Spring 2020
Instructor: Richard Snyder, Ph.C., Washington State University
Class meetings: Fridays, from 11:10-2:00 (seminar) in Library Building 261
Office Hours: Fridays, 9-11a.m. in the CMDC Faculty Digs. Other times by appt.
Contact: richard.snyder@wsu.edu

This course is an introduction to digital technologies as they are used in the creation and consumption of media. Digital media takes many forms—visual, aural, linguistic, procedural, and more. In DTC 101, we will survey the development of digital media within culture, what creating and consuming digital media looks like today, and several key ideas about the relationship between digital technology, media, and culture. Students will also develop several basic skills and practices which are essential to living and working well as professionals in our digital world. This course also functions as an introduction to the Digital Technology and Culture (DTC) major through the Creative Media and Digital Culture program (CMDC) at WSU Vancouver.

Download the syllabus here (updated for online format 4/8/20).
This course uses an Online Educational Resource (OER) instead of a textbook.
You can find the combined instructions and rubric for the midterm here.
The instructions and rubric for the final project are here. The final project is due Wednesday, May 6th, by 5pm.

The schedule is located below. The first three weeks are set in stone, and the rest will be filled in shortly as I calibrate homework, etc., for the once-a-week seminar format based on the first two weeks. If you want to know where we’re headed after Week 3, in terms of what content we’ll be covering, feel free to ask or glance ahead in the OER.

Week 1 – January 17th

Welcome // What is “Digital,” “Technology,” and “Culture?”
Welcome, folks! Please call me Richard. This Friday, we’re going to hit the ground running! We’ll be talking over the syllabus but moving on from that rather quickly, so please note that I ask that you come having thoroughly read through the syllabus beforehand. As always in my classes, I will ask for your input and we will negotiate the details of a few key requirements (attendance, reading checks, and project details) to suit your needs.

Due at the start of class:
– Bookmark this site in your browser!
– Read through the syllabus thoroughly and come prepared with any questions. Please pay special attention to the goals of the course, if you haven’t yet.
– Read/watch through OER 1.0-1.3 and be prepared to use it. We will be discussing this content and using it as a jumping-off point for the class during this first meeting.
– Fill out the welcome form so that I can get to know you.

Week 2 – January 24th

Unit 2a: Media Shapes Us
This week, we’ll be diving into definitions of technology as well as two major pre-digital theories about how media functions as a part of culture. We’ll be thinking about the effects of mass production on art (Benjamin) and the idea that how you communicate something is more important than any given thing that might be communicated (McLuhan). We’ll discuss these guys in depth, and see if we can apply their 20th-century ideas to 2020.

Due at the start of class:
– Read/watch OER 2.0-2.1 on Benjamin and McLuhan. I recommend taking notes to keep their core ideas straight. Be aware that the videos add up to over half an hour on their own.
– Read these excerpts of Benjamin, from “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” If you find this reading challenging, that’s okay. We will work with it in class.
– Your blog should be set up and ready to go by class time. Email me or Greg if you are having technical issues, or come to office hours.

Week 3 – January 31st

Unit 2b: Foundations of Digital Media
What is it that makes digital media unique? Lev Manovich has a few answers which have (so far) stood the test of time, in his Principles of New Media–“new media” is an older name for what we now usually call digital media. Bolter & Grusin have their own ideas about how new forms of media are based on older forms. This week, we’ll discuss these ideas and look at digital images, video, audio, games, and hypertext.

Due at the start of class:
– First, read/explore OER 2.2, which is a little interactive tool that breaks down Manovich’s principles of new media. Then, with a basic understanding of those principles, you should approach the full text source. The full PDF is a chunk of reading, so just skim/scan this in order to solidify your understanding of Manovich’s five principles (the principles begin on 49; his introduction to computers and media before that is helpful, but consider it optional reading). On the last page is a list of what “new media” is not, which may be helpful for you as well.
– Read the introduction to Bolter & Grusin’s ideas, “Immediacy, Hyperimmediacy, and Remediation,” in OER 2.3. Here is a more complex overview of the ideas (which suffers a little bit from scholar-ese, but it’s a good paraphrase of the full essay). You’ll note that Bolter and Grusin are building on ideas that we’ve already discussed so far.
– Be ready for class with an example of a piece of digital media which you believe exemplifies Manovich’s Principles and another (or the same one) which you believe shows immediacy, hypermediacy, and/or remediation.

Blog Post 1, due Saturday, 2/1 by midnight
1. Review the expectations for blog posts on the syllabus. You will be graded accordingly.
2. Drawing upon the theorists from the last two weeks, argue for what you see as the biggest disruption or change in media culture in the last 200 years. Be specific (!) and give adequate evidence for your claim.
3. Publish your post and find the “sharing” link. This is not going to be the URL in your browser bar while editing. That won’t work. Send your sharing link to a friend to make sure that they can open the post.
4. Once you have your working link, submit it in Blackboard under “Blog Post 1” in “Content.”

Week 4 – Feb 7th

Unit 3a: The Internet
What makes the internet so transformative? This week, we’ll be talking about the internet both as a concept and a hardware system. We’ll start by thinking about what a network is and what our own personal networks look like. By the end of our class on Friday, you should hopefully understand not only how the internet works but why it was designed this way, and why we should care.

*also, I will be distributing the rubric for the midterm project on 2/7.

Due at the start of class (2/7):
– Read/watch 3.0 through only PART of 3.2. Stop just before the video about IP Addresses and DNS. The response this week will focus on the general idea of what a “network” is and the kind of network that the internet became, a “network of networks.”
Find the IP Address of your computer and bring it to class.
Pick a favorite statistic from this page and be ready to talk about it.

Week 5 – Feb 14th

Unit 3b: Free vs. Open Source
This week, we’ll be going back in time to think about the future! We’ll be looking at the early days of hip-hop to think about digital remix and future digital media rights. Do you ever lie awake at night, worrying about the resources you have permission to use in a project? No? Just me? Well, either way, we’re going to learn about free culture, public domain, creative commons, fair use, and other fun stuff this week. *disclaimer: I’m not a copyright lawyer and this does not constitute legal advice (I feel like this is obvious, but it needs to be said).

Due at the start of class (2/14):
– Read/watch OER 3.3. Skip the “effects of the internet” video.
– Read only the preface, Introduction, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 of Laurence Lessig’s book, Free Culture (provided freely by Lessig online).
– I will ask you about how Lessig’s ideas connect to the three different approaches to freedom of creativity mentioned in the OER (free software movement, open source movement, and hacker movement).

Blog Post 2 due 2/15: Read the prompt carefully! 🙂
Use one or more of the theorists from Unit 2 (Benjamin, McLuhan, Manovich, Bolter/Grusin) and their specific ideas as the basis for talking about either of the two following options:
Option 1: The networked media culture which has been enabled by the unique and innovative structure of the internet as we know it today (refer mostly to our discussion in Week 4).
Option 2: The challenges and opportunities of networked media with regard to digital rights (refer mostly to our discussion in Week 5).
**Remember to be specific and deliberate in how you draw upon the Unit 2 theorists and our in-class discussions from Unit 3 in your answer.

Week 6 – Feb 21st

Unit 4a: Hypertext and Hypermedia
Our class session this week will focus on the concept of hypertext, its history, development, and employment in the World Wide Web. You will have substantial time in class to learn the basics of HTML and CSS for yourself.

Due at the start of class (2/21):
– Read/watch OER 4.0-4.2.
– If you are unfamiliar with HTML, pick one of the tags from the W3 list of HTML basics (“documents” or “images,” for example). Attempt to explain what the tag does. If you’re lost, try searching the internet for some more information (e.g. search for “how does the HTML image tag work”). Bring whatever you’re able to find in to class with you and be ready to share.
– If you are at all familiar with HTML, or just more curious, use the left sidebar at W3 Schools to pick a more advanced tag, then do the same task listed above.

Week 7 – Feb 28th

Unit 4b: Digital Texts
This week, we get to talk about why hypertext is so great for telling stories. We’ll do this by looking at several outstanding pieces of electronic literature, and then doing some creative work with the “choose-your-own-adventure” hypertext/game platform, Twine. Come ready to have fun and create a story of your own.

Due at the start of class (2/28):
– Experience OER 4.3. Peruse the pieces of electronic literature. Pick one to explore in more depth. Bring a brief summary and analysis (1-2 paragraphs) of your chosen work to class.
– Visit https://collection.eliterature.org/ and choose two of the works in any of the three volumes to explore in depth. You may want to spend a bit of time looking through these collections to find something that really interests you, because the works are very diverse. Also bring a brief summary and analysis of your chosen e-lit piece from these collections to class.
– These two written responses will be due at the beginning of class as part of your reading response, so you may want to have them ready to copy/paste into the Blackboard submission box.
– Familiarize yourself with Depression Quest. You don’t have to play through it, but get a sense for the kind of game it is.

Blog Post 3 due 2/29 by midnight:
Prompt: How do the e-lit pieces that you looked at for class on Friday make use of hyperlinks (for our purposes here, think about any of what Ensslin would call ‘nontrivial’ interaction–clicking on something in the piece to move through it)?
**For your media component of this post, I recommend taking one or more screenshots of the E-lit piece you looked at, by yourself. If you haven’t done this before, you can find many guides to taking screenshots with your particular device online.

Week 8 – March 6th

Unit 5a: Online Communities, Online Identities
This week, we’ll be looking at the history of social media, starting with USENET and the WELL. We will also look at folksonomic tagging in class.

Due by class time (3/6):
– Read OER 5.0-5.1.

– Upload your midterm paper or blog link to Blackboard. You’ll find the submission box under “Content.”
– Creative pieces should be hosted on your blog, with their artist statement. As with all blog posts, make sure to test your links.

Week 9 – March 13th

Unit 5b: Social Media Design
This week, we’ll be trying to understand what goes into the design of social media as both coded websites and communities. We will think about what it takes to create a social media experience that meets its own goals, and try our hand at UI/UX design thinking and wireframing.

Due by class time (3/13):
– Read/watch OER 5.3.
– Read what’s the difference between UI and UX design? (Medium-length).
– Read about quarantined subreddits and this one example. (Both of these are quite short).


*** Please note: We do a mini-project in Unit 6, called the “My Datafied Life” project. You’ll need to have chosen two data points in your life to track by no later than 3/25. You should upload a description of what you are tracking to Blackboard (look for “data tracking plan” and more additional details there, under “Content”).

We will begin tracking on 3/26, and finish exactly one week later.

Week 10 – March 23rd – 27th

Unit 6a: Data
The world runs on data. What does that mean for our society and our lives as individuals? This week, we’ll begin talking about data collection, data analysis, and data visualization as more subjective practices than they might seem at first. Doing so will help us to understand the human factors underlying our data-driven society and how to make the most of so-called “big” data while understanding its risks.

**A reminder that I will be hosting office hours over Zoom on Fridays, from 9-11am. You will receive an email with the Zoom link. If you don’t have Zoom downloaded, that link will direct you how to do so.
Due by 2pm Friday, March 27th:
– *Note: please do not forget to track your data beginning 3/26 (see above for details).
– Watch Richard’s mini-lecture for the week (it’s on Blackboard under Panopto if this link doesn’t work for you). During these mini-lectures, I’ll explain what I’d like you to take away from the week’s work, and set up the week’s activity.
Read/watch OER 6.0 and 6.1. This section contains many videos, so you’ll want to budget time accordingly. Please be sure to watch all of the content.
– Write your detailed Reading Response on Blackboard. As mentioned in the online transition video, this will be a much more significantly detailed response than last time. Feel free to load up the response and work simultaneously as you read/watch through the OER.
– Only after you’ve watched Richard’s mini-lecture, do this week’s activity (if possible, with a friend or family member). Here is some context for that activity, which I’ve taken from Johanna Drucker’s data unit. You will submit the activity result along with your reading response.
– Finally, participate in the discussion forum for this week (Blackboard->”Discussions”) with two separate posts. I have posted three threads with different prompts to begin the discussions. Get the discussion started or respond to others.
Your responses will be graded. Well-written responses will draw upon the sources from this week, not simply say “yes I agree” or “no I disagree” with a vague claim. As always, be specific to earn full credit.

Week 11 – March 30th-April 3rd

Unit 6b: Visualization and Storytelling with Data
As we have seen, in today’s society, data is constantly being collected, analyzed, and used. Data is most often circulated as digital media in the form of data visualizations. This week, you’ll have a chance to make your own data visualization while continuing to think about the advantages and limitations of big data in a number of areas, such as healthcare, entertainment, and education.

***Reminder: finish tracking your data set when you go to sleep on April 2nd. Your data should be in some kind of a spreadsheet format (Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel will be easiest for you).

Due by 2pm Friday, April 3rd:
– Watch Richard’s Introduction to the Week video. You need to be logged in to Blackboard for the link to work.
– Read about Florence Nightingale’s pioneering work with data visualization (you don’t need to do the activity). Think about how she was able to use visualization to make more use of the data that she had collected.
– Read/watch OER 6.2-6.3. Be aware that this includes a LOT of videos, so you don’t want to try and handle this at the last minute. Why not sprinkle the videos throughout your week? That’s what I do to review them. 🙂
– Write and submit the reading response on Blackboard (under “content”). Submission box will be live on March 28th.
– Complete and submit this week’s activity on Blackboard (under “content”). Submission box will by live on March 28th.
– Finally, participate in the discussion forum for this week, which will be available by March 28th.

Week 12 – April 6th – 10th

Unit 7a: A Brief History of Gaming
Gaming is an industry that brings in over a hundred billion dollars. Games are everywhere these days, but unlike books, movies, or even television, the critical conversation about games is only getting started. This week, we’ll look at a history of games as well as two great ways to start thinking about what a game can mean. Next week, we’ll put these into practice by looking at Games for Change.

Due by 2pm Friday, April 10th:
– Watch Richard’s Introduction to the Week (now featuring 100% less facial hair!)
– Read OER 7.1. You should watch only enough of each of these videos to familiarize yourself with the general gameplay–maybe 5-10 minutes each. Pick one or two and watch them in more depth for your response.
– Read OER 7.2 and refer to the two linked articles on the four Cs of game design for your responses.
– Write and submit your Reading Response on Blackboard, along with the activity for this week.
Activity: find and play a game not mentioned in the OER. It can be a free game online, on your phone, a full AAA console game, a PC adventure game…anything is fine. Stop every few minutes and take notes on what you’re doing in the game. Review these notes in order to write a paragraph of at least 5 sentences which describes the things communicated by your chosen game’s “procedural rhetorics” (see Richard’s introduction for details on this concept). Don’t overthink this–start with the obvious things like what it means to “win,” what you spend your time in the game doing, etc. Turn this in along with your reading response.
– Write and submit a minimum of two posts to the discussion board.

Week 13 – April 13 – 17

Unit 7b: Useful Games
This week, we’re talking about a few things that intersect: game design, gamification, and games for change. While Animal Crossing and Apex Legends rake in the cash, some independent game developers are looking to create games that use the unique advantages of the medium to create social awareness or prompt change. I mentioned one of these last week–Papers Please. At the same time, the principles of game design are being applied from other things, from homework to household chores.

Due by 2pm Friday, April 17th:
– **Important: Final project check-in. Submit your final project topic to Richard under “content.” The final project instructions are available here as well as at the top of this site. The final project is due Wednesday, May 6th, at 5pm.
– Watch Richard’s Introduction to the Week (you must be logged in to Blackboard for this link to work).
– Read/watch OER 7.3.
– Read James Paul Gee, Good Video Games and Good Learning
– Write and submit this week’s reading response (available on Blackboard, under “content”).
– Write and submit a minimum of two discussion board posts.
– Complete and submit this week’s activity (watch Richard’s introduction for instructions).

Week 14 – April 20 – 24th

Unit 8a: Digital Art & Expression
This week we’ll be starting our final unit of the term. Taking into account everything that we’ve learned about the digital environment and digital media, we’ll look at what art looks like in the digital age in many different forms.

Due by 2pm Friday, April 24th:
Reminder: The final project instructions are available here as well as at the top of this site. The final project is due Wednesday, May 6th, at 5pm.
– Watch Richard’s Introduction to the Week video (you must be logged in to Blackboard to view).
– Read OER 8.1 and at least THREE subsections of 8.2 (you’ll read the remaining ones for next week).
– Submit your reading response. There is no extra activity this week.
– Participate in the discussion board.

Week 15 – April 27th – May 1st

Unit 8b: Reflecting on Digital Media
This week we will be wrapping up and touching on many different themes from throughout the course.

Due by Friday, May 1st:
– Watch Richard’s Introduction to the Week
– Take a brief look at the art categories you skipped last week, along with the emerging markets for digital art in 8.3. No need to spend a lot of time, here–just look over them and understand the gist of what’s going on.
– Post your reading response for the week on Blackboard (available on 4/25).
– There is no activity or forum this week. Use the time to focus on your final project.

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