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English 25,"Literature and the Information, Media, and Communication Revolutions" (Spring 2017)



Grading and Attendance Policy




To pass English 25, students must complete all assignments and regularly attend lectures and section meetings.


Attendance & Grade for Section Participation:  

  • Students must be in the section they are enrolled in during the first week of the quarter to avoid being dropped from the course. (Requests to switch sections and action on wait-listed students cannot be taken up by the TAs during the first week before the enrollment lists have stabilized. Note: Students unable to make the section they are enrolled in during the first week due to conflicts and also students on the waiting list must attend some section in the first week to be allowed into the course.)
  • 10% of the final grade for the course is determined by the TA on the basis of a student's participation in section discussion.
  • No more than one section meeting during the quarter may be missed without zeroing out the section participation grade. (Exceptions due to unavoidable circumstances must be sought in advance from a student's TA.)


Grading of Assignments: Assignments and their weight in the course final grade are described below. Late assignments for which an extension was not approved by the TA in advance decay by one partial letter-step grade for each day they are late (so, for example, a B+ paper turned in one day late will become a B paper; a B paper will become a B-; or a B- paper will become a C+ paper).


Assignments & Exams (Descriptions and Instructions)


(A) Create your system for working with online readings
  • Due in section meeting in 2nd week of course (week of April 4th).
  • Percent of final grade: Required to pass course, but not graded.

Because so many of the readings in this course are online, students are required to demonstrate in section to their TA that they have the means to annotate and save copies of online materials according to one of the methods described in Guide to Downloading and Managing Online Readings.  For your section meeting this week, bring on your laptop or other digital device copies of the two assigned readings for Week 1 of the course (originally PDFs) plus at least one of the readings for Week 2 that was originally a Web page. These are readings that you should have downloaded, stored in an organized manner, and highlighted or otherwise annotated.  If you do not own a laptop, tablet, or other digital device, then bring a printed copy of one assigned reading. % of course final grade: This assignment is not graded; but students cannot earn a course final grade unless this assignment is completed to the satisfaction of their TA.

(B) Essay 1: The Future of Computing
  • Due in lecture in Class 12 (F, April 28th).
  • Percent of final grade: 15%

4 pages of double-spaced text (approx. 1,200 words, not counting notes, bibliography, and any multimedia material). Essay 1 must be turned into your TA in hard copy.

Put yourself imaginatively in the year 2050 (a "near future" far enough ahead to get you beyond today's trends, but not so far as to inspire pure utopian or dystopian science fiction). Write an essay that draws on what you have learned about the development of media, computing, and the Internet, and also on what you know about the contemporary state of digital media/communication/information, to give a prediction about computing and digital communication/information in 2050.

        (You can choose instead a variant version of this topic if you prefer: write an essay that draws on what you have learned about the development of media, computing, and the Internet to give a prediction about the future of "old" media in 2050--e.g., the future of the book, the future of orality, etc.)

        Your essay can be written either in a descriptive/analytical mode (e.g., "In the year 2050, people will...") or in a "fictional" or POV (1st or 3rd-person "point of view") mode (e.g., "Jane woke up early and checked her I'm-smarter-than-you phone..."). Your essay will be graded based on a combination of the following criteria:

  • Whether you draw on features/trends of the past and present of media, computing, and digital communication/information to help shape your prophecy. (If you do not refer to such evidence or reading materials in your explicit argument, add notes and links for the purpose).
  • The quality of your insight or vision.
  • Cohesiveness and effectiveness of your argument (including organizational cohesiveness).
  • Writing quality.
  • And appropriate (but not over-the-top) "bells and whistles" (e.g., links, images, example audio or video files, and any other material useful in exemplifying your thesis).
  • Also see General Guidelines for Writing a Good Essay

Midterm Exam
  • F., May 5
  • Percent of final grade: 15%

50-minute exam in class.

Exam on readings in the course to date. The exam is more or less "factual" or "objective." It is designed to see if students recognize and comprehend key ideas, specifics, and other material in the readings. It will also include some questions specific to material or comments the professor presented in lecture (i.e., "you had to be there"). The exam is designed to reward students who regularly keep up with readings and attend lectures and sections.

  • There will be four sections of the exam:
    1. Short-answer -- Questions will ask you to name (or fill in the blank) with key concepts, characters, names, key phrases, etc.
    2. Multiple-choice
    3. Identification -- Questions will ask you to identify authors of key or representative passages in works. Full credit will be awarded for the full name of an author, correctly spelled (middle initials not required).  One point off for being able to give the last name only.  (Note: this rule obviously does not apply in the case of any authors known only by a single name.)
    4. Bonus section for extra credit (multiple-choice format) -- Questions will be based on the professor's lectures. (E.g., "In explaining [a particular idea], the professor did A, B, C, or D.")
  • Works that will not be the basis of Identification questions. (These works are histories, surveys, technical guides, and similar material, and thus not memorable for their own sake.) However, the major events, concepts, facts, etc. these works cover--especially if emphasized in the professor's lectures--are fair game for short-answer or multiple-choice questions:
    • Paul E. Ceruzzi, A History of Modern Computing
    • Martin Campbell-Kelly and William Aspray, Computer: A History of the Information Machine
    • Richard T. Griffiths, "From ARPANET to World Wide Web"
    • National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), "Beginner's Guide to HTML," Part I 

(C) Essay 2: Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49
  • Due in lecture in class 17 (W, May 10th).
  • Percent of final grade: 15%

4-5 pages of double-spaced text (approx. 1200-1800 words, not counting notes, bibliography, and any multimedia). Essay 2 must be turned into your TA in hard copy.

Write an essay on The Crying of Lot 49 in which you use at least one reading from earlier in the course (e.g., Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, Plato, Alberto Manguel, Cleanth Brooks, Claude Shannon, Warren Weaver, Vannevar Bush, Lev Manovitch, etc.) to show how we can gain a deeper, richer understanding of some key aspect, idea, character, action, or stylistic/formal feature of the novel.
        (See General Guidelines for Writing a Good Essay.  Your essay should have a title that relates descriptively and/or allusively to its specific topic.)

(D) Spreadsheet Comparison: Being Human in the Age of Information Knowledge Work
  • Due in lecture in class 21 (F. May 19th)
  • Percent of final grade: 5%


Using a spreadsheet program (e.g., Excel or Google Spreadsheets), create a spreadsheet (or sheets) that compares:

  • (A) The life of a typical college student at UCSB. (If you model your student after yourself or someone you actually know, please do not identify anyone by name for reasons of privacy.)
  • (B) The life you think you will have in the future as a career worker or professional in the field of your choice. (If you have not yet decided on your dream career or profession, choose a possible one you could see yourself pursuing.)
  • (C) Case's life while "working" in his role as the hero of William Gibson's Neuromancer (based on your deduction about what his life is like). 

Please turn in your spreadsheet in printed form if possible. If not, or if there are formulas or dynamic features in the spreadsheet, please email the spreadsheet to your TA (in the case of Google spreadsheets, "share" it with your TA).

The following is a partial example of the columns/rows format you can use for an Excel, Google, or other spreadsheet for the English 25 assignment titled "Being Human in the Age of Information Knowledge Work." (Download actual spreadsheet.) (Or view as jpg image.) Feel free to vary this template if you have a better idea. You can also use separate sheets for each part of the assignment if you wish.
Spreadsheet example for assignment     Adapt as needed the activity labels in this example ("sleep," "eat," "study," etc.), but strive for some standardization (e.g., "eat" instead of "lunch") so that general patterns are discernible. (You can also include other kinds of typical activities that are not appropriate for an instructor to make explicit in a template like this!)
     For "total hours per activity over 7 days", do a back-of-envelope calculation to scale up from the one typical weekday and the one typical weekend day.
     As indicated in the example, add a brief explanation or comment in a cell with your observations on each kind of life.
     (If you have spreadsheet skills, you can use formulas to calculate and/or graphs if you wish.)


Help resources for students new to spreadsheets:


(E) Essay 3: Being Human in the Age of Information Knowledge Work
  • Due in lecture in class 24 (F, May 26th).
  • Percent of final grade: 15%

4-5 pages of double-spaced text (approx. 1200-1800 words, not counting notes, bibliography, and any multimedia). Essay 3 must be turned into your TA in hard copy.

After you have finished creating your spreadsheet comparison (see assignment for previous week), write an essay (4-5 pages of double-spaced text; approx. 1,300 words, not counting notes and bibliography) that substantively uses both the spreadsheet and at least one work from the section of the course on "the postindustrial & neoliberal age" (e.g., Taylor, Zuboff, Brown, Critical Art Ensemble, Gibson's Neuromancer) to explore the question(s): What does it mean to live a "human" life in the age of informational knowledge work? "Substantively" means that you use some key feature(s) of your spreadsheet and idea(s) or passages(s) from the work to help you frame or think through the issues.
        (See General Guidelines for Writing a Good Essay.  Your essay should have a title that relates descriptively and/or allusively to its specific topic. Please turn in your spreadsheet together with your essay.)

        Your spreadsheet and essay will be graded as a single assignment.

 (F) Text Analysis Exercise & Short Commentary
  • Due in section meeting in 9th week of course (week of May 29th)
  • Percent of course final grade: 10%

Part 1 - Text-analysis Exercise

  • 1. Download onto your computer the Antconc text-analysis program (available for Mac, Windows, Linux). Antconc comes as a simple executable file that does not need to be "installed." You just run the file. (Note: if you do not have a computer you can use for this purpose, see your TA or the professor for suggestions of labs available for use on campus and in the English department.)
  • 2. Find or create a plain-text (.txt) version of a long literary work or collection of works. Possible sources:
    • Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 in someone's online version (This is a PDF file from which you will need to copy the text and put it in a plain-text .txt file).
    • William Gibson's Neuromancer in The Cyberpunk Project's online HTML version. (This is a HTML file from which you will need to copy the text and put it in a plain-text .txt file).
    • One of the literary or related collections of works available in plain-text form in this section of the professor's Digital Humanities Toychest site.
  • 3. Study your chosen work(s) with Antconc.  Then take "souvenirs" of your explorations with Antconc (hopefully something interesting) that you can show your TA (e.g., screenshots, exports into spreadsheets, etc.). Bring your souvenirs to section in printed form.

  • Tutorials for Antconc:
  • Instructions for using a "stopwords" list in Antconc (to filter out common words like "the," "of," etc.):
    • Download the following stopwords list and save it as (or copy it into) a plain-text "txt" file on your computer: buckley-salton.txt
    • Open Antconc,
      • click on "Tool Preferences" among the tabs at the top
      • click on "Word List" in the left panel
      • at the bottom under "Word List Range" choose "Use a stoplist below", then "Add words from a file" (and choose the buckley-salton.txt file on your computer)
      • then press "Apply" at the bottom


Part 2 - Short Commentary (1-2 pages of double-spaced text). This short commentary must be turned into your TA in hard copy.

Write a short commentary in which you use your explorations of your literary work(s) with Antconc to note aspects of the work that came to light through text analysis and that could lead a scholar to pursue possible future directions/topics of research.

Final Exam
  • W June 14th, 4-4:50 pm
  • Percent of course final grade: 15%
A 50-minute exam on materials in the course (print and online) covered since the midterm.   The exam is "factual," and is designed to reward students who have regularly kept up with the assignments and attended lectures and sections. (Some questions will be based on material introduced only in the lectures.) The exam will be only 50 minutes long (4-4:50 pm).


Please remember that 10% of the final grade for the course is determined by a student's TA on the basis of participation in section discussion.


General Guidelines for Writing a Good Essay



Your essay must focus on an interesting topic or problem: Write about something that really interests you or that you care about.  A topic doesn't have to be a "point" you are making; it can also be a problem or question you want to consider from various angles as you think your way toward a thesis argument.

Your essay must have an argument: You need not only a topic or problem but an argument about it, even if the argument is not a direct one but instead is designed to take twists and turns to explore various views before coming to your conclusion.  Some tips for writing an argument (based on the fact that awareness of your audience is important in good writing): Assume that your reader is not just your instructor with an "insider's" understanding of the course but is instead someone you don't know.  For the purpose of a scholarly paper, your audience is intelligent and educated, but does not know everything you do about your particular topic.  Arrow right Your audience thus needs your help in focusing on a particular path through an issue (rather than being lost in a forest of issues).  Arrow right Your audience needs your help in getting from point A to Z in your argument, which means you need to lead the argument through points B, C, D, etc. (even if it appears blindingly obvious to you). Arrow right Last, but not least, your audience doesn't want to be bored to death with totally predictable arguments that steamroll over everything in their path to get from their beginning "This is what I will argue" through their middle "This is my argument" to their concluding "This is what I argued."


So be sure to: Arrow right focus your essay around a main issue, including other issues as necessary but in a manner logically subordinate to your argument (i.e., in ways that make them supports, components, extensions, or challenges to your argument). Arrow right Be sure to demonstrate steps A to Z of your logic so that your audience can follow your trail of thought.  Arrow right And also be sure that you actually deal with something important or that you care about, which naturally means that there is some problem or open question that puts a kink in any totally predictable argument.  For example, good essays often include a pivotal intellectual turning point, question, challenge, or complicating problem in mid-flow.  Here's an example (in outline form):

[a] Thesis argument (e.g., "Today we live in an age of information, audio-visual entertainment, and other multimedia materials that require us to 'close read' such materials if we hope to be literate consumers....")

[b] Turning point or challenge (e.g., "But unlike the texts that the New Critics or Russian Formalists studied, some of the new information and multimedia carry hidden structures and codes that cannot be "read," or even seen, in any ordinary way.  How can we be 'close readers' of such materials today?")

[c] Resolution (e.g., "If we look more deeply into the issue, we can see that literacy now requires an understanding of underlying structures and history of information or entertainment that are analogous to those of the print literature once studied by the formalists.  These new structures and history are different but also similar...")


Arrow right Essays should include notes with citations in MLA style (unless there is a reason to choose a different style). (See the Purdue Online Writing Lab's "MLA Formatting and Style Guide").  Be sure to cite works that you quote or otherwise use (see course Intellectual Property Guidelines). 








































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