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Questions on Alan Liu, “From Reading to Social Computing.”

  1. What are the main differences between what Liu calls Web 1.0, Web 1.5, and Web 2.0? Be sure to compare the diagrams.
  2. What does Liu mean by “the era of social computing”? What are some examples in your own reading/browsing that help reveal what “social computing” is and how it works?
  3. How does the new “social computing” model for reading/writing map onto post-1968 developments in literary and cultural theory? In what ways are the arguments in favor of radical democracy via deconstruction, New Historicism, cultural studies, et al. related to new ways of reading/writing/publishing on the web?
  4. In English classes, we have traditionally (for 100 years at least) invested our attention overwhelmingly on THE TEXT, meaning special kinds of writing that are deemed especially beautiful/innovative/profound/relevant/resistant. What is changing, both in the discipline and the technological ecology in which we practice it, to refocus our attention? Who or what are we supposed to be paying attention to, if not (say) Bartleby, the Scrivener? What are some ways that this course itself moves in the direction Liu alludes to?
  5. How does Liu answer the question, “Why should literary critics pay attention to technology”? What do you find surprising or un/convincing about this answer?
  6. How does the rise of social computing change the object of literary study? In other words, what do we read now, and how do we read it differently than before?
  7. What does Liu say about what happens to what we used to think of as simply reading literature in the era of social computing? What verbs start to displace “read” to describe what we can do with literature?
  8. How does Liu end the essay? What is the future challenge of scholars (and students) thinking about (say) the relationship between reading Melville seriously in a 300-level lit seminar and “liking” photos on Instagram?

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