ENGL 303 Approaches to English Studies Cyberculture
ENGL 303 Approaches to English Studies Cyberculture


Assignment Values

Assignment Due Date Value
Participation Cards Daily 20%
Paper #1 – English Studies Story 2017.03.02 20%
Paper #2 – My English Literature Manifesto Technological Change 2017.04.06 25%
Paper #3 – Digital Toy Design Fiction 2017.05.04 35%

Assignment Descriptions

Participation Cards

Starting the second week of class, you will be required to bring a 3”x5” notecard to class each day. These cards will serve to record your attendance in class. More importantly, they will structure class participation.

There are three required elements on a participation card for it to count as attendance:

  1. Your name (top of card)
  2. A passage that stuck with you from the reading (front of card)
  3. An unanswered question based on class discussion (back of card)

At the beginning of each class, I will give you two minutes to write out one sentence from the reading that stuck with you: that you loved, that you hated, or that confused you (you may also bring a prepared card, if you like). We will begin class discussion by going around the room and reading our passages. This activity will serve to spark our discussion of the reading.

At the end of each class, I will give you three minutes to write out (in complete sentences) an answer to the following: “What topic did we raise today that is going to keep you up tonight? If nothing, what should we have asked that would keep you thinking into the night?” This is your chance to show me what you learned in discussion, what you wished you had learned, and/or what you still want to learn. I will be using these to help shape future discussions.

You are required to bring your own 3”x5” cards to class. Additionally, days where there are no readings (BigDIVA demo, days marked “Writing Day” on the syllabus), I will take attendance and no card is required.

Paper #1 – English Studies Story

Create a story that shows why you became an English major. The story can be fictional or true. The story can be as funny or as serious as you want. The story does not have to directly answer the question of why you became an English major. The story does not have to be a narrative. The story does not have to be prose. The story does not have to be written.

Paper #2 – My English Major Manifesto

Based on peer feedback and my feedback from your narrative, compose your intellectual statement for “why English?” Additionally, outline an action plan for completing your major, including research to pursue, skills to acquire, and courses you hope to take.

Paper #2 – Technological Change

As we have been discussing in class, digital technologies are changing a lot of day-to-day practices. For this assignment, think about a change you’ve observed in your own life, your peers’ lives, the life of your hometown, or at A&M that is being brought about by digital technology. As a few examples (which are not exhaustive of possible topics), you could talk about reading eBooks for class, the use of health trackers (such as FitBit), or coordinating student organizations through services such as Slack or Facebook.

As you select a change, think about the following elements I want in your paper:

  1. What is the history of the technology?
    1. How was it first created?
    2. How is it currently used?
    3. What analog or earlier digital technologies does it remediate?
  2. What are the affordances of this technology? You should have at least three.
    1. How are these unique to the technology?
    2. How are they different from earlier technologies?
  3. Given these affordances, what new social dynamics are revealed, created, or imagined based on these affordances? In other words, how do these technologies let their users do things differently?
  4. As a conclusion, what new social or cultural issues need to be taken into account as the technology evolves further?

Remember, as danah boyd reminds us in It’s Complicated, technology is neither utopian nor dystopian, but merely emphasizes or mutates existing social factors. I do not want a paper that argues that everything is great or that the sky is falling. Rather than engaging in moral panic, the challenge of this assignment is to think seriously and critically about what exists, both good and bad, and think about possible interventions that could be made in practice.

This paper should be between 6 and 8 pages in length, and will more than likely need to cite external sources, though there is no fixed number of required sources (but at least 1 per page is a safe number).

Paper #3 – Digital Toy Design Fiction

For this assignment, you will need to produce an artifact documenting or describing a digital toy (defined however you want) that might exist in the future. The artifact you produce can take a variety of forms, but here are some examples:

  • A user manual
  • A Kickstarter promotional video
  • Some blueprints / diagrams / patent applications
  • A collection of Instagram sponsored posts advertising the product
  • Yelp reviews
  • A short story
  • Promotional art
  • A press release
  • A corporate website
  • A pitch presentation

You are not required, for this assignment, to have actually created the device in question, but, instead, to create a piece of writing (defined broadly) that will tell a specific audience about the product you envision. So, you imagine a fake digital toy and then document it as though it were real.

The product you write about can be genuine, satiric, ironic, surreal, or familiar. In this assignment, you can celebrate digital culture, tweak it, critique it, and take it apart to see how it works.

This assignment is an exercise in design fiction, the recently defined practice of blending science fictional speculation with design practice. Here are some examples to take a look at:

Deliverables (added 04.17.2018)

You are required to turn in two deliverables:

  1. Your Artifact (described above)
  2. A Creator’s Statement
    • This will be a brief, 1-2 page document explaining the technology your artifact is exploring, why you are interested in exploring it, and why you chose to explore it in the way you did.

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