50:989:312 Writing New Media (Fall 2020)

A projection of George Floyd on the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond on June 10. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Digital writing is more than words on screens, and this course will ask: How does digital writing make, transform, and reconfigure space? How are digital spaces maintained by writing? How does digital writing transform physical space? From words projected on a statue to the rules that shape how we interact with one another online, digital writing plays a vital role in our everyday lives. This course will provide an opportunity to both think about and engage in these digital writing practices.

Code of Conduct

The goal of this code of conduct:

The goal of the code of conduct is to create a safe and secure environment for community members, and to protect them from discriminatory statements or actions, such as but not limited to offensive comments or actions that are racist, sexist, ageist, classist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, etc.

Unacceptable behaviors:

  • Foul language directed at another member of the community
  • Threatening others
  • Bullying or insulting others, or enabling the bullying or insulting of others
  • Discriminatory behavior and language that is homophobic, ableist, racist, transphobic, ageist, and classist
  • Non-consensual sharing of content outside the community
  • Selling or marketing services or products
  • Posting potentially offensive media including photos, language, and news stories without using a content warning (cw:)

Where this code of conduct applies:

  • Applies to the following community spaces: Mastodon, Hypothesis, Twine, Zoom Meetings/Meeting Chat, Google Drive, Email (private and group), and Canvas. In other words, any software where multiple students and/or the instructor are interacting, in reference to the class.
  • In addition, any possible in-person meetings and sessions.

A list of potential consequences for violating this code of conduct:

  • A verbal or written warning
  • Suspension from commenting on others’ posts on Mastodon or posting on Mastodon (Professor Brown provides an alternate activity)
  • Suspension from Zoom meetings
  • In extreme cases, a meeting with the Dean of Students

Detailed, specific, simple instructions for reporting a code of conduct violation:

  • Any code of conduct violation should be reported to Professor Brown
  • Report should include as much detail as possible and should reference which portion of the code of conduct has been violated

People who will handle the code of conduct report:

  • Prof. Brown
  • Dean of Students office (if violation involves Prof. Brown)

A promise that anyone directly involved in a report will recuse themselves:

  • If the violation involves Prof. Brown, he will recuse himself from the process of reviewing said violation.

Contact information for emergency services


Links to related documents






Professor: Jim Brown
Synchronous Meetings: Wednesday, 9:30am-10:30am
Meeting Place: Zoom (via Canvas)

Prof. Brown's Office: Zoom (Jim's "personal meeting room" on Canvas)
Prof. Brown' Office Hours: Wednesday, 10:30-11:30, or by appointment
Prof. Brown's Email: jim[dot]brown[at]rutgers[dot]edu

Course Website: http://courses.jamesjbrownjr.net/312_fall2020

A typical week...
With some exceptions, a typical week in this course will look like this:

Monday: Prof. Brown posts a short video to Canvas about our topic for the week
Tuesday: Students read and annotate using Hypothesis by 5:00pm (also posted on Canvas)
Wednesday: We meet via Zoom 9:30am-10:30am to discuss the readings and assignments

Beyond this schedule, you will also have assignments due throughout the semester (see our course schedule on this page) and you will also be sharing content and interacting on Mastodon, which is kind of like Twitter but is a small social networking site designed just for our class. Mastodon interactions will happen throughout the week, and you decide when to post there and respond to your classmates' posts.

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

  • Execute and reflect on a writing and design process
    In this class, we'll be doing traditional writing assignments while also designing new media objects. While both writing and design result in products, it is important to realize that writing and design are processes. We will draft, experiment, and tinker during these processes, and we will attempt to learn what process works best for us. Throughout our work in this class, you should consider how your writing and design processes are changing, and how you are developing practices that work best for you as a thinker, writer, and designer.
  • Use digital media tools to make arguments and tell stories
    This class will focus on how we can take advantage of the affordances of a media environment to make arguments and tell stories. The tool shapes the writing, and each time we take up a writing task in this class, we'll think carefully about the best tool for the job.
  • Collaborate and provide feedback to others
    We will be collaborating throughout this class. One of our goals will be to develop skills and strategies for working with others. This means understanding the dynamics of a team and taking on various roles depending on the situation.
  • Critically read and analyze arguments
    We will be reading the work of various scholars , and this reading will call for careful and critical reading. This means paying close attention to how the argument is constructed, considering what kinds of evidence the author is using, theorizing who might be the target audience of the text, developing questions about the implications of the author's argument, and demonstrating the ability to clearly and concisely summarize the text.

Required Texts
All required texts will be shared on Canvas and/or the course website.

Course Work and Grades
Grades will be determined based on the following course work:

  • Code of Conduct (10%)
  • Hypothesis Annotations (15%)
  • Mastodon Posts (15%)
  • Mastodon Reports (10%)
  • Twine Project (25%)
  • Digital Writing in Johnson Park (25%)

Grades will be assigned on the following scale:

A 90-100
B+ 88-89
B 80-86
C+ 78-79
C 70-77
D 60-69
F 59 and below

Content Warnings
If we will be reading and discussing material that addresses sensitive topics, I will do my best to let you know in advance. If there are certain specific topics you would like me to provide warnings about, please let me know. I will do my best to flag content based on your requests.

We will meet once per week for one hour - on Wednesdays at 9:30am. If attendance at these meetings will be a problem, please let me know. During meetings, we will discuss readings and assignments, and some class meetings will be devoted to peer review sessions.

Technology Policy
We will use digital 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. You will not have to download any software, but we will be using platforms other than Canvas throughout the course. If you don’t understand what we are doing, please ask for help.

Canvas, Mastodon, Course Website, and Email
You should check your email daily, and you should regularly check our Mastodon page (a social media space built just for our class). Class announcements and assignments may be distributed through email. The course website and our Canvas site 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.

University policies and resources

Academic Integrity
My assumption is that any work you turn in for this course has been completed by you. If you ever have questions about proper attribution or citation, please don't hesitate to ask.

Code of Conduct
Rutgers University-Camden seeks a community that is free from violence, threats, and intimidation; that is respectful of the rights, opportunities, and welfare of students, faculty, staff, and guests of the University; and that does not threaten the physical or mental health or safety of members of the University community and includes classroom space. As a student at the University, you are expected adhere to Student Code of Conduct: https://deanofstudents.camden.rutgers.edu/student-conduct

We will be discussing codes of conduct during this class and how they help shape the expectations of a community's interactions. If you have questions about the CoC for this class or of Rutgers-Camden, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Rutgers-Camden has a wide range of resources to help you stay on track both personally and academically. The Raptor Cares Report (https://deanofstudents.camden.rutgers.edu/reporting) connects you to our Dean of Students Office and they can assist you with a variety of concerns: medical, financial, mental health, or any life issue that impacts your academic performance. You can share a concern for yourself, a classmate or a friend.

Office of Disability Services
The Office of Disability Services (ODS) provides students with confidential 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. 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 also works with students, faculty, staff and administrators to enforce the American with Disabilities Act of 1990. https://learn.camden.rutgers.edu/disability-services

Office of Military and Veterans Affairs
The Office of Military and Veterans Affairs can assist our military and veteran students with benefits, deployment issues and much more. Contact: Fred Davis 856-225-2791 frdavis@camden.rutgers.edu

Support for Undocumented and Immigrant Students
In an ongoing effort to support all students on campus, Rutgers University has established two offices to support undocumented and immigrant students with questions or concerns related to immigration status. The Rutgers Immigrant Community Assistance Project (RICAP) provides free and confidential immigration legal consultations and direct representation to currently enrolled students. For more information or an appointment, contact Jason Hernandez, Esq., at 856-225-2302 or jason.c.hernandez@rutgers.edu. The Rutgers Office of Undocumented Student Services provides one-on-one case management to assist undocumented students and help them access campus resources including financial aid, career services, health services, etc.


Week of August 31: Course introduction

Live Meeting (Wednesday 9/2, 9:30am): Syllabus review, discussion of course and assignments

Week of September 7: What is this course about?

Lecture video: Making Spaces, Rewriting Spaces

Reading and Hypothesis Annotation (due 9/8, 5:00pm): Syllabus annotation, continued

Live meeting (9/9, 9:30am): Clearing up syllabus questions, What is this course about?, Introduction to Mastodon

Week of September 14: Codes of Conduct

Lecture video: Codes of Conduct

Reading and Hypothesis Annotation (due 9/15, 5:00pm): Aurora and Gardiner, "How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports"

Live meeting (9/16, 9:30am): Writing our Code of Conduct

Mastodon: Set up Mastodon Account, post five Mastodon engagements

Week of September 21: Small Networks

Lecture video: Small Networks

Reading and Hypothesis Annotation (due 9/22, 5:00pm): Kazemi, "Run Your Own Social"

Live meeting (9/23, 9:30am): Building your own network, Mastodon

Mastodon: Post five Mastodon engagements

Week of September 28: Rules vs. Values

Lecture video: Rules vs. Values

Live meeting (9/30, 9:30am): Rules, Values, and our Code of Conduct

Reading and Hypothesis Annotation: Trice et. al, "Values versus Rules in Social Media Communities"

Mastodon: Post five Mastodon engagements

Week of October 5: Design Justice and Introducing Twine (continued)

Lecture videos: "Design Justice" and "Introducing Twine"

Reading and Hypothesis Annotation (due 10/6, 5:00pm): Costanza-Chock, "Design Justice"

Live meeting (10/7, 9:30am): Design Justice, Twine

Mastodon: Post five Mastodon engagements

Week of October 12: Filter Bubbles and Introducing Twine (continued)

Lecture videos: "What is a filter bubble?"" and "What can we make with Twine?""

Reading and Hypothesis Annotation (due 10/13, 5:00pm): Pariser, "Filter Bubbles"; Bruns, "It's Not the Technology Stupid"

Live meeting (10/14, 9:30am): Filter Bubbles, Twine

Mastodon: Post five Mastodon engagements, First Mastodon Report due 10/18, 5:00pm

Week of October 19: Twine

Lecture videos: "Using if-then-else statements in Twine"

Reading and Hypothesis Annotation (due 10/20, 5:00pm): Harlowe 3.1.0 Manual

Live meeting (10/21, 9:30am): Pitching your Twine project

Mastodon: Post five Mastodon engagements

Week of October 26: Twine

Lecture video: Answering your Twine Questions

Live meeting (10/28, 9:30am): Twine peer review session

Assignment Deadlines: Post five Mastodon engagements, Twine project Version 1 due October 27, 5:00pm

Week of November 2: Twine

Lecture video: Answering your Twine Questions

Live meeting (11/4, 9:30am): Twine peer review session

Assignment Deadlines: Post five Mastodon engagements, Written Peer Review Due November 6, Twine project Version 2 due November 9, 5:00pm

Week of November 9: Digital Writing in Johnson Park

Lecture video: Reimagining Johnson Park

Reading and Hypothesis Annotation (due 11/10, 5:00pm): Millhiser, "The night they’ll tear old Dixie down"

Live meeting (11/11, 9:30am): Discuss Lee Statue, Johnson Park, and the final project

Assignment Deadlines: Post five Mastodon engagements

Week of November 16: Digital Writing, Public Space, and Protest

Lecture video: Instead of a video from Jim this week, we'll be watching Grayson Earle's "Hacking the Urban Landscape"

Live meeting (11/18, 9:30am): "The Illuminator," discussion of final project

Assignment Deadlines: Post five Mastodon engagements

Week of November 23: Project proposals

Lecture video: "Preparing your project proposal"


Assignment Deadlines: Post five Mastodon engagements, Project proposal due 11/25, 5:00pm

Week of November 30: Preparing our final projects

Lecture video: "Preparing your final project"

Live meeting (12/2, 9:30am): Final project workshop

Assignment Deadlines: Post five Mastodon engagements

Week of December 7: Sharing our final projects

Lecture video: "Preparing your mini-presentation"

Live meeting (12/9, 9:30am): Mini-presentations of final project

Assignment Deadlines: Final Project due 12/8, 5:00pm, Final Mastodon Report due 12/11, 5:00pm


Code of Conduct (10%)

As a class, we will author a code of conduct for our course. In How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports, Aurora and Gardiner say that a Code of Conduct should contain the following (in roughly this order):

  • Optionally, a short statement describing the goal of the code of conduct
  • A list of unacceptable behaviors
  • A description of where the code of conduct applies
  • A list of potential consequences for violating the code of conduct
  • Detailed, specific, simple instructions for reporting a code of conduct violation
  • A list of the people who will handle the code of conduct report
  • A promise that anyone directly involved in a report will recuse themselves
  • Optionally, contact information for emergency services
  • Optionally, links to related documents

Using this as a roadmap as well as anything else we've learned from Aurora and Gardiner's text, we will be collaboratively writing a write a code of conduct for our "Writing New Media" class. This code should be thought of as a document that "protects members of our community from harm."

The CoC will be authored collaboratively in Google Docs, and all students will receive full credit for the assignment upon completion of this assignment.

Hypothesis Annotations (15%)

For our readings, you will be required to use a tool called Hypothesis to highlight significant passages and to record observations about those passages. The goal here is to read together, to try to make sense of what we are reading in a collective way. If there is an assigned reading for the week, annotations are due by 5:00pm on Tuesday.This provides me with an opportunity to review your annotations before our class meeting.

Each annotation assignment is worth 2% of your grade, and these assignments are graded on a credit/no-credit basis. Hypothesis allows you to annotate certain passages and to record "page notes" (notes that apply to the entire reading). You may also find that you want to reply to another student's annotations. While I do not require any specific number of annotations or notes, I will be looking to see that you have put forth a good-faith effort to complete the assignment.

There are many ways to approach this method of collective annotation. Here's a guide developed by Dr. Nathaniel Rivers at St. Louis University, which presents some "do's" and "don'ts" of collaborative annotation. Annotations to our readings might do a number of things, including asking questions, pointing to another related source, connecting a reading to other readings in the class, or any other approach that you think might be useful to you and your classmates.

There's only one strict rule when it comes to these annotations: You can't say "I agree" or "I disagree". This may seem counter intuitive, but the goal of our readings isn't to agree or disagree with the author or even with one another. The goal is to ask questions, to figure out why the author is making certain arguments, and to consider what is most important about the argument we're reading.

As I look at your annotations and consider whether or not they deserve credit, I will be asking the following questions:

  • Does your annotation demonstrate that you have read the entire assigned reading?
  • Does your annotation demonstrate that you are considering what was posted previously and engaging in a conversation with the rest of the group?
  • Does your annotation provide evidence that you've thought carefully about the reading and its relationship to our class discussions?
  • Does your annotation demonstrate that you have put forth a good faith effort at completing the assignment?

Mastodon Posts (15%)

In this class, we will be using an open source social networking platform called Mastodon to share observations with one another. My hope is that you can use this space to discuss course readings or to share things that you find outside of class that are relevant to our discussions. Mastodon allows us to have a conversation amongst the members of our class conversation, but we are also able to follow users who are in other Mastodon communities.

Each week, I'll ask you complete at least five Mastodon "engagements." This means posting your own content, or interacting with a classmate. You may also "boost" someone else's post, but this won't count as an "engagement."

Twice during the semester, you will also complete a piece of writing (Mastodon reports) that offers you space to reflect on your Mastodon posts. The more active you are on Mastodon and the more seriously you take these posts, the easier it will be to write those reflections.

When determining whether or not you get credit for your Mastodon posts, I will be asking

  • Does your post demonstrate that you are thinking carefully about our readings and discussions?
  • Does your post demonstrate that you are considering what was posted previously by others in class and engaging in a conversation with the rest of the group?
  • Does your post provide evidence that you've tried to make connections between class discussions and readings and things you've encountered outside of class?
  • Does your post demonstrate that you have put forth a good faith effort at completing the assignment?

Mastodon Reports (10%)

Twice during the semester, you will submit a report that summarizes and reflects on what you have been posting to Mastodon. This is an opportunity to look for patterns in your posts and to explain how you've been using Mastodon to help you understand the course content and connect that content to our discussions as well as your projects. Your first report is due October 18 and your second is due December 9. Each report is worth 5% of your grade.

Mastodon reports are a maximum of 500 words and are uploaded to Canvas as a Word documents. Remember that 500 words is not much! So, you'll want to make the best use of this limited amount of space. Reports should identify patterns in your posts, discuss how you've interacted with other students in the class on Mastodon, and explain how your posts connect with your other work in the course (hypothesis annotations, live discussions, papers, projects, etc.). The goal here is to reflect on how you've used Mastodon and how it's helped you navigate the course. The more attention you pay to posting on Mastodon, the easier these papers will be to write. You should cite specific posts from Mastodon in this report (no works cited page needed), and this might mean directly quoting yourself.

When responding to and grading Mastodon reports, I will be asking

  • Does the report demonstrate careful attention to finding patterns in your Mastodon posts?
  • Have you reflected on your interactions with other students on Mastodon and how those interactions demonstrate an attempt to engage with the course material?
  • Does the report show connections between your posts and your other work in the course?
  • Have you observed the 500 word limit?

Twine Project (25%)

During the first portion of the semester, the readings focus on how communities manage themselves and how we think about "small networks." You will be using Twine to build a story or game that addresses some issue related to this topic.

Some people think of Twine as a way of making games, and others consider Twine projects more like stories. Others think of them as a mix between the two. What you make with Twine is up to you, as long as you take advantage of the capabilities of the platform. Most importantly, you're task is to use Twine in a way that gives readers/players choices and making clear that those choices matter, and you will create a scenario that somehow sheds light on or questions our readings and discussions to this point in the course.

Altogether, the project is worth 25% of your grade, and it is broken down into four different components:

1) A one-minute "pitch" delivered to the rest of the class (5%)
During class on October 21, everyone will deliver a one-minute pitch to the rest of the class. This is an informal presentation - no slides, just you talking. However, the #1 rule is that you cannot go longer than one minute. So, you'll have to plan this out carefully, making sure that you tell us as much as you can about the project in that one minute.

2) Version 1 of your project (5%)
Version 1 of your project is due October 27 at 5:00pm. You will upload the HTML version of your game to Canvas. This doesn't have to be the complete project, but it should be a playable version of the project. That means that someone else should be able to navigate through it, read/watch/listen to content, and get a general sense for what the project is about.

3) Peer review of another student's Twine Project (5%)
We will have two peer review sessions during which you will get feedback from a partner. During the second of these sessions, you will complete a written response to your partner's game and upload that response to Canvas. This feedback should be as detailed as possible, and it must go beyond things like "This is great!" Giving detailed feedback will help your partner make the project better, and it will also help you work through your own project since it will get you thinking critically about what works well and what doesn't work well in Twine.

4) Version 2 of your project (10%)
Version 2 of your project due November 8, 5:00pm. This version of the project should demonstrate that you've revised and changed the game during the peer review process, and it should be free of bugs, typos, or other errors.

When responding to the different parts of the Twine project, I will be asking

  • Does your pitch concisely present your idea for the project, and did it observe the time limit?
  • Does version 1 represent a playable version of the game, even if it might have some gaps, bugs or errors? Is it possible for a player to see where the project is headed, even if it isn't yet complete? Does the project address some topic we have addressed in class?
  • Does your written feedback to a peer represent careful attention, providing detailed feedback about ways to make the project better?
  • Does version 2 represent a significant revision, incorporating feedback from peers, and is it free of bugs, typos, and other errors?

Digital Writing in Johnson Park (25%)

Johnson Park and the Cooper Branch Library (now housing the Digital Studies Center) have been contested spaces for many years, sitting in between the City of Camden and Rutgers University. Recently, the university and the city have had to come to terms with racist imagery in a mosaic that sits on the front of the Library building.

As we think about Johnson Park, we can be inspired by some of the work we've discussed in class that has opened up a national conversation about racism, monuments, public art, and public space. Think about the Lee statue in Richmond or the various street murals that have emerged in cities across the country. How might we take the lessons of those projects and apply them to this space in Camden? Specifically, we are concerned with how digital writing might be used to help raise important questions and provoke conversations about Johnson Park and the Cooper Branch Library building and about power, racisms, and monuments more broadly.

In this assignment, you will consider how digital writing might help us to rethink this space and place. Your task is to plan a digital writing project that takes place in the space of the park and building. Using any technology you might imagine (audio, video, projection, drones, physical computing devices, just to name a few), your job is to describe that project. We won't have time to enact your projects, but it's possible that the Digital Studies Center could help you realize some of these projects in the future.

This project is worth 25% of your grade, and it's broken down into three different components:

1) Project Proposal (5%)
Your project proposal is a 500-word document that describes, in as much detail as possible, a digital writing project that takes place in Johnson Park. The proposal should be clear about the technologies you would plan to use, when you would imagine it taking place (Is this a long term installation? Why? Does it take place at a specific time? Why?), how it would work, and what message you would hope to convey with this digital writing project. The proposal is due November 25 at 5:00pm.

2) Project Description Document (15%)
Your project description is a maximum of 1500 words, and it should is describe, in as much detail as possible what your project would look, sound, and feel like (the document may also incorporate any other media that might help us understand how the project works). The key for this project is that you incorporate digital writing in some way, and the final project description should be as detailed as possible in terms of describing the project and what it would hope to accomplish. Who is the audience for this project, and what is the argument the project would try to make? The final project description document is due December 8 at 5:00pm

3) 2-minute presentation (5%)
On our last day of class (December 9, 9:30am), each student will deliver a 2-minute presentation about their project. This is an informal presentation, and it is an opportunity to share your work with the other students in the class. All presentations must observe the 2-minute time limit.

When responding to the different parts of the final project, I will be asking

  • Does your proposal provide a detailed description of your project, and did it observe the word limit? Have you made clear what technologies would be used and what you hope to achieve with the project?
  • Does the final project description document explain the technical details of your proposed project, and does it provide a rationale for what you hope the project accomplishes?
  • Does your mini-presentation effectively explain to your peers the details of the project, its aims and goals, and does it observe the time limit?