Assignments


Unit One — Divided Places

Research Summary 1

Your goal in this brief one-page paper is to offer a concise but thorough, precise but conversational summary of an article from a newspaper, magazine, or an academic journal on a library database such as JSTOR. The article, whether informational or editorial, should pertain to the digital divide outside of Austin but within the United States, generally speaking. For example, you might pick a specific state other than Texas (say, if you are from Chicago, you could choose to research the digital divide there or in Illinois more broadly), your own hometown, or you could write about the country as a (divided) whole, from sea to shining C: drive. Stay as close to the text as possible, quoting the author’s exact words at times to tie your reading back to the original text itself—cite page numbers for any quotations in parentheses after the text (just the Arabic numerals; neither p. nor pp., please). Your aim is to provide me with your understanding of what this text is stating, without opining on whether it is right or wrong, good or bad. Employing phrases such as Marx says/notes/states, or according to Wittgenstein, etc., will help you fluidly designate what is called intellectual property (i.e., help you avoid getting in trouble for accidental plagiarism). You will not have room to cover all the points the author makes, so you will need to synthesize the information yourself, using critical, careful judgment. Point out what idea the author is putting forward and then offer quotes from the text itself to demonstrate—that is, to show me—that the author is indeed making those same claims you say that he or she is. Do not offer your own comments, opinions, or arguments about what the text says, and do not offer a rhetorical analysis of the writing; rather, simply stick to content: What is the author saying in this text? What is being asserted here?

In the second paragraph—no more than half the page and no less than a third—you are asked to provide for me a succinct summary of your experience researching online and how you found the article you have just summarized. Try to answer the following, though your reflection by no means needs to be limited to these questions: Did you have difficulty finding an appropriate article, or was it easier than the physical library? Did you find that there were more options available, or fewer? What databases did you use, if any? How long did it take you, and did you get distracted? Where and on what sort of device did you do your research and your writing?

Research Summary 2

Your goal in this brief one-page paper is to offer a concise but thorough, precise but conversational summary of an article from a newspaper, magazine, or an academic journal on a library database such as JSTOR. The article, whether informational or editorial, should pertain to the digital divide in a global region of your choosing, beyond the borders of the United States. For example, you might pick another country (such as the digital divide in Morocco), a city within that country (Tangier), or you could write about a part of or an entire continent (North Africa). Stay as close to the text as possible, quoting the author’s exact words at times to tie your reading back to the original article itself—cite page numbers for any quotations in parentheses after the text (just the Arabic numerals; neither p. nor pp., please). Your aim is to provide me with your understanding of what this text is stating, without opining on whether it is right or wrong, good or bad. Employing phrases such as Lacan says/notes/states, or according to Derrida, etc., will help you fluidly designate what is called intellectual property (i.e., help you avoid getting in trouble for accidental plagiarism). You will not have room to cover all the points the author makes, so you will need to synthesize the information yourself, using critical, careful judgment. Point out what idea the author is putting forward and then offer quotes from the text itself to demonstrate—that is, to show me—that the author is indeed making those same claims you say that he or she is. Do not offer your own comments, opinions, or arguments about what the text says, and do not offer a rhetorical analysis of the writing; rather, simply stick to content: What is the author saying in this text? What is being asserted here?

In the second paragraph—no more than half the page and no less than a third—you are asked to provide for me a succinct summary of your experience researching online and how you found the article you have just summarized. Try to answer the following, though your reflection by no means needs to be limited to these questions: Did you have difficulty finding an appropriate article, or was it easier than the physical library? Did you find that there were more options available, or fewer? What databases did you use, if any? How long did it take you, and did you get distracted? Where and on what sort of device did you do your research and your writing?

Paper One

Your goal is to summarize and synthesize, cohesively and completely, the research you have done so far in the semester. This will include your previous research summaries—discussing both American and global inequities—a research summary and related article (of either type) taken from one of your classmates, as well as an additional viewpoint article that suggests a potential solution to some aspect of the digital divide, generally speaking. In total, your paper should include: (1) the historical and cultural contexts that caused the current problem; (2) the state of the issue as it stands right now in various contexts; and finally, (3) what might be done in the near future to rectify the disparity.

While a number of rhetorical choices (such as arrangement and style) are yours to make idiosyncratically, the best papers will articulate the wealth of research directly, clearly, respectfully, and responsibly. That is what you will be judged on: The efforts evident in your work to construct an essay intelligent, eloquent, and mindful of your audience and your object of study. You must smoothly and strategically integrate quotations from each of your various sources, but the bulk of the essay will be in your own voice. However you decide to structure your paper—and neither an explicit thesis is required nor any summary conclusion—you will be expected to transition between sections in a way that helps to reveal underlying thematics. Although you cannot remain entirely neutral in the end, the point of the paper is not to argue with the authors of your researched articles; rather, you should aim to condense into just a few pages your understanding of the causes and effects of the digital divide within an interrelated multiplicity of cultural spheres.


Unit Two — Divided People

Research Summary 3

In the first part of this brief one-page paper, your goal is to offer a concise but thorough, precise but conversational summary of a press release announcing, an op-ed proposing, or an article critiquing a so-called “disruptive innovation” that, in one way or another, actually just reinvents an already existing technology. For example, you might write find a text about how Uber has invented anew the traditional taxi or how Juicero attempted to update and replace ordinary kitchen blenders. A second paragraph will mimic the style of a press release in order to satirically propose your own product that similarly repackages a preexisting public good.

Stay as close to the text as possible for the initial part, quoting the original verbatim at times to tie your reading back to the text itself. Your aim here is to provide for me your understanding of what this text is stating. You will not have room to cover all the points a text makes, so you will need to synthesize the information yourself, using critical, careful judgment. Point out what position the author or company is putting forward and then offer quotes from the text itself to demonstrate (that is, to show) that the text is making those same claims you say that it is. The only comments, opinions, or arguments of your own that you should inject will focus on how the new product compares and contrasts with an older technology, what it improves upon and what it keeps the same, and whether or not the relationship is acknowledged.

In the second paragraph—which should take up a full half of the page, separated from the first by a blank line, like the one above—you are asked to parrot the genre of a press release as you announce a original “disruptive innovation” that in reality merely reinvents a common technology already in existence. This new product should take something in common, everyday use right now and redesign it by adding some of typical digital accouterment, such as WiFi or Bluetooth capability. The goal here is satirical; you should not try to develop a truly groundbreaking, billion-dollar idea, but rather, against all the usual advice, simply try to reinvent the wheel.

Twitter @ssignment

This assignment has two components:

First: Using your class-associated Twitter account, tweet at a credible, respected, and influential author related to the text you hope to analyze in Essay 2. Make sure to include the hashtag #RHE309 for the class to follow along, and feel free to #AddYourOwn. The choice of content is up to you—maybe it will be a playful humorous exchange, maybe you will ask a serious question, maybe you will challenge something they have claimed—but you should aim to get some sort of response. This is your opportunity to propose a “text” (Twitter feed, Facebook Page, Instagram account, etc.) to analyze for your second major paper, so make sure to read through that prompt first, as I will be taking into account whether or not the proposed source is sufficient for a full rhetorical analysis.

Second: Write a one-page reflection paper elucidating the experience. Include a screenshot of your tweet in the body of your paper, and make sure to include if you were retweeted, liked, or replied to by the original author, some other Twitter user, a bot, a troll, or whatever. Summarize your engagement and evaluate the credibility of the account you have reached out to—their past tweet history, bio information, verified status, and number of followers are all useful and worthwhile indicators of credibility. Consider the invented ethos of their past tweets, and the situated ethos of their bio, the pathos of their responses to others. Do they post links often? If so, where do they lead? How about pictures? Do they engage with followers? Like a lot of other tweets? Do they reach out to other stakeholders? Is this a personal or professional account? Tell me why you chose this author to tweet@ out of all the authors you could have chosen.

In a final paragraph, offer a succinct reflection of using Twitter for this assignment. Describe whether or not you think social media in general, and Twitter specifically, is an effective or appropriate way to engage interesting topics. Do you feel like this platform has given you a microphone and opened up the floor of the debate to new valuable voices? Explain whether or not you think Twitter is a worthwhile tool in evaluating ethos and pathos; for example, after seeing the past tweets of your author, did your opinion of them change? Speculate briefly on whether or not you feel like the logos of an argument is affected by the formal limitations (the character limit) of the application.

Research Summary 4

In the first part of this brief one-page paper, your goal is to offer a concise but thorough, precise but conversational summary of a blog post, an op-ed, or a general journalistic article that claims so-called millennials have already or are in the process of killing some traditional industry or product. For example, you might find a text about how digital natives have ostensibly wiped out the market for mayonnaise (far fetched as that seems, this is in fact a real article: bit.ly/2KQYqfj). A second paragraph will likewise provide a summary about industry-killing millennials—complete with quotes from the author, the name of a publication, and a proposed audience—but for an article that you have imagined.

Stay as close to the text as possible for the initial part, quoting the original verbatim at times to tie your reading back to the text itself. Your aim here is to provide for me your understanding of what this text is stating. You will not have room to cover all the points a text makes, so you will need to synthesize the information yourself, using critical, careful judgment. Point out what position the author or company is putting forward and then offer quotes from the text itself to demonstrate (that is, to show) that the text is making those same claims you say that it is. The only comments, opinions, or arguments of your own that you should inject will focus on whether or not you and your fellow digital natives actually still do use whatever product is supposedly being eradicated, whether you think that the vanishing of that industry is simply naturally occurring, or whether it is really a good thing in the end to end.

In the second paragraph—which should take up a full half of the page, separated from the first by a blank line, like the one above—you need to write another summary, exactly like the one just completed, but this time for an article you have made up yourself about another industry millennials have supposedly killed. This dead product or market does not really need to be in decline, but should suggest something of the generational divide between digital natives and digital immigrants. Key here, however, is that this paragraph should function as a summary, rather than the imagined text itself: Pretend that you have found a blog post or op-ed that makes the claim that millennials are killing industry x, and write, as you have before, a summary about that imagined article, including an article title, an author, a publication, and citations. The goal here is satirical, parodying both the types of articles that claim digital natives to be economic killing machines, as well as cleverly spoofing the style of research summary you have already written throughout the semester.

Paper Two

Your aim is to craft a vivid and sharp rhetorical analysis of the source named in your previous Research Summary 4 (but only once you have attained approval). You will focus on the ways in which that source reflects/performs particular identity conventions, and the goal is to articulate such constructions in terms of ethos, pathos, and logos. Papers, following a submission and revision format, will be graded on your ability to accurately locate and intelligibly evaluate the three traditional rhetorical appeals within your stated textual object, not only as the appeals stand individually, but how they naturally interrelate and overlap, as well. This in-depth and extended analysis should be integrated artfully within a concise summary of the text’s identity construction, and the overall paper must indicate how the source relates to the larger context of a social digital divide separating people online. As we have discussed it this unit, that might mean a generational gap, a gender divide, new racial distributions forming online, and so on. Furthermore, the papers must utilize either a previous reading from the unit or an article discovered through your own research to complement your original work. You should pay special attention to the platform genre and how the specifics of the technological format—e.g., the multimodality of Facebook versus the monomodality of Instagram—might both limit and drive the content, interaction, and community formation on those sites.

While a number of rhetorical choices (such as arrangement and style) are yours to make idiosyncratically, the best papers will articulate the analysis directly, clearly, respectfully, and responsibly. That is what you will be judged on: The efforts evident in your work to construct an essay intelligent, eloquent, and mindful of your audience and your object of study. You must smoothly and strategically integrate quotations from both your primary and secondary source, but the bulk of the essay will be in your own voice. However you decide to structure your paper—and neither an explicit thesis is required nor any summary conclusion—you will be expected to transition between sections in a way that helps to reveal underlying thematics. As long as you touch on the logos, ethos, and pathos of the text, you may do so in any order, paragraph by paragraph or highlighting their interrelations. Ultimately, you cannot remain entirely neutral as you analyze the appeals: You must make the (reasonable, well-informed) claim one way or the other whether or not the author’s rhetoric is effective—does his appeal to ethos work? does her pathos make you cringe? how do the different aspects of the text tie together logically to perform an identity?


Unit Three — Divided Participation

Research Summary 5

In this last research summary, you will need to make note of various personalized ads directed at/to you on any website or app of your choice, but one that you frequent often. This might mean ads appearing in your Facebook newsfeed, posts promoted in your Twitter or Instagram stream, pop ups before YouTube videos, clips cutting in on Pandora or Spotify, or the individualized recommendations provided by Amazon or Netflix. You must catalogue at least 4 of these targeted ads, if possible with screenshots of each included in the body of the text or as an appendix for clarity. Summarize, in just a few words, what product each ad is for, the visual or auditory content of the advertisement, and the overall implied message; you should then try to identify trends between the ads and any rhetorical strategies these miniature rhetorical texts might be employing to convince you to click on them. To be somewhat frank: Ad agencies can be incredibly sexist, racist, and exploitative—see: MadMen—so take note if these texts are trying to sell you on sex, on something racy or provocative, funny or cute.

Finally, please spend a paragraph—no more than a third of your page—reflecting on what the ads suggest about your personal ethos, at least in the eyes of the companies mining your data and selecting these ads for you. Speculatively, what might someone assume about the viewer of these ads having never met him or her before? Who do these admen think you are? What do they miss, and what do they get right?

Paper Three

The third and final essay requires you to reflect on your individual place and your unique history within the various digital divides that we have considered throughout the course; to do so, you might want to utilize your previous research summaries and unit papers. The goal, on one level, is to hone an idiosyncratic style that communicates effectively, clearly, expressively, and which employs the rhetorical strategies and stylistic tools discussed in class, from the three appeals to examples of figures of speech. On another level, the aim of this assignment asks you to probe your own unquestioned presuppositions, techno-dispositions, and digital ideologies in light of the narratives and themes we have explored together. As such, you will be graded on the conciseness and clarity of your prose, the responsibility of your approach, and the integrity of your critical candor—in effect, you will graded on the interrelationship of your logical, pathetic, and ethical appeals.

But there’s a catch: For the initial submission, you will need to follow the format of a traditional blog post—roughly 500–750 words, or a page in length—as you might regularly find posted on the Current Affairs website or by writers like FilmCritHulk. As part of the peer review portion of the grade, and to facilitate discussion in the last week of class, each student will be required to constructively and publically comment on the posts of two other students, once the papers have been published on the official class blog. You will then use these comments to help expand your brief essay into the 2½–3 pages needed for a mechanically polished, fully revised final statement.

While a number of rhetorical choices (such as arrangement and style) are yours to make idiosyncratically, the best papers will articulate the wealth of your thinking directly, clearly, respectfully, and responsibly. That is what you will be judged on: The efforts evident in your work to construct an essay intelligent, eloquent, and mindful of your audience and your object of study. You must smoothly and strategically integrate quotations from any sources you decide to use, but the bulk of the essay will be in your own voice. However you decide to structure your paper—and neither an explicit thesis is required nor any repetitive conclusion—you will be expected to transition between sections in a way that helps to reveal underlying thematics. This is, in the end, not an essay where you can by any means remain neutral; rather, you are being asked to explore, explain, and express your relationship to the different digital divides in your own terms, from your own perspective. What I need to see on paper and in pixels, then, ultimately, is, simply, the complexity that is you.

 

Reading Tweets

For every set of texts that you are to read for homework—be that as it may a full-blown book, extracted chapters, academic journal articles, or shorter pieces from news sites—you are expected to post a series of tweets about those readings, engaging the rest of the class online, in much the same fashion as if you were participating in a discussion group on Canvas. By at least an hour before the start of class, you should have tweeted out at least three times: Once as a reply to any of your classmates, once asking a question about any of the texts due that day, and once providing an analytical comment on any of the readings. These tweets are not only meant to ensure that you have worked through the material at more than just a rushed glance, as we will often use your individual comments, questions, and group conversations to kick off our in-class discussion. As with the rest of the writing in this course, this is not merely a participation grade that you earn just by showing up: The point of these tweets is to show that you are not just quickly reading the material right before class, but that you are engaging it seriously, critically, and responsibly—a comportment that should be reflected in each of your tweets.

Each of your tweets should be original, perceptive, concise, linguistically articulate, and clearly related to the material in question; when asking any question about the text, please be so kind as to include a specific parenthetical page reference in your tweet. Feel free to add gifs, emojis, links, or whatever other digitally specific signifiers you see fit, but always append the hashtag #RHEADD to every tweet so that the rest of the class can easily follow along and respond. Because this assignment, moreover, will require that your class-related Twitter account is set to be viewed publicly, you should think carefully about whether you want the account to remain anonymous—with a creative, incognito @handle, display name, and avatar—or if you feel comfortable posting under your own name, knowing that you may attract some random trolls, commentators, and Russian bots. While you are expected to tweet about every set of readings, I understand that life happens to all of us, that people get sick and times get busy, so at the end of the semester, when your tweets are tallied as a small part of your final grade, allowances will be made for (no more than) two absences.

Advertisements