Manifesto: Parts I and II

Learning Goals

In this sequence of assignments we will examine issues regarding living through technology. Put succinctly, the goals of this assignment are:

    • To reason normatively both individually and collectively;
    • To develop a synthesis of ideas;
    • To formulate long-term principles regarding technology that may serve as the basis for future personal action.


Jaron Lanier's Who Owns the Future? stands as a manifesto (Kevin Kelly also discusses the "Unabomber Manifesto"). A manifesto is " ... a printed declaration, explanation, or justification of policy issued by a head of state, government, or political party or candidate, or any other individual or body of individuals of public relevance, as a school or movement in the Arts." And: "In extended use: a book or other work by a private individual supporting a cause, propounding a theory or argument, or promoting a certain lifestyle" (Oxford English Dictionary). Not straying too far from the OED, Wikipedia offers examples of notable manifestos including manifestos addressing technology. In this assignment, we will individually and collectively author a manifesto — a public declaration that offers normative principles regarding the relationship of humanity and technology.

This assignment has two parts.


Part I: Individual Norms

Please develop a list of six normative statements, each no longer than one sentence, regarding how we should conceive and direct the relationship between humans and digital technologies.

"Normative statements affirm how things should or ought to be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, which actions are right or wrong." For example, "We ought to cease the development of digital technologies that seek to emulate human intelligence." Or, "Universities should fully embrace the benefits of digital culture by digitizing all print matter and converting traditional libraries to museums (with coffee shops)." Or, finally, "If a digital technology can perform my job better than me, I should go quietly, not interfere with technological progress, and find something else to do."

Accompanying each statement, please write a 250-350 word paragraph that 1) explains the principle, 2) why you adopted it, 3) what the implications may be for others (society) adopting it, and 4) why the reader should take it seriously for possible inclusion in the collective manifesto.

With each paragraph, please provide a supporting reference to at least one source. Sources can be comprised of research and responses you, or your classmates, have posted on the wiki, course readings, readings found on our "Consider This" page (on the wiki), and related sources.

Please post your norms and explanations to the appropriate forum on the wiki by midnight November 12.
I will use this rubric to assess the assignment (Document File; 34 KB).

Part II: Manifesto

Using the individual norms as a basis, the class will collaboratively author a manifesto that declares how we should conceive and direct the relationship between humans and digital technologies. You can decide collectively how you want to structure the manifesto, but please provide the following elements:

    • A title (the title will contain requisite keywords);
    • A list, or some form of designation, of 3 to 5 keywords in the manifesto;
    A preamble — "an introductory and explanatory statement ... that explains the document's purpose and underlying philosophy;"
    • Twelve normative statements;
    • A 250-350 word explanation of each normative principle that specifically considers (perhaps through an example or illustration) the possible, or likely, social outcomes and impacts of broad adoption;
    • A concluding declaration synthesizing the normative statements, and their explanation, describing a shared, coherent vision;
    • A list of references — all works cited and consulted. Please see the MLA Formatting and Style Guide.

The twelve normative statements and explanations will be drawn, and revised as necessary, from Part I of the assignment. While the manifesto must include all the elements listed above in some way, please feel free to otherwise reimagine the format.

Please post the manifesto to the appropriate forum on the wiki no later than 4:05 p.m. on December 18.

Living Through Technology