Assignments and Course Policies

Assignments

Class Participation (15%): Because this is a seminar, discussion is critical to the functioning of the class and your overall participation grade. I expect all students to come prepared for discussion by having completed the assignments. Students should not expect full credit for class participation based merely on their attendance. At the same time, repeated absences will not be permitted. If you miss more than two classes, it is up to you to contact me about why you missed class. Failure to do so will result in losing your entire participation grade.

Leading Discussion (20%): Each student will lead discussion twice, and they should try to take at least 2/3rds of the class time. I will attempt help facilitate discussion when possible/needed. Focus on questions that lead to a common theme as opposed to lecturing. You do not need to overview the assignment for that week, and you will not be penalized if other students have not done the readings. On the days you lead discussion, you do not need to turn in questions on Blackboard, but you may “borrow” other students questions if you believe they will help you. A rubric for how you will be graded is available on the class website.

Reading Questions (10%): For each class meeting, students should post three questions for other students in the class. These ought to be approximately a paragraph in length (three to four sentences), and demonstrate that you have engaged with the assignments in some manner. In other words, vague or broad questions may send the message that you did not complete the assignments. You should also be careful to not post questions that are similar to your classmates. The earlier you post, the less of a chance that this will be an issue for you.

Book Review (20%): Students must complete a five-page book review of a scholarly work. These should engage with the text in a way that moves beyond summary. Students should email me their books in advance before beginning this assignment. The sooner you do this, the more time you have to buy/loan and read the book. A good way to check that a work is scholarly is by examining the publisher of a book. Books by university presses are usually safe bets. Students should be careful in not judging their selection by the year that it is published. Older works are encouraged. In addition, you will present a five minute overview of your book for class. A rubric for the review is available on the class website.

Final Paper (35%): Each student is expected to turn in a paper of twelve to fifteen pages at the end of the semester about a topic related to the course. They should be in standard 12 point Times New Roman font with 1-inch margins. Students should use the assignments to discuss the themes they wish to explore. Citations of the course material are usually a good indication of this, but they are not critical. I am open to non-traditional projects also, such as films, novels, short stories, blogs, etc. as long as they are of analogous labor. If students would like to explore these options, please see me as early as possible to discuss a grading policy we can both agree on.

Office Hours

I check email fairly frequently, and I am happy to respond to students through it. Still, I encourage all students to see me during office hours to talk about their grades in the class, any assignments that they may have difficulty in, or general support in managing school. I will read drafts provided that students give me at least one week before the assignment is due to do so. In other words, I will not read drafts the night before the paper is due. I am also willing to meet with students on Skype, FaceTime, coffee shops, etc. if provided enough time to coordinate these events. If meeting outside of office hours, I will, under no circumstances, meet with students again if they are late for a meeting that I have specifically scheduled for them. I recommend students show up early for these meetings if possible. If students wish to call me, please send me an email, and I will provide my cell phone number. If there are other creative ways to meet, I am willing to explore those as well. I would prefer that students not use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media venues to contact me regarding the classes. I use these for professional or personal use, and they are not necessarily the best ways to get in touch with me about class. Finally, students should maintain professionalism throughout any office hours. I will not meet with students that are visibly belligerent and angry.

Electronics Policy

I have no problems with students using laptops, tablets, etc. to take notes and look at readings in class. Cell phones should be on silent. If you receive a call that you absolutely have to answer, please step out of the classroom to do so. Students should use electronics for the purposes of class. While I will not police students for their use, students that constantly check social media, the news, or email inevitably talk less and lower their participation grade. They also tend to have less engagement with the course and a lower comprehension of the material, which becomes reflected in their book reviews and final papers. I recommend all students turn off their wireless cards to avoid this.

Submissions

Assignments should be uploaded to Blackboard. I will use the time stamp on your submission to judge if you have turned it in on time. Late papers will lose a letter grade for every day they are late. Students that do not turn in a paper will receive an F. Please do not submit material to me in paper form. I do not need a paper copy of your assignments to mark up. Instead, please send them as a Word document. If you do not have Word, most word processors are able to convert documents to Word format. Conversion may sometimes leave strange characters. I will not count off for these strange characters as long as the overall paper is easy to read. If students are very worried, they may print their papers out to me as a PDF. Only send me a paper copy as a last resort.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is not only theft but also counterfeit. Students caught plagiarizing will receive an F for the assignment and may face further disciplinary action. It is up to students to familiarize themselves with the William and Mary Honor Code. Students should use proper citations to indicate quotes, summations, and paraphrases. You may use any citation style as long as it is consistent. You do not need to cite information that is “general knowledge” such as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. If you have any concerns or confusion, please meet with me.

Disabilities

If there is any accommodation that you need because of a disability, please see me after class or during office hours. To request accommodations, such as a note-taker, please contact the Assistant Dean for Disability Services. For more information, see http://www.wm.edu/deanofstudents/disable/

Learning Outcomes

Learning is a collaborative process, and I expect to learn as much from my students as I teach them. In order for this to happen, students need to come prepared to class and have a desire to learn. I will do everything I can to facilitate this. At the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand the basic development of how “information” became quantified and the cultural ramifications for this
  • Learn to think historically about new media and the effect that this historical development has had on the contemporary world
  • Have a greater grasp of both the perils and pitfalls of the networked world
  • Learn to analyze how artists, game designers, novelists, and film makers projected fears and awe about information in America
  • Examine how policy makers have understood large-scale information networks, such as the Internet.
  • Understand the historical development of information technology, with a special focus on the digital computer
  • Learn the basics of social justice movements focused on Free/Open Software and hacktivism
  • Understand how issues such as race, gender, and class have affected and continue to effect the free movement of information

Required Purchases

  • Hayles, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
  • Hindman, Matthew Scott. The Myth of Digital Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.
  • Schulte, Stephanie Ricker. Cached: Decoding the Internet in Global Popular Culture. Critical Cultural Communication. New York: New York University Press, 2013.
  • Sloan, Robin. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, 2013.
  • Standage, Tom. The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-Line Pioneers. New York: Walker and Co., 1998.