I am revamping “Introduction to Digital Studies,” my program’s overview of digital culture, creativity, and methodology. One approach is to partially organize the class around file types, the idea being that a close reading of certain file types can help us better understand contemporary culture, both online and off.
It’s a bit like Raymond William’s Keywords, except with file types. A few of the file types that seem especially generative to consider:
- MP3 (Jonathan Sterne’s work on MP3s is the gold standard to follow)
- GIF (especially the rise and fall and rise of the animated GIF)
- HTML (a gateway to understanding the early history and ethos of the web)
- JSON (as a way to talk about data and APIs)
This list is just an initial start, of course. What other culturally significant file types would you have students consider? And what undergrad-friendly readings about those file types would you recommend?