Requirements + Assignments

ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION

Our class is a mix of seminar and workshop, and its success depends on your regular attendance and reliable participation. We need each other to show up on time, having completed the readings, and prepared to engage constructively and respectfully with one another. See below, under “Policies and Procedures,” for more on our commitment to inclusion and respect.

[I apologize for the pedantry of the following. Yet recent semesters’ experience has demonstrated that such specificity is unfortunately necessary.]

If you must be absent, please notify me in advance. Two absences will not affect your grade. Three absences will result in a “one step” reduction in your final grade (i.e., from an A to an A-). Four absences will result in a “two-step” reduction. More than six absences will result in failure of the course; to avoid the ‘F’ on your transcript, I’ll instead advise you to withdraw from the class. Please note that absences include those days you might miss at the beginning of the semester because of late registration. If you need to miss class, please consult the lesson documentation on our website, check in with a classmate, and, if you need additional guidance, make an appointment to speak with me.

I am required by The New School to take attendance at the start of class. Students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will be marked absent. Your timely arrival is appreciated. Students who are consistently late disrupt their classmates and impede our class progress.

While I am happy to work with you to tailor the class’s content and assignments to your interests, and to help you develop strategies for project planning and time management – and while I aim to be sympathetic to the challenges students face both inside and outside the classroom – I ask that you please also respect my time and acknowledge my heavy load of responsibilities. I cannot allow expectations for accommodation to compromise my own health.

Attendance and participation are worth 20% of your final grade.

READING RESPONSES

Because all of my classes this semester are new, and all will thus require extensive weekly preparation, I unfortunately won’t have time to review traditional reading responses. Yet this is a class about tools — so why not experiment with various tools and platforms to enhance our engagement with and our discussion about the assigned texts?

While I do expect you to read/watch/listen to all the assigned texts for each session, I invite you to choose four sessions during which you’ll use various tools to critically and creatively respond to those weeks’ readings. You can sign up for your four dates — one in each quarter of the semester — here. For your chosen sessions you’ll need to post your response to the date-appropriate page on our Reading Response Google Doc by 11:59pm on the night before class

You’re welcome to respond in any of the following formats: 

  • A 150-word synopsis of the readings;
  • A screenshot of, or a link to, a series of solo tweets — or a Twitter conversation between / among you and at least one other classmate (your individual tweets should total ~150 words),
  • A screenshot of a similar conversation on another messaging app (again, with each of you offering ~150 words total), 
  • A screenshot of a Slack conversation wherein you and at least two of your classmates engage in a conversation (again, your individual posts should total ~150 words), 
  • An Instagram photo and ~100-word caption that makes an argument about the readings,
  • A screenshot of or link to a PowerPoint / Keynote / Google Slide in which you distill the readings,
  • A digitally or hand-rendered “concept map” or illustration of the key themes for the readings,
  • Any other format that you discuss with me in advance.

Regardless of the format of your response, you should make sure to:  

  • Identify yourself on the doc, so I know who’s posting! 
  • Think across the various texts, rather than choosing the shortest one and ignoring the others 😉, 
  • Highlight key themes and arguments,
  • Balance criticality and creativity. Have fun with this!

…and try to do the following: 

  • Briefly summarize passages that struck you,
  • Identify areas of confusion or disagreement that you’d like us to discuss in class,
  • Describe how the texts resonated for you — how they connected to your own intellectual or creative interests.

In class each week we’ll discuss the content of your responses, and we’ll periodically reflect on the affordances and limitations of your various tools of engagement. Your four reading responses will be worth 20% of your final grade. 

LAB REPORT

We invite you to reflect on any one of our four start-of-semester labsLab 1: Diagramming; Lab 2: Talking Stick / Communication Protocols; Lab 3: Tools for Accessibility / Screen Readers; or Lab 4: Tools for Listening — in the form of a 900-word lab report, a genre (or tool) of communication commonly used in the sciences. You might need to be creative in adapting your experiences and responses to the lab report conventions

  • Introduction: objectives or purpose of the lab
  • Materials: what tools and materials you used in your experiment (think capaciously about what counts as a tool!)
  • Methods: what procedures you followed, and how you used the lab materials
  • Results / Discussion / Analysis: what came of the experiment, and what you learned from it (this section should constitute the bulk of the report — i.e., roughly 1.5 of your three pages; please incorporate some of our class readings and discussion topics!)
  • Future Research: has this lab raised any questions you’d like to explore in your future work, perhaps for your final project? 
  • Conclusion: a brief synopsis 
  • References 

The report is due via Google Drive (in editable form) on Monday, October 7, at 6pm, and is worth 15% of your final grade. 

PROJECT PROPOSAL

Identify a tool that you’d like to explain and analyze through your final project, a critical manual (more about this below). Your tool could be anything from a paperclip to a productivity app to a spatula to a baseball mitt to a tampon to an Oculus Rift to an EpiPen. Please feel free to discuss some options with me in advance of the proposal deadline.

Your 900-word proposal should include the following:

  • A description of your object of study,
  • A brief discussion of your topic’s significance (to you, to your discipline, to a broader public), 
  • A list of the tool’s features and mechanisms that are critical to its operation, and which you plan to describe or illustrate in your guide, 
  • A bulleted list of the critical features and bigger issues — the histories, embedded ideologies, global networks, ecological impacts, etc. — you plan to address in your manual, and how you might do so (through text, illustrations, photos, etc.)
  • A discussion of the tone and style you plan to adopt: will it be deadpan, parodic, speculative, contemplative, etc.? 
  • A list of at least six potential references, half of which should be scholarly sources

Your proposal is due via Google Drive on Monday, November 4 @ 2pm. This will give me some time to read and respond to your work, and develop a list of helpful resources, before we meet for one-on-one, half-hour consultations on Monday afternoon/evening, Tuesday afternoon, or Wednesday afternoon.

Your proposal and participation in the meeting are together worth 15% of your final grade. 

FINAL PROJECT: CRITICAL MANUAL AND SLIDE PRESENTATION 

You’re invited to create a critical manual for a tool of your choice. You’ll want to incorporate some of the conventions of a regular user’s manual or how-to guide — but what’ll make your manual critical is that it features reflection on the tool, its implied users and functions, its perceived affordances, the ideologies it embodies; the ways it scripts particular modes of labor and enacts particular power relationships; what it ostensibly makes possible in the world; and so forth. You might even explore intentional mis-uses of your tool: what might happen if it fell into different hands, it if were used in new contexts and toward different ends? How might you use your manual to “make the familiar strange,” to help us look at — or listen to, or feel — quotidian objects in a new light? And how might your project offer commentary on the manual itself as a tool for instruction?

The format of your manual could vary. It might incorporate instructional video or audio, models, and media in other formats — but it must include at least 1500-words of text (either in written form, or spoken as part of an audio-visual piece). We should discuss appropriate formats in our November meeting, and continue to address this issue as your project develops.

You’ll be presenting your manual via a “pitch presentation” — with an inventively formatted slide deck (recall our “Tools for Presentation” lab!) — on either Monday, December 9 or Wednesday, December 11. Your time allocation will depend upon our course enrollment, but I’m guessing you’ll each have about 20 minutes, total.

You’ll submit a draft of your manual via Google Drive on Monday, December 9, by 4pm. Your draft should be nearly complete: formatted, illustrated, edited, spellchecked, etc. I’ll respond with comments by Wednesday, December 11, and you can then use those comments to revise and resubmit your final draft on Monday, December 16, at noon.

Your manual and presentation are together worth 30% of your final grade. A half-hearted, careless first draft will compromise your grade — so, please, take the draft seriously and try to maximize the value of my feedback.