RHE 312/STS 311: Inventing Electracy (Fall 2007)

[Image Credit: "Playing with Legos at SXSW 2007" by d.j.k]

How do argument, rhetoric, composition and writing change in the move from literacy to what Greg Ulmer calls electracy? What are the new compositional and rhetorical practices necessary to navigate electracy? Who will invent these new practices?

This course will begin the work of inventing elecrate (rather than literate) practices. We will not apply theories to texts - we will create new theories. We will not read texts in a new way - we will create new texts.

Using Ulmer's method of "mystory," we will create what he calls "wide sites" using pbwiki software. This software will allow you document the different discourses that have made you the writer/thinker you are, and it will also allow you to track your writing process over time. Our textbook, Internet Invention, provides short writing exercises that will help you build material for each of the major pages in your mystory. By slowly building up materials for your mystory, you will eventually compose a "wide image" - an image that helps you think about your reading, writing, and thinking processes. Albert Einstein's wide image was a compass that his father gave him. What will your wide image be?

Course Overview

In May 2005, the comedian Sinbad was declared dead by Wikipedia. Upon receiving a number of calls from friends, Sinbad’s managers assured everyone that he was very much alive. Who authored Sinbad’s Wikipedia entry?

During a February 2007 press conference, President Bush was asked whether expressions of discontent about his Iraq war strategy served to “embolden” the enemy. He responded by pointing out the importance of audience: "The only thing I can tell you is that when I speak, I'm very conscience [sic] about the audiences that are listening to my words.” Considering that millions of people read or listen to Bush’s remarks on a daily basis, how does he determine his audience?

According to the Wikipedia article for the album “Night Ripper,” the song “Minute By Minute” by DJ Gregg Gillis (a.k.a. Girl Talk) samples 13 songs including Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Holland, 1945,” Warren G and Nate Dogg’s “Regulate,” and Steely Dan’s “Black Cow.” What is the “text” of this song?

Rethinking Rhetoric
The study of rhetoric often revolves around a rhetorical (or “communications”) triangle: author/audience/text. But what is the state rhetorical triangle in wired world. What is the state of rhetoric and writing in an era of what Greg Ulmer calls “electracy”? How should we rethink ethics, politics, identity, intellectual property, or any number of other things given the rise of electronic networks?

This course will explore such questions (and many more). In this class “writing,” will be something more than text on 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper. We will work with aural and visual media, and we will broadly define (or redefine) what writing is. Some possible projects include reading and contributing to Wikipedia, creating audio mashups and podcasts, and contributing to a class wiki. Such writing projects will be rhetorical in nature—designed for specific audiences in specific contexts with a specific goal in mind. However, we will also discuss how these texts can (and will) be put in new contexts for different purposes with different audiences.

Policy Statement

RHE 312/STS 311: Computers and Writing

Instructor: Jim Brown
Meeting Place: FAC 9
Time: T/Th 11-12:30
Office Hours: T/Th 12:30-2 (Cactus Cafe)
Email: jimbrown@mail.utexas.edu


Course Calendar: http://instructors.cwrl.utexas.edu/jbrown/RHE312_calendar

Required Text
Internet Invention by Greg Ulmer, available at the UT Co-op.

Your work in this course will fall into the following categories:

Class Discussion
While there is no specific requirement to speak during class discussions, I will expect you to be engaged in class discussion. I recognize that people participate in discussions in different ways, but I will ask that you be "with us" as we work through some of the difficult material in this class. Please be attentive.

Using a wiki, you will be creating something called a Mystory. The details of this project will unfold as we move through the semester and as we read through Greg Ulmer's book, Internet Invention. An important part of this assignment is not actually knowing what the end product will look like. This may make for some frustrating moments, but our hope is that this frustration is productive.

Internet Invention Assignments
Our textbook lays out assignments that will help you create your Mystory. Some of these assignments will be completed for homework and others will be in-class assignments. These assignments will be included in the wiki that you create, and they should provide you with fodder for your Mystory.

Our textbook will be difficult reading at times. Ulmer will start to talk over our heads at certain points, but we'll have to hang with him through these moments. To ensure that you are keeping up with our reading, there will be short quizzes at the beginning of each class.

Learning Record
Grades in this class will be determined by the Learning Record Online (LRO). The LRO will require you to observe your own learning and construct an argument for your grade based on evidence that you accumulate throughout the semester. You will record weekly observations and you will synthesize your work into an argument for your grade. You will construct this argument twice - once at the midterm and once at the end of the course. We will be discussing the LRO at length during the first week of class. See below for more details.

Success in this class will require regular attendance.
I will take attendance at each class meeting. If you miss three classes, I will file an Absence/Failure report with the University. This report will be emailed to you and will serve as a warning. If you miss 5 classes, your grade for this class will be an F.

If you are more than 5 minutes late for class, you will be considered absent. If there is something keeping you from getting to class on time (i.e., you have a long trek across campus right before our class), please let me know during the first week of class.

Grades in this course will be determined by use of the Learning Record Online (LRO), a system which requires students to compile a portfolio of work at the midterm and at the end of the semester. These portfolios present a selection of your work, both formal and informal, plus ongoing observations about your learning, plus an analysis of your work development in terms of the five dimensions of learning and the goals for this course.

The dimensions of learning have been developed by teachers and researchers, and they represent what learners experience in most any learning situation:

1) Confidence and independence
2) Knowledge and understanding
3) Skills and strategies
4) Use of prior and emerging experience
5) Reflectiveness

In addition to analyzing your work in terms of these dimensions of learning, your argument will also consider the specific goals for this course. These goals are called Course Strands:

1) Risk-taking
2) Developing inventio processes
3) Developing revision processes
4) Multimedia Writing

The course website provides detailed descriptions of the Course Strands and the Dimensions of Learning.

Your work in class (and in other classes during this semester) along with the observations you record throughout the semester will help you build an argument in terms of the dimensions of learning and the course strands. We will discuss the LRO in detail at the beginning of the semester, and we will have various conversations about compiling the LRO as the semester progresses.

Late Assignments
Due dates for Assignments and Mystory pages are posted on the course calendar. While I will not be grading each of the pages you create in your Mystory (grades will be determined by the LRO), I will be providing comments and feedback. I will not provide feedback on late assignments. Also, late assignments will be factored into your argument in the LRO (see the grade criteria for more details).

Intellectual Property
Much of what we'll be working on this semester involves the appropriation of existing texts. This is no different than any other type of writing - all writing involves appropriation. The key will be to make new meaning with the texts that you appropriate. Copying and pasting existing texts without attribution does not make new meaning. Your Mystory will make use of different materials (text, video, audio, image), and you will have to be mindful of intellectual property issues as you create texts for this class. Please refer to the University's Scholastic Dishonesty policy for details about how UT deals with plagiarism.

In addition to being mindful of the information that you appropriate, you should also be mindful of how you'd like others to appropriate your texts. We will be publishing our work under creative commons licenses, and this will give you an opportunity to think about how you'd like others to make use of your work.

Technology Policy
We will use technology frequently in this class. Although I am assuming that you have some basic knowledge of computers, such as how to use the keyboard and mouse, and how to use the web and check e-mail, most things will be explained in class. If you don’t understand what we are doing, please ask for help. If you are familiar with the technology we are using please lend a helping hand to your classmates.

Course Website and Email
You should check your email daily. Class announcements and assignments may be distributed through email. The course website will also have important information about assignments and policies. Pay close attention to the course calendar as we move through the semester - I reserve the right to move things around if necessary.

Computer Use and Availability
Computers are available to you in the CWRL open lab (PAR 102), the Student Microcomputer Facility (SMF) on the second floor of the Flawn Academic Center (FAC).

Students With Disabilities
Please let me know of any disability that might require my assistance. The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic adjustments for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259, 471-4641 TDD.

Course Calendar

If the embedded calendar on this page is malfunctioning, you can also view our course schedule on this page.

Thursday, August 30
Syllabus and Introductions

Tuesday, September 4
What is the LRO? What is a Mystory?

Thursday, September 6
Beginning the Mystory, Understanding the LRO

Tuesday, September 11
Beginning the Mystory (cont.)

Thursday, September 13
Part A of the LRO Due

Tuesday, September 18
Image (cont.)

Thursday, September 20
Career Discourse Page: Workshop

Sunday, September 23
Career Discourse Page Due

Tuesday, September 25
Home and Family

Thursday, September 27
Memory Glimpse

Tuesday, October 2

Thursday, October 4
Mapping the Popcyle

Tuesday, October 9
Vernacular Genres

Thursday, October 11
Family Discourse Page Due
Family Discourse Page Presentations

Tuesday, October 16
Interface Impressions

Thursday, October 18
Midterm LRO Due
Entertainment Discourse Workshop

Tuesday, October 23

Thursday, October 25
Entertainment Discourse

Saturday, October 27
Entertainment Discourse Page Due

Tuesday, October 30
History (School)

Thursday, November 1
On the Premises

Tuesday, November 6
The Bar (Street)

Thursday, November 8
Community Discourse

Saturday, November 10
Community Discourse Page Due

Tuesday, November 13

Thursday, November 15
Automatic Emblems

Tuesday, November 20
Ad Art

Thursday, November 22

Tuesday, November 27
The Ideal of Value

Thursday, November 29
The Ideal of Value

Tuesday, December 4
Culture War or Syncretism

Thursday, December 6
Wide Emblem Due
Course Evaluations

Sunday, December 9
Final LRO Due

Criteria for Mystory Pages

While I will not be grading your Mystory Pages, I will be reading them and providing feedback. That feedback will focus on the goals of this course (the course strands):

1) Risk-taking
You are being asked to help create electracy. Your page is an attempt to think in a new way, and this means taking risks and thinking in new (and sometimes unproven) ways. What kinds of risks have you taken when creating this page? What kinds of new thinking have you presented? How is your page different from a paper written with "literacy" in mind (that is, a conventional paper)?

2) Inventio
Remember that the page begins with invention - pulling together the materials with which you will work. This process of gathering is important. It forces you to pull in pieces of information that don't seem to fit initially. A robust invention process makes revision much easier because it gives you more "stuff" to work with. How have you gathered materials with which to work? Have you attempted to use the Exercises from Internet Invention as fodder for your Mystory? Has this process pulled from various sources? Have you cut some things out of the information that you initially gathered? Has the material continued to evolve as you found more information and weeded out things that don't fit?

3) Revision
Revision is closely tied to invention. Have you weeded through the material you've gathered? How have you done so? Has your page gone through a number of revisions or have you created the page in the span of a few hours? When I click the history page, do I see significant changes over a period of time?

4) Multimedia Writing
You're writing on the Web, and this allows you a number of options that you wouldn't have while writing a "traditional" (literate) paper. Have you taken advantage of the medium by using links, images, audio, visuals, or any other new ways of writing that the wiki form offers? Have you pushed the boundaries of this medium by writing in a new way? Remember that this should be radically different than a paper written on sheets of 8.5x11 paper. How is your Mystory an electrate project rather than a literate one?


Our reading quizzes are posted here. You will submit your quizzes to me via email. To submit your quiz, please copy and paste the questions into your email and then provide answers underneath each question. The title of your email should read "Quiz [date]." For instance, your email for the quiz on September 4 should have the following title "Quiz 9/4."

Quiz: 9/4

1) In your own words (1-2 sentences), describe the goal of Ulmer's
Internet Invention.

2) Ulmer frames his book as an apprenticeship with a consulting agency
called the:

A) Electracy
B) Internet Invention
C) Ulmer Agency
D) EmerAgency

3) Why is Internet Invention written with what Ulmer calls a "narrative suspense."

4) In your own words (1-2 sentences), describe an LRO observation.

5) Which of the following is NOT one of the course strands?

A) Rhetorical Analysis
B) Developing inventio process
C) Risk-taking
D) Developing revision processes
E) Multimedia Writing

Quiz: 9/11

1) What is Grammatology?

2) Why does Ulmer present us with portions of his own Mystory?

3) What is the Popcycle?

4) How did Diogenes disprove the definition of man that Aristotle and
his students had developed?

5) Fill in the blank: If Plato invented the first concept, which he
preferred to call a form (or an idea), then _______ is an anti-Plato,
proposing a 'formless' metaphysics.

Quiz: 9/18

1) Suppose you are looking at a ceramic bowl that is cracked and discolored. How would the "wabi-sabi" way of viewing this bowl be different from Aristotle's way of viewing it?

2) What does Ulmer mean by attunement?

3) The Mystory is composed in the ______ voice.

a) passive
b) active
c) singular
d) middle

4) What is Chora?

Quiz: 9/25

1) In your own words, explain the difference between Bataille's "restricted" and "general" economy.

2) In your own words, explain why "homesickness" is different in electracy (as opposed to literacy).

3) Why is it important that James Joyce rejected "the discourses of the popcycle in which he had been interpellated"?

4) Ulmer uses Frederic Jameson's four-levels to discuss the different parts of the Mystory. Give an example of something from your own Mystory that fits with the first level - "Literal."

Quiz: 10/4

1) In terms of this chapter's discussion of Plato, why might it be
significant that Ulmer's father ran a Sand and Gravel Company?

2) At one point, Ulmer connects General Custer, Henry James, the word
"ficelle," and some other "endocepts." Why does he do this? How
might he respond to someone who said, "Isn't this a bit of a stretch?
Why are you forcing these connections?"

3) What does Ulmer mean by "cyberpidgin"?

4) What is the difference between "chora" and "topos"?

Quiz: 10/9

1) Listen to the This American Life story by Jon Ronson ("Who takes the class out of class reunion"). While listening, be sure to take notes.

2) Ronson's story could be part of a mystory, and it will be your task to explain it using Ulmer's terms. Using what you know from the first four chapters of Internet Invention, explain Ronson's story of being thrown in the lake. You can use any of the material from our text that helps to give an account of this story. Using the terms we've been working with in this class, write a paragraph explaining Ronson's story about being thrown in the lake.

Quiz: 10/23

1) How might this chapter help you write your entertainment discourse page?

2) What is cyberpidgin?

3) In what way does Ulmer's discussion in this chapter provide a possible way of dealing with the crisis of September 11, 2001?

Quiz: 11/8

You are free to use quotations, but those quotations must be contextualized to show that you are making an effort to understand and synthesize the material.

1) Why does Ulmer focus this chapter on "the bar"?

2) How is blues music something more than just sad songs?

3) Why is blues music useful to us when working through the community discourse?

4) What is "duende"?

5) What is "Agamben's test"? What is Agamben challenging us to do?

Quiz: 11/15

1) Ulmer says that both art and advertising attempt to solve problems.
How do they solve problems differently?

2) Ulmer "remakes" the Marlboro ad with his own mystory. In one or
two sentences, explain some aspect of this remake.

3) In one or two sentences, describe "the ladder of writing."

Quiz: 11/27

What is the point of the Geneaology of Morals section in chapter 10?

What is the ascetic ideal and refutation and how does it relate to our mystory and the search for the wide image?

What does he mean when he says, "My remake of Gurdjieff is Nietzschean"?

Why does Ulmer refer to himself as the Alienated Sage and how may that apply to another person's mystory?

What is the purpose of the sports car and why did Ulmer decide to include it? Is it meant to be an allegory for the trip to our own personal mystorys? A catalyst?

Throughout Chapter 10, Ulmer talks about trying to create a parable out of his journey to Mexico to pass on to his son. Is the Emblem of Wide Scope supposed to serve as a sort of parable relating to our past? It seems like the Wide Emblem shouldn't make much sense to anyone else.

I was slightly confused about the section when Ulmer brings about the discussion of the "bourgeois body", and how he brings that back into a discussion of mood and state of mind?

On a side note - What does Ulmer mean when he cites something as (ATH)?

How is the "truthful world" and geometry related?
What does Ulmer mean in his discussion of wisdom on page 286. Specifically he says, "The times are right for remaking 'wisdom' as a mode of knowledge." I
realize he makes this conclusion based on a book by Francisco Varela, but what
is its significance?

In Chapter 10 Ulmer talks about how he came to see himself as merely a character
in his mystory rather than a main character. How could a person loose their
status as a main character in their mystory while maintaining individality?

In Chapter 10, Ulmer uses the term ressentiment. I know it deals with morals and ethics, but I couldn't get a firm grasp on it's meaning. Is this intentional, like wabi-sabi, to be ambiguous in meaning or am I just not catching it? Ulmer says that he "did not recognize (or acknowledge) in myself the attributes of ressentiment." So I don't feel too bad about not knowing it's meaning. Furthermore, what is the significance of Nietzsche's excerpt about the bell? That little paragraph on p. 284 was deep and confusing and I could use some clarification.

When Ulmer spends a paragraph talking about how he saw a guy that looked "cool", what exactly is the point of this? He's describing the Californian look, and that's it .. I see that he remembers it and that in itself is important, but .. he then refers to the sage being "cool" later in the chapter. Why? Or are these two different things?