Fall 2016
CUNY Graduate Center
ENGL 89500 / MALS 7850
4:15pm - 6:15pm Tuesdays
Room 4419

Dr. Matthew K. Gold
(212) 817-8481
Office hours: TH 4pm-5pm and by appointment
Room 4108.01

This course explores the cloud as condition, metaphor, and infrastructure of the modern web. Our aim will be to come to know and theorize the materiality of the network in ways that account not only for its presence in the physical world, but also its rootedness in a variety of social and political contexts. We will explore local instantiations of cloud infrastructure in an effort to trace the material nature of the internet; explore fictional, theoretical, and philosophical accounts of the network; look at the environmental consequences of networked infrastructures; and play, when possible, with cloud-based reading and writing practices. By the end of the semester, we will have viewed “the cloud” from a variety of perspectives that reveal it to be not a virtual abstraction, but rather a set of material, social, and political instantiations, practices, and infrastructures embedded in our lives.



Requirements (All Students)

  • Regular Attendance
  • Completion of all course readings
  • Classroom participation

3 Credit Requirements (MALS 7850)

  • Annotated Bibliography & Presentation (5 texts minimum)
  • Cloud text experiment
  • Blog Posts (3 over the course of the semester)
  • Final Presentation
  • Final paper or project (15-20 pages)

4 Credit Requirements (ENGL 89500)

  • Annotated Bibliography & Presentation (10 texts minimum)
  • Cloud text experiment
  • Blog Posts (4 over the course of the semester)
  • Final Presentation
  • Final paper or project (20-25 pages)

Notes: Auditors are required to complete all assignments except for the Final Presentation and Final Paper.

Students in the doctoral English program may use the Annotated Bibliography assignment as part of the Portfolio they submit for the program’s First Exam.


  • Class Participation: 20%
  • Annotated Bibliography and Presentation: 20%
  • Blog posts and Cloud Text Experiment: 10%
  • Final Paper or Project: 50%


8/30 Intro to the class and to each other

9/6 Cloud / Futures

  • William Gibson, The Peripheral (first half)

9/13 No Class Meeting (Prof. Gold Traveling)
Cloud / Futures 2

9/20 Cloud / Infrastructures 1

  • Tung-Hui Hu, A Prehistory of the Cloud
  • Brian Larkin, “The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure.” Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 42, 2013, pp. 327-343.

9/27 Cloud / Infrastructures 2

10/4 No class (GC-wide)

10/11 No class (GC-wide)

10/14 (FRI) Cloud / Media

  • John Durham Peters, The Marvelous Clouds (selections)
  • Adrian Mackenzie, Wirelessness (selections)
  • Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter (selections)
  • Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social (selections)
  • Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, a thousand plateaus (selections)

10/18 Cloud / Environments

  • Jennifer Gabrys, Program Earth (selections)
  • Nicole Starosielski and Janet Walker, Eds., Sustainable Media (selections)
    • Janet Walker and Nicole Starosielski, "Introduction"
    • Nicole Starosielski, "Pipeline Ecologies: Rural Entanglements of Fiber-Optic Cables"
    • Rahul Mukherjee, "Mediating Infrastructures: (Im)Mobile Toxicity and Cell Antenna Publics"
    • Jennifer Gabrys, "Re-thingfying the Internet of Things"
  • Sy Taffel, “Escaping Attention: Digital Media Hardware, Materiality And Ecological Cost.” Culture Machine, Vol 13 (2012).
  • Shannon Mattern, “Cloud and Field.” Places. August 2016.

10/25 Cloud / Sovereignties

  • Benjamin H. Bratton, The Stack (selections)
  • Helga Tawil-Souri, “Cellular Borders: Dis/Connecting Phone Calls in Israel/Palestine”
  • Boaz Levin and Ryan Jeffery, “Lost in the Cloud: The Representation of Networked Infrastructure and its Discontents.” Spheres 3.
  • Gilles Deleuze, "Postscript on the Societies of Control." October, Vol. 59 (Winter, 1992), pp. 3-7.
  • Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum, Obfuscation: A User's Guide for Privacy and Protest (selections)

11/1 Cloud / Labor

11/8 Cloud / Networks

  • Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (selections)
  • Alexander Galloway, Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization (selections)
  • Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (selections)

11/15 Cloud / Infrastructures 3
Final paper proposal Due

11/22 Cloud / Writing
Cloud Text Experiment Due

11/29 Cloud / Vision

12/6 Final Presentations

12/13 No Class -- Reading Day

12/20 Final Papers Due


Annotated Bibliography & Presentation
Sign up:
Choose a research topic related to the course and find texts (at least 5 for students in the 3-credit version of the course and at least 10 for students in the 4-credit version) related to it (articles or books count equally as a text. For each text, provide a bibliographical citation in MLA format and a 1-2 paragraph description of the text. Your description should gloss the argument/contribution of the text in question and should also explain its relevance to your research topic. Be sure to explore academic databases from the GC Library such as the MLA International Bibliography as you are doing research. For more on writing an annotated bibliography, please see this resource:

Your annotated bibliography is due on the date of your presentation. It should be posted to our course blog in the “Annotated Bibliographies” category, tagged with terms related to your topic. In your presentation, you should introduce us to your research topic and walk us through the sources you’ve explored.

Blog Posts
Create a post on our course blog related to our readings. You might provide a reaction to something we’ve read; share resources related to the course; or work through ideas related to our class discussions. For more on academic blogging, please consult this guide:

3 posts minimum required for 3-credit course number; 4 posts minimum required for 4-credit course number.

Cloud text experiment
This assignment asks you to experiment and play, in some way, with a cloud-based writing system such as Twitter. You can create a twitterbot by following this guide by GC Digital Fellow Patrick Smyth -, create a networked performance of some kind along the lines of Ian Bogost’s Bloomsday experiment --, or do something else entirely. The goal here is to explore the affordances of cloud-based writing in some way, ideally inspired by our course readings.

Write a blog post on our course blog describing your experiment in the category “Cloud Text Experiments.” (note: this blog post is in addition to your other required blog posts)

Final Presentation
On December 6, you will be asked to give a 5-7 minute presentation on your final paper project. You should introduce the class to the subject of your research and begin to describe the argument you are making in your paper. Not required of auditors.

Final Paper or Project
Your final paper (15-20 pages for 3-credit students, 20-25 pages for 4-credit students; not required of auditors) should explore a topic of research related to the course materials. You should submit a short (no more than one page) proposal about your topic on November 15. In your paper, focus particularly on your argument; discuss sources insofar as they help you advance your argument, but make sure that throughout the paper (and particularly in your transition sentences at the beginning of every paragraph), you are putting the focus on the argument you are trying to make.

Should you wish to create a digital project of some kind for this class rather than a final paper, please meet with Prof. Gold to discuss.


I am grateful to Shannon Mattern and Matt Kirschenbaum for their suggestions on a draft version of this syllabus.