Although I still need to work out the full reading schedule, I wrote up a brief description of my spring graduate seminar. The generic course name is English 654: Advanced Studies in Rhetoric, Writing, Technology, and Culture. My subtitle is Digital Cultures and Social Media.
I have to say thanks to colleagues who have been very open about publishing their syllabi online. I know that doing so has come a questionable activity–both professionally and legally–but given this area of study, I treat that activity seriously. Therefore I thank Howard Rheingold for sharing his Virtual Communities syllabus and course materials so that all of us can share in his (and his students’) expertise. His course has an anchor in sociology, however, so mine will vary considerably from his. Instead, we will focus on what Henry Jenkins calls “applied humanism,” a term used to describe the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, where I was a postdoctoral fellow the past two years.
And so, here is what the course is about. I decided not to go the traditional route of listing a string of authors’ names (especially since I’m a long way off from finalizing that list) and instead landed on a series of keywords. Since the course is trans-disciplinary, these keywords are probably more helpful to potential students than authors’ names are, anyway. I hope that’s helpful.
How does meaning-making happen in and around the contexts of contemporary social media? In what ways are affinities for these media enabling us to think differently about what it means to read, write, and participate? While much has been made about both media consumption and production, we have yet to understand what it means to participate in situated digital cultures.
This course is a fair split between both thinking about and using social and digital media. Students will be expected to keep up with a theory-rich reading schedule as well as rapidly-moving immersion in several media tools. So while this is a theory-based seminar, students must be prepared to work toward fluency in, for example, microblogging, commenting, tagging, and remixing. The goal is not just production but participation within a variety of contexts. In other words, it is not enough to know how to edit an entry on Wikipedia; we need to learn about and understand the Wikipedia community and what our edits mean within that context.
Although most readings will be freely available online, there are four print texts required for the course: Stephen Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good for You; Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture; Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel’s Digital Literacies; and Annette Markham and Nancy Baym’s Internet Inquiry. We will also engage with theoretical texts and empirical studies from scholars in communications, journalism, media studies, engineering, law, psychology, sociology, and the learning sciences. Please email the instructor for a link to the full list of authors.
Keywords for this course: wiki; blog; twitter; flickr; file-sharing; creative commons; free culture; fans; participatory culture; SMS; tagging; virtual worlds; videogames; grassroots media; play; identity; networks; smart mobs; LOLcats; xkcd; 4chan; Facebook; MySpace; del.icio.us; memes; YouTube.