CAT 125: Winter 2011

Public Rhetoric and Practical Communication Online

Elizabeth Losh

Course Description:

This course in public rhetoric and practical communication in digital environments covers a wide range of potential genres, media, and audiences. We will study everything from Facebook profiles to videogames and virtual worlds as rhetorical spaces for public persuasion, commemoration, and comment. Students will do most of their graded writing in creating personal and class blog entries and in composing a final video essay that responds to themes in the course. These themes include online privacy, credibility, identity-creation, user choice, intellectual property, programming and interface design, and digital aesthetics. Further information about this course is available on the syllabus at

NOTE: Class Attendance is mandatory. Although numerically class participation seems only to account for 15% of your grade, class attendance is a required element for course credit. More than two absences can be grounds for failure in the course.

Textbook: The New Media Reader, Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort (MIT Press, 2000)


Grade Breakdown:

Online Identity Assignments (Media inventory, Dream URL, Facebook/MySpace): 10% - 600 words minimum (Online Identity Portfolio Rubric)

Blogging (class blog, personal blog, blogroll, tags): 35% - 2,500 words minimum / 500 words per week, weeks 3-8 (Blogging Portfolio Rubric)

Online Video (script, shot list, edited cut): 30% - 1,000 words minimum (Video Project Rubric)

Game Prototype- 300-500 words or Electronic Literature Assignment- 400 words minimum: 5%

Wiki Assignment about Second Life Environment: 5% - 100 words

Class Participation: 15%


Office Location: Pepper Canyon Hall 249

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursdays 12:30-1:30PM




Week One: Academia Online

1/4 Tuesday: Students PowerPoint 1

Theme Music: "My Generation," The Who

Alexsay Vayner, "Impossible is Nothing"

Michael Cera, "Impossible is the Opposite of Possible"

James Kotecki

Michael Wesch, "A Vision of Students Today"

Mark Marino, "(Re)Visions of Students Today"


1/6 Thursday: Professors PowerPoint 2

Theme Music: "Weird Science," Oingo Boingo

Special Guest Provost Naomi Oreskes

(Recommended, Naomi Oreskes, "The American Denial of Global Warming")

John Hall, "Lecture One"

Randy Pausch, "The Last Lecture"

Alexandra Juhasz, "Who Doesn't Want to Be Prom Queen"

(Recommended: Check out Juhasz's blog and YouTube channel)

dana boyd, "Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace"

Ian Bogost, "A Professor's Impressions of Facebook"

dana boyd, "Social Network Sites: Public, Private, or What?"

One Professor's Fantasy

Media Inventory Done in Section


Week Two: Research Rhetoric

1/11 - Tuesday: How Do We Understand Information?: The TED Talk as a Genre PowerPoint 3

Theme Music: "Fame," David Bowie

Ian Bogost, "The Cocktail Party Test"

Jill Bolte Taylor, Ron Eglash, VS Ramachandran, Lawrence Lessig

New Media Reader #40 - Langdon Winner, Mythinformation

The Wikipedia vs. Britannica Debate

More TED Talks (recommended not required): Susan Savage-Rumbaugh, Susan Blackmore, Paul Stamets, Paul Rothemund, Nathan Wolfe

Domain Name Thought Experiment Due!


1/13 - Thursday: Form and Content: What Does a Good Academic Talk Sound Like and What Does a Good Academic Blog Look Like? PowerPoint 4

Theme Music: "Enter the Ninja," Die Antwoord

The PowerPoint Debate

"What if Lincoln had used Twitter?"

Daniel Pink, "Pecha Kucha: Get to the Point in 20 Slides"

Pecha Kucha 20 X 20

Gallery of Academic Blogs by Professors and Students

Social Network Profile "Before" Analysis Due!


Week Three Introduction to New Media

1/18 Tuesday: Interfaces and Networks PowerPoint 5

Theme Music: "Code Monkey," Jonathan Coulton

"Introducing the Book"

New Media Reader #2 - Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think"

Lev Manovich, "The Practice of Everyday (Media) Life," Video Vortex Reader 33-44

Michael Wesch, "Web 2.0: The Machine is Us/ing Us"

First Blog Postings (Class and Individual) Due!

Make Your Change to Your Social Network Profile!


1/20 Thursday: Genres and Media

Theme Music, "Computer World," Kraftwerk

New Media Reader #50 - Scott McCloud, "Time Frames"

Layers, Timelines, Fields, Databases, and Navigable Space

Not required but recommended at least for skimming: Look at use of diagrams and images!

New Media Reader #11 - Theodor H. Nelson, "A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate"

New Media Reader #21 - Theodor H. Nelson, "Computer Lib/Dream Machines"

New Media Reader #30 - Theodor H. Nelson, "Literary Machines"


Week Four: Testimony and Evidence (Sections Meet in Smart Classroom)

1/25 Tuesday: The Video Essay as Genre

Theme Music: "Show You How," The Killers

New Media Reader #47 - Jay David Bolter, "Seeing and Writing"

Video Gallery II: Sample YouTube Video Essays (privacy, publicity, network neutrality, online identity, social media, electronic text, ubiquitous computing, etc.)

Social Network Profile "After" Analysis Due!


1/27 Thursday:

Theme Music: "Chasing Shadows," Django Reinhardt, Stéphane Grappelli & Quintette Du Hot Club de France

Deaf YouTube - Guest Lecture by Tom Humphries

Video Gallery I: Disability Videos

Weizenbaum's ELIZA

New Media Reader #24 - Joseph Weizenbaum, Computer Power and Human Reason

Blog Rules Due!


Week Five: Ownership and Authorship

2/1 Tuesday: Intellectual Property

Theme Music: "Technologic" (Peaches No Logic Remix)," Daft Punk

Video Gallery III: Copyright videos

Another Lawrence Lessig TED Talk

New Media Reader #36 - Richard Stallman, "The GNU Manifesto"

Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture (Introduction)

Recommended Viewing but not required: Copyright Criminals

Blog Roll Due!


2/3 Thursday:

Theme Music: "Tightrope" (feat. Big Boi), Janelle Monáe

The Rhetoric of Visualizations - Guest Lecture by Lev Manovich

Lawrence Lessig, Code 2.0 (Ch. 6 "cyberspaces" and Ch. 7 "what things regulate")


Week Six: Anonymity and Identity

2/8 Tuesday: Bodies, Minds, and Privacy

Theme Music: "Somebody's Watching Me" (feat. Michael Jackson), Rockwell

Video Gallery IV: Sexuality videos

New Media Reader #51 - Philip E Agre: "Surveillance and Capture: Two Models of Privacy"

New Media Reader #3 - Alan Turing, "Computing Machinery and Intelligence"

Recommended But Not Required: Amy Bruckman, "The Turing Game: Exploring Identity in an Online Environment"

YouTube Proposal Due!


2/10 NO LECTURE, Sections Meet


Week Seven: Persuasive Technologies

2/15 Tuesday: Videogames as Persuasive Technologies PowerPoint 10

Theme Music: "Automotivation 2," Cabaret Voltaire

New Media Reader #34 - Sherry Turkle - "Video Games and Holding Power"

YouTube Shot List Due!


2/17 Thursday: Procedural Rhetoric

Theme Music: "The Girl At the Videogame Store," Parry Gripp

Ian Bogost, Chapter 1, Persuasive Games

Game Assignment Due or Electronic Literature Adaptation Assignment Due!


Week Eight: Remix Culture

2/22 Tuesday:

Theme Music: "Digital," Via Audio

Selections from Alexandra Juhasz's Learning from YouTube

Recommended But Not Required: J.M. Balkin, Chapter 1, Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology

Blog Comments Due!


2/24 Thursday:

Theme Music: "United States of Pop 2009," DJ Earworm

Alex Juhasz guest appearance via Skype! Read her book and think about what advice you want on your own videos based on its assertions!

Selections from Alexandra Juhasz's Learning from YouTube

Henry Jenkins - Nine Propositions Toward a Cultural Theory of YouTube

Blog Tags Due!


Week Nine: World-Building and Cyber-Activism

3/1 Tuesday:

Becoming Dragon - Guest Lecture by Micha Cárdenas

Theme Music: "Androgynous," The Replacements

New Media Reader #53 - Critical Art Ensemble, "Nomadic Power and Cultural Resistance"

New Media Reader #44 - Lynn Hershman, "The Fantasy Beyond Control"

New Media Reader #35 - Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto"

YouTube Script Due!


3/3 Thursday: NO LECTURE - Sections Meet

Wiki Write-Up of Virtual Worlds Assignment Due!


Week Ten: Digital Journalism and Self-Publishing

3/8 Tuesday:

Theme Music: "Internet Connection," M.I.A.


Guest Nonny de la Peña of Immersive Journalism

New Media Reader #13 - Selections by Marshall McLuhan


3/10 Thursday: NO LECTURE, Sections meet

Final Video Essay Due!