Course & Assignment Description

Course Description
WA 01301: Writing, Research, and Technology

University Course Catalog

This course presents the rhetorical, social, and practical dimensions of writing and researching in networked contexts. Students focus both on the roles an individual creates and maintains when writing for different cybermedia formats and the kinds of conventions that exist in systems like the World Wide Web, listservs, e-mail, and hypertext. A web-based research project in a concentrated area of writing for a particular electronic community demonstrates students’ ability to communicate on line.

Instructor Syllabus Course Description

In this course we will continue to challenge the idea of contemporary modes of composition first discussed in Technologies and the Future of Writing. Specifically, we are going to be extending traditional conceptions of composition by applying it to the medium of video. Kevin Kelly (2008) recently described the emerging video movement as a cultural shift “from book fluency to screen fluency, from literacy to visuality.” As a means of engaging visuality our primary assignment will be to create an oral history video composition that will ask us to think critically about how writing, research, and technology are in evolving in digital age. We are going to learn oral history research methodologies, construct interview questions informed by documentaries and Studs Turkel interviews, interview community members, and create short, idea-driven videos that mash together interview footage with still images, primary documents, sound, and other video footage. We will also jump headlong into remix culture by creating our own videos by remixing and building on the creativity of others. It will be a fun, exciting, and demanding course that is going to challenge us all—including Dr. Wolff—in new ways.

The primary video technology we will be using in the course is a Flip Video camera, which we are fortunate enough to have as a result of a Rowan University-provided Innovations in Teaching with Technology grant Dr. Wolff was awarded in June 2008. The goal of the grant is to introduce students to contemporary theories in and practical applications of visual rhetoric, oral history, and educational outreach. The goal of the assignment is to provide Writing Arts majors with an opportunity to further develop the critical thinking, reading, and writing skills that are necessary for a contemporary “literacy [that] today is in the midst of a techtonic shift” (Yancey, 2004). That literacy is visual and textual; it consists of being able to understand the complex, evasive relationships among texts and images—and how those relationships impact and are impacted by contemporary cultures.

Many of the still and video images we will be looking and you will come in contact with as a part of your research at will be disturbing and often intensely personal—because of their subject matter and because of the way certain technologies have been used in print and online media to exploit, reveal, categorize, and define. Yet, those very same technologies—especially in our internet-mediated environment—allow individuals access to information previously locked away. As a result, it will be especially important for us to realize that different people respond to images in different ways, to respect the various reactions, and try to understand why they happen. We will spend quite a bit of time in class talking about the acts of listening, empathizing, and giving people space to explore personal ideas in an environment that welcomes such intense reflection. And, perhaps coolly, we will also talk about how to effectively present such images when composing our video essays. In short, the course is also about trust: trust in each other as students, in your subjects, in you as researchers, and in contemporary culture as a whole.

Although the course is about video composition there will be a substantial reading component. Our texts will be from various sources, including books, web sites, still images, video, and audio—and through the process of research and creation, we will create our own texts to be read, watched, analyzed, and enjoyed. We will have three units this semester in which we will compose 5 videos of various lengths.

Assignment Desciption
“The One Movie” assignment

In “The One Movie” assignment students are asked to compose an idea-driven video based on interviews with a random group of 25 – 30 people during which they ask only three questions: What is your first name? Where are you from? And a unique question that each student has come up with on their own. Students use Flip Video Ultra camcorders provided in class. The assignment was inspired by the Fifty People, One Question videos. The complete assignment can be seen online at http://j.mp/SeeK3.