Austin Free-Net Assignment
RHE 309K (43990)
•4/6-4/18: Conduct Site Surveys
•4/18-4/20: Project Proposal Due
•4/27: Presentations Due
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.
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.
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.
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.