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WRTG 3020–210 Technology & American Culture
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
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