Course Syllabus



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Catalog Description: In Language, Texts, and Technology, you will study “the relationship between technology, communication, and writing practices from a historical point of view.” (3 Units)

Course Description: Our social interactions are often mediated by some form of technology, whether it is in the form of a book, a letter, a phone call, or an e-mail. By studying communication throughout history, we can see the development of these technologies – how they have influenced one another and how they have fundamentally affected the way society works. Beginning with a focus on how technologies “remediate” one another (as well as looking at how each technology is itself very unique), we will focus on the history of communication from oral narratives through electronic literature. Throughout the course, we will come to truly appreciate the way that, as Marshall McLuhan argued, the medium is the message.

Required Texts (available in the campus bookstore):
- Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society. 5th Edition. Ed. David Crowley and Paul Heyer. Allyn & Bacon, 2006. ISBN: 0205483887

- Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008. ISBN: 0268030855

Assignments: Reading assignments are listed on the day they will be discussed in class. You are expected to arrive to class having read the works listed. All written assignments are to be turned in on the course blog ( and are due before the start of class. You must also upload a copy (a Microsoft Word document) to the course’s BlackBoard Digital Dropbox ( No papers will be accepted via e-mail and computer problems are not an excuse for late work. NO LATE WORK WILL BE ACCEPTED.


  • Essays (four at 10% each): 40%
  • Midterm Exam: 10%
  • E-Lit Group Project 20%
  • Final Exam: 20%
  • Attendance/Participation: 5%
  • Reading Responses: 5%

There will be four essays (750 words each) throughout the semester. The first will be an essay analyzing the media specificity of a communications technology that you utilize. The second will be an argument for our culture being a predominantly oral or textual culture. The third essay will be an interview with someone who did not grow up using digital computing as his or her dominant form of writing. The fourth and final essay will be an analysis of an emerging communications medium (such as Twitter, text messaging, chatrooms, etc.). You must meet the word count for each assignment and must upload your work to the course blog as well as turn in a copy on the course’s BlackBoard Digital Dropbox. If you draw from any outside sources for your essays, you must cite them accurately according to MLA or APA style. Each essay is worth 10% of your grade.

Note on Academic Honesty and Plagiarism: Any source that you draw ideas and quotes from must be cited accurately in your paper in APA or MLA style. If you use any source in your work without correctly citing the work, this constitutes plagiarism. Any intentional plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the assignment and may result in a failing grade for the course.

Category A: Sloppiness. Automatic “0” on paper, with option to rewrite for no better than a “C”
Category B: Ignorance. Automatic “0” on paper, with option to rewrite for no better than a “C”
Category C:Obvious Conscious Cheating. Automatic “0” on paper, with no option for rewriting
Students caught plagiarizing a second time will be asked to leave the class and will receive an automatic “0” in the course.
For those of you who are not aware of what constitutes plagiarism, here is a breakdown of the various types:
1. Buying papers, borrowing papers, or recycling former papers unrevised and claiming these types of papers as your own for your assignment in this course. (This constitutes a Category C offense)
2. Cutting and pasting parts of a webpage or borrowing passages from a book for your paper without properly citing these parts and claiming the material as your own for the expressed intent of cheating. (This constitutes a Category C offense)
3. Failing to use proper citation style for material you borrow, accidentally. (This constitutes either a Category A or B offense)

Electronic Literature Group Project:
You will be divided into groups to create a piece of electronic literature. In each group, there will be two designers, two writers, and one academic researcher. You will create a new work of e-lit that takes advantage of the interactive nature of the computer. You may utilize any authoring software or website to convey your e-lit project. Your designers are responsible for utilizing the correct digital design tools that best represent the narrative of the group’s e-lit. The writers may come up with their own creative piece or decide to draw from existing works of literature, refashioning them for the electronic age. All group members work in consultation with the academic researcher, who guides all the reasoning and decision making and ultimately gives a report on the decisions and consequences of the group’s project. The Electronic Literature Project will be worth 20% of your grade. You will be given individual (not group) grades for this project.

Attendance and Participation: You may miss up to three classes, however, anything beyond this amount will lower the grade significantly and six missed classes may constitute a failing grade. Attendance is taken only during the first 10 minutes of class. If you are 10 minutes late, this will constitute a tardy. Multiple tardies equate an absence and can affect your grade just as missing a class can. Your participation is crucial to the learning you will experience in this class and absences are weighed accordingly. Because this is a discussion-driven and hands-on class, the quality of the class for everyone is in large part dependent on the quality of preparation and visible engagement of each participant. Please realize that although you may have prepared the readings and assignments and may be listening to others, if you do not actively demonstrate your preparation and ideas in discussion, there is no way to observe and, hence, evaluate the quality of your preparation and participation. Attendance and class participation constitute 5% of the grade.

Reading Responses: Students must come to class every Thursday with a printout of 3 well-developed questions that interrogate the reading for that day. These questions should not be simply factual questions, but should instead ask something that functions in conversation with the readings. For example, a student should not submit a question such as, “What does McLuhan mean by ‘The Medium is the Message?” but should instead ask something like, “By stating that the medium is the message, does McLuhan believe that the content (or message) conveyed is always subservient to the medium it is conveyed through? Does the message always fall prey to the medium it is conveyed through?” These will be graded according to quality. Reading responses cannot be made up if you are late or absent (and cannot be e-mailed – you must turn in a hardcopy in class). Reading responses are worth 5% of your grade.

Midterm and Final Exams: There will be in-class midterm and final exams. The Midterm will be on February 26. The day of the Final will be announced. There will be no early or make-up exams and each student is expected to attend the Midterm and Final during the specified times. The Midterm will be worth 10% and the Final will be worth 20% of your grade.
—Please Note: This syllabus is subject to change at any time according to the professor’s discretion. The assignments below may also include readings handed out in class, which each student is responsible for completing.


So What is This About?

Week 1:
Jan. 13: Introduction to the course

Jan. 15: - Read: “Understanding Media” by Marshall McLuhan in Essential
McLuhan (pg. 149-188) (on Blackboard, under “Course Documents”)

  • Reading Response Due

Week 2:
Jan. 20: - Read: “Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation” by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin from Remediation (pg. 21-50) (on 375 webpage).

Jan. 22: - Read: “Mediation and Remediation” by Jay David Bolter and Richard
Grusin from handout of Remediation (pg.53-62) (on 375 webpage)

  • Reading Response Due


Week 3:
Jan. 27: - Read: Communication in History, Introduction and Ch. 1, “The Art and
Symbols of Ice Age Man” (pg. 2-14)
- Read: Communication in History, Ch. 3, “Media in Ancient Empires”

  • Essay 1 Due

Jan. 29: - Read: Communication in History, Ch. 4, “Civilization without Writing –
The Incas and the Quipu” (pg. 30-35)
- Read: “Untangling the Mystery of the Inca” in Wired Magazine:

  • Reading Response Due

Week 4:
Feb. 3: - Read: “Images as the Text: Pictographs and Pictographic Logic” by
Johanna Drucker and Jerome McGann at

Feb. 5: - Read: Selections from A is for Ox by Barry Sanders (on 375 webpage)

  • Reading Response Due


Week 5:
Feb. 10: - Read: Communication in History, Ch. 5, “The Origins of Writing” (pg.
- Read: Communication in History, Ch. 6, “The Alphabet” (pg. 46-55)

o Last day to drop course without record

Feb. 12: - Read, “The Gutenberg Galaxy” in Essential McLuhan (pg. 112-148) (on 375 webpage)
- Read: Communication in History, Ch. 9, “Orality, Literacy, and Modern Media” (pg. 66-72)
-We will discuss Lacan and Derrida’s notions of Orality vs. Text

  • Reading Response Due


Week 6: Print Culture and Mapping
Feb. 17: - Read: Communication in History, Introduction and Ch. 12, “The Invention of Printing” (pg. 91-95)
- Read: Communication in History, Ch. 14, “Early Modern Literacies” (pg. 104-112)

Feb. 19: - Read, “Maps, Knowledge, and Power” by J. B. Hartley from The New Nature of Maps, pg. 52-81 (on 375 website)
- Scan, “Mapping the Digital Empire” by Jason Farman (on 375 website)

  • Reading Response Due

  • Essay 2 Due

Electronic Literature

Week 7: The Information Age and the Rise of the Internet
Feb. 24: - Read: Communication in History, Ch. 41, “How Media Became New” (pg. 319-322)
- Read: Communication in History, Ch. 42, “Popularizing the Internet” (pg. 323-328)

Feb. 26: MIDTERM

Week 8: Chatrooms and Social Networks
March 3: - Read: Hamlet on the Holodeck by Janet Murray, Ch. 3 (on 375 webpage)

March 6: - Read: “A Rape in Cyberspace” by Julian Dibbell:
- Read: “Naked in the Nonopticon” from The Chronicle Review (on 375 webpage)
- Read: “With Friends Like These…” from The Guardian:
- Read: The Facebook Project:

  • Reading Response Due

Week 9: Blogging, Microblogging, Vlogging, and Text Messaging
March 10: - Read: “How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense” from Wired:
- Read: “Ambient Intimacy”:

March 12: - Read: “How YouTube Changes the Way We Think” from Wired:
- Read: “The Secret World of Lonelygirl” from Wired:

  • Reading Response Due

  • Essay 3 Due


Week 11: Electronic Literature
March 24: - Read Hayles, Electronic Literature, Ch. 1

March 26: - Read assigned works of Electronic Literature

Week 12: Electronic Literature
March 31: - Read Hayles, Electronic Literature, Ch. 2

April 2: - Read Hayles, Electronic Literature, Ch. 3

Week 13: Electronic Literature
April 7: - Read Hayles, Electronic Literature, Ch. 4

April 9: - Read Hayles, Electronic Literature, Ch. 5
? Reading Response Due

Week 14: Interactive Fiction and Gaming
April 14: - Read: “Can there be a Form Between a Game and a Story?” by Ken
Perlin in First Person (pg. 12-18) (on 375 website)
- Read: “A Preliminary Poetics for Interactive Drama and Games” by Michael Mateas in First Person (pg. 19-33) (on 375 website)

April 16: - Read: "Ludology" and “Towards Computer Game Studies” by Markku Eskelinen in First Person (pg. 35-44) (on 375 website)
- Read: “Genre Trouble: Narrativism and the Art of Simulation” by Espen Aarseth in First Person (pg. 45-55) (on 375 website)
- Reading Response Due

Week 15: Gaming
April 21: - Read: “Representation, Enaction, and the Ethics of Simulation” by
Simon Penny in First Person (pg. 73-84) (on 375 website)
- Read: “Videogames of the Oppressed: Critical Thinking, Education, Tolerance, and Other Trivial Issues” by Gonzalo Frasca in First Person (pg. 85-94) (on 375 website)


Week 16:
April 28: In-Class Presentations

April 30: In-Class Presentations and Conclusions

Week 17: Final Exam