ENGL488K - Special Topics in English Language: Digital Rhetorics

The World Wide Web is made of texts, and this course is about the rhetorical significance of the ways these digital texts are composed and circulated. Focusing on the theme of “The Web as Digital Public Sphere,” this semester we will consider how the basic human impulse to communicate and collaborate has been addressed in response to past communication technologies and should be addressed given the current issues and opportunities for global knowledge sharing and problem solving. We will examine the web from the politics of its fundamental design to the implications of this design for peer production projects and social justice on the web and in the public spheres it could better support. Case studies will likely include the free software movement, the Wikimedia movement and Wikipedia, and digital activism. This will give us a critical overview of uses of digital rhetorics from foundations in collaborative practices to current visions for global knowledge sharing. There are no technical prerequisites for this course. Students seeking instruction in software, programming, or web design would do best to look elsewhere. Our emphasis will instead be on critical and theoretical approaches to web texts. This course is both reading- and writing-intensive; workload and expectations for critical engagement and writing level will be commensurate with that of any 400-level English course. We will be using a computer-equipped classroom for weekly exercises and experiments to build on our theoretical understandings by composing some common forms of digital texts. Class meetings will emphasize active and consistent student participation through discussion and workshop activities. Student success in the course will be evaluated on the basis of online discussion, in class participation, presentations, papers, and exams.