English 100-W: Writing in the Digital Age
MWF 8:10-9:00
117 Memorial Hall
Professor Daniel Spoth
Office hours: M 10-12 or by appointment, 309 Alumni Hall

•Objective: The fundamental aim of this class is to introduce you to several forms of composition, particularly newer (electronic) forms heavily influenced by Internet communication, and to help you develop an apparatus for composing writing both within a digital framework and in the context of a more formalized academic setting. We will be emphasizing nontraditional, interactive electronic texts and hypermedia, a concern that will culminate with our own online experiments in form and content.

There are two required texts for this class: John R. Trimble’s Writing With Style and William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. Both of these are available in the bookstore, though you may be able to find them for less through an online retailer. If you do buy the books online, be sure that you get the correct versions (2nd edition of Trimble, 2005 edition of Gibson).

A large number of the texts we’ll be looking at in this class are online. You’ll be able to read them for free, but this will necessitate you either owning or having easy access to a computer with Internet access. You may also need to download several applications to make some of these texts legible; I will furnish you with instructions on how to do this.

Grades are given on a 1000-point system; thus, each point is worth .1% of your total class grade, and every 10 points are worth 1%. Here’s a brief breakdown of how many points each of the assignments are worth:
Long Papers: 250 points (1@100, 1@150)
Journal: 200 points (10@20)
Wiki Articles: 160 points (4@40)
Peer Review: 140 points (2@70)
Participation: 250 points (see Appendix 1 for more)

Total: 250+200+100+80+40+250=1000

Note that, for this class, an A is a 93% or above, an A- ranges from 90% to 92.9%, B+ is 86% to 89.9%, B is 83% to 85.9%, B- is 80% to 82.9%, C+ is 76% to 79.9%, C is 73% to 75.9%, C- is 70% to 72.9%, D+ is 66% to 69.9%, D is 63% to 65.9%, D- is 60% to 62.9%, and F is anything below that. I do not round grades up or down, so only one point can be the difference between letter grades!

The Attendance Policy: There is no attendance policy. There is, however, a rather stringent participation policy (see below)

The Rather Stringent Participation Policy: To receive participation credit (which works out to about 7.35 points per class discussion, FYI), you need only show up to class and participate to some degree. Participation can take many forms: performing class writing assignments, making comments in discussion sections, asking or answering questions, or offering helpful feedback to your classmates. Bear in mind that attending class and not participating will get you nothing (beyond the nice tingly feeling that you get from absorbing more knowledge, of course).

•Absences: You have two “free” class periods that you may miss (or not participate in) without penalty. I make allowances for these by simply adding 15 points (the point-value of two classes—remember that each is worth 7.35) to your participation score at the end of the semester.

If you absolutely cannot come to class on a given day, I will give you participation credit if and only if you provide me with one of the following:
1. A note from your doctor, health professional, or the Dean of your school informing me that you’re too ill to come to class.
2. A note from a college official (your advisor or the Dean of your school) informing me of a family emergency that requires your presence on the given day.
3. An email or other notification stating that your absence is due to a religious holiday / other school-sanctioned activity (athletic event etc).
Note that there are no excused absences without material proof. If you send me an e-mail along the lines of “I’m feeling really ill and my dog just died and I think my roommate is trying to kill me and I’m scared of the flesh-eating gremlins under my bed, so I couldn’t come to class today; can I get credit anyway?” I will sneer to myself and merrily delete it.

Tardiness: All of our classes begin at the same time, and I will start discussion at precisely that time. If you show up late, it’s your own funeral. Remember that simply being in class doesn’t help you at all; participation is what counts. If you show up late, you’ll have less time to participate, less time to get ahold of what’s going on, and may miss vital announcements and the like. If you continually show up late and disrupt the class, I may reduce your participation grade.

Technology in the Classroom: You must either leave at home or silence and stow away all cell phones, laptops, glowing beeping boxes, and the like once class begins. If I see you using one of these, I’ll ask you to put it away, politely at first, but less cordially as the semester goes on. This class is heavily oriented around technology, but when we use it in class, we’ll all be following the same screen.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is ABSOLUTELY unacceptable in this class in WHATEVER capacity, be it an entire paper or just a sentence or two. If I confirm that one of your submitted works has been plagiarized, you will automatically be given a grade of zero on the paper in question without possibility of rewriting, and your case will be referred to the Vanderbilt Honor Council for further consequences. We will talk much more about plagiarism during our fifth class meeting (September 4), during which you will be required to demonstrate, in writing, your knowledge of Vanderbilt’s definition of plagiarism. If you miss this meeting, you will need to meet individually with me for this same purpose. There are no exceptions.

•Paper Guidelines:

Deadlines: This class will primarily follow a simple cycle: I will give you assignments in one class period that are, by and large, due by the next class period. These assignments include journal entries, wiki interactions, and other short exercises. If you miss class (or forget the assignment), you can find a running record of what the class is up to on the class wiki (

For larger assignments (long papers / research projects), I will give you a due date. All assignments are due at the time class begins on that date. You may hand in assignments either as hard copies or digitally (via email). If you opt for hard copies, you will get feedback from me on the copy itself. If you use email, you will get an emailed document back from me with comments left in MS Word.

Late long papers will be penalized 10% of the total grade for every day (24 hours) they are late, starting immediately after the class in which they are due. Late short assignments (journals etc.) will not be accepted, so be sure to do these on time.

•Keeping Up With Class Events

Communicating With Me: I’m here to help you through this class, not just subject you to assorted trials and travails. For most communications, email is by far the best way to contact me. My address is ude.tlibrednav|htops.f.leinad#ude.tlibrednav|htops.f.leinad. I check this address very regularly and will always try to respond to you in a timely manner.
To succeed in this class, you must check your email regularly. If you don’t, you’ll be left in the dark in regards to a lot of what’s going on.

Class Wiki: The essential site for this class is the Writing in the Digital Age wiki site ( Relevant assignments, external readings, and instructions will be posted on this site, and you will be required to establish an account to interact with them. I will be holding in-class tutorials that show you how to do this.

Getting Feedback: You may sometimes want additional feedback from me on a draft over and above what you get in class and in conference. You may email me for paper feedback in these occasions with two very important conditions:
1. You must give me at least 24 hours to read and respond to your writing. Don’t email me the night before a paper is due (or the morning it’s due).
2. You cannot send me entire drafts to read. If you’ve rewritten a paragraph, a conclusion, a thesis statement, or something, I’d be happy to read it and give you additional feedback. If you send me a whole paper and say “please tell me what to change,” I won’t be able to respond adequately.
Writing Studio Feedback: The Vanderbilt Writing Studio is one of the best resources on campus for writing concerns of all kinds. If you want more in-depth feedback on a work than you’ve received so far, I encourage you to contact them at ude.tlibrednav|oiduts.gnitirw#ude.tlibrednav|oiduts.gnitirw and set up an appointment. They’re really very helpful.

If you have any questions or concerns about these guidelines, please feel free to contact me.
Course Schedule
Wednesday, August 26
Orientation, review of syllabus
Assignment: Read the syllabus!
Please note: the syllabus is REQUIRED reading for this class, and may be the most important reading of the whole semester! Even if you come to this class late (i.e. switch in), you MUST read ALL of the syllabus carefully!

Friday, August 28
We will be reading Christopher Buckley’s “College Essay” in class today (handout).
Assignment: Read Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and Jamais Cascio’s follow-up, “Get Smarter,” Write brief reaction to the arguments of these pieces.

Monday, August 31
Carr discussion
Assignment: Read “The Gutenberg Elegies” (handout) and associated MetaFilter thread: Compose a brief summary of your own experience with this phenomenon.

Wednesday, September 2—LAST ADD/DROP DAY
Internet and literature discussion
Assignment: Read Vanderbilt Honor Council’s website on plagiarism:

Friday, September 4
Very Important™ plagiarism discussion today—Mandatory Attendance!
Assignment: Read Writing With Style: “Thinking Well,” “Getting Launched” and “Openers” (3-31). Write the first sentence of a theoretical paper draft on the subjects we’ve discussed.

Monday, September 7
Introduction to class wiki
Brainstorming / Getting Started workshop
Assignment: Create wiki account and user page with brief bio (wiki article 1)

Wednesday, September 9
Wiki / paper workshop
Assignment: Read Orangette: Write a brief review of something you’ve cooked or eaten recently.

Friday, September 11
Discussion: Food Blogs
Journal Entry 1.1
Assignment: Read Stuff White People Like: Write your own entry / parody of an entry on this page.

Monday, September 14
Discussion: Humor Blogs
Journal Entry 1.2
Assignment: Read The Onion AV Club Blog: Write your own brief review of something you’ve watched, read, or listened to recently.

Wednesday, September 16
Discussion: Review Blogs
Journal Entry 2.1
Assignment: Read Roger Ebert’s blog: Write a brief piece agreeing or disagreeing with one of his points, as if you were making a comment on the blog itself.

Friday, September 18
Discussion: Opinion Blogs
Journal Entry 2.2
Assignment: Read Writing With Style 105-132 and compile a wiki page based on your selected section (wiki article 2).

Monday, September 21
Grammar and Punctuation Game
Assignment: Read Writing With Style: “Middles” (32-48) and Quotations (133-140). Pick one quote from the source you’re writing on and incorporate it into a sentence to bring to class Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 23
Paper Workshop: Presenting Evidence
Assignment: Read Writing With Style: “Closers” (49-52) and “Superstitions” (82-93). Bring in an actual or drafted final sentence of your paper.

Friday, September 25
Paper Workshop: Winding Up
Assignment: Look over Writing With Style 99-104 for class on Wednesday.

Monday, September 28
Paper #1 Draft Due
Revision strategy exercise
Assignment: Read your partners’ papers

Wednesday, September 30
Peer Review Day
Assignment: Read Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths” (handout). Write down three questions to ask about the reading.

Friday, October 2
Borges Discussion
Journal Entry 3.1
Assignment: Visit The Garden of Forking Paths: Write a brief piece on the similarities / differences between the site and the story.

Monday, October 5
Borges and Hypertext Discussion
Journal Entry 3.2
Assignment: Read online guide to Vladimir Propp’s “Morphology of the Folktale”: Think of a movie or fairy tale in which these elements occur and record the nature of three occurrences of Propp’s functions, as the author of the website does.

Wednesday, October 7
Propp Discussion
Journal Entry 4.1
Assignment: Visit Wondertale Generator: Build your own original fairy tale using some of Propp’s elements.

Friday, October 9
Propp and Recombination Discussion
Journal Entry 4.2
Assignment: Visit Chroma: Write a brief piece in reaction to this.

Monday, October 12
Paper #1 Draft 2 Due (optional)
Chroma Discussion
Journal Entry 5.1
Assignment: Read your partners’ papers (optional)

Wednesday, October 14
Peer Review Day 2 (optional)
Assignment: Visit Blue Velvet: Write a brief reaction piece.

Friday, October 16
Blue Velvet Discussion
Journal Entry 5.2
Assignment: Visit Story Problem: Write a brief piece discussing the advantages / disadvantages of this project.

Monday, October 19
Story Problem Discussion
Assignment: Finish your papers!

Wednesday, October 21
Paper #1 Final Draft Due—No Class
Assignment: Read Pattern Recognition 1-41

Friday, October 23
Fall Break—No Class

Monday, October 26
Pattern Recognition discussion
Journal Entry 6.1
Wiki Article: ___
Assignment: Read Pattern Recognition 42-83

Wednesday, October 28
Pattern Recognition discussion
Journal Entry 6.2
Wiki Article: ___
Assignment: Read Pattern Recognition 84-124

Pattern Recognition discussion
Journal Entry 7.1
Wiki Article: ___
Assignment: Read Pattern Recognition 125-166

Monday, November 2
Pattern Recognition discussion
Journal Entry 7.2
Wiki Article: ___
Assignment: Read Pattern Recognition 167-207

Wednesday, November 4
Pattern Recognition discussion
Journal Entry 8.1
Wiki Article: ___
Assignment: Read Writing With Style: How to Write a Critical Analysis (94-98), Readability (64-81). Write the first page of an analysis of Pattern Recognition and bring it to class on Friday.

Friday, November 6
Pattern Recognition paper workshop
Assignment: Read Pattern Recognition 208-248

Monday, November 9
Pattern Recognition discussion
Journal Entry 8.2
Wiki Article: ___
Assignment: Read Pattern Recognition 248-288

Wednesday, November 11
Pattern Recognition discussion
Journal Entry 9.1
Wiki Article: ___
Assignment: Read Pattern Recognition 289-328

Friday, November 13
Pattern Recognition discussion
Journal Entry 9.2
Wiki Article: ___
Assignment: Read Writing With Style: Tips on Usage (151-159). Bring your second paper draft to class on Monday.

Monday, November 16
Paper Polishing workshop
Assignment: Read Pattern Recognition 329-368

Wednesday, November 18
Pattern Recognition discussion
Wiki Article: ___
Assignment: None—work on paper drafts

Friday, November 20
Paper #2 Draft Due—No Class
Thanksgiving Reading Assignment: Your partners’ papers

Monday, November 23
Thanksgiving Break—No Class

Wednesday, November 25
Thanksgiving Break—No Class

Friday, November 27
Thanksgiving Break—No Class

Monday, November 30
Peer Review Day
Assignment: Visit Metafilter: and read a few posts, visit Snopes: and read up on recent urban myths. Write a brief piece on internet trends, which ones you “get” and which ones you don’t.

Wednesday, December 2
Memetics Discussion
Assignment: Play Photopia (I will give instructions)

Friday, December 4
Photopia Discussion
Journal Entry 10.1
Assignment: Read Wikipedia entry on Galatea: and play Galatea

Monday, December 7
Galatea discussion
Journal Entry 10.2
Assignment: Read Writing With Style: “Writers Talking Shop” (165-189)

Wednesday, December 9
Final discussion
Last Day of Class—Paper #2 Final Draft Due

The above schedule, policies, procedures, and assignments in this course are subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances.

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