Assignments

In-class writing activities (10%)

At various points throughout the semester, you will be asked to respond to writing prompts at the beginning of class. I will not announce these exercises in advance. These will be informal exercises, and they will be designed to spark your thinking and get you ready for class discussion. You will have roughly 10-15 minutes to complete these assignments, and they can take many forms: free writing, notes, mind maps, drawings, and more. They can be completed on paper or electronically, as long as you can show me something that demonstrates you have completed the assignment and addressed the prompt.

There will be 10 of these activities, and they are worth 1 point each (meaning that each paper represents one percentage point of your grade). Papers will be are graded on a credit/no credit basis. You will receive a grade of either 1 point or 0 points on each paper. There are no word minimums or limits on these assignments, but what you produce should demonstrate that you've taken time to thoughtfully respond to the prompt.

If you are not present in class on the day we complete these exercises, you will not be able to earn credit for these assignments.

Response Papers (10%)

Throughout the semester, we'll be reading a number of essays and chapters, and we'll be discussing these readings in class. In order to effectively participate in class, you'll need to complete these readings. But beyond just reading them, you'll also need to arrive in class with a clear sense of what you want to talk about. What questions do you have? What was confusing? What did you find particularly interesting? What connections do you see between this week's reading and last week's? These are the kinds of things we'll address in response papers.

There will be 10 response papers, and they are worth 1 point each (meaning that each paper represents one percentage point of your grade). Papers will be are graded on a credit/no credit basis. You will receive a grade of either 1 point or 0 points on each paper. Papers follow a very specific format and have word count restrictions. Failure to follow these guidelines will result in a grade of zero.

Please bring a copy of these papers to class, since we'll refer to them during discussion. You will submit paper copies of these to me.

Outline of Reading (one-page maximum)
Using no more than one page, provide an outline of the reading. You can do this with roman numerals, with bullet points, or in some other format, but your outline should reflect that you understand how the argument is put together and how its different pieces fit together. This outline should be useful to you (providing you with notes for class discussion) while also demonstrating that you've read and understood.

Explanation of why we're reading this in a class called "Digital Trash" (100 words maximum)
Each of our readings addresses the concept of digital trash in some way, though it may not engage that question directly. This means it may not be completely obvious why we're reading certain things in this class. In this section, your job is to briefly explain how this reading fits in this class.

Potential ideas for your final project (100 words maximum)
Your final project will involve constructing a "sustainable digital practices" workshop for local high school students. As a class, you will build this workshop to get these students thinking about how their everyday digital practices produce or come into contact with "digital trash"? How did this reading help you think about that project and how you will approach it?

What were the most confusing parts of this reading? (no limit)
Were there ideas, terms, or concepts that you didn't understand? Ask those questions here, and be ready to ask these questions in class. The more questions you list in this section, the better evidence you're providing that you've productively engaged with the reading. Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions of clarification.

What were the most interesting parts of this reading? (no limit)
While the previous section focuses on things you didn't understand or that you'd like us to clarify, this section is about questions that will help us discuss the reading. What struck you as especially interesting? Why? Also, consider these questions: How is this reading related to other things we've ready and discussed? What is unique about the chapter's argument or method? How did it help you think about the idea of digital trash in a new way? These are just a few examples of how you might approach this section. Again, try to ask as many questions as possible.

Digital Trash Autobiography (20%)

What kind of digital trash do you produce? In a 1000-word paper, describe your own digital practices and what kind of waste is produced by them. Remember that we are thinking about "digital trash" broadly. We are interested in the devices that end up in landfills, but we are also interested in your social media posts, email, word processor documents, and more. What do you produce digitally, and how much of it could we considered to be trash? How sustainable are your digital practices? What impact do they have on those around you, on the environment, and on the broader technological environment?

These essays will be modeled on those published by the "Speculative Historiographies of Techno-Trash" project. While writing and revising, you should read the essays published there, which should provide inspiration and with a sense for the range of approaches you can take in this project.

In this 1000-word essay, you will reflect on one or more of the following questions:

  • What counts as "trash" in your everyday digital practices?
  • How do your digital practices affect the environment, whether we consider that term to describe the natural environment or the digital spaces in which you interact?
  • Do you approach your digital life in a sustainable way? How or how not? How could you change your practices?
  • What portions of your life are most rife with trash?

This list is not exhaustive, but it should at least indicate the kinds of things you should address in this paper. The paper does not need to address all aspects of your digital life. It may make more sense to narrow things and choose a specific aspect of your interactions with digital technology. In addition, you should plan to research the technology or technologies that you plan to write about.

When grading these papers, I will be asking the following questions:

  • Does your paper coherently and concisely address your own production of or interaction with digital trash?
  • Do you support claims with evidence?
  • Does the paper show evidence that you've conducted careful research?
  • Does the paper provide evidence that you've carefully written and revised?
  • Have you observed the word limits?
  • Is your paper clearly written with few grammatical errors?

Digital Life Cycle Project (20%)

Our readings have demonstrated that digital devices are made of a range of chemicals and components, and in this project you will trace the creation, use, disposal, and reuse of a single digital device. You will choose the device and then conduct research on the product's life cycle. What goes into making it? Who sells it? Who uses it? Is it reused or resold? How is it disposed of, and where? These are some of the questions you'll be asking during this research project.

This project should be seen as preparation for your final project. The research you do in this project will help you design a workshop for local high school students, and your work should help you consider the best ways to get those students to reflect on their own approaches to digital trash.

The project has three components:

Project Proposal (5%)
Your proposal is a one-page document that explains which device you've chosen to research, your plan for what kinds of sources you plan to use in your research, and a detailed timeline of tasks that you'll need to complete. The proposal is not a contract, and things will certainly change as you pursue the project. But this document will get you thinking about what needs to be accomplished during the project.

Life Cycle Map (5%)
You will produce a map that visualizes the life cycle you're researching using icons from the noun project. This map should be as detailed as possible and should provide your audience with a rich snapshot of the digital lifecycle you have researched.

1000-word essay (10%)
You will write an essay that reports on the results of your research and that explains how your research speaks to the issues we've read about in this class. Your essay is short, so you can't take on every issue we've read about, but you should explain how your research extends the work that other scholars do. What have you found in your research that calls into question, confirms, or perhaps updates their findings? This essay should be written in MLA Format (see the Purdue OWL for details).

When grading these projects, I will be asking the following questions:

  • Does your project reflect careful research into your chosen object?
  • Do your map reflect careful attention to design and provide us with a detailed picture of this object's life cycle?
  • Do you support claims with evidence?
  • Does the paper provide evidence that you've carefully written and revised?
  • Have you observed the word limits and other requirements of listed above?
  • Is your paper written in MLA format with few grammatical errors?

[This assignment is based on Grant Wythoff's Supply Chain Project]

Sustainable Digital Practices Workshop (30%)

This is an Engaged Civic Learning (ECL) course, meaning that the course is concerned with linking what we do in the classroom with the Camden community and thinking critically about responsible citizenship and community engagement. One of the key learning goals for this course is that students should leave the class with the ability to "clearly articulate the concerns discussed in this class to a public audience." You will be developing this skill during your final project. You will design and execute a "Sustainable Digital Practices" workshop with high school students from Camden.

By applying some of what we have discussed in class, you will design a hands-on workshop for students. You have already reflected on your own digital practices and have mapped the life cycle of a digital object. You will now apply what you've learned to create an experience for local high school students. In partnership with the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts and the "Digital Trash" exhibition running in the Stedman Gallery, you will will guide students through activities that allow them to think critically about what information they share and what kind of "digital trash" they produce. The workshop should, just as we have throughout the semester, address both physical devices and digital content.

You are tasked with planning and designing the workshop based on the readings and activities in the first two units of this semester. While the exact activities of the workshop are up to you, you might consider replicating some of your own assignments on a smaller scale (for instance, having students do some of the supply chain research you carried out for your own projects), or you might design entirely new activities. You will run this workshop for students in the Ignite program on December 11 at 4:00pm in the Digital Commons.

The project will account for 30% of your grade, and here are the different components of the project:

Planning Document (15%)
Think of this as a "lesson plan" of sorts. It should lay out the learning goals of your workshop, the key concepts you want attendees to understand, and a detailed plan for how you will use your time. This document should be very detailed and should account for various contingencies. What if technology falters? What if an activity is falling flat? What if you don't have as many students as you planned for? What if you have too many? This list is not exhaustive, but it reflects the kinds of questions you should be asking.

Presentation Materials and Documentation (10%)
Your workshop will likely involve some slide presentations, materials to hand out to students, instructions, and more. All of this should be carefully designed, keeping in mind your target audience (junior high and/or high school students), your time constraints, and your learning goals. Remember that you are trying to convey what you've learned about "digital trash" to this group of students in a workshop format. There should be an experiential component to your workshop - this is something more than just a presentation. So, your materials should plan for hands-on, engaged learning activities.

During the workshop, members of your team will be tasked with recording observations. What's working, what isn't? What would you do differently next time? Which activities were a poor fit for your audience? Which activities seemed to work particularly well? These are just some of the questions you'll be reflecting on during the workshop. Based on these observations, members of your team will generate a document that discusses the strengths and weaknesses of your workshop and what you might do differently if you delivered it again.

Discussion of Your Contributions (5%)
All members of the class will receive the same grade for the planning document and the presentation materials, since all of you will work together on this project. However, in this paper of 500 words, you will discuss (in detail) your own contributions to the project.

Note: If members of the class indicate to me that someone is not completing work, I will meet individually with that student. Students found to be not participating in the project will not receive credit for the project.

When grading these projects, I will be asking the following questions:

  • Does your plan carefully lay out the workshop and consider as many contingencies as possible?
  • Do your presentation materials reflect careful attention to design?
  • Does your workshop make good use of the time and directly involve students with hands-on activities?
  • Does the final presentation represent thoughtful critical reflection about what you did and what you might have done differently?