Reference Points for Discussion
Preliminary Class Business
- Standard course evaluations: English 25, Prof. Alan Liu
(these are returned to the English department):
- Bubble sheets (use pencil, fill out the bubble part only)
- English dept. (yellow sheet): fill out all parts of the
- Course technology evaluations (these are returned to
- Questionnaire about use of tech in the course
- Class notes for guest
lecture on "Machine Literature" now online
The Laws of Cool: The Cultural Life of Information
(book MS. by Alan Liu)
Table of Contents
1. Literature and Creative Destruction
PART I: THE NEW ENLIGHTENMENT
2. "Unnice Work": Knowledge Work and the Humanities
3. The Idea of Knowledge Work
PART II: ICE AGES
4. "We Work Here, But We're Cool"
PART III: THE LAWS OF COOL
8. "What's Cool?"
9. The Ethos of Information
10. Information as Style
11. The Feeling of Information
12. Cyber-Politics and Bad Attitude
13. Toward the Future Literary
A. Taxonomy of Knowledge Work
B. Chronology of Downsizing
C. "Ethical Hacking" and Art
D. Primer of HTML Code Referred to in Chap. 10
|from Alan Liu, The Laws
of Cool © 2001
Survey of "cool" and related terms on the Web
using major search engines, July 6-7, 1998
|Total Pages in Database
||1,614,631 (1,314,428 in North
||1,424,618 (excluding proprietary
|In Page Title
|In Page Text (excluding
links and images)
|In Link(s) on Page
|from Alan Liu, The Laws
of Cool © 2001
"Cool" in General Society
- Cool as a general social symptom
- Two approaches to studying cool:
- Consumer culture
- Producer culture: contempory cool a symptom of "knowledge
- Lessons from the history of cool:
- Cool in subculture: the relation of "double
appropriation" between subcultures and mainstream culture
(see Dick Hebdige's study of British working-class youth
subcultures, excerpts below)
- Cool in counterculture: from the Beats to the Hippies
- Cool in mainstream culture: see for example:
- Danesi, Marcel. Cool: The Signs and Meanings
of Adolescence. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press,
- Frank, Thomas. The Conquest of Cool: Business
Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism.
Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1997.
- Cool in the age of knowledge work:
- "I work here, but I'm cool."
- "Bad Attitude" and Hacking
- Information Cool,or "information designed to resist
(Project Cool "Sightings": March 2001, #3: Pixel
|from Alan Liu, The Laws
of Cool © 2001
Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style
|[Reggae] is cast in a unique style, in a language of its
ownJamaican patois, that shadow-form, 'stolen' from
the Master and mysteriously inflected, 'decomposed' and reassembled
in the passage from Africa to the West Indies. (p. 31)
|Somewhere between Trenchtown and Ladbroke Grove, the cult
of Rastafari had become a 'style': an expressive combination
of 'locks', of khaki camouflage and 'weed' which proclaimed
unequivocally the alienation felt by many young black Britons.
|In clubs like the Four Aces, in the Seven Sisters Road,
North London, an exclusively black audience would 'stare down'
Babylon, carried along on a thunderous bass-line, transported
on 1000 watts. Power was at home herejust beyond the
finger tips. It hung in the airinvisible, electricchannelled
through a battery of home-made speakers. . . .
The music itself was virtually exiled from the airwaves. It
could live only in and through the cumbersome network of cabinets
and wires, valves and microphones which make up the 'system'. . . .
|During the 70s, the 'youth' were developing their own unique
style: a refracted form of Rastafarian aesthetic, borrowed
from the sleeves of imported reggae albums and inflected to
suit the needs of second-generation immigrants. This was Rastafarianism
at more than one remove, stripped of nearly all its original
religioius meanings: a distillation, a highly selective appropriation
of all those elements within Rastafarianism which stressed
the importance of resistance and black identity, and which
served to position the black man and his 'queen' outside the
dominant white ideology. (p. 43)
|All these developments were mediated to those members of
the white working class who lived in the samd areas, worked
in the same factories and schools and drank in adjacent pubs.
In particular, the trajectory 'back to Africa' within second-generation
immigrant youth culture was closely monitored by those neighbouring
white youths interested in forming their own subcultural options.
invented a style which enabled them to negotiate smoothly
between school, work and leisure, and which concealed as
much as it stated. Quietly disrupting the orderly sequence
which leads from signifier to signified, the mods undermined
the conventional meaning of 'collar, suit and tie', pushing
neatness to the point of absurdity. . . .
the way home from school or work, the mods went 'missing':
they were absorbed into a 'noonday underground' (Wolfe,
1969) of cellar clubs, discotheques, boutiques and record
shops which lay hidden beneath the 'straight world' against
which it was ostensibly defined. (p. 53)
"Gidget Digit" (Stephanie Klein), "Sabotage:
The Ultimate Video Game" (from Bad Attitude: The
"Processed World" Anthology, 1990)
What office worker
hasn't thought of dousing the keyboard of her word processor
with a cup of steaming coffee, hurling her modular telephone
handset through the plate glass window of her supervisor's
cubicle, or torching the stack of input forms waiting in
her in-box with a "misplaced" cigarette? The impulse
to sabotage the work environment is probably as old as wage-labor
itself, perhaps older. [ . . . ]
upsurge in the use of computerized business machines has
added fuel to the fire, so to speak. Word processors, remote
terminals, data phones, and high speed printers are only
a few of the new breakable gadgets that are coming to dominate
the modern office. Designed for control and surveillance,
they often appear as the immediate source of our frustration.
Damaging them is a quick way to vent anger or to gain a
few extra minutes of "downtime." (p. 59)
|In 1970 an anti-war group calling itself BEAVER 55 "invaded"
a Hewlett-Packard installation in Minnesota and did extensive
damage to hardware, tapes and data. More recently (April,
1980), a group in France (CLODOThe Committee to Liquidate
or Divert Computers) raided a computer software firm in Toulouse,
destroying programs, tapes and punch cards. . . .
However, in their emphasis on massive destruction, groups
such as the above direct themselves too much against the technology
itself. . . . They do not pursue the positive
aim of subverting computers, of exploring the relationship
between a given technology and the use to which it is put.
In this sense, pranks and theft, often carried out spontaneously
and almost always individually, are more radical than the
actions of those who group themselves around a specific political
ideology. (pp. 64-65)
- Bad Attitude: The "Processed
World" Anthology. Eds. Chris Carlsson, with Mark
Leger. London, New York: Verso, 1990.
- Chamberlin, Eric. "A
Brief History of the Mod Subculture." Excerpt from
M.A. thesis: Mods and the Revival of the Subculture.
New York Univ., 1998. 1998. Retrieved online 15 March 2001.
- Cool Site of the Day.
Home page. Retrieved 19 December 1999. <http://cool.infi.net/>
- Danesi, Marcel. Cool: The Signs and Meanings of
Adolescence. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1994.
- Frank, Thomas. The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture,
Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. Chicago:
Univ. of Chicago Press, 1997.
- Hebdige, Dick
- Hiding in the Light: On Images and Things. London:
- Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Methuen,
- MacAdams, Lewis. Birth of The Cool: Beat, Bebop,
and the American Avant-Garde. New York: Free Press, 2001.
- Majors, Richard, and Janet Mancini Billson. Cool
Pose: The Dilemmas of Black Manhood in America. New York:
Lexington Books, 1992.
- Netscape Communications, Inc. (Later part of AOL-TimeWarner,
Inc.) "What's Cool?" Netscape Home Page. Netscape
Communications, Inc. 7 March 1996. Retrieved 28 June 1997. <http://home.netscape.com/home/whats-cool.html>
[this page now defunct].
- Public Broadcasting System (PBS). The
Merchants of Cool: A Report on the Creators & Marketers
of Popular Culture for Teenagers. 2 Feb. 2001. Retrieved
1 March 2001. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/>
- Project Cool, Inc
(later called ProjectCoolMedia). Home page. Retrieved 19 December
- Robbins, Bruce. Secular Vocations: Intellectuals,
Professionalism, Culture. New York: Verso, 1993.
- Stearns, Peter N. American Cool: Constructing a
Twentieth-Century Emotional Style. (New York: New York Univ.
- Vincent, Ted. Keep Cool: The Black Activists Who
Built the Jazz Age. London: Pluto, 1995.
- Wicke, Jennifer. Advertising Fictions: Literature,
Advertisement, and Social Reading. New York: Columbia Univ.
links for this class on Study Materials page