Fall  2010


English 307: Rhetoric, Computers, and Composition

Dr. Darin Payne
Kuy 513 or 711, ph. #956-3050 or 6-8958
Office hours:    TBA, and by appt.  



Course Overview:

This course is designed to introduce you to the theoretical and practical elements of composing arguments for public audiences in the digital age. You will examine foundational principles of classical rhetoric as they are enacted in traditional print media and as they are reconfigured in/by electronic media. You will read and discuss theories of classical rhetoric, and you will apply those theories as you analyze and produce digital (or digitally enhanced) compositions for particular communities. Because this is an introductory course that explores the intersections among rhetoric, composition, and computers, you will not be expected to learn any particular computer program in serious depth; nonetheless, you will be expected to come to know a handful of contemporary programs that will facilitate/enable digital compositions in public settings (for example, you will learn at an introductory level how to utilize WYSIWYG editors for producing webpages, how to set up your own blog and utilize its genre effectively, how to incorporate media files into compositions, and so on).

You will work both as a critic/analyst and as a writer.  You will analyze particular rhetorical strategies within digital productions, and you will learn to talk about them and think about how you yourself might use them. You will also contribute to online arguments with both informal and formal writing of your own, some of which will be "traditional" academic discourse and some of which will be more appropriately tailored to online public contexts.. The writings you produce for this class will primarily consist of email interactions and/or blog posts, short analytic essays to help you process theories, low-stakes digital compositions utilizing a variety of applications, and one substantive digital composition in which you make use of digital tools in a rhetorically effective way.

This course will function as a workshop, allowing you to write, read, and think as most writers and critics do: through processes of generation, collaboration, and revision (not necessarily in that order).  What that means is that you will be asked to engage regularly--almost every class period--in discussions, both face-to-face and online.  With that in mind, it is essential that you do not miss class and that you come fully prepared to each meeting.  If your schedule this semester does not allow you to make such a commitment, this is not a class you should take. There is an attendance policy (see below).


Required Texts:

Other Required Materials:


Short Papers  (25/100) Approximately once per week, and mostly during the first third of the course, you will be required to write a short, semi-formal "paper." You will write between about 5 of these during the semester. The SP's will be about 500 words each, and they will be written in response to a prompt about a reading, presentation, or discussion. For more details, see SP Guidelines.   

Presentation of Software (Collaborative grade: 25/100) In teams of two or three, you will research and develop a teaching presentation on one particular software application, and you will lead a workshop that gives the class a hands-on introduction to that application.  As part of your presentation, you will need to produce a composition that illustrates your chosen application in action.  For instance, if you give a workshop in Photoshop, you will need to create a Photoshop production as an example; that production can become the rough draft for the more comprehensive Major Digital Composition Assignment (see below). Your presentation and workshop will take the entire length of one class session (2.5 hours). If the application warrants it, we might use two sessions.

Mini Digital Compositions (25/100) During the five weeks of team presentations, you will stop writing short papers and instead produce small, introductory-level digital compositions within the application being presented/studied each week. The prompts for these (including minimal criteria for grading purposes) will be created by the team presenting the particular application being employed.

Major Digital Composition (25/100) You will create a digital composition that demonstrates amateur working-level competence within one or more of the applications we examine in the course.  If you wish, you can further develop the composition you create for your presentation/workshop; this can also be a composition that utilizes the application you rhetorically analyze. You are not required to build all major assignments around a single application, however; it's simply an option.


Course Policies:

Attendance: As mentioned in the Overview above, regular attendance is critical to this course. Much of your work will involve class discussions, group workshops, and in-class writing. If you miss more than three class sessions, your final grade for the course will be reduced by one full letter grade per class session over three that you miss. For example, if you miss five class sessions this semester, and your final grade is a B, it will be bumped down two levels, to a D.  Importantly, there is no distinction between "excused" and "unexcused" absences—they are all absences, and they all count the same way. In the event that you do miss a class session, you are responsible for making up any in-class work. You are also responsible for finding out about any homework assignments and completing them on time.   Do not expect to be able to hand in something late or not do an assignment because you were absent on the day it was assigned or due. 

Grading: To complete this course successfully, you must attend class, complete all major assignments on time, prepare for class, and participate in class activities and discussions. You cannot receive a passing grade unless you have submitted all major assignments. To receive full credit, all assignments must be submitted on time, in the proper format, and with the required supporting materials. (I may ask, for example, for rough drafts, peer responses, a cover memo, and/or similar documents; I most likely will not ask for these things, but I might.) If you submit a final draft of a major assignment without the supporting materials requested, you will lose points on that assignment. Late projects will also receive a grade reduction of 10% per class day that they are late--with the exception of Short Papers and Mini-Digital Compositions, neither of which will be accepted once they are late. Any acceptable late projects must be handed directly to me in class or sent to me as a working email attachment (which means you need to send it to yourself at the same time and check that it gets through successfully; no exceptions on this one.).  Finally, you must keep copies of all your projects. If you do not keep a copy and your project gets lost or misplaced, you will have to rewrite it. An additional "finally": grades of "incomplete" are becoming very difficult to have approved by the office of Student Affairs. Simply "needing more time" is no longer sufficient: if you request an Incomplete in this course, you will need to have completed the majority of the work and be missing only a small but important portion, and your inability to finish within the semester will need to be the result of an official, documented reason, such as illness or family emergency, etc.

Academic Dishonesty and Plagiarism. Hiring ghost writers, submitting papers written by others, and using textual materials as if they were yours are all contrary to University regulations as published in theUHM catalog. Copies of a departmental statement on plagiarism and documentation of sources are available in Kuykendall 402. Additionally, all UH students are responsible for upholding the codes of academic integrity available through the Office of the Dean of Students. If you engage in academic dishonesty or plagiarism, the consequences can be severe: depending on the nature of the offense(s), the results can range anwhere from receiving a grade of zero on an assignment to failing the class to being expelled from the university.

Provisions for Disabilities. If you feel you need reasonable accomodations because of the impact of a disability, please 1) contact the KOKUA Program (V/T) at 956-7511 or 956-7612 in room 013 of the QLCSS; 2) speak with me privately to discuss your specific needs. I will be happy to work with you and the KOKUA Program to meet your access needs related to your documented disability.

Breakdown of Grades:

The following is a tentative list of all graded assignments and their point values. The total points for the course are 100. 

The following are course-total grade point conversions:  

   ** Please do not operate on the belief that completing an assignment "without errors" will get you an A. Simply put: composing is subjective.  That does not mean, however, that you will be at the mercy of your professors' idiosyncratic tastes; for each assignment, we will discuss as a group (and come to agreement on) the assignment's criteria. 


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page last updated August 2010