In this course we will attempt to answer the questions: What is literacy? Is it evolving? If so, how? What role are the latest communication and new media technologies playing in that evolution? What are the implications of these technologies on how we read, write, communicate, and think? Where do we think literacy will be moving in the future? What impact will this new literacy have on future writers (of all genres)?
To help us answer these (and many more) questions, we will be reading recent texts (most published in 2008 and 2009) that will challenge us to rethink traditional ideas about reading, writing, text, and communication. Our in-class discussions, our assignments, and the online writing spaces we will use will challenge us to become more nuanced readers and thinkers, as well as critical users of contemporary communication technologies.
We will be blogging and Twittering. We will be using GoogleDocs, Twapperkeeper, and other Web 2.0 applications. It will be fun. It will be challenging. It may sometimes border on the absurd. But, rest assured; by the end of the class you will see literacy in a whole new way.
Brief Description of Semester-Long Projects
We will be completing three overlapping semester-long projects.
This semester the class will name and design a wordpress.org blog from scratch that is hosted on a section of my server called a subdomain. The ultimate URL will be: http://nameyouchoose.williamwolff.org. This will provide you will the flexibility that is not afforded when running a blog hosted by blogger.com or wordpress.com. As a group we will decide on a name relating to the overall theme of the course, choose and manipulate a theme, add and remove plugins, and so on. We will be doing this as we are composing our blog entries. It will, then, be a work in progress with its development evolving as we add texts. By completing this project will be learn about the visual literacy that comes with web site design, as well as about servers, FTP, and some basic HTML and CSS coding. For some basics on FTP and hosting a web site, see Julie Meloni’s “Web Hosting 101.”
Each student will be responsible for 1 blog post and 2 blog post responses per week except for weeks when the student is neither discussion leader (see syllabus) nor responsible for writing that week’s collaborative essay pages. Each week we will come up with a weekly posting schedule so that posts are appearing over time—something that is much nicer for readers. Each week two students will compose more formal posts, which will take the form of reviews of the text(s) being discussed that week. (For sample review essays, see the range of Clay Spinuzzi’s reviews on the Readings page of his blog.) Other posts can be less formal, but no less thought provoking on the subject of new media literacy. They can point to items in the news, pose interesting questions, link to intriguing photos, ponder things happening in your courses, reviews of new media applications or hardware, and so on. The goal is to keep them professional and interesting. One blog post will also be a short rhetorical analysis of one Twitterer’s follower list.
(Note: this was revised in class to state that each student was responsible for 2 posts per week [1 on the reading, 1 on a topic related to the goal of the blog] unless they were discussion leader or collaborative essay writer one week. This results in a total of 18 posts for the semester [12 weeks x 2 per week = 24 – 4 for discussion leading and 2 for collaborative essay]. The analysis of the follower list was dropped.)
Twittering is micro-blogging, a form of communication that uses only 140 characters (including spaces), and it is quickly becoming the communication medium of choice for people around the world. According to Hubspot’s “State of the Twittersphere” for the 4th Quarter of 2008, “Twitter has about 4-5 million users, about 30% are relatively new or unengaged users; An estimated 5-10 thousand new accounts are opened per day; Traffic has grown over 600% in the past 12 months (Compete.com); Twitter.com became one of the top 1,000 websites by traffic in May 2008 (Alexa.com).” As of September 2, 2009, Alexa ranked Twitter the 14th most visited site on the Web. It is, in short, a phenomenon—and as a result we are going jump in with both feet and Twitter throughout the semester. Each student will be responsible for at least 3 tweets per day (a post on Twitter is called a “tweet”). Tweets do not have to be about class.
We will also be using Twitter in class as a way of engaging our followers with the ideas that are being mentioned. We will not be using it to engage in conversation with each other—that is better done using an online chat interface. Rather, our tweets will inform followers about and briefly reflect on ideas about what is being discussed in class and by whom. In short, we will be replicating the kinds of tweets conference attendees use when tweeting a presentation. And since all but one of the authors we are reading this semester, I hope they will read the tweets and engage the conversation, as well.
Collaborative Essay using GoogleDocs
GoogleDocs is a free online word processing application that allows multiple writers to engage with a document. We are going to be using this space to compose a collaborative academic essay that explores the main questions of the course: what is new media literacy and what are its implications for writers. This semester-long project will challenge our understanding of authorship, writing, and the spaces in which writing is composed. My ultimate goal is to have the essay published along with an analysis of the essay.
A final, individually written paper will also be assigned. The topic will be determined based on the conversations we have in class.