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.