**Feel free to access a Word copy of the syllabus here
Informatics / Writing Studies 303
Writing Across Media
Instructor: Logan Middleton
Please Call Me: Logan (PGPs: He/His/Him)
Class Location: Gregory Hall 9
Office: English Building, 4th Floor
Office Hours: Thurs., 11.00a-12.00p
How do specific media change the way we write? What does it mean to “read” an image, video, or a sound? In what ways do technologies, both digital and analog, shape the way we communicate, and how do they open up new avenues for persuasion and inquiry?
These questions highlight how multiple types of media are critical to literacy, rhetoric, and culture in contemporary American society. In Writing Across Media (WAM), we will explore the intersections between these media—image, audio, physical objects, and many more—as they relate to these issues. Along the way, we’ll develop an approach for understanding and composing multimedia products while attempting to identify, and just as importantly challenge, implicit assumptions about media. This course will additionally help us consider how writing (as an object and as a practice) is constructed by these multimodal interactions through theoretical and practical perspectives. Doing this work together will enable us to develop creative, innovative, and informed strategies for designing multimedia projects that integrate “text,” image, and sound.
Note: Writing Across Media is neither a lecture course nor is it a how-to course on particular software or technologies. It is, however, heavy on writing, theoretical readings, and discussion. WAM also fulfills UIUC’s General Education Advanced Composition requirement.
Student Learning Outcomes for Writing Across Media:
After completing this course, students will be able to:
1.) Compose and present multimodal arguments across media and support said arguments with evidence, analysis, and sophisticated attention to audience, technology, design, and/or material
2.) Understand how writing is mobilized across multiple spaces and contexts and how the affordances of writing depend on the media involved
3.) Thoughtfully engage with, analyze, and contest theories of media, communication, composition, rhetoric, literacy, and design
4.) Clearly explain, defend, and reflect upon your rhetorical decisions, processes, and products with regard to media and technology
5.) Revise your multimodal work in response to course texts, class readings, and peer and instructor feedback
Most course readings and materials will be available online through our course website; you shouldn’t need to purchase any textbooks. There may be a few points in the semester where you’ll need to purchase materials for some of our projects (spray paint, posterboard, etc.), but these instances will be few and far between.
It is imperative, though, that you do have access to course readings and related media during our class meetings. Whether you print these materials out or access them via a laptop, tablet, or other electronic device is up to you.
Grade Breakdown and Major Assignments (*):
This class will use a portfolio system to review and holistically grade your work. While blog post homework and major projects will receive written feedback from your peers and instructor, these assignments will not receive letter grades. Instead, twice throughout the semester, I’ll ask you to select, curate, and revise the work you’ve done thus far and submit it in the form of a portfolio. Your portfolio, then, will receive a grade for its entirety; you’ll also receive additional feedback to help you improve as a writer.
On the whole, portfolio assessment allows you to take more substantial risks in your work. It affords you the opportunity to experiment with new ideas and enables you to demonstrate your growth as a multimodal composer over a trajectory of assignments. As you can see below, more weight is given to your later writing, in the form of your final portfolio, in order to grant you as much time as possible to develop your composition and rhetoric skills.
If at any time one of your major projects does not meet average requirements and/or expectations (i.e., it would receive a grade in the D to F range), I will let you know.
*Project I: Local Graffiti Assignment
—Project Assigned: Tuesday, September 12
—Project Proposal Due / In-Class Proposal Workshop: Tuesday, September 19
—Project Due: Tuesday, September 26
*Project II: Audio Manipulation Project
—Project Assigned: Thursday, September 28
—Project Proposal Due / In-Class Proposal Workshop: Thursday, October 5
—Project Due: Tuesday, October 17
*Mid-Semester Portfolio (25%)
—Project Assigned: Tuesday, September 21
—Project Due: Tuesday, October 24
*Project III: Rhetorical Map Project
—Project Assigned: Thursday, November 2
—Project Proposal Due: Saturday, November 11
—Project Due: Tuesday, November 28
*Final Portfolio (45%)
—Project Assigned: Thursday, November 16
—Project Due: Sunday, December 17
It is worth noting that, even if the major course projects don’t receive letter grades, I do expect you to meet all of the requirements for these assignments—both in terms of content and deadlines. That is to say, if you turn in a course project that is late, incomplete, and/or comes up short of the prompt requirements (e.g., a reflective statement that’s 400 words instead of 800), your portfolio grade will be significantly reduced.
WAM Literacies Assignment (10%):
Once this semester, you and a partner will be responsible for leading discussion on a “WAM Literacy,” some sort of technological literacy that we’re not exploring this term. Your WAM literacy can take any number of forms so long as it’s related to the act of composition. This task has two parts: you’ll need to explain how your literacy of choice fits in to class-wide ideas of writing across media, and you should teach us some aspect of your technology in some sort of interactive capacity.
The point is not for you to lecture, but for you to gain experience in facilitating discussion and to help your peers gain a deeper understanding of your selected literacy. Plan your discussion / presentation to last 30 minutes (a little less than half the class period).
You all will sign up for WAM Literacies presentation dates a few weeks into the semester. If at any point you’re struggling to come up with a suitable topic for this assignment, please speak with me.
Participation (20%): Participation means coming to class prepared to talk about the assigned readings, discussing you and your peers’ works-in-progress, and actively engaging with in-class activities. In class, I expect you to listen attentively to your peers and to challenge, respectfully, the source material as well as the assertions of your classmates.
In addition to verbal participation, this grade also takes into consideration your homework, in-class writing, and blog post assignments, the likes of which will be evaluated for thoughtfulness and on-time completion. Homework and blog posts turned in and posted late, respectfully, will not receive credit.
If you want a more detailed breakdown of your participation grade, here’s what it looks like:
- Blog posts (50%)
- Talking in class (40%)
- In-class writing (10%)
I calculate talking in class by whether or not you contribute to our large-group discussions in class for the day. If you contribute to these discussions, you receive participation credit for the day. If you don’t, you receive half-credit participation for said day.
Digital Course Components:
*WordPress Course Site: Our course site is as follows: wamfall2017.wordpress.com. I will use this website to post announcements, assignments, resources, and other related content. The course syllabus and schedule are also available on this site, which you are responsible for keeping up to date with. Feel free to follow the blog if you prefer to receive e-mail updates when I post new entries (most likely homework assignments and the like).
*Individual Course Blog: You will all need to create a course blog as well, either through WordPress or another blogging site of your choice. Your blog will serve as a platform to post your own thoughts on class readings as well as homework assignments. In addition, your site will be attached to the course blogroll. In other words, it will be public to both me and your classmates, so be sure to keep that in mind when posting.
*Compass 2G: I expect reflective statements—those that are composed in alphabetic text, anyway—to be submitted through Compass 2G since it’s generally more secure and private than our WordPress course site. I will also use Compass 2G to post your grades and to provide feedback on your projects. In the chance that you produce a non-digital project (a hand-painted map, for example), please make arrangements with me to turn it in if there’s not an explicit due date on the course calendar. If you’re unfamiliar with Compass 2G or don’t know how to submit files or access grades through this platform, please don’t hesitate to ask me for assistance.
*E-mail: On occasion, I will send brief e-mails to your university e-mail addresses with reminders, resources, and/or clarifications on assignments. I check my e-mail daily and usually respond within one business day; I expect you to do the same. Legally, I’m not permitted to give out or discuss grades via e-mail, so if you’d like to discuss these matters, please set up a time to meet with me face to face instead.
*Media Commons: UIUC’s Media Commons, located in the Undergraduate Library, can assist you with your media projects. It’s a great space for learning more about media technology, and it additionally houses top-notch video and audio recording studios. Feel free to check it out or make a media consultation appointment to take advantage of this resource.
*Loanable Technology: If you don’t have the requisite software or hardware you feel like you need to succeed in this class, you can check out select technologies from the Media Commons at UGL. If you’re struggling to come up with the necessary technological resources to complete a project, please let me know ahead of time to the best you can
*Lynda.com—Since this class is not a “how-to” course in terms of learning the nuts and bolts of tech or software, you might find yourself a bit lacking in the requisite skills when it comes to creating media projects. Fortunately, UIUC offers free access to lynda.com, an online software training service for software (Linux), video editing (iMovie), audio editing (Audacity), and more (Python, Twine). Follow the link and log in with your UIUC ID to access bajillions of video tutorials.
*WAM Wiki – Previous WAM instructors and their students have created a helpful, Wikipedia-esque online wiki that contains a glossary of course-related terms. I’ve linked to it on our course blog.
Your portfolio work, WAM Literacies assignment, and participation grade will each be graded out of 100 points. Letter grades for these assignments will be posted on Compass 2G. In addition, your final grade will be calculated on a 100-point scale and converted to a letter grade using this system:
A = 93-100 B+ = 87-89 C+ = 77-79 D+ = 67-69 F= Below 60
A- = 90-92 B = 83-86 C = 73-76 D = 63-66
B- = 80-82 C- = 70-72 D- = 60-62
For those keeping track at home, the UIUC-wide GPA calculation is as follows:
A+ = 4.0 B+ = 3.6 C+ = 2.33 D+ = 1.33 F= 0
A = 4.0 B = 3.0 C = 2.0 D = 1.0
A- = 3.67 B- = 2.67 C- = 1.67 D = 0.67
Some of the major projects for this course are group projects. In the case of gross negligence of an individual group member, the rest of the group should get in touch with me. Together, we will work out a solution.
Assignment Submission / Presentation Policy:
All digital projects and homework assignments will be submitted on your course blog or Compass 2G. When submitting files to Compass 2G, please title your files as follows: “LastName_NameofAssignment.docx”
(for example, “Middleton_GraffitiReflection.docx”). You will receive more specific submission instructions for all projects and assignments throughout the semester.
Whether submitting assignments for homework or delivering in-class presentations, plan ahead for technological requirements and potential pitfalls. Technology can be wonderful, but it is never reliable. Always have a back-up plan. I highly recommend backing up your multimedia files to a flash drive, external hard drive, and/or cloud storage.
You must be prepared to present and speak about your multimodal projects on the first date listed for presentations on the calendar. If you are asked to present and are not prepared, you will be penalized for that project. Comparably, missing the day in which you are signed up to lead class discussion for your WAM Literacies presentation will result in a 0 for the assignment unless you have an excused absence documented through the campus’s Student Assistance Center.
All major projects and their rationales are due on the specific due date as it appears on the course calendar. As noted elsewhere in this syllabus, projects not submitted by these deadlines will result in a significant grade reduction for your portfolio.
Your presence and active participation in this course is critical to your success in this class since most of the course consists of in-class discussion and peer feedback.
You can have up to three unexcused absences with no questions asked. So if you have a cold or a personal emergency, you should probably just stay home for the day and catch up by looking at our course website or asking a peer what you missed. There is no need to give me an explanation of why you weren’t in class. Just be sure to use your allowed absences strategically.
If you have more than three unexcused absences, your participation grade will be lowered one-third of a letter grade for each additional unexcused absence. For example, if you finished the semester with a B+ for participation, and you had five unexcused absences total, your participation grade would be lowered to a B-.
That said, I understand that attendance guidelines and policies are inherently ableist insofar that they’re prejudiced against students with mental, physical, and other sorts of disabilities that might prevent them from making it to class, on time, or at all. If there’s something going on in your life that’s regularly making it difficult to participate—whatever that means to you and whether disability-related or not—please let me know and we can figure out a system of accommodations that’ll work for you.
As mentioned above, this course is structured in a way that’s discussion heavy; it can only work when you’re actively participating in class. So please do be present in the ways that you can since it’ll make our learning better for everyone.
Everyone is permitted one extension for major projects. This means you may turn in one of this course’s major assignments up to 48 hours past the original deadline with no grade implications and no need for an explanation.
If you choose to use your extension, you must let me know by e-mail before the class period in which the assignment is due. The further in advance you do so, the better. Asking for an extension in person minutes before our class starts or after the project is officially due will not suffice.
Extensions aside, projects that are turned in late will result in a significant grade penalty, the likes of which will be factored into your portfolio grade. As noted above, homework assignments, in-class activities, and presentations cannot be made up.
Personal Electronics Policy
It is abundantly clear that we live in an increasingly technology driven and enabled world. This is perhaps nowhere else as clear as in Writing Across Media. We are lucky enough to hold class in a room with a set of laptops, the likes of which you are encouraged to use during our meetings. Of course, you may bring your own laptop / tablet to class in order to read, annotate, write, and/or search for materials relevant to the course.
For many of us, our laptops, tablets, and phones are an integral part of our lives, and of course, we (unconsciously) check them dozens of times per day. I recognize these habits and urges, in part, as informed by literacy practices, especially in a class like this where you might be very well using your phone as a media technology in its own right. As such, I do not wish to police cell phone use during class. If you feel like you might be inclined to use your phone briefly during class, all I ask is that you leave your device on your desk and be acutely aware of when, how, and how much you use it during class.
That is not to say that you are permitted to tune out on your device during class. If I notice that you are more engaged with your phone, tablet, laptop, or other technology more than course activities, these habits may negatively affect your participation grade for the course.
Classroom and Course Etiquette
In this course, you will undoubtedly work with students who differ from you in terms of identity, whether that’s in terms of gender, race, nationality, language background, age, or beyond. Regardless of these differences, you must absolutely respect the attitudes and contributions of your classmates, even if their perspectives differ from your own. As such, (cis)sexist, racist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, and/or xenophobic remarks or behavior will not be tolerated, nor will any additional form of harassment. These attitudes are not only counterproductive to safe and inclusive learning, but they’re simply unacceptable and have no place in this classroom, much less anywhere else. So please be respectful of your peers’ verbal contributions to class and their work, as we will all be working together to promote a rich, comfortable learning environment.
It follows that I envision our class environment—both in its physical and digital iterations—as a safer space in which everyone feels welcome to participate. Should we encounter material that might be emotionally challenging or potentially traumatic, I will provide a trigger or content warning in advance. If you find yourself having difficulty dealing with a particular class discussion or reading, feel free to step out of the classroom and/or speak to me about it in person.
As noted above, classroom etiquette also extends into networked spaces, specifically with regard to e-mail communication and blog activity. In your e-mails to me and to your peers, please be sure to include a title explaining the subject of the message, a greeting (“Hi Logan”), a clear explanation of your question/concern, and a signature.
Please allow at least 24 hours for an e-mail response from me. By no means do I consider e-mail correspondence an appropriate substitute for office hour conversations (in-depth discussions about major assignments, talking through writing processes, etc.).
Academic Integrity Policy (Plagiarism)
The University of Illinois has high standards of academic integrity set out in Article 1, Part 4 of the University Student Code, which I uphold.
All written work submitted in this course is expected to be your own, with any wording and/or idea taken from any other source fairly attributed. To use phrases and/or ideas from any other source as if they were your own, whether accidentally or deliberately, constitutes plagiarism. Submitting your own work for more than one course without permission of both instructors can also constitute plagiarism. The Student Code sets out possible consequences of plagiarism ranging from failure on the assignment to suspension or dismissal from the University, and it specifies that ignorance of these standards is not an excuse.
Students in this class should familiarize themselves with the Code. If you have questions about fair use or documentation, please do not hesitate to consult me.
I realize that defining academic integrity is particularly complex in a course that involves writing across media firms that are visual, aural, video-based, and digital. Please contact me before you turn in a project if you have any questions about academic integrity as it relates to multimodality.
Students Requiring Accommodation:
Everyone learns differently and benefits from different kinds of support. Please get in touch with me if you would like to discuss your individual learning style and/or needs and how this course can best accommodate them, whether you have a documented disability or not. If you have a disability that requires accommodation for you to succeed in this class, you may want to contact the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) for additional support.
The Writers Workshop provides free, one-to-one help to all UIUC writers. The Workshop’s consultants can help with any kind of assignment, in any class, and at any stage of the writing process. While the Writers Workshop is not an editing service, tutors will help students with anything related to their writing, including grammar, brainstorming, organizing, polishing final drafts, citing sources, and more. Bring a draft to revise or just stop by for help with getting your ideas together.
The Writers Workshop offers 50-minute sessions by appointment at the Undergraduate Library (251 UGL) during the semester. Both online and face-to-face sessions are currently offered, so feel free to make an appointment if you’d like to talk through your work with someone.
Main Location: 251 Undergraduate Library
Changes to Syllabus / Course Schedule:
This course syllabus and its corresponding schedule are subject to change. You will be notified of any such changes in class and in writing (most likely through e-mail or the course website).