Spring 2009
ENGL 584, Topics Discourse and Writing: Writing for the Web (CRN 32287)
3:00-5:50, Monday, Room 304, English Building

Course Description

This seminar is for students interested in studying and creating innovative digital scholarship. A theme running through the course will be how the study of informatics can help understand online composition.

Students in the course will read scholarship on new-media authorship while learning to code an array of web texts "by hand" in html, css, and using simple javascript. The seminar will meet for a two-hour discussion session followed by a one-hour coding tutorial.

Unlike most graduate seminars, which culminate in a final paper, this course will be based on the creation of eight digital online projects. The projects will involve such things as an inquiry into digital literacy, an invent-your-own-typeface site, a moving-image project, the creation of a video game, a simulation, and more. Students need not have any experience creating web sites; experienced students will be able to work at an accelerated pace.

Course Objectives

› for students to create new-media scholarship
› for students to learn about the informatics of online writing
› for students to understand the significance of emerging electronic media in everyday life

Books and Materials

Students need to bring a portable usb drive to every class.


  1. Fred Turner From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
  2. Ellen Lupton Thinking with Type
  3. Craig Dworkin Reading the Illegible
  4. Ian Bogost Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism
  5. Mark Stephen Meadows I, Avatar: The Culture and Consequences of Having a Second Life

All additional materials will be available online as electronic documents. Please bring copies of all readings to class for discussion.

How the Course Will Work

This course is based on the principles of project-based learning. This means that problems and projects will motivate our inquiry and structure most of what we do. Figuring out each project, making it, and then sharing the project with other students in the course will be at the heart of this class. Readings and class discussion are meant to supplement and clarify the projects.

Your eight projects will ultimately be assembled and revised to form a single website. 80% of your grade for the course will be based on this final website. The final website is not easy. Instead of creating a final portfolio of work, you will need to seamlessly combine and revise all eight projects into a single site at the end of the course. We'll talk more about this important step.