster.

My DevLab Poster.

This year, Georgia Tech’s Writing and Communication Program and its Brittain Fellows had a strong presence at the annual South Atlantic Modern Language Association meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

I presented a poster on the program’s R&D unit, DevLab. To compose the poster, I took a panoramic photo of DevLab’s main space (we also have an external recording booth). My students and fellow Brittain Fellows are pictured doing work and collaborating at various events over the past few months.

Standing next to my poster in the Buckhead Marriott.

Standing next to my poster in the Buckhead Marriott.

We also had posters on the Communication Center, our pedagogical research, and our scholarly research. Here’s a list of all posters from the official program:

10. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship,

Poster Series I

The Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Georgia Institute of Technology

a. Jason Ellis, DevLab: Research and Development Lab Facility

b. CommLab: Tutoring Center for Multimodal Communication

11. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship, Poster Series II

WOVEN: Multimodal Communication in the Classroom

a. Joy Bracewell

b. Jennifer Lux

c. Julia Munro

12. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship, Poster Series III

Intersections between Scholarship and Pedagogy

a. Aaron Kashtan

b. Jennifer Orth-Veillon

c. Aron Pease

13. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship, Poster Series IV

Changing Higher Education

a. Mirja Lobnik, World Englishes Committee

b. Multiple Presenters, Curriculum Innovation Committee

c. Arts Initiatives Committee

Besides participating in the poster session, I also took notes from N. Katherine Hayles’ plenary lecture on Friday afternoon. I will post my notes from that talk here soon.

Next year, I will propose a paper for SAMLA and hopefully present an updated version of the DevLab poster. See you there!

Assessing Multimodality: Navigating the Digital Turn Tweet Round Up on Storify and a Picture of Me and My Pedagogy Poster

My Pedagogy Poster on "Writing the Brain" at Assessing Multimodality Symposium.

My Pedagogy Poster on “Writing the Brain” at Assessing Multimodality Symposium.

Today, the Georgia Tech Writing and Communication Program and Bedford St. Martins hosted a symposium on Assessing Multimodality: Navigating the Digital Turn. I co-presented a workshop with Mirja Lobnik on Multimodality and Perception and I presented a poster during one of the day’s sessions. Many of us were tweeting our experiences at the symposium today, too. Click through the Storify embed below to virtually experience the symposium 140 characters at a time.

[View the story “Assessing Multimodality: Navigating the Digital Turn Symposium” on Storify]