Click here for a pdf version of the syllabus; it’s easier for printing.
Rhetoric of/in Digital Spaces
Course number: RHET 351
Credit hours: 3
Meeting day (all sections): MWF
Meeting time and location:
- 10-10:50 a.m., section 1:
- M, Starr 108C; W & F, Scarborough 216
- 11-11:50 a.m., section 3:
- M, Starr 108C; W & F, Scarborough 216
- 1-1:50 p.m., section 4:
- M, Starr 108C; W & F, Scarborough 208
Instructor: Dr. Kyle D. Stedman
Email: kstedman AT rockford DOT edu
Office: Scarborough 117
Office hours: M: 2-2:50 p.m.; T: 9-10:50 a.m. & 1-2:50 p.m.; F: 9-9:50 a.m.
Digital availability: I try to answer all emails within 24 hours on weekdays, but I rarely check email in the evenings or on weekends. You may (or may not) get a quicker answer by tweeting questions to @kstedman, which sends an instant notification to my phone–feel free to try.
- Shirky, Clay. Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators. New York: Penguin, 2010. Print. ISBN: 9780143119586
- Mandiberg, Michael, ed. The Social Media Reader. New York: New York UP, 2012. Print. ISBN: 0814764061
We’ll also read various pieces that are available for free online and others that I’ll upload to Moodle. Any pdf that I provide as a pdf in Moodle must be deleted at the end of this semester.
Catalog Course Description
Advanced rhetoric provides students with opportunities to refine their skills in critical thinking and practice developing oral and written arguments that respond to the complex situations they will face after graduation, both in the context of the workplace and in the wider public sphere. In some sections, community-based learning projects will contribute to an environment in which students consider how their skills may be applied to resolving issues arising within the context of the workplace and to problems affecting their communities. Interdisciplinary reading, writing, and speaking assignments will help students discover connections among disciplines and will encourage them to develop strategies for synthesizing the knowledge they have acquired during their study at Rockford College. PRQ: Grade of “C” or above in Rhetoric 102 or equivalent and 45 hours of college course work. Transfer credit will not be accepted to meet this requirement. Meets: Rh, and where applicable, C. 3 credit hours
In unprecedented numbers, people are writing in various online spaces. And often, this writing is composed of more than just words, as digital texts are integrated with images, audio, and video. Ever-changing digital tools make it easier than ever for everyday people to compose these rhetorically sophisticated compositions for sharing online. Of course, these new composing habits have also led to plenty of criticisms from those troubled by issues of authority, quality, economics, and intellectual property, which sometimes become muddied in the world of online communication.
In this class, students will explore both the rhetoric about digital spaces and the rhetorical moves that are possible within digital spaces. That is, we’ll confront the arguments of those who praise and critique various aspects of online, digital communication culture even as we practice making the moves we see modeled online. We’ll be guided by the fundamental questions of classical rhetoric as we compose rhetorical analyses and arguments of our own: how does our understanding of audience, purpose, and community change when anyone in the world with a networked computer can access our work? Students will blog regularly, read a variety of print and digital texts, and compose a researched, multimodal text to be shared online.
- Recognize the components of an argument, including claims, evidence, and the assumptions (warrants) upon which the argument is based
- Develop critical skills through analysis of evidence and forming judgments about its validity
- Understand the historical/cultural contexts of arguments
- Assess reasons why arguments are made
- Draw upon sound rhetorical principles in constructing and presenting arguments
To pass RHET 351, students must complete all required assignments as stated on the course syllabus.
Small Assignments (25%)
This grade category will include a number of small assignments, including regular blogging, in-class essays, audio & video production exercises, reports about what you’ve been reading on Twitter, practice assignments using software like Wix, and a research proposal.
Assignments in this category will be weighted with relation to each other by the number of points possible. For example, a 40-point assignment counts twice as much as a 20-point assignment in this category. Your grade in the Small Assignments category reflects the number of points you’ve earned out of the number of points assigned so far in the semester. So if there has been one 20-point assignment and one 40-point assignment, your Small Assignments grade will be X/60, or the number of points you earned out of the 60 you could have earned so far.
Rhetorical Analysis Assignments (3 total, at 10%, 10%, and 15%)
Three times this semester, you’ll compose a formal rhetorical analysis of a text. A rhetorical analysis is exactly what it sounds like: it analyzes the rhetoric of a text—that is, how the text was designed to be persuasive to its audience. In this class, we’ll define “text” broadly; for example, you’ll write an analysis of a traditional text that was written with words, but you’ll also write an analysis of a browser-based videogame and an analysis of a Wikipedia talk page.
Annotated Bibliography (10%)
Annotated means “with notes added to it,” and bibliography means “a list of resources.” So an annotated bibliography is a list of resources that you’ve annotated with your own summaries and evaluations. To do so, you’ll read multiple sources on the topic of your final persuasive project, cite them formally, summarize them, and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.
While you’re working on your final persuasive project, you’ll try to persuade the class to change its attitudes or actions on your topic by giving a short, persuasive presentation to us.
Multimodal Persuasive Project (25%)
The changing face of communication technology means that scholarship is changing as well. You’ll practice making 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.
Understanding our Class Websites
You’ll regularly use two websites to participate in this class: the main, public site for the class (https://rhet351stedman.wordpress.com) and our Moodle site (accessed through moodle.rockford.edu). The main difference is that everything at our main site is public, while everything on Moodle is only accessible to people in the class. This leads to some logical splits in where you’ll find the information you’re looking for:
|If you’re looking for…||you should look at…||because…|
|Schedule of readings and assignments||The public site||The public site is the home base of the class, where our main schedule lives.|
|Assignment details||The public site||There’s nothing private about the assignments. Anyone could read them. Send them to your grandmother, for all I care.|
|The syllabus||The public site||Same as above|
|Email addresses of classmates||Moodle||I won’t publish your email address publicly, so they only live in Moodle. (Look for the “quick mail” link.)|
|PDF readings from copyrighted works||Moodle||While fair use allows us to read brief excerpts of copyrighted works in class, I can’t legally distribute them publicly (and you need to delete them when the class is over). Therefore, these files will stay behind the password at Moodle.|
|Links to readings that are freely available online||The public site||It’s easiest for everyone if I just link to these free readings from the main schedule on the public site.|
|Google Docs with information where you identify yourself, like the page where I ask you to give a link to your Twitter account and blog site||Moodle||I don’t want casual visitors to know who you are if you don’t want to be known. Therefore, anything that connects your real name to your Twitter account and/or WordPress blog will stay in the privacy of Moodle.|
Your major projects will be assessed according to the criteria described on each individual assignment sheet. Often, this means that writing assignments will be assessed in 4 areas: quality of ideas, organization, evidence, and style. But when assignments involve non-textual elements, your assessment will often be based in part on a Statement of Goals and Choices, which you will write to explain the purposes you had as you composed and what choices you made to enact those purposes.
Your final number grade in the course will be translated to a letter grade with the following scale:
Technology and Privacy
You will be required to use a number of computer technologies as part of this class, including various online web services like Twitter, Evernote, Wix, SoundCloud, YouTube, Moodle, and more. It’s in your best interest to begin experimenting on these sites as soon as possible, poking around and learning as much as you can on your own and from the help files each site makes available.
You’ll also experiment with some basic audio editing software this semester, using Audacity (free and open source, available at audacity.sourceforge.net). If you don’t have a computer on which you can install this software, you can access it in the computer labs on the ground floor of the Starr Science Building. (You may also want to purchase or borrow a cheap microphone, which should also be available at the library before we get to our audio exercises.)
When I ask you to write or interact in online spaces that are visible to the public at large, you can be confident of these things:
- I will never require you to publicly identify yourself online. In other words, you may use a pseudonym for all public online actions if you choose, with no negative response from me as your instructor. If you’re concerned about your privacy, I recommend that you create a disposable Google Account with a false name that you use only for this course.
- I will never use a public writing space to assess your completion of any of our learning outcomes. In other words, I won’t grade you in public, and I won’t even write things like, “Good post!” or “Needs work!” in public spaces.
When technology fails to work correctly, I ask you to try to solve the problem on your own; often, reading the help files provided by a website can fix any problem you have, and a good Google search usually clears up anything they forgot to include. But if you can’t solve your tech problems, please know that I will never grade you down for work that you can prove was done on time. Therefore, if you’re not sure an assignment was submitted correctly on a website, it’s smart to print it or email me a copy of the assignment before the deadline so I know that the problem was the technology, not your time management.
Attendance (Same for All Rhetoric Courses)
Attend on time every time that class meets. If you are not in class when attendance is taken, you will be counted absent. Through the last day to withdraw from classes, as posted on the Academic Calendar (November 15 in Fall 2013), if you miss more than one week’s worth of class, you will be dropped from the course. For example, if your class meets three times per week (as ours does), “one week’s worth of class” is three classes. However, over the course of the term and regardless of reason, if you miss more than two weeks’ worth of class, you will fail the course for excessive absence unless you have arranged for a Medical Incomplete or Medical Withdrawal through Lang Center.
Two types of absence are excluded from this attendance policy:
- Co-curricular activities, defined as activities required by Rockford College course work.
- Illness excused by Lang Center. If you feel too ill to attend class, then go to or call Lang Center on or before the day class meets. If you go to another health provider, present the documentation of your visit to Lang on the next day that you are back on campus. Note: Lang Center does not excuse absences retroactively for which you cannot present documentation.
If I mark you tardy three times, this will count as one unexcused absence. I count you as tardy if you are between one and ten minutes late; beyond ten minutes, I count you as absent for the day. Similarly, if you leave class when there are ten or fewer minutes remaining, I’ll mark it as one of your tardies; if you leave earlier than that, I’ll count it as an unexcused absence.
Most assignments must be completed on time, including in-class essays and presentations. Failing to do so will result in a zero for the assignment. However, rhetorical analysis essays can be submitted late for a grade deduction of 10% per calendar day late. An assignment is one day late if it is turned in less than twenty-four hours after the original day and time it was due.
If you miss class because of an illness documented by the Lang Health Center (as explained above), you may submit assignments as many calendar days late as your documentation states you were sick, with no point deduction.
For example, Kendra’s essay is due at 10 a.m. on Friday, but she has the flu on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The Lang Center sends Dr. Stedman an email confirming that she was sick on those three days. Because she was sick for three days, she can turn in her essay three calendar days late: by 10 a.m. on Monday. If it comes in at 10:01 a.m. on Monday, it will have 10% deducted for being one day late.
The Student Handbook is very clear about what kind of writing constitutes plagiarism and what is successful, ethical paraphrasing. (See http://www.rockford.edu/?StudentCodes2.) I know that in practice, these lines can be difficult to find. Therefore, both I and you have certain responsibilities regarding academic honor:
- My responsibility is to give you a chance to practice integrating sources in safe, low-stakes assignments where you won’t have to worry about me accusing you of plagiarism. In high-stakes assignments, I’ll always discuss possible violations of the honor code with you individually and privately before forwarding any cases to the administration. However, when the honor code has been broken, I’ll respond to unethical behavior by failing you for the assignment or the course, depending on the situation.
- Your responsibility is to make a dedicated, good-faith effort to adhere to the Academic Honor Code, to report fellow students who don’t do so, and to talk to me about any fuzzy areas that seem unclear.
If you believe you are eligible to receive any type of academic accommodation, through such federal laws as the ADA, please contact the Lang Center for Health, Wellness, and Counseling, 815 226-4083. The Lang staff manages disability services for Rockford College.
Technology in Class
All cell phones must be turned to vibrate or silent. I expect the same etiquette you might use at a business meeting: if your phone rings, ignore it—after all, we’re doing important work in class. If someone repeatedly tries to get in contact with you and you suspect that it may be important, step outside or send a discrete text message. Rare texting is acceptable (rare=once a month), as long as you are careful not to look like you are ignoring class activities.
Similarly, be wise about your use of laptop computers or computers in the labs. While I don’t mind if students occasionally check their e-mail in class, I expect you to offer any speaking person the respect offered by your full attention. Leaving Facebook open is out of place for any professional setting (including a class).
Of course, this is a class on digital communication. At times, we’ll push against these rules together, tweeting and writing and making a digital ruckus while other things are going on. However, I insist that any ruckuses be experienced together, as part of the class. Any action that suggests that you’re not interested (whether to me or anyone else in the class) is prohibited, which includes staring glassy-eyed at the screen without paying attention to anyone else. You know the difference, don’t you?
It’s important that you check your Rockford College email daily. I’ll regularly communicate with you by email, and I’ll expect you to follow any instructions I give there. (If you don’t know how to access your email, the kind people in Information Technology will certainly help you; see http://www.rockford.edu/?IT_main for contact information.)
I also require you to follow professional email etiquette. This means that you should include in each email a descriptive subject, a greeting, and a closing. I also appreciate complete sentences, even in informal genres like email. Please know that failing to follow these pleasantries makes you look bad—not just to me, but to other faculty, employers, and others. (I’m human: when I get a professional-looking email, I start to feel kindly toward the sender.)
Disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. We deserve each other’s respect. Disrespectful behavior includes muttering or making faces in response to other class members’ comments.
For a detailed weekly schedule of readings and exact due dates, it’s your responsibility to check the weekly schedule on our class website.
There is no final exam; however, we may still meet at our scheduled exam time to make up any missed days or to complete presentations. Scheduled exam times are as follows:
- 10:00 a.m. class: Monday, Dec 9 at 10:15 a.m.
- 11:00 a.m. class: Tuesday, Dec 10 at 10:15 a.m.
- 1:00 p.m. class: Monday, Dec 9 at 3:15 p.m.