Cyberculture description

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Brief description: In this course we will listen carefully to the rhetorics on and in cyberspace, and we will attempt to assess some of the social, ethical, and political implications of this technosocial construct. We will look at the ways cyburbia gets represented, critiqued, and employed by studying the first cyberpunk novel, a recent cyber-futures film, and an award-winning study of contemporary media culture. You will also join a social networking or other cybersubculutre site and explore the space for yourself. Three interrelated issues/topics will guide our inquiry and our productions:

  1. Identity and the Body. Is virtual identity represented as “fake” identity? Do politics associated with bodily “markers” such as race, sex, gender, etc., evaporate in cyberspace or do they show up there, too? What’s up with this drive to “escape” the material body, to download consciousness and/or acquire prosthetic everything? And what happens to the very notion of (the trope of) “the human” when the borders between “meat” and “metal” (body and machine) disappear? Do they disappear?
  2. Social Relations and the Public Sphere. Online, there is no way to verify whom (or even what) you’re talking to: how does this affect your relations there? How do online activities/relations affect your offline relationships? Does electronic culture signal the end of “privacy” and “individual freedom?” What kind of activism or organizational capacities does cyburbia make possible?
  3. Literacy and Electracy. What are the “literacy” requirements in various online communities? How do they differ from typical offline literacy requirements? How do digital writing/reading spaces, including those on mobile devices, alter print-centric understandings of the relations among rhetoric’s fundamental elements: the writer, the reader, language, and reality? And how do they impact the importance of rhetoric’s three modes of appeal, ethos, pathos, logos?

Digital networked culture has radically expanded the boundaries what we call “writing” today, inviting infinitely reproducible, rapidly circulating, multimodal compositions that effectively assemble text, images, sound, and video. Therefore, in addition to learning about the subject matter of the course, cyberspace, you will learn to analyze and contribute to a diverse array of digital environments. Focusing on verbal and nonverbal writing, you will learn to analyze and compose the “texts” appropriate for various networked forums.

Prerequisite: Completion of at least thirty semester hours of coursework, including E 316k or the equivalent.


Course Policy:

Attendance: Be here. This is a performance course that requires student attendance. Should a student miss the equivalent of 5 class sessions this semester, excused or not, s/he will not pass the courseEach three tardies will count as one absence. Beyond that, this: Because the success of this course depends upon the success of our interaction as a class, attendance is absolutely necessary. If you must miss a class, check with one of your classmates about what you missed before the next class. Please keep at least 3 numbers/eddresses handy.

Deadlines: Don’t miss them. Even if you must miss class, your work will need to find its way there (via a friend or an email, perhaps) on time if it doesn’t want its grade to suffer–one letter grade for each day it’s late. **I will allow rewrites on certain projects; however, to qualify, you must have handed in a full and complete version of your assignment at the time it was due. I will not allow rewrites on any paper/project that is turned in late and/or turned in on time but incomplete.**

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the undocumented use of someone else’s ideas or words. To present another’s work as one’s own, even if one is paraphrasing, is plagiarism. This is a serious offense and will result in failure for that assignment and, very likely, for the course. In certain cases, it can also result in expulsion from the university. If you have questions about the use of source materials, see me before turning in the assignment. Do not use editing services other than those provided by the Undergraduate Writing Center or the Learning Skills Center.

CommunicationsAll out of class communications for this course will come via email or the course website. You are responsible for checking your email daily and the course site regularly.

Email notification polilcy: All students should become familiar with the University’s official e-mail student notification policy. It is the student’s responsibility to keep the University informed as to changes in his or her e-mail address. Students are expected to check e-mail on a frequent and regular basis in order to stay current with University-related communications, recognizing that certain communications may be time-critical. It is recommended that e-mail be checked daily, but at a minimum, twice per week. The complete text of this policy and instructions for updating your e-mail address are available at

Computer Use and Availability: You will need access outside of class to a computer with an internet connection to succeed in this course. If you do not have one at home, you’ll need to frequent one or more of the campus labs. Computers are available to you in the DWRL open lab (PAR 102), the Student Microcomputer Facility (SMF) on the second floor of the Flawn Academic Center (FAC).

Students With Disabilities: Please let me know of any disability that might require my assistance. The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), at 471-6259.

Computation of Grades: Grades will be computed on a 4-point scale: A=4.0, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0. No + or – final grades will be assigned.

Course Description | Texts | Assignments | Schedule