Warning: This is an archived course website that is part of my teaching portfolio, so some links may no longer work. Please contact me with any questions about this site.

Course Policies

Professor: Quinn Warnick, Ph.D.
Course Location: 1120 Torgersen Hall
Class Hours: Wednesday, 6:00–9:00 p.m.
Dr. Warnick’s Office: 427 Shanks Hall
Office Hours: T 1:00–4:00 p.m., W 9:00 a.m.–noon, or by appointment
Office Phone: 231-8321 (Leave a detailed message if I don’t pick up.)
Email: email hidden; JavaScript is required (This is the best way to reach me.)

ENGL 5644 Overview

Our personal, civic, and professional lives are becoming increasingly mediated by digital technologies. This Genres of Professional Practice course is designed to help you better understand, critique, and produce a variety of genres related to online identity, personal data management, social networking, and virtual communities. Working within the broad theme of “The Digital Self,” we will study historical approaches to public identity formation, explore the connections between individual and collective ethos in virtual environments, and consider what it means to create and maintain an online identity today.

Course readings will include books, academic articles, contemporary case studies, and software tutorials. Likewise, our class sessions will include a mixture of reading discussions, student-led presentations, and hands-on technology workshops. I don’t expect you to have any previous technical expertise, but you do need to be willing to try out new tools in public venues. (Translation: Much of our work will be published online as we complete it.)

You should expect to experiment with unfamiliar technologies every day you come to class, and you should be prepared for some of these experiments to go terribly wrong. Failure and frustration are standard experiences when working with digital media, but they are not valid justifications for giving up. If (OK, when) you encounter technical problems in this class, you can get help from a variety of sources, including your classmates, campus resources like InnovationSpace, and online resources like Lynda.com. And, of course, I will do whatever I can to help you solve your thorniest digital problems.

Required Textbooks and Materials

  • Networked: The New Social Operating System, by Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman. MIT Press, 2012. (Hardcover; Kindle)
  • Personal Connections in the Digital Age, by Nancy K. Baym. Polity, 2010. (Paperback)
  • A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites, edited by Zizi Papacharissi. Routledge, 2011. (Paperback; Kindle)
  • Digital Literacies for Technical Communication, edited by Rachel Spilka (Paperback; Kindle)
  • Alone Together, by Sherry Turkle. Basic Books, 2011. (Paperback; Kindle)
  • A VT Google Apps account, for collaborating with classmates, submitting assignments, and backing up your work.
  • A Twitter account, connected to an email address you check regularly.
  • A Blogs@VT site (or a self-hosted blog) for completing regular blogging assignments.
  • An iPad, either your own or one checked out for the semester from the Innovation Space.

Course Objectives

By the end of the semester, you should be able to:

  • summarize and synthesize key theories informing the study of online identity.
  • integrate quantitive and qualitative data to describe communication practices within online environments.
  • analyze your own digital identity and the identities of public figures in your field.
  • develop a research project to study one of the topics we have discussed in class.
  • produce an electronic portfolio designed to help you achieve your next significant career goal.
  • confidently employ a variety of digital tools to accomplish all of the objectives listed above.

Class Attendance and Participation

Regular attendance and active participation are essential to your success in this course. I expect that everyone will attend every class throughout the semester, but if a problem arises and you cannot attend, please let me know in advance. If you miss more than one class, your final course grade may be affected. (Because this is a three-hour night course, missing one class is the equivalent of missing a full week of class.) Please arrive at our classroom on time and stay until class ends. We will take a short break in the middle of class each week to stretch, use the restroom, eat a snack, etc…

In any graduate-level course, it should go without saying that we will treat one another with courtesy and respect at all times. Vigorous debate is encouraged; ad hominem attacks are not. Most of our class sessions will be conducted in discussion/workshop format, and many of these workshops cannot be recreated outside of class. Similarly, many of our online activities are time sensitive and cannot be “made up” later on. Please allocate enough time to complete the reading assignments and online exercises before you come to class on Wednesday nights.

Software and Technology

You will submit almost all of your work in electronic format and much of our interaction as a class will occur online. Hence, you will need to check your email, the class website, and Twitter regularly to receive important announcements and to participate in an ongoing dialogue with your classmates.

As you complete assignments for this class, be sure to save all your work, both print and electronic. Do not discard any drafts, notes, papers or research materials until you receive a final grade for the course. In addition, be sure to save your work regularly in multiple formats (print and electronic) and multiple locations (e.g., computer, Google Drive, flash drive). Computer problems are a part of modern life, and a crashed computer or a lost flash drive is not a valid excuse for a late assignment in 2013.

To fulfill the requirements of the course, you will need to create several accounts at a variety of websites. I am sensitive to the fact that some of you carefully guard your online identity and have chosen to minimize your personal exposure on the web, and I don’t want to force you to leave an electronic trail that may be difficult to erase at the end of the semester. As a result, you may choose to use a pseudonym and/or a “throwaway” email address to create these accounts. That’s fine with me; just be consistent (don’t choose a new pseudonym for each site) and make sure that you let me know what your pseudonym is.

Grading and Evaluation

Your grade in this course will be determined primarily by your performance on three major assignments. In addition, participating in class discussions and maintaining a personal blog throughout the semester will influence your final grade. I expect that all major assignments will be submitted on time, but I will grant each student one extension during the semester, provided that it is negotiated with me several days before the due date. Other late assignments will be penalized 10% for every class period they are late.

Weighted Assignments

Major units and shorter assignments will be weighted as follows:

  • Online Identity Analysis: 20%
  • Research Design and/or Pilot Study: 20%
  • Professional Electronic Portfolio: 20%
  • Personal Blog: 20%
  • Class Participation and Short Exercises: 20%
  • TOTAL: 100%

You can read more details about the major assignments on the assignments page.

Grading Scale

All major assignments will be evaluated on a 100-point scale, and final grades will be calculated using the following scale:

  • A : 94-100
  • A- : 90–93.99
  • B+ : 87–89.99
  • B : 84–86.99
  • B- : 80–83.99
  • C+ : 77–79.99
  • C : 74–76.99
  • C- : 70–73.99
  • D+ : 67– 69.99
  • D : 64–66.99
  • D- : 60-63.99
  • F : 0–59.99

Please note that I do not round up when calculating final grades.

Eliminating Distractions

Part of living in the digital age is dealing with a never-ending steam of electronic distractions. Eliminating these distractions in a traditional classroom might be as easy as banning the use of cell phones or laptops, but in a class called “The Digital Self,” that approach is not only too simplistic, it’s counterproductive. We will be spending a lot of time staring at screens—projectors, laptops, iPads, and cell phones—so you will need to develop the discipline to stare productively. Practically speaking, that means no texting family and friends, checking Facebook, or mindlessly surfing the web. Simply put, when you are in class, be in class. I don’t expect that this will be a problem for any of you, but if it becomes an issue, I will gently remind you about this policy. If the problem continues, I will ask you to leave class and mark you absent for that day.

Disability Accommodations

If you need adaptations or accommodations because of a disability (learning disability, attention deficit disorder, psychological, physical, etc.), if you have emergency medical information to share with me, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible. You will first need to provide documentation of your disability to the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office, located in 310 Lavery Hall.

Academic Integrity

The Virginia Tech Honor Code expressly forbids the following:

  1. Cheating — Cheating includes the actual giving or receiving of any unauthorized aid or assistance or the actual giving or receiving of any unfair advantage on any form of academic work, or attempts thereof.
  2. Plagiarism — Plagiarism includes the copying of the language, structure, programming, computer code, ideas, and/or thoughts of another and passing off the same as one’s own original work, or attempts thereof.
  3. Falsification — Falsification includes the statement of any untruth, either verbally or in writing, with respect to any circumstances relevant to one’s academic work, or attempts thereof. Such acts include, but are not limited to, the forgery of official signatures; tampering with official records; fraudulently adding, deleting, or manipulating information on academic work, or fraudulently changing an examination or other academic work after the testing period or due date of the assignment.

In a graduate English course, violations of the Honor Code typically take the form of plagiarism. I do not tolerate plagiarism in any form, and I am exceptionally skilled at identifying plagiarized work. If you submit plagiarized work in this course, I will report it to the Honor System and withhold your grade until the Honor System has concluded its investigation. In most plagiarism cases, you will receive a 0 on the assignment, and you may also fail the entire course, depending on the severity of the plagiarism.

Plagiarism occurs when a writer, speaker, or designer uses someone else’s language, ideas, images, or other material without fully acknowledging its source by quotations marks, in footnotes or endnotes, and in lists of works cited. In this course, we will draw heavily upon text, images, videos, and other electronic materials found online; the fact that such material is online does not lessen our obligation to give credit where credit is due. Occasionally, students will unintentionally plagiarize material because they have failed to keep track of their sources as they acquire them. You can avoid this problem by keeping detailed records of your research activities in this class.

As a professor, my academic integrity obligates me to report all cases of plagiarism (regardless of the circumstances) to the Honor System. If you have any questions about plagiarism and how it relates to your work, please talk to me before you turn in an assignment. Once plagiarized work has been submitted for a grade, I have no choice but to enforce this policy.