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New Media, New Aesthetics
ENGL 250 UC Berkeley, Fall 2003, Alan Liu
Notes for Class 12

This page contains materials intended to facilitate class discussion (excerpts from readings, outlines of issues, links to resources, etc.). The materials are not necessarily the same as the instructor's teaching notes and are not designed to represent a full exposition or argument. This page is subject to revision as the instructor finalizes preparation. (Last revised 11/13/03 )

Preliminary Class Business

Introduction: Where We Are in the Course

  1. The Problem of Novation

  2. Ideas of New Media

  3. New Aesthetics

    • Use of new media to explore/imagine new aesthetics (new governing aesthetic ideologies, new ways of configuring subordinate aesthetics and artistic practices)

    • Use of new media to reexplore/reimagine the aesthetics of the new (e.g., "destructivity," otherness)

But first . . .

The Popular Aesthetics (and Ethos) of Technicity

Guillory, chart in "The Memo and Modernity" (course login required) [add rows for "media," "ethos," and "class"?]

Liu, Laws of Cool (table of contents)

The problem of the aesthetics (and ethos) of information in ordinary experience (the "technicity" or "knowledge work" of the "new middle class" or "New Class" [bibliography])

Production Consumption

Some approaches to cool:

  • sociohistorical
  • psychological/affective
  • formal and aesthetic
  • ethical

History of Cool

What do you know about the history of cool? How, when, and in what forms did it start? How did it evolve?

What happens when cool goes mainstream?


Psychology/Affect of Cool

What state of mind is cool?


Formal/Aesthetic Qualities of Cool

What are the formal and aesthetic characteristics of cool?

Is Cool Good?

What is aesthetically or affectively powerful but not (or more than) cool?

[Your examples]

Remembering Nagasaki. San Francisco Exploratorium. Retrieved 15 November 2000. <>

Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support (SANDS). [Later named SIDS Western Australia.] Home page. Ed. Tim Law. Retrieved on various dates, 1996{n}2003; last retrieved 12 July 2003. <> [see esp. Our Poems for Our Babies]

Works Cited

  • 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. <>
  • Cloninger, Curt. Fresh Styles for Web Designers: Eye Candy from the Underground. Indianapolis: New Riders, 2002.
  • Cool Site of the Day. Home page. Retrieved 19 December 1999. <>
  • Danesi, Marcel. Cool: The Signs and Meanings of Adolescence. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press, 1994.
  • Dinerstein, Joel. Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology, and African American Culture between the World Wars. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003.
  • 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: Routledge, 1988.
    • Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Methuen, 1979.
  • Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
  • hooks, bell. We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity. New Yori: Routledge, 2003. [ description]
  • 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. <> [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. <>
  • Project Cool, Inc (later called ProjectCoolMedia). Home page. Retrieved 19 December 1999. <>.
  • Robbins, Bruce. Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture. New York: Verso, 1993.
  • Simpson, David. Situatedness, or, Why We Keep Saying Where We're Coming From. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2002.
  • Stearns, Peter N. American Cool: Constructing a Twentieth-Century Emotional Style. (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1994.
  • 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. Press, 1988