The majority of our readings will be available online or through a password protected, digital course packet. We will read a few books, however, which you will need to purchase:
- Vikram Chandra, Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty, Graywolf Press (2014)
- James Gleick, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, Vintage (2012).
- Sydney Padua, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer, Pantheon (2015).
- Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven, Vintage (2015).
The best way to get in touch with me is to visit during my office hours. If you’re unsure about our readings, struggling with an assignment, or just want to talk, please visit. During the Spring 2017 semester, I will be in my office (Nightingale 415) on Mondays 10-11am and Thursdays 2:30-4:00pm. I’m also happy to make appointments at other times—just email me with at least three possible meeting times. I can schedule in person or virtual meetings.
The next best way to get in touch with me is by sending me an email. When you write to me: consider your tone and your audience. An email to your professor shouldn’t read the same as your emails to friends. For help, see this guide to emailing your professors. I guarantee that I will respond to any email within 48 hours. Often I will respond more quickly, but you should not send me an urgent email, for example, the night before an assignment is due.
This course relies on active, engaged participation in class activities and discussions. There will be few lectures and we will not be building toward an exam. Instead, we will work together to build our facilities for thinking critically about textual cultures. You should come to every class having read all of the required reading (or watched the required videos, &c. &c.) and prepared to discuss it with your colleagues. I will not explicitly grade participation in this course (i.e. “participation = 20% of final grade”), but I will assess your reading and course engagement through in-class exercises—some collected for a grade and others not—your written work, and other assignments. See the assignment “In-Class Work” for more details. Maintaining an active class conversation also requires that the class be present, both physically and mentally. To that end: you may miss two classes without penalty. “Attendance” does not simply mean that your body can be found in proximity to those of your classmates. You must also be mentally present, which means you must:
- Be awake and attentive to the conversation of the day;
- Prepare assigned texts before class begins;
- Bring your assigned texts to class. If we’re reading online articles, you should either bring a device on which to read them or print them and bring that hard copy;
- Bring your assigned texts to class!
- and, finally, bring your assigned texts to class!!! I mean it. Seriously. If you come to class without the day’s reading on hand, I reserve the right to count you absent.
If you fail to meet these requirements, I will consider you mentally absent, though you may be physically present. Please note: I make absolutely no distinction between excused and unexcused absences, so use your allotted absences wisely. You may not miss two classes early in the semester and then petition for additional excused absences afterward. When you must miss class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed and to make up any pertinent assignments. You may not make up quizzes or in-class work. If you take one of your excused absences, I simply will not grade any in-class work you missed. If you miss a lab due to an excused absence you should attempt to make up the work. Once beyond your allotted absences you will receive a zero for any in-class work or labs missed.
“Information Overload” Days
I do understand that the semester can get hectic. The reading load for this class is significant and often challenging, and you must balance it with the work in your other classes. Most likely you will have days when you simply cannot—for whatever reason—complete the assigned reading. To that end, you may take one “information overload” (IO) day during the semester. On this day you will not be expected to contribute to class discussion and you will receive a pass on any in-class work (the work will be ungraded and not factored into your final “In-Class Work” grade). In order to take an IO day, you must follow these rules:
- You must attend class, listen attentively to any lectures or class discussions, and take part in any activities or group work not dependent on the day’s reading. Your IO day cannot be used as an additional excused absence.
- You must inform me before the beginning of class that you are taking your IO day. You may not wait until I call on you or you see day’s the in-class assignment. I will deny any IO requests made during class. To that end: take special care to be on time if you plan to request an IO day, as you won’t be allowed to request one if you arrive late.
- You may not extend an IO day into another class session. If, for instance, you take an IO day during our first class on a novel, you will not then be excused from discussing the book during subsequent classes.
- You may not take an IO day to avoid completing on an in-class lab or another major assignment. IO days will excuse you from reading quizzes or reflections, but nothing of more serious import.
IO days are intended to help you manage the inevitable stresses of your unique semester. Use them wisely.
Attendance and Participation Bonus
At the end of the semester, for an allowed absence and/or IO day you did not use, I will drop your lowest in-class work grade. So if you attended all sessions prepared and did not require an IO day, I would drop your two lowest in-class work grades from my final grade calculations. I will also drop one low grade to acknowledge exceptional engagement and participation through the semester.
This should go without saying, but let’s say it anyway: you should turn off your mobile phone and/or other devices before class begins. If your phone rings once during class this semester, we’ll all laugh and I’ll ask you to turn it off. If your phone rings again during class this semester, I’ll ask you to leave and will count you as absent. Though it may seem unthinkable, your friends and family may actually survive three hours each week without direct updates as to your whereabouts and doings. They probably won’t call the police to report you missing. They will no doubt pine for your witty banter, but that longing will only make your 1:26pm updates all the sweeter each Monday and Thursday this semester. You’re not as sneaky texting under the table as you think you are.
This class will rely on access to laptops in many sessions. However, in-class laptops also present temptations that many students find irresistible. You may not use a laptop during class to follow a game, text (see the phones policy above), check your friends’ Tumblrs, post on Reddit, or commit (non course related) code to Github. Such activities not only distract you—meaning you will be less able to participate meaningfully in the class’ conversation—they also distract anyone around or behind you. If you choose to virtually exit the class, I will ask you to physically leave as well; this will count as an absence. If you often seem distracted by what’s on your screen, I reserve the right to ask you to put your laptop away, perhaps for the duration of the semester. Periodically I will ask you all to put “lids down.” This means I want everyone—myself included—to put away screens in order to focus our attention on another aspect of class. In fact, it would be a very good idea to have a physical notebook available for classes when laptops cannot be used.
This course relies heavily on access to computers, specific software, and the internet. At some point during the semester you WILL have a problem with technology: your laptop will crash, a file will become corrupted, a server will go down, a piece of software will not act as you expect it to, or something else will occur. These are facts of twenty-first-century life, not emergencies. To succeed in college and in your career you should develop work habits that take such snafus into account. Start assignments early and save often. Always keep a backup copy of your work saved somewhere secure (preferably off site). None of these unfortunate events should be considered emergencies: inkless printers, computer virus infections, lost flash drives, lost passwords, corrupted files, incompatible file formats. It is entirely your responsibility to take the proper steps to ensure your work will not be lost irretrievably; if one device or service isn’t working, find another that does. When problems arise in the required software we are all using in the course, we will work through them together and learn thereby. However, I will not grant you an extension based on problems you may be having with the specific devices or the internet services you happen to use.
Students are expected to complete a TRACE (Teacher Rating and Course Evaluation) toward the end of the semester. I will set aside some time during a class period for students to complete their TRACEs.
In this class you will abide by Northeastern University’s Academic Integrity Policy at all times:
A commitment to the principles of academic integrity is essential to the mission of Northeatern University. The promotion of independent and original scholarship ensures that students derive the most from their educational experience and their pursuit of knowledge. Academic dishonesty violates the most fundamental values of an intellectual community and undermines the achievements of the entire University.
If you have any questions about what constitutes academic integrity in this class—particularly as the concept applies to digital course projects—please talk to me. We will also discuss the ethics of digital scholarship in class.
The Northeastern University Writing Center is located in 412 Holmes Hall and in Snell Library (for current hours call 617-373-4549 or see http://www.northeastern.edu/english/writing-center/) and offers free and friendly help for any level writer, including help with reading complex texts, conceptualizing a writing project, refining your writing process (i.e., planning, researching, organization, drafting, revising, and editing), and using sources effectively. You can receive feedback face-to-face during regular hours or via email/online response. I strongly recommend that you make appointments to go over drafts of your work—including your digital work—before turning it in. Questions about the Writing Center can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.