april 30: abolish prisons and policing!

angela davis, are prisons obsolete? [this is the entire book. read it all if you like (it’s good!), but for our class, you need only look at the introduction (pp.9-21) and chapter 6 on alternatives (pp. 105-115)]

interview with alex vitale, “envisioning an america free of police violence and control”


april 23: not so fast, singularitans!

are we becoming cyborgs? (conversation between maria popova (of “brian pickings”) and evgeny morozov)

evgeny morozov, “the perils of perfection”

zeynup tufekci, “we’re building a utopia just to make people click on ads” (TED talk, so no reading!)


april 18: singularity ensues!

ray kurzweil, the singularity is near (this is a link to the entire book, but you should read only the prologue and chapter 6 (pp. 19-21 & pp. 225-269 on the pdf)

[[hey! it also comes in movie form! here’s a trailer…]]

verner venge, “the coming technological singularity: how to survive the post-human era”   (i know you may not be able to read all these readings, because it can be a lot — kurzweil is the big cheese in the world of singularity and is more recent, but the venge piece is shorter and more of a “classic”)



this recent article in the new yorker on the quest for immortality has a brief interaction with kurzweil, which has a nice summation of his 3 stages to the singularity (as well as the comparison between meat puppet and robocop visions of immortality…)

interview with kurzweil in time magazine

special report!

kurzweil gives a ted talk!

erik olin wright, envisioning real utopias, is a larger project to create “real utopias” but for today’s tech-related topics, you might find his discussion of wikipedia as utopian experiment interesting: p. 3-10 pdf (or 137-144 from the book)



i have been collecting some examples of existing eco-village/sustainable co-housing projects, that i offer here for you to browse at your leisure. feel free to take a look at them all, but i ask only that you look “closely” at ONE. our goal for tomorrow is to think seriously about the concept of SUSTAINABILITY, which is a topic that is of great importance not simply to ecological projects, but to any experiment that wants to exist across time and space.

in reading these websites, look at how these projects explain themselves (to whom? who is the audience for this information?) in terms of sustainability, considering its connections to 4 elements: COMMUNITY, TECHNOLOGY, ETHICS, and, of course, NATURE. be ready to discuss this in class together!

from vermont: cobb hill co-housing

from ny: ithaca eco-village

from maine: belfast co-housing and ecovillage (they managed to get both buzzwords into their name!)

from new hampshire: cite ecologique (oh la la!)

and, from far beyond the realm of northern new england (and upstate ny), and in honor of the recent death of its founder, paolo soleri, arizona’s arcosanti



april 16: getting in touch with nature

ernest callenbach, excerpts from ecotopia, (this is from the early 70s, so it is an interesting document for all kinds of reasons, but also to see how things have changed in terms of what we think about environmental problems/solutions, as well as the role of technologies).


that’s all that is required, but here are another few things that you might find of interest, if you have the time (which you probably don’t, but just the same…)

ernest callenbach’s “final words” (he died a few years ago)

on the syllabus, i promised something from starhawk’s fifth sacred thing, but realized that you don’t need that much to read right now. plus, it is from a similar moment in time as ecotopia. still, if you are interested, here’s a brief update from 2007 on her utopian vision of a sustainable city, san francisco


april 11: minimalism – the self as a locus of improvement

we’ll keep the reading light for today, so we can spend some time in class working on writing things.

here’s a smattering of samples (or a sampling of smatters…) from the world of minimalism as lifestyle (help yourself to at least one, but feel free to browse… there’s is a, dare i say, plethora of minimalist propaganda to be found online, if the mood strikes. but keep an eye on the self — how it is threatened and how it can be saved, and what, if anything, this has to do with larger communities) (you can find a list of offerings here, but might want to start (and end?) with the FAQ)

how to live with less, a lot less

the path to minimalism in ONLY 21 days!

how much stuff do you need? 100 things (now she lives in a tiny house)? 57 things?

ever feel like giving it all up and hitting the road? well, here’s 2 examples. first, a not fully successful effort, as documented on this american life. here’s someone who had a bit more success (he didn’t speak for 17 years, and walked everywhere. he visited middlebury someyears ago. particularly interesting why he decided to start riding in vehicles again…)



april 9: less is more!

ursual le guin, the dispossessed: an ambiguous utopia  — read chapters 4 & 5 (found here, in multiple formats, including good old html. just ctrl+f down to chapter 4)

(since this is less well known than some of the other texts we pick and choose from, you might want to refer to a basic overview (wikipedia version), (or you could try this more involved, scholarly version, if you feel like being more involved and more scholarly), just so you know what’s what before jumping into the (almost) middle)

[[[this is not required, but in case you are interested, here’s a book of analysis of the dispossessed, edited by an acquaintance of mine that has quite a few interesting chapters]]]

suzanne collins, the hunger games: rather than more reading, here’s the opening scene of the first movie. here’s the next, pre-reaping, scene (if you want). the point here is to look at the way that austerity and poverty are cast as more moral than the decadence of the ruling classes.


april 4: selling us utopia

tim simpson, tim simpson, “tourist utopias: las vegas, dubai, macau”  (this is a little bit theoretical. don’t get lost in all the complexity and fancy terms — the point is to get a sense of how “utopia” becomes a defining characteristic of certain tourist spaces, what that “utopia” means, and why this all matters. the specifics, while interesting, are not the main point for us. )

andrew ross, “kinder, gentler government” from celebration chronicles

and, if you have time, here’s an interview with neil postman, based on his book amusing ourselves to death, which is a critique of how television has destroyed political discourse (and from the mid-1980s, so you can marvel at how far we’ve come). sure, it would be best to read the book, but why not watch it on TV, so you can enjoy the irony (although at least it’s PBS). if you have only a few minutes, at least listen to the first 2 minutes, since it has some interesting utopian language, and then you can take another few minutes to at least get the basic argument. enjoy!


april 2: consumption as the basis of happiness

aldous huxley, brave new world 

[[this is a link to the entire book. you do not read it all. if you have time (a big if!), try to get through the first 6 chapters (which is about 80pp in the  book version i have). that seems like a lot, and might be, but this is more readable than some of the shlock i try and pawn off on you. if pressed for time, at least make it through chapter 4).

if you want to know huxley’s thoughts on the book years later, you might want to check out brave new world revisitedwhere there is lots of intriguing tidbits about freedom and other things that we claim we value…  but this is only here for reference, and is not required.

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