Discussion:Technological Prototypes

Discussion:Technological Prototypes

Discussion:Technological Prototypes

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MDSC64H3 – Media and Technology

Note: Students who do not meet course prerequisites will be automatically dropped at the end of Week 1.

Course Description

From the first depiction of a cyborg in Metropolis (1927) to the Web-based surveillance devices
Minority Report (2002), science fiction film is central to organizing cultural discourse around
technology through its ability to popularize specific images of new technologies—those real,
those imaginary, and those coming “in the near future”. SF film simultaneously suggests,
critiques, and contributes to a range of cultural attitudes about technology, spanning from the
technophilic to the dystopic. In doing so it encapsulates what Raymond Williams refers to in
Long Revolution
(1960) as the “structure of feeling—not only formally held systematic beliefs
but the
meanings and values as they are actively lived and felt in a specific time and place. The
course therefore interrogates the cultural and social meaning of technology as it is presented in
selected films and other representations drawn from popular media by examining how they
depict and ideologically frame new technologies for their spectators.
The course is divided into three interrelated parts:

Part I: “Designing the Future”: Film and Technological Prototypes

Examines the relationship among filmic representations of technology and the development, acceptance, and social diffusion of new technologies
Films viewed:
Moon (2009), Destination Moon (1950), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968),
Minority Report (2002).

Part II: “
Thing-like imitators of humankind”: Robots, Cyborgs, and Replicants

Examines the “
Thing-like imitators of humankind” that directly express “the interactions
between the human and the technological that lie at the very heart of science fiction”
Films viewed: Metropolis (1927), Forbidden Planet (1956), RoboCop (1987), Blade
Runner: The Director’s Cut

Part III: Intelligent Agents and the Contemporary Technological Moment

Examines how selected films configure the idea of the virtual and their meaning(s) for
those embodied on this side of the screen
Films viewed
Her (2014), ExMachina (2014), Black Mirror episode (2014)
1 J.P. Telotte, Replications: A Robotic History of the Science Fiction Film, 1995

Course Learning Objectives

1. Develop insight into how SF filmic representations encode and promote specific ideological understandings of technology
2. Develop insight into how SF filmic representations reflect and contribute to cultural attitudes, both technophilic and dystopic, toward new technology
3. Develop a deeper understanding of critical media studies theory and the applicability of theories of technology, cyborg subjectivity, and virtuality to understanding film as a media form
4. Develop greater appreciation for historically significant SF films

Course Readings

There is no textbook. All required readings are available on Blackboard or via links to the
University of Toronto library.
You will be expected to screen some films outside of class via University of Toronto library and
other online sources. Copies of films may also be obtained from course instructor.
Please complete all readings and view films before we meet.

Method of Evaluation: 3 Exams

Exam I = 25%
Exam II = 25%
Exam III = 25%
Participation = 25% (based on film reviews on discussion board, contributions
to/comments on other reviews on discussion board, and contributions to class discussions)
Exam Part I and Exam Part II will be administered online and will test your understanding of
course content, including lectures, readings, and film content/plot. Students will have 2 hours to
complete the exam, which will consist of multiple choice, true/false, matching, fill-in-the-blank,
short answer/short essay.
The final exam is scheduled by the Registrar’s Office and will be announced in class. The final
exam will require your physical attendance and is not administered online.


Grading Scale


Percentage Letter
Grade Definition
90-100 A+ 4.0 Excellent Strong evidence of original thinking; good
organization; capacity to analyze and
synthesize; superior grasp of subject
matter with sound critical evaluations;
evidence of extensive knowledge base.
85-89 A 4.0
80-84 A- 3.7
77-79 B+ 3.3 Good Evidence of grasp of subject matter, some
evidence of critical capacity and analytic
ability; reasonable understanding of
relevant issues; evidence of familiarity
with literature
73-76 B 3.0
70-72 B- 2.7
67-69 C+ 2.3 Adequate Student who is profiting from the
university experience; understanding of
the subject matter and ability to develop
solutions to simple problems in the
63-66 C 2.0
60-62 C- 1.7
57-59 D+ 1.3 Marginal Some evidence of familiarity with the
subject matter and some evidence that
critical and analytic skills have been
53-56 D 1.0
50-52 D- 0.7
0-49 F 0.0 Inadequate Little evidence of even superficial
understanding of subject matter; weakness
in critical and analytic skills; limited or
irrelevant use of literature.


Academic Integerity

Academic integrity is essential to the pursuit of learning and scholarship in a university and to
ensuring that a degree from the University of Toronto is a strong signal of each student’s
individual academic achievement. As a result, the University treats cases of cheating and
plagiarism very seriously. The University of Toronto’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters
http://www.governingcouncil.utoronto.ca/policies/behaveac.htm) outlines the behaviours that
constitute academic dishonesty and the processes for addressing academic offences. Potential
offences include, but are not limited to:

Using someone else’s ideas or words without appropriate acknowledgement.
Submitting your own work in more than one course without the permission of the
Making up sources or facts.
Obtaining or providing unauthorized assistance on any assignment.
Using or possessing unauthorized aids.
Looking at someone else’s answers during an exam or test.
Misrepresenting your identity.
Falsifying institutional documents or grades.
Falsifying or altering any documentation required by the University, including (but not
limited to) doctor’s notes.
All suspected cases of academic dishonesty will be investigated following procedures outlined in
the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. If you have questions or concerns about what
constitutes appropriate academic behaviour or appropriate research and citation methods, you are
expected to seek out additional information on academic integrity from your instructor or from
other institutional resources.
http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/using-sources/how-not-to-plagiarize for guidelines
on how to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is an intellectual offense in which you try to take credit
for someone else’s ideas and language. This includes “cut and paste” internet papers. Plagiarism
can lead to severe academic penalties.


Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you
have a disability/health consideration that may require accommodations, please feel free to
approach me and/or the AccessAbility Services Office as soon as possible. I will work with you
and AccessAbility Services to ensure you can achieve your learning goals in this course.
Enquiries are confidential. The UTSC AccessAbility Services staff (located in S302) are
available by appointment to assess specific needs, provide referrals and arrange appropriate
accommodations (416) 287-7560 or

Discussion:Technological Prototypes

Discussion:Technological Prototypes

Discussion:Technological Prototypes

Course Outline

Part I: “Designing the Future”: Film and Technological Prototypes
Week 1 – Sept 4 – Course Overview
Screen in class: Moon (2009; 97 minutes), directed by Duncan Jones
Week 2 – Sept 11
Moon (2009; 97 minutes), directed by Duncan Jones (you must view before
UTSC Stacks VD 2013
Johnson, Brian David. 2013. “When Science Fiction and Science Fact Meet.” Computer
46.1: 81-82.
Johnson, Brian David. 2011. “The Men in the Moon.” Chapter 5, Science Fiction
Prototyping: Designing the Future with Science
Fiction. Read pp. 55-74.
McCalmont, Jonathan. 2009. “Review—Moon (2009).” Ruthless Culture (blog).
Kirby, David. 2010. “The Future is Now: Diegetic Prototypes and the Role of Popular
Films in Generating Real-world Technological Development.”
Social Studies of
40.1: 41-70. Read pp. 41-47.
Week 3 – Sept 18
Destination Moon (1950; 92 minutes), directed by Irving Pichel (view before
class – film will not be screened in class
UofT at Scarborough Stacks VD 2016
Kirby, David. 2010. “The Future is Now: Diegetic Prototypes and the Role of Popular
Films in Generating Real-world Technological Development.”
Social Studies of
40.1: 41-70. Read pp. 57-63.
Vieth, Errol. 2001. Excerpt from “The Nature and Function of Science,” Chapter 4,
Screening Science: Contexts, Texts, and Science in Fifties Science Fiction Film.

Westfahl, Gary. 2011. “Pitfalls of Prophecy: Why Science Fiction So Often Fails to
Predict the Future” in
Science Fiction and the Prediction of the Future, Gary
Westfahl et al., eds. (pdf)
Week 4 – Sept 25
Film: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, 139 minutes), directed by Stanley Kubrick
Kirby, David A. (2011) Excerpt from “Scientific Expertise in Hollywood”, Chapter 1,
Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists and Cinema. Read pp. 1-14.
Kirby, David. 2010. “The Future is Now: Diegetic Prototypes and the Role of Popular
Films in Generating Real-world Technological Development.”
Social Studies of
40.1: 41-70. Read pp. 63-66.
Mateas, Michael. (2006). “Reading HAL: Representation and Artificial Intelligence” in
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: New Essays. Robert Kolker, ed.
Week 5 – Oct 2
Minority Report (2002; 145 minutes), directed by Stephen Spielberg
Kirby, David. 2010. “The Future is Now: Diegetic Prototypes and the Role of Popular
Films in Generating Real-world Technological Development.”
Social Studies of
40.1: 41-70. Read pp. 47-53
Krahn, Timothy et al. 2010. “Novel Neurotechnologies in Film—A Reading of Stephen
Minority Report.” Neuroethics 3: 73-88.
Hillis, Ken and Jonathan Lillie. 2003. “Spatial Technologies for the Mobile Class: Life in
the ‘Cooltown’ Ecosystem.”
Geography 88.4: 338-347.

Discussion:Technological Prototypes

Discussion:Technological Prototypes

Discussion:Technological Prototypes7
Exam I – Friday, October 5, 3:00-5:00 pm
(Covers Moon, Destination Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Minority Report and readings and
lectures through Oct 2)
Part II: “Thing-like imitators of humankind”: Robots, Cyborgs, and Replicants
Week 6 – Oct 16
Film: Metropolis (1927), directed by Fritz Lang (view before class)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gn8Pk4dyCR8 (English intertitles)
John-Paul Trutnau. “Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Its Influence on the American Science
Fiction Film” (pdf)
Jenny Sunden. “What Happened to Difference in Cyberspace? The (Re)turn of the SheCyborg” (pdf)
Week 7 – Oct 23
Forbidden Planet (1956, 97 minutes), directed by Fred M. Wilcox (view before

Discussion:Technological Prototypes

Discussion:Technological Prototypes

Discussion:Technological Prototypes

Worland, Rick and David Slayden. (2002) “From Apocalypse to Appliances: Postwar
Anxiety and Modern Convenience in
Forbidden Planet” in Hollywood Goes
, David Desser and Garth S. Jowett, eds. (pdf)
Roberts, Ian F. (2010) “Oppenheimer’s Heir: Morbius and Atomic Technology in
Forbidden Planet.” Journal of Popular Film and Television 38.4: 170-175.
Fisher, Kevin. (2010) “Information Feedback Loops and Two Tales of the Posthuman in
Forbidden Planet.” Science Fiction Film and Television 3.1: 19-35.
Week 8 – Oct 30
Robocop (1987, 102 minutes), directed by Paul Verhoeven (view before class)
Pheasant-Kelly, Fran. (2011) “Cinematic Cyborgs, Abject Bodies: Post-human Hybridity
T2 and Robocop.” Film International 9.5: 54-63.
Nishime, LeiLani. (2005) “The Mulatto Cyborg: Imagining a Multiracial Future.”
Cinema Journal 44.2: 34-49.
Week 9 – Nov 6
Film: B
lade Runner: The Director’s Cut (1997, 117 minutes), directed by Ridley
Scott (view before class)
Gold, John. (2001) “Under Darkened Skies: The City in Science-fiction Film.”
Geography 86.4: 337-345.
Kerman, Judith B. (1991) “Technology and Politics in the Blade Runner Dystopia” in
Retrofitting Blade Runner: Issues in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Philip K.
Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Judith B. Kerman, ed. (pdf)
Exam II – Friday, November 9, 3:00-5:00 pm
Part III: Intelligent Agents and the Contemporary Technological Moment
Week 10 – Nov 13
Film: Ex Machina (2014, 110 minutes), directed by Alex Garland (view before class)
Ray Kurzweil. The Singularity is Near (introduction and Chapter 1) (pdf)
Anne Balsamo. “Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work” (pdf)
Angela Watercutter. “Ex Machina has a Serious Fembot Problem)
Week 11 – Nov 20
Film: Her (2014, 126 minutes), directed by Spike Jonze (view before class)
Lupton, Deborah. (1995) “The Embodied Computer/User.” Body & Society 1.3-4: 97-
Strange, Adario. (2014) “Why ‘Her’ Is the Best Movie Ever Made About the Singularity”
Week 12 – Nov 27
Screening in class:
Black Mirror episode / optional student presentation(s)
Final Exam scheduled by the Registrar’s Office
Cumulative. Covers material from entire semester, with more emphasis on Weeks 10-12. The
exam will consist of multiple choice, true/false, identification, and short answer/short essay

Assignment Policies



Please read all of the information about the assignments below:


The assignments are to be done in Microsoft Word with Times New Roman 12- point font. Each assignment should use the modified APA 6th edition format. The assignment templates are set up in this modified format. The reference page should be in the APA format for every reference. The word requirement for the assignments are specifically stated in the guidelines of the assignment. The word count is from the first word of the introductory paragraph to the last word of the conclusion paragraph. FYI.


1- There should be a cited reference for each section of a paper as there are conclusion statements in each section (to meet the grading criteria) so the conclusion should be supported by a reference as the assignments are evidence-based research, clinical papers.

2- Word Count- The word count is done from the first word of the introductory paragraph to the last word of the conclusion. The word count must be within the minimum and maximum word limit stated in the assignment instructions. A 10% – point reduction will be made in the total points for the assignment.

Week 1 and 5 assignments should have SIX studies. Week 5 assignment is a compilation of sections from the week 1, 2 & 3 assignments.

Weeks 2 and 3 need to have at least THREE studies in the form of research studies. Please make sure that you look at the instructions for the assignment as well as the grading rubric. I have also provided templates for ALL assignments. It is in your best interest to use these as it will guide you so that you do not make common formatting errors.


Please utilize the resources in the STUDENT SUCCESS CENTER if you have difficulty with APA 6th Edition format, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation or tense structure.


Always submit the assignment in the drop box for that assignment. I cannot accept any assignment as an attachment to an email sent to my college email. Attaching it to a posting to the Questions to Instructor Forum or the Individual Forum is also not accepted.

I cannot grade any assignment unless it is placed into the drop box by the student per university policy.

Turn-It-In / Lopes Write

This is to be used for the assignments for these three weeks (2, 3 & 5) and it is NOT required for Week 1. All assignments will be placed through Turn It In first and then submitted in the drop box on the course shell. No assignments will be accepted as attachments to emails as this is not the university policy.

Grading Rubric-

The rubric for each assignment is found in the upper right- hand corner of the assignment page under the Forum Tab. Compare the requirements of the rubric with your paper prior to submission into the drop box so you will receive full credit for all graded criteria of the paper.

Late Assignment-

Any assignment that is late will have 10% deducted each day it is late. This is a 5- week class. It is imperative that you ask for help if you are having difficulty with an assignment.

You need to contact me as soon as possible if an assignment will be late prior to the submission deadline.