Digitizing America will explore the history of the United States from 1980 to the present through the lens of the information revolution that occurred during this period. Although the course focuses on recent history, it begins with the origins of the digital revolution in World War II. We will examine the origins of technological changes like the mainframe computer, cable television, and the emergence of the internet and the impact that they had on the economy, politics and social interaction. We will consider the ways in which the speed and ease of access to information served as a catalyst for globalization. On the one hand the combination of cable and satellite technology brought news of distant places into every living room. On the other hand, the powerful ability to collect and sort data allowed individuals to express a range of preferences, and to be identified and targeted based upon these preferences. This created a variety of new identities and associations (meetup.com is a good place to see this in action from the Yorkshire Terrier Meetup to Prosperity Gods Way.) We will also consider the varied impact of the information revolution along class and racial lines. We will examine futuristic visions of the digital age, and the ways in which digital technology changed the way Americans work and play. We will examine cyber-security and cyber-war, especially in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and subsequent American foreign policy.
Students will be asked to read approximately 150 pages a week, including books, articles and a range of primary sources. For the weeks that films are assigned, each student is required to watch the assigned film before discussion section. There will be a brief quiz on the reading and viewing at the start of each discussion section. Grades on these quizzes will be part of the student’s participation grade – which will count for 20 percent of the total grade. There will be also be several weekly assignments that will count as part of the class participation grade.