• View full syl­labus doc­u­ment here: PDF file

WRTG 3020–210 Tech­nol­ogy & Amer­i­can Culture

Par­tic­i­pa­tory Media

Sum­mer B 2014

Instruc­tor: Gary Hink, Ph.D

Pro­gram for Writ­ing & Rhetoric | Uni­ver­sity of Colorado


    “Par­tic­i­pa­tory cul­ture is emerg­ing as the cul­ture absorbs and responds to the explo­sion of new media tech­nolo­gies that make it pos­si­ble for aver­age con­sumers to archive, anno­tate, appro­pri­ate, and recir­cu­late media con­tent in pow­er­ful new ways. A focus on expand­ing access to new tech­nolo­gies car­ries us only so far if we do not also fos­ter the skills and cul­tural knowl­edge nec­es­sary to deploy those tools toward our own ends” (Jenk­ins et al, 2009, p.8).


Hash­tags: Media Cul­ture, Net­worked Ecol­ogy, Par­tic­i­pa­tory Com­po­si­tion, Dig­i­tal Rhetoric, #Electracy


Course Objec­tives

What is “dig­i­tal cul­ture” today in the net­worked media ecol­ogy? More­over, how can we bet­ter under­stand our tech­nol­ogy and media effects besides activ­i­ties of “pro­duc­tion or con­sump­tion,” when every­one can par­tic­i­pate to vary­ing degrees? One poten­tially pro­duc­tive view is fram­ing par­tic­i­pa­tory cul­ture as “pub­lic ped­a­gogy” (Portman-Daley)—with new types of learn­ing and com­pos­ing hap­pen­ing daily, out­side School, on a grand scale. How might we rec­og­nize and apply the lessons of extremely pop­u­lar forms and prac­tices? The over­all goal of the course is to reflex­ively exam­ine and exploit the post-Literacy tran­si­tion already famil­iar to us in net­work soci­ety and con­tem­po­rary cul­ture. We will explore the rhetor­i­cal impli­ca­tions of this two-decade shift, with stu­dents (like audi­ence mem­bers) act­ing as pro­duc­ers and not just “con­sumers” of ideas, dis­course, and media culture.

Exam­in­ing pop­u­lar media plat­forms and new cul­tural gen­res enabled by dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, stu­dents will study and apply the mul­ti­ple modes of com­pos­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing in tex­tual, visual, and mul­ti­me­dia forms: specif­i­cally, by study­ing the rhetor­i­cal prop­er­ties of new cul­tural forms and activ­i­ties beyond the con­ven­tions of print and lan­guage (Lit­er­acy). The key under­stand­ing is a view that rec­og­nizes the post-literacy tran­si­tion to the new tech­no­log­i­cal par­a­digm, with its own “dig­i­tal rhetoric.” A chief objec­tive, this will be achieved by both observ­ing and employ­ing in com­po­si­tion the modes of the preva­lent dis­course emerg­ing today across Inter­net plat­forms and social networks—parody videos, mash-up songs, net­worked games, viral cir­cu­la­tion and meme images—as well as less pop­u­lar forms like fan fic­tion, glitch, and alter­nate real­ity games. This way, dig­i­tal media and par­tic­i­pa­tory cul­ture are our guides and our objects of study, with spe­cific forms cho­sen by stu­dents to exam­ine in groups. Famil­iar exam­ples are seen in the com­pos­ing activ­i­ties going from TV shows to GIFs; films to super­cut; songs to mash-ups; lit­er­a­ture to fan fic­tion and “trans­me­dia sto­ry­telling”; from blog­ging about food, gam­ing, or sports to videos and aug­mented real­ity apps. What can we learn from these new forms?

While this course draws upon the ana­lyt­i­cal skills of Lit­er­acy, it also enhances stu­dents’ rhetor­i­cal per­spec­tives and com­pos­ing abil­i­ties using mul­ti­ple modes—stories, ref­er­ence, expres­sion, interactivity—in aes­thetic author­ing of mul­ti­me­dia works. Using freely-available soft­ware on the Web, we will develop these skills through pop­u­lar prac­tices of the new cul­tural logic (e.g. social net­work­ing, image com­mu­ni­ca­tion, design like remix and “Pho­to­shop­ping” across media) to both doc­u­ment and cre­ate inven­tive expres­sion. Pro­ceed­ing this way, there are three lev­els (per­spec­tives & ques­tions) to keep in mind dur­ing our study:


    1. Technology’s impact upon cul­ture: how are media and net­work devel­op­ments chang­ing expres­sion?
    2. Shifts toward new and active roles, both the dis­course about dig­i­tal cul­ture and our participation—in what “insti­tu­tions”?
    3. Lessons of dig­i­tal rhetoric & media author­ing that can be applied in net­work com­mu­ni­ca­tion or new schol­arly discourse?


      This work “brings the stu­dents into the process of inven­tion, in every sense of the word. My opti­mism about new media for the soci­ety as a whole is based on the cor­re­spon­dences among the fea­tures of dig­i­tal hyper­me­dia, the asso­cia­tive logic of cre­ative think­ing, and the aes­thet­ics of pop­u­lar cul­ture. The fears about the soci­ety of the spec­ta­cle based on a cul­ture of images that under­mines crit­i­cal think­ing are coun­tered in this ped­a­gogy by the impor­tance of imag­ing in the cre­ative process and the con­tri­bu­tion of imag­i­na­tion and visu­al­iza­tion to prob­lem solv­ing.”
      — Gre­gory Ulmer, Inter­net Invention


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