50:192:101 Introduction to Digital Studies (Spring 2016)


The goal of the course is to provide students with a space to tinker with digital tools and also to develop critical vocabularies for analyzing digital objects. The class begins by examining some of the historical roots of digital technologies and then moves on to some key terms in digital studies: networks, interfaces, code, digital narratives, and physical computing. We will approach these key terms by way of readings and hands-on lab activities. In the words of rhetorician Richard Lanham, we will learn to look both "at" and "through" digital tools. By looking "at" tools, we learn how to analyze them and understand what they can or cannot do. We examine their histories and their cultural significance. When we look "through" tools, we begin to use them to compose and create. This course aims to allow students to move back and forth between these two ways of approaching digital technologies.

No technological expertise is required, and students will be encouraged to experiment and tinker with a variety of platforms.

Syllabus

Professor: Jim Brown
Class Time: Monday and Wednesday, 1:20-2:40
Meeting Places
Lecture and Discussion: Fine Arts 219
Labs: Digital Studies Center CoLab (Fine Arts 217) and ModLab (Fine Arts 215)

Jim's Office: Fine Arts 213
Jim's Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 11:00-12:30
Jim's Email: jim[dot]brown[at]rutgers[dot]edu

Course Website: http://courses.jamesjbrownjr.net/101_spring2016

Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this class, students in this class will be able to:

  • demonstrate familiarity with the histories and cultures that influence and shape digital technologies
  • apply a critical vocabulary for analyzing digital technologies
  • experiment with the affordances and constraints of digital tools
  • apply the terms, concepts, and theories learned in class in extracurricular settings

Required Texts
The Internet of Garbage, Sara Jeong [Kindle ebook]
All other readings will be uploaded to Sakai.

Course Work and Grades
In this class, the following work will be evaluated:

  • Attendance 15%
  • Lab Reports 15% (5 reports, 3 points each)
  • Reading Quizzes 20% (20 quizzes, 1 point each)
  • DSC Event Reports 10% (2 reports, 5 points each)
  • Midterm Exam 20%
  • Final Exam 20%

Grades will be assigned on the following scale:

A 90-100
B+ 87-89
B 80-86
C+ 77-79
C 70-76
D 60-69
F 59 and below

Attendance
Success in this class will require regular attendance. I will take attendance at each class meeting, and attendance will comprise 15% of your grade. You are required to attend class daily, arrive on time, do assigned reading and writing, and participate in all in-class work. Please save absences for when you are sick or have a personal emergency. If you find that an unavoidable problem prevents you from attending class or from arriving on time, please discuss the problem with me.

Lateness
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., bus or train schedules), please let me know during the first week of class.

Computers, Smartphones, etc.
Please feel free to use your computer or any other device during class, provided that your use of it is related to what we are working on in class. Please silence cell phones during class.

Late Assignments
Due dates for assignments are posted on the course schedule. While I will not be grading your assignments, 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 LR (see the grade criteria for more details).

Intellectual Property
Using the work of others without attribution, having another student complete an assignment for you, or any other violations of the university's Academic Integrity Policy will result in a failing grade. If you have questions about the that policy, please see the Dean of Student Affairs website.

The Office of Disability Services
From the The Office of Disability Services (ODS):

"The ODS provides students with confidential advising and accommodation services in order to allow students with documented physical, mental, and learning disabilities to successfully complete their course of study at Rutgers University – Camden. The ODS provides for the confidential documentation and verification of student accommodations, and communicates with faculty regarding disabilities and accommodations. The ODS provides accommodation services, which can include readers, interpreters, alternate text, special equipment, and note takers. The ODS acts as a signatory for special waivers. The ODS also works with students, faculty, staff and administrators to enforce the American with Disabilities Act of 1990."

If you believe you might require an accommodation, please contact the ODS early in the semester.

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 a 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.

Sakai, 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.

How (not) to email me
Emails to me should come from your Rutgers email address. Your email should include a title explaining the email, a salutation (for example, "Dear Professor Brown"), a clear explanation of what the email is about, and a signature.

Here's just one example of an email you shouldn't send to me (or anyone else, really):

========================
To: Jim
From: student2193840@hotmail.com

Title: class

when's the paper due

========================

Schedule

AttachmentSize
HTML icon Arduino lab.html23.5 KB

Readings available on Sakai.

Introduction

1/20
In Class: Syllabus review, digital tool analysis

Some early roots

1/25
Read: E.M. Forster, "The Machine Stops"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

1/27
Read: Isaacson, "Ada, Countess of Lovelace"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

2/1
Read: Turing, "Computing Machinery and Intelligence"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

2/3
Read: Grace Hopper, "The Education of a Computer"; Isaacson, "Programming"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

2/8
Read: Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

2/10 [Lab Day]
Read: Weizenbaum
In Class: ELIZA lab

2/12
ELIZA lab report due by 5:00pm

Networks

2/15
Read: Richard Granovetter, "The Strength of Weak Ties."
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

2/17
Read: Watts, Six Degrees, The Origins of a "New" Science
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

2/22
Read: Jeong, The Internet of Garbage, Parts I and II
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

2/24 [Lab Day]
Read: Google Fusion Tables
In Class: Google Fusion Tables Lab

2/16
Google Fusion Tables lab report due by 5:00pm

2/29
MIDTERM EXAM

Interfaces

3/2 [NO CLASS MEETING]
Read: Krueger, "Responsive Environments"
In Class: No Class.

3/4
Complete Krueger Quiz on Sakai by 5:00pm

3/7
Read: Kay and Goldberg, "Personal Dynamic Media"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

3/9
Read: Engelbart, "A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

3/14
SPRING BREAK

3/16
SPRING BREAK

Code

3/21
Read: Six Selections by the Oulipo
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

3/23
Read: Marino, "Critical Code Studies"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

3/28
Read: 10 PRINT, "Introduction"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

3/30 [Lab Day] - 10 PRINT
Read: 10 PRINT, "REM Variations in Basic"
In Class: 10 PRINT lab

4/1
10 PRINT lab report due by 5:00pm

Digital Narrative

4/4
Read: Bogost, Procedural Rhetoric
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

4/6
Read: Brenda Laurel, "Computers as Theatre"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

4/11
Read: John Branch, "Snowfall"; Rebecca Greenfield, "What the New York Times's 'Snow Fall' Means to Online Journalism's Future"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

4/13 [Lab Day] - Twine
Read: Twine 2 Guide
In Class: Twine lab

4/15
Twine lab report due by 5:00pm

Physical Computing

4/18
Read: Igoe, Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers, "Introduction"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

4/20
Read: Mark Weisser, "The Computer for the 21st Century"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

4/25
Read: "Really Getting Started with Arduino"
In Class: Lecture, write midterm/final questions, reading discussion

4/27 [Lab Day] - Arduino
Read:Re-read "Really Getting Started with Arduino"
In Class: Arduino lab [LAB MATERIALS]

4/15
Arduino lab report due by 5:00pm

Final Exam Review

May 2
Read: Your notes
In Class: Review and exam prep

Final Exam

May 9

Assignments, Quizzes, and Exams

Reading Quizzes

There will be 20 quizzes throughout the course of the semester, and each one will be worth one point (meaning that quizzes account for 20% of your final grade).

For each reading assignment, students will complete a quiz on Sakai. Quizzes will remain open until class begins at 1:20, and students may retake a quiz as many times as they'd like until it closes.

There will be no quizzes on lab days.

Lab Reports

During the semester, you will complete five lab reports. Each report is worth three points, making lab reports worth 15% of your final grade.

Five different times during the semester, we will meet in the Digital Studies Center for lab sessions. During these sessions, you will work in groups to investigate some digital object or tool. Primarily, these sessions will be self directed. I will be present to answer questions, but your main task during labs is to explore and tinker. This will mean successes and failures - some confusion is inevitable. That's part of the assignment!

These five lab sessions will take place on Wednesdays. On the Friday following the lab session, you will submit a lab report. Lab reports will be submitted on Sakai.

Reports will have three sections:

Part A: Initial questions (no word limit)
List the initial questions you have about the tool or object we are analyzing. You will write these down during the first 10 or 15 minutes of our lab session. The questions should be as specific as possible. In this section, we want to set up an agenda for your group's lab session. What are you most interested in? What do you want to learn?

Part B: Lab Narrative (250 words maximum)
Description of your group's interaction with the object. What did you try? What worked? What didn't work? Why? What strategies did you use to investigate this tool or object? How did your group collaborate?

Part C: Conclusions (250 words maximum)
Describe a potential project that would either use or examine this object/tool. We've discussed looking AT and THROUGH technology this semester, and your Part C can take either approach. You might describe a project that would use this tool/object in some way to answer a question--this would involve looking THROUGH the tool or object and using it toward some end.. Alternately, you might describe a project that would attempt to analyze or examine this tool or object--this would involve looking AT the tool or object and examining it. Your proposed project could take a number of forms. Here's a list of possibilities, but this list is not exhaustive: a historical analysis, a "remix" of this tool or object that changes its functionality, an analysis of its design, a proposed redesign of, a research paper about the creator(s) of this tool or object, etc.

Either way, you should take this section to describe the potential project you have in mind. Remember that you don't have to actually complete the project. You only need to describe it. In these 250 words, you should begin to describe what the proposed project is, how you would approach such a project, and what you think it might accomplish.


Each lab report is worth three points. Here are the grade criteria I will use when evaluating lab reports. If your report falls in between these descriptions, your grade will reflect that. For instance, if you fall between the description of a "3" and a "2" you will receive a grade of 2.5

3/3
The lab report offers a detailed and extensive list of initial questions that go beyond surface level concerns, demonstrating that the student is thinking carefully about how to best explore and understand the tool or object. The lab narrative provides a detailed account of the group's activities, describing the collaborative and exploratory strategies used by the group. The conclusions section demonstrates careful thinking about a potential project and shows an understanding of what the affordances and constraints of tool or object in question. This lab report is carefully written, mostly free of grammatical errors, and observes the word limits described above.

2/3
The lab report offers a partial list of questions that is moderately detailed. There is some evidence that the student has considered the best ways to explore this tool or object. The lab narrative offers a general description of the group's activities. The conclusions section begins to describe a potential project, though that project is not fully articulated and may not demonstrate an understanding of the object's affordances and constraints. The report may have benefited from more revision to attend to the clarity of writing, has grammatical errors, and/or may not observe the word limits.

1/3
The lab report offers few questions and the questions it does offer are too general. There is little or no evidence that the student has carefully considered what they want to learn about the tool or object. The lab narrative is incomplete or too general and does not fully account for the group's activities. The conclusions section does not offer enough detail and does not demonstrate an understanding of the tool/object's affordances and constraints. The report may have significant issues with clarity and grammatical errors, which prevent the reader from understanding the content of the report. The lab report does not observe word limits.

Digital Studies Event Reports

Twice during the semester, you will attend Digital Studies events and provide a brief report on that event. I will provide a list of eligible events, but if you find something that's not on the list and would like to attend, you can ask for approval. Each Digital Studies Event Report is worth 5 points, making these reports worth 10% of your final grade.

Your Digital Studies Event Report will have two sections.

Part A: Summary of the Event (200 words maximum)
In this section, you will summarize what happened at the event. You should be as detailed as possible, given the word limit. You should explain who presented, what they presented, and any other pertinent details about the event. Your summary should make it clear that you were present and engaged throughout the entire event, and you should take detailed notes.

Part B: Define and Explain at Term or Concept (400 words maximum)
In this section, you will choose a term or concept discussed during the event and then define and explain that concept. This term or concept may be new to you, though this is not a requirement. Defining this concept may require you to do some external research, though you will need to keep the word limit in mind - 400 words is not very much space. This section should be carefully written and revised, so that you can take complete advantage of your limited space. Any sources should be cited, using MLA format (the bibliography does not count toward the word limit).

Midterm Exam

The midterm exam will take place February 29, and it will cover all material in readings, lectures, and labs. It is worth 20% of your grade.

During class sessions, students will write questions, and some of the exam material will be drawn from these student-authored questions. The best way to prepare for the exam is to do the readings, take notes on the readings, attend lectures, take notes on the lectures, attend labs, and submit lab reports.

Final Exam

The midterm exam will take place May 9, and it will cover all material in readings, lectures, and labs throughout the entirety of the course. It is worth 20% of your grade.

During class sessions, students will write questions, and as with the midterm some of the exam material will be drawn from these student-authored questions. The best way to prepare for the exam is to do the readings, take notes on the readings, attend lectures, take notes on the lectures, attend labs, and submit lab reports.

Extra Credit

Once during the semester, you can earn two extra credit points by attending a Digital Studies Center event. This means that you can earn two percentage points toward your final grade.

Unlike the events that require you to write a report, the extra credit opportunity only requires that you attend the event, check in with me to prove that you were there, and stay for the duration of the event.