English 478: Electracy
Digital media changes the way we communicate and express ourselves. Today’s complex media world requires us to master a multitude of expressive forms in addition to writing, which has traditionally been the domain of English. Rhetoric and composition is at a crossroads where traditional literacy can no longer suffice to prepare us for the media rich world in which we live. What is needed is a new type of skill set for this digital age, one that is born out of the very media reality that in which we find ourselves. In this course we’ll work with one such approach named electracy,developed by rhetorician Gregory Ulmer. Coming out of French poststructuralist theory, Ulmer posits that “electracy is to digital media as literacy is to alphabetic writing.” Like literacy, which took centuries to develop, electracy is not something that exists a priori, and independent of human experience. Rather, it must be invented and learned through experience and heuretic methods of invention.
In this course, students will experience invention of electracy through two major projects. The first project focuses on blogging, whereas the second is a semester long project called Mystory, which is a new multi-modal genre of electrate expression developed by Gregory Ulmer. Through the Mystory project students will build websites and work with video, images, and text to produce personalized electrate learning experiences.
The assignments for the Mystory followed closely Ulmer’s “popcycle” and the five assignments that he discusses in his bookInternet Invention (Longman 2003).
Career discourse: “Make a website documenting an important discovery, or a (founding)
invention, in your career domain (your university major, or a field of disciplinary knowledge in which you have some interest)” (21).
Family discourse: “Make a website documenting a scene that sticks in your memory from the childhood years of your family life” (86).
Entertainment discourse: “Make a website documenting the details of a movie or TV narrative some part of which you still remember from your childhood years” (127). In addition, I also let the students choose to reflect upon a song or musical or theatrical piece that they had a special relationship to during this time of their lives.
Community discourse: “Add to your widesite the documentation of an exemplary story from your community, that is a story about a person or event that your community identifies with and tells about itself in its celebrations, festivals, naming practices, memorials” (191).
Emblem: “Design an emblem that evokes the look and feel of your mystory” (246).