The changing face of communication technology means that scholarship is changing as well. In this final project, you’ll make a scholarly argument online by composing a lengthy, researched, persuasive piece of scholarship that can be shared publicly online (at a free web-development site called Wix). This piece will be composed in multiple modes of communication, meaning that it will be partly composed of text and partly composed of video, audio, or images.
For this project, you’ll prepare materials much as you would for a traditional research paper: you’ll read and annotate sources, enter into a conversation with those sources, and plan an argument about how others should change their attitudes or actions on your topic. The difference is that you’ll present your ideas using more than just words, opening up your rhetorical possibilities.
And fittingly, your topic will also concern digital communication. In other words, you’ll use a digital medium to make an argument about some aspect of digital rhetoric.
Choose a focused topic that is related in some way to digital technology and rhetorical communication. Follow the plans you already laid out in your proposal and my responses to it.
Then, compose a multi-page website that persuades an audience (of your choosing) to change its attitudes or actions on your topic. That website must strategically use some blend of text, audio, images, and/or video to convince your audience.
I suggest you use the easy tools at wix.com to compose your website, but if you prefer, you may use Wix’s main competitor Weebly or another web design platform if you get permission from me first. We’ll play with Wix in class and do a practice assignment using it to give you the hang of things.
- Length: Your project’s “length” is up to you. (Make it long enough to deserve 25% of your entire grade for this course.) I encourage you to think of this project as having the “intellectual heft” of a ten- to fifteen-page research essay. Of course, you won’t write as many words as would be in fifteen pages of writing (~5,000), given that you’ll also be composing or arranging multimodal elements.
- Modalities: At least two modalities (text, audio, image, video) must be used strategically and purposefully on your site. That is, it’s not good enough to write a traditional essay and toss a couple of images on the site without saying anything about them. (I call that “visual frosting.” Both of the images on this page are merely visual frosting, for example.) If the only modalities you use are text and images, make sure that the analysis or use of the images is central to your argument.
- A good rule of thumb: if you compose any images, video, or audio yourself, you automatically fulfill this part of the assignment. If you embed images, video, or audio that you found somewhere else, you should discuss these elements at length, perhaps doing a rhetorical analysis of them (when appropriate to your topic and argument). (See “Tips for Each Modality” below for more specific advice about this.)
- Sources: Your project must in some way “use” at least ten outside sources (though you may use many more, if appropriate), each of which must be cited formally in MLA or APA format on a Credits, Works Cited, or References page. The rules for those sources are as follows:
- At least five must be articles in peer-reviewed academic journals.
- At least one must be from a book. This can be an entire book or a single chapter from an edited collection. (You may use Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus or any chapters from The Social Media Reader as your book source.)
- These sources do not have to be the same ones you annotated earlier.
- When you include an image, audio clip, or video clip that you are discussing in a detailed, meaningful way, it counts as one of your ten required sources. But if you include images, audio, or video just as “frosting”–as something that is nice to include but isn’t substantially discussed–those won’t count toward your ten sources. (Audio or video that you compose does not count as one of your ten outside sources, even if it uses music or images from outside sources.)
- When using copyrighted material, it’s crucial that you follow the guidelines in the Copyright Concerns section of the Practice Wix Assignment. See that section for advice about when to include something on your Works Cited/References page, and when to write a fair use statement.
Statement of Goals and Choices
Along with your final project, you’ll also submit a statement of goals and choices (SOGC). (You’ll use a single post on your WordPress blog to post both SOGC and a link to the project on Wix.) The SOGC is a way for you to tell me why you made the choices you did in your project. It must answer (at a minimum) the following questions in some way (but not necessarily in this order):
What, specifically, is this piece trying to accomplish—above and beyond satisfying the basic requirements outlined above? In other words, what work does this piece do? For whom? In what contexts?
What specific rhetorical choices did you make to accomplish the goals you describe in #1? Be specific—point me to specific places where I can see your goals made real by some choice you made.
Why did you end up pursuing this plan as opposed to other possibilities? After all, you could have chosen many different topics, and you could have chosen many different ways to present your arguments about your topic. Feel free to narrate what your decision process was like early on.
Who and what helped you accomplish this assignment? List human as well as nonhuman helpers, including software, web pages, and so on. Think of this as a way to give thanks.
You may write your SOGC (choosing a length that you feel is appropriate to a project of this intellectual heft), or if you choose, you may compose a video, audio file, comic, or use any other medium that will help me see what you had in mind as you composed the project. (Some students go to YouTube, click “upload video,” and record themselves talking into their webcam, which you can do right from the YouTube page.)
Some students find that the SOGC is easier to compose when they keep a project diary throughout the composing process, noting what frustrations and breakthroughs they’ve encountered recently.
This project counts as 25% of your final course grade. The SOGC will be assessed the same way as your reading response blog posts: as a 20-point grade in the Small Assignments category, earning a check, check-plus, or check-minus.
Your project as a whole will be assessed in the same way as your rhetorical analyses were assessed: according to your quality of ideas, organization, evidence, and style. However, there will also be one additional grade category: attention to detail.
Note that I’m not grading “slickness of design” or “flashiness of technology.” I’m much more interested in seeing evidence that you proceeded with a rhetorical sense of purpose, making choices that were appropriate given your goals for the project. Your SOGC will help me tremendously in that regard, as it will guide my assessment of the five grading areas. (For example, I might think at first that an organizational choice you made was poor, but your SOGC might explain that you did so purposefully, changing my opinion and increasing your grade in that category.)
Submission Details and Deadlines
- If you want individual advice from me about a draft, you must email a draft to me by 2:00 p.m. on Friday, December 6.
- On the last day of class (Friday, December 6), if we have extra time after the presentations are all completed, we’ll spend some time doing optional peer review of project drafts together. If you have a draft posted, we’ll spend five minutes (max) clicking around your draft on the big screen, giving you a chance to get informal feedback from me and the rest of the class on what you have so far. I suggest (but don’t require) that you create all of your pages by then, even if the content on them needs fixing up.
- Your SOGC and a link to your final project must be posted as a single post on your blog by 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 9. This is a hard deadline, as I’ll need to start grading immediately in order to complete them all. Missing this deadline means losing 10% per day late, following the guidelines on the syllabus.
Tips for Each Modality
- Much of your project can be composed like a traditional essay, if that’s where you feel most comfortable. However, I suggest at a minimum that you challenge yourself to think of organization in new ways, given that you can put different parts of your conversation on different pages. And of course, you’ll have to include at least one other modality in some central way to part of your project.
- You can find plenty of images licensed by Creative Commons on sites like Flickr. (Click the “advanced search” button.) Many of these photographers’ Creative Commons licenses specifically give you permission to remix their photos in programs like Photoshop, Gimp, or Pixlr.com’s online editor. You must still legally give credit to any images you use, even when licensed by Creative Commons, but you can do that on your Credits page.
- You might also want to create your own images, perhaps using photography, painting, or mash-ups of your own creation. Anything is fair game.
- If you use audio, I suggest you incorporate it the exact way we did earlier in the semester: first get it onto SoundCloud, and then embed it from there. You might want to manipulate your audio first using the free software Audacity, which will let you export it as an .ogg file that you can upload to SoundCloud.
- Legally, the safest way to use audio is to create sounds yourself or use files that are licensed by Creative Commons. (Their search site at http://search.creativecommons.org/ is great.) But if necessary, you can use copyrighted works within limits under fair use guidelines–as long as you write a fair use defense (which can go on your Credits page).
- Creating and embedding video is much like creating and embedding audio. You first create a file using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie (or a free trial of the more-powerful software Camtasia, which I prefer). Then you export your project to a file that can be watched on other computers (like a .mov or .wmv), upload it to YouTube or Vimeo, and embed it on your site.
- I gave you some more details on composing screencasts on the page Alternative Ways to Complete RA3.
- And just as with audio, it’s safest to use video sources that you create yourself or which have been licensed by Creative Commons. If you use copyrighted works, I want you to be sure that your use is considered fair, and you’ll need to write a fair use defense.
- Communication with me: Stay in touch. Seriously. Send me drafts, come to my office hours, and keep me generally in the loop as you compose this piece.
- Using prewritten words: Remember that you can use any words you’ve already written in this class for this project. So if you wrote a really good summary of a source for your annotated bibliography, you can copy that language directly into your project (as long as it makes sense in its new setting!).
- Examples of multimodal scholarship: For ideas about how to work in multiple modes online, poke around in the the online book The New Work of Composing, available at http://ccdigitalpress.org/nwc/front/stacked.html. You’ll also find multimodal texts in these journals: Kairos, Computers and Composition Online, Harlot, Currents in Electronic Literacy, Present Tense, and The JUMP (which publishes undergraduate work–like yours!).
- How Evernote can help: Consider carefully how best to organize your research and draft your writing. I have personally found Evernote to be particularly useful for organizing and tagging my quotations and notes from various sources. But you could also use Evernote or some other software to actually draft your work, allowing you to finalize your text there before pasting it into Wix. It’s part of our 21st-century rhetorical situation to have lots of digital writing spaces at our fingertips.
- Organization: Your piece does not need to be linear, but your audience should never feel confused. For example, if you have three pages that can be experienced in any order, consider creating an introduction page that explains to readers what options you’ve given them.
- Opposing views: Often, persuasive projects are made stronger when the author cites and responds directly to those with differing opinions. Consider purposefully looking for opposing views and responding to them in some way.
- Calls to action: Often, persuasive projects are made stronger when the author makes a very clear statement of what should happen in the future (often placed toward the end of the piece). Consider making such a call to action in your project.
- Audience: Sometimes, having a specific audience in mind can help you focus your argument. For example, if you decide that you’re writing to current and future teachers (not administrators or parents or the public at large), you can assume they know some things and give them suggestions that will best help them.
- Giving credit: If you have a lot of different kinds of sources to cite, it’s okay to break them up on a Credits page in the way that fits most logically with your project. For an example, consider the complicated Credits page on a multimodal publication of mine: it includes sections for my bio, credit to a web designer friend who helped me out, a formal MLA-style list of works cited that were textual, a formal MLA-style list of the songs I was discussing, a formal MLA-style list of sounds I used in audio clips I composed, credits to every image I used (including links to the images on Flickr), acknowledgments, and a fair use statement. That’s a lot, so I had to be careful to organize all that info in a way that would make sense to my readers.