Dr. Dean Taciuch
George Mason University

Fall 2007

English 343: 001 / NCLC 343:001
Textual Media

Course Description

This course is devoted to the critical reading of new-media texts (hypertexts, blogs, websites, interactive texts, and the like), and to the creation of such technology-enriched texts in a variety of critical genres (analysis, review, commentary, and such).


One print textbook is required; the rest are online texts

Landow, George. Hypertext 3.0. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
ISBN-10: 0801882575. ISBN-13: 978-0801882579.
Paperback. $27.00

Price as of August 15, 2007. If you are charged more at the bookstore, let me know.


Walter Benjamin "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1936)

Vannevar Bush "As We May Think" (1945)

Current Critical /Commentary
Cory Doctorow
"You Do Like Reading Off a Computer Screen" (Locus 2007)
"PrintCrime" (download from http://www.craphound.com/overclocked/download/)

"Microsoft Research DRM Talk" (in particular part 4, "DRM systems are bad for artists")

Roy Rosenzweig, "Can History be Open-Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past"

Michael Gorman Britannica Blog articles

Scott McLemee "Mass Culture 2.0" (Inside Higher Ed. 2007).
A response to Michael Gorman's anti-web articles

Stuart Moulthrop "After the Last Generation: Rethinking Scholarship in the Days of Serious Play" (pdf)

Textual Media
The Victorian Web

Stephanie Strickland "Vniverse" (Shockwave player required)
Stuart Moulthrop "Hegirascope"
Caitlin Fisher "These Waves of Girls"

From Cyberartsweb:

Interactive Fiction and Poetry
Colossal Cave (Adventure)
Emily Short Interactive Fictions
Deena Larsen "Firefly" & "Stained Word Window"


Weekly blog posts (and comments): 15%
Augmented Text (hypertext annotation): 15%
Hypertext critique 1: 15%
Hypertext Critique 2: 15%
Wikipedia assignment: 15%
Final Project: 15%
Presentation: 10%


Most of your work will receive a letter grade. The weekly posts and comments will not be graded individually (but you will receive an overall grade on your posts and comments.

The critiques will be written as hypertexts, and the grade will be based on both the quality of the writing and on the use of hypertext format (navigation of a number of screens via multiple links–if I can print out your hypertexts and not lose anything important, you’re not using the technology in a meaningful way).

The Wikipedia assignment will require you to create or significantly update a entry on Wikipedia. The grade will be based on the quality of the writing and on the appropriate use of Wikipedia standards.

The final project will be an interactive textual presentation consisting of at least 10 linked pages, with at least two navigational paths. The project should be a critical work, though it should deal with its subject creatively. Manifestos, artistic statements, and creative arguments are all welcome. You should use the technology to make your point in ways which would be impossible otherwise.

I will give all assignments letter grades. I calculate final grades by converting the letter grades to a 100 point scale using the following values:

A+ 100  
A 95 C+ 78
A- 90 C 75
B+ 88 C- 70
B 85 D 65
B- 80 F below 60

The University translates letter grades into 4-point GPA values:

A+ 4.00 B- 2.67 C- 1.67
A 4.00 B 3.00 D 1.00
A- 3.67 C+ 2.33 F 0.00
B+ 3.33 C 2.00  

(please note that A+ and A have equivalent point values.)

Course Policies

Late Assignments: Unless you make prior arrangements with me, late assignments will lose one letter grade per day. The lost grades cannot be made up by revision.

Revisions: The Critiques and the Wikipedia assignments can be revised for a higher grade. A revision is a thorough reworking of an assignment; it is not merely correcting spelling and grammar errors (that’s proofreading, and it won’t result in a higher grade, since I assume you proofread before you post). Generally, “B”s are more difficult to revise; they are already better than average, and revising means changing them substantively. There is always a risk that the changes may result in a weaker piece of writing, but I will not penalize anyone for revising (you won’t drop below the original grade on a revision). I recommend revising assignments with a “C” or lower, since these usually have more serious problems which respond better to the thoroughness of the revision process.

All revisions must be submitted by Nov 29.

Plagiarism: We will discuss the use and re-use of online materials quite extensively in this class. I consider the unacknowledged use of source materials to be plagiarism. Improper citations must be corrected, but improper citations alone will not get you sent to the Honor Committee.

Attendance: I will not take attendance, but it is not possible to do well in this course without regular attendance. In class assignments make up part of your grade. Class discussions of the texts are necessary for the papers, exercises, and the research project. Topics will develop from the class discussions.


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