RHE 309K: Arguing the Digital Divide (Fall 2005)

In 1993, Richard Lanham's The Electronic Word theorized about the movement of text from the printed book to the computer screen:

“The boundary between creator and critic simply vanishes...The work snowballs into electronic orality, changes and grows as it moves from one screen and keyboard to another."

Lanham believed that digital technology would force us to look, “AT text rather than THROUGH it.” He believed that reading a book meant looking THROUGH text to get to the content while the "electronic word" would force us to look AT text and consider the actual act of reading. He believed that it created "a new writing space...[and] a new educational space."

Two years later, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) conducted a survey of technological "haves" and "have-nots" called (entitled "Falling through the Net"). This research propelled discussions of the digital divide into the national spotlight, but there was not a consensus about the issue. In 2001, FCC Chairman Michael Powell made his stance on the digital divide clear:

"I think there's a Mercedes Benz divide. I'd like one, but I can't afford it."

In eight years, we passed from arguments of "new educational spaces" to arguments that compare computers to luxury vehicles. What happened? Do we still look AT digital technology, or do we merely look THROUGH it?

Course Overview

Our first task in this course will be to, in Richard Lanham's terms, force ourselves to look AT technology. We will consider the arguments inherent in our uses of technology, and we will consider what disappears along with technologies when they pass into the realm of everyday tools. By focusing on the technologies of writing, we'll start to take a closer look at the technologies that frame who we are and what we argue. How has the personal computer changed the writing and revision process? How does an argument change when it passes from what medium to the next? Every day we see texts shift between media. How is the book different than the movie? How is the movie different from the video game? We see arguments move from print to screen: How is the New York Times different from nytimes.com?

After this discussion of writing, rhetoric, and technology, we'll jump into the debates about the digital divide. We'll look at arguments that consider factors such as race, socio-economic status, and gender. We'll find that the digital divide is a slipper topic and one that Benjamin Compaine calls a "moving target." We'll read through the arguments of Compaine's The Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth and see how it takes a much different stance than our other text, Virtual Inequality. What assumptions do these texts make about the importance of digital technology? What solutions do they propose, if any? Do they view the digital divide as a unique problem, or do they see this as on more gap in a long history of "haves" and "have-nots"? Who do these scholars believe is responsible for closing the gap?

This final discussion will lead us into the service learning portion of this course. We'll work with Austin Free-Net, a local organization that helps launch free community internet access sites. In groups, you'll travel to Austin Free-Net locations to conduct a site survey. During your survey, you'll learn the stories behind these community technology centers. Your final project will be a presentation of the successes, failures, challenges, and needs of these centers. This presentation may come in the form of a film project, a web page, a photo essay, or any other format that allows you to tell the stories of these AFN sites.

Policy Statement

RHE 309K: Arguing the Digital Divide

Instructor: Jim Brown
Meeting Place: FAC 9
Time: T/Th 9:30-11am
Office Hours: T/Th 11-12:30 (Cactus Cafe)
Email: jimbrown@mail.utexas.edu
Website: http://instructors.cwrl.utexas.edu/jbrown/309k_fall05

The following are available at the University Co-op.

Required Texts:

  • Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth, Compaine
  • The Medium is the Massage, McLuhan
  • Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide, Mossberger et. al.
  • SF Express, Ruszkiewicz et. al.

Optional Texts:

  • Revising Prose, Lanham

Additional Requirements
- Access to a computer and printer
- An e-mail account that you check daily

Coursework
You will write two individual papers (each submitted twice), keep a reading blog, participate in forum discussions, and colloborate on a group project at the end of the semester. Class meetings will be devoted to various activities, including writing workshops, student presentations, and class discussions. In class activities, discussion, and attendance will account for a portion of your grade. Regular attendance and participation are essential to success in this class.

Attendance
You should attend class daily, arrive on time, do assigned reading and writing, and participate in all in-class editing, revising, and discussion sessions. Students missing five classes can earn no higher than a B in the class. Six absences will result in failure of the course. A student is considered when arriving after the sign-up sheet has gone around the room - lateness equals .5 absences. Notify me beforehand of your participation in official athletic events or observance of religious holidays; these are the only excused absences. Save absences for when you are sick or have a personal emergency. If you find that an unavoidable problem prevents you from attending class, please discuss the problem with me.

Grades
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 across five dimensions of learning:

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

This development centers on the major strands of work in this course:

1) Balanced argument
2) Critical reading skills
3) Thoughtful revision
4) Collaboration

Late Assignments and Drafts
All assignments, including drafts, should be turned in on the due date at the beginning of the class period. You will turn in papers by uploading them to the course website. You are responsible for turning in assignments regardless of whether you attend class on the due date. Late coursework will be factored into your grade.

Format of Final Papers
Rough drafts and final drafts of all papers must be typewritten. The first page of your paper must include the following information: your name, my name, course number and unique number, date, and paper title. Double space the lines and use 1 inch margins all the way around the text (this is typically the default setting in programs like Microsoft Word.) Staple your pages together in the upper left hand corner. Unless you are told otherwise, your papers should be in MLA format.

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 be patient and 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, please visit this site regularly. The course site should be a helpful tool for you, so feel free to make suggestions about anything you feel should be included.

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

Scholastic Honesty
Turning in work that is not your own, or any other form of scholastic dishonesty, will result in a major course penalty, possibly failure of the course. A report of the incident will also be made to the Office of the Dean of Students. The consultants at the Undergraduate Writing Center (FAC 211, 471-6222) are trained to help you with the proper use of sources.

We will be covering the use of sources in class. In general, I will ask you to provide me with photocopies or printouts of all sources you use. If you have any questions about how you are using sources on a particular assignment, see me before you turn it in.

Students With Disabilities
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.

Schedule

Daily Reading, Writing, and Discussion Schedule

DD = The Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth
VI = Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide
ERES = Electronic Reserves

9/1
Syllabus/Schedule
Introduce Web Page
Introduce LRO
What is Rhetoric?

9/6
Read: “Falling through the Net” (1-46 in DD), Prefaces of DD and VI, and LRO information page
Write: Blog Response to reading, post 3 questions to LRO forum
In Class: Be prepared to discuss Readings and LRO

9/8
Read: “Writing as Technology”(ERES), Lanham's “Electronic Literacy” (Handout)
Write: 1 Page response handwritten
In Class: Discuss the technologies of writing

9/13
Read: Remediation “Introduction” and “Computer Games”(ERES)
Write: Blog entry giving an example of Remediation
In Class: Discuss remediation

9/15
Read: McLuhan (1-81)
Write: Blog entry, LRO Part A Due
In Class: Discuss Reading and Paper 1

9/20
Read: McLuhan (82-157)
Write: Paper 1-1 Proposal Due
In Class: Discuss sample paper and paper ideas

9/22
Read: Compaine (315-335 in DD); 2-14 in VI
Write: Blog Entry
In Class: Defining the Divide

9/27
PAPER 1-1 DUE
In-Class: JAWS Exercise, Brief presentation by Katrina Kosted about the Bridging Disciplines Program

9/29
Read: Lanham's "Action" (Handout)
Write: Perform steps 1-5 of the PM on paper 1-1
In Class: Share revisions in class

10/4
Read: 15-37 in VI; Schement (303-7 in DD); Powell (309-14 in DD)
Write: Blog Post
In Class: Data problems and the shrinking/growing gap.

10/6
Read: 38-59 in VI
Write: Blog Post
In Class: The skills divide

10/11
PAPER 1-2 DUE
In Class: LRO Workshop

10/13
Read: 60-85 in VI; Kennard (195-8 in DD)
Write: Blog Entry
In Class: Discuss Economic Opportunities and Paper 2

10/18
MIDTERM LRO DUE
In Class: Discuss Anthologies

10/20
Read: Small group reading assignment
Write: Paper 2-1 Proposal Due
In Class: Small group discussions

Reading Options:

-Banks “Race, Rhetoric, and Technology: Searching for Higher Ground” (ERES)
-Hill “Beyond Access: Race, Technology, Community” (ERES)
-Cooper and Weaver “Computer Anxiety: A Matter of Gender” (ERES)
-Farmer “Teens in Need of Technology” (ERES)
-McPherson “I’ll Take My Stand in Dixie-Net” (ERES)

10/25
In Class: Share findings from small group discussions

10/27
PAPER 2-1 DUE
Guest Speaker: Ana Sisnett of AFN

11/1
Read: Compaine and Weinraub (147-177 in DD)
Write: Blog Entry
In Class: Discuss Universal Service and Austin Free-Net Project

11/3
Paper Discussions

11/8
Read: 86-115 in VI
Write: Blog Entry
In Class: Technology and Democracy
Read: 116-139 in VI
Write: Blog Entry
In Class: Discuss conclusions of VI

11/10
PAPER 2-2 DUE
In Class: Discuss AFN Survey/Setting up appointments

11/15
In Class: Group Planning Session

11/17
NO CLASS (groups should be conducting surveys)

11/22
PRELIMINARY SITE SURVEY REPORT DUE
In Class: Discussing AFN Site Surveys

11/24
NO CLASS – THANKSGIVING

11/29
Group Work on Final Project

12/1
Group Work on Final Project

12/6
Presenting Final Projects

12/8
Presenting Final Projects
Course Evaluations



Final LRO Due on date of Final Exam

Blogging the Digital Divide

Our 309K Blogs:
Read the latest entries from our blogs.

Assignments

Paper 1

RHE 309K (43990)
Fall 2005
Jim Brown

Due Dates
•9/20: Paper Proposal Due
•9/27: First Submission Due
•10/11: Second Submission Due

Paper Description
In Remediation and The Medium is the Massage, we have read about how media act on us in a number of different ways. According to these theories, the medium isn't just a container for an argument. Rather, media shape, constrain, and open up the possibilities of an argument.

In this first paper, you'll be analyzing a text of some sort in terms of the media it takes uses. You'll discuss the different ways your texts "writes" and how those different ways of writing shape the argument. During our class discussions we've defined the terms writing, text, and literacy very broadly, and you'll do the same for this paper. A text can be a film, novel, short story, poem, television show, webpage, or any other type of "text" you can imagine.

Regardless of the text you choose, you should be considering how it uses different media to present its argument or purpose. Keep in mind that the argument of a text is not always completely obvious or explicit. In addition, texts can have a number of different arguments happening at once.

Paper Proposals
Your paper proposals will be a paragraph about your paper topic. This paragraph will explain the text your examining and how you think an analysis of that text will play out. How does its medium (or its different media) shape, change, or direct its argument or purpose?

Paper proposals are not a "contract." You may find that your topic or argument changes as you begin to write. This is not a problem. The proposal is merely a way to get you thinking about the project.

Post your paper proposals as a blog entry by 9:30am on Tuesday, September 20.

Submission Guidelines

Like your proposals, you'll be submitting your papers to via your blogs. However, your paper will NOT be in the form of a blog entry. You will submit your paper as an attachment to a blog entry using the "attach new file" function. As noted at the top of this sheet, your first submission is due on 9/27 and your second submission is due on 10/11.

Please note that first submission does not mean "rough draft." Your first submission should be a good-faith attempt at completing the assignment. I will comment on first submissions using Microsoft Word Commenting. These comments will help you to approach a thoughtfully revised second submission.

Format Guidelines

Your final draft should be 4-6 pages long, typed, double-spaced, and carefully proofread. Any references to articles or other research must be in MLA format. REFER TO THE SF EXPRESS HANDBOOK. THE PAPER VERSION OF YOUR DRAFT SHOULD LOOK LIKE THE MODEL PAPER ON PAGES 87-98 of SF Express. If you don't have the SF Express handbook, you must use some other MLA manual.

Paper 2

RHE 309K (43990)
Fall 2005
Jim Brown

Due Dates
•10/20: Paper Proposal Due
•10/27: First Submission Due
•11/8: Second Submission Due

Paper Description
Benjamin Compaine's Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth is an anthology of work about the digital divide. It brings together a number of different arguments about the topic and attempts to show the issue from different angles. As editor of this collection, Compaine chose what would be included, how it would be sorted, and how each argument would be framed in terms of his own overarching argument.

For your second paper, you will create your own short anthology about the digital divide. After selecting which pieces you'd like to include, you will write an introduction to your anthology. This introduction should put the different arguments that you've chosen into dialogue with one another. How do they speak to one another? Do the authors participate in a useful "conversation" or do they talk past one another? You should say how they fit together, show where different arguments clash with one another, and explain the different goals each of the pieces have. You can talk about these different arguments in terms of the audience they hope to reach, the different kinds of arguments they make, whether they fairly address their opposition, or any other elements you choose to focus on.

Paper Proposals
Your paper proposals will be a paragraph about your paper topic. This paragraph will which pieces you'll include in your anthology and why you've chosen them. In your proposal, you should be starting to work out your own argument about why these pieces are a useful presentation of the digital divide conversation. Post your paper proposals as a blog entry by 9:30am on Thursday, October 20.

Submission Guidelines
Like your proposals, you'll be submitting your papers via your blogs. However, your paper will NOT be in the form of a blog entry. You will submit your paper as an attachment to a blog entry using the "attach new file" function. As noted at the top of this sheet, your first submission is due on 10/27 and your second submission is due on 11/8.

Please note that first submission does not mean "rough draft." Your first submission should be a good-faith attempt at completing the assignment. I will comment on first submissions using Microsoft Word Commenting. These comments will help you to approach a thoughtfully revised second submission.

Format Guidelines
You must include a table of contents for your anthology. On this page, you might want to break your book up into sections, but this isn't required. The introduction to your anthology should be 4-6 pages long, typed, double-spaced, and carefully proofread. Any references to articles or other research must be in MLA format. REFER TO THE SF EXPRESS HANDBOOK. THE PAPER VERSION OF YOUR DRAFT SHOULD LOOK LIKE THE MODEL PAPER ON PAGES 87-98 of SF Express.

Austin Free-Net Project

AttachmentSize
Microsoft Office document icon AFNsiteassessment.doc76 KB
Microsoft Office document icon AFN Sites.doc28 KB
Microsoft Office document icon consent form.doc32.5 KB

RHE 309K (43990)
Fall 2005
Jim Brown

Due Dates
•11/8-11/22: Conduct Site Surveys
•11/22: Project Proposal Due
•12/6: Presentations Due
•12/6-12/8: Presentations

Project Description
Your final project will take you on a short trip to one of Austin Free-Net’s free public internet access sites. At your assigned location, you will interview those in charge. Your interview will gather a wide range of information including what kind of access the site provides to visitors, what the site’s needs and wants are, the profiles of their typical users, and much more. Upon conducting the survey, you should be paying close attention to what these site managers say. Your goal will be to identify some need and to make an attempt to fill that need. Here are some possible projects you could take on:

•Take video footage of your site survey and use it to create a promotional video for the site and for AFN.

•Help those in charge of the site to set up a blog that they could use as a way to interact with their users. This site could become the default homepage on their browsers and could notify users of things like upgrades, changes, training classes. Alternately, the blog could be a place where users could post creative work such as poetry and short stories.

•Create informational materials in the form of a web page or a packet that your AFN site can provide to those who make use of the facility. This could be information about the classes they offer, suggestions about how to make use of digital technology, job search tips, easy online publishing strategies (such as Blogger or LiveJournal), or online communities (such as Friendster, Xanga, or Facebook).

•Design some classes that your AFN site could offer to their users. Many sites already offer classes, but you could put together some syllabi of new courses or maybe even offer new ways of teaching their current courses.

This is only a short list of possibilities, and the project you choose will depend on what you uncover during your site survey. Remember that your main tasks will be to 1) listen closely during your conversations with those at the site and 2) use your writing and critical thinking skills to help them fill a need or solve a problem. The options I’ve listed above fit into different rhetorical situations and address different audiences. As you work through this project, remember who your audience is and think about the best way to address that audience.

Site Surveys
Austin Free-Net has provided us with a survey. This form will help AFN get a feel for what’s happening at their various sites. You will use this survey as a guide for your interviews, but you should also develop additional questions you’d like to ask before you conduct the survey. Also, as you conduct the interview and listen closely to the responses, additional questions will arise. Your survey should be a conversation with the people at the AFN site. This means that the survey will provide a guide for the conversation, but these won’t be the only questions you ask.

While you should allow the interview to guide the project you’d like to work on, you could also consider some options ahead of time. If you have an idea in mind, you should discuss this when you schedule your site survey (probably by phone). For example, if you think you might like to take video footage you’ll have to first check with the site to make sure this is okay with them. Feel free to brainstorm projects ahead of time, but be careful not to force a project that doesn’t quite fit the needs of the people you’re working with.

Project Proposal
Upon completing your survey, you’ll turn in a project proposal. This proposal will include the results of your survey and how those results have led you to the project you’d like to work on. Think of this as a way of pitching your project. This proposal should answer these questions:

•What is the rhetorical situation for your project? Who is the author? Who is the audience? What media will your project make use of and why did you choose these particular media?

•How does your project fit with your previous discussions of the digital divide?

•What need are you filling for the site?

•What did you learn during your site survey and how did you apply these findings when coming up with a project?

This list of questions is by no means all inclusive. Regardless of how you approach the proposal, it must explain your project and the justifications for it in some detail. It should also contain some explanation of how this project applies to our discussions of rhetoric and the arguments we’ve read about the digital divide.

Presentations
During the final week of class, you’ll present your projects to the class. You should consider inviting the people from your site to view your presentation. Your presentation should be both a showcase for your work and a reflection on what you’ve learned during the project. It will be a way to talk about the problem you identified, how you’ve proposed to solve it, obstacles you encountered throughout the process, and advice for future classes that work on similar projects.