While we will cover an enormous amount of theoretical, historical, and contemporary material over the course of the semester, there are several concepts that are fundamental for understanding new media and digital rhetoric. I aim for these core concepts to endure in your mind long after the semester is over:

  • All media forms possess unique affordances which structure, shape, and limit what can be done in that form;
  • New media must be approached with an attentiveness to their specific historical and material conditions;
  • Culturally accepted designations such as author, originality, narrative, literature, art, and games are contested terms;
  • Text is only one expressive form among many others, including images, sound, data, and computation, that contribute to digital object’s meaning.

Required Texts

  • Rita Raley, Tactical Media. University of Minnesota Press, 2009
  • Selected online readings and digital material

Required Work

The required work for ENGH 376/508 will take several forms, detailed below: (1) class participation; (2) weekly blogging; (3) a digital creation of your own making; (4) a media specific analysis; and (5) a final project.

(1)  This class places a high premium on participation. Class sessions will be divided between discussion and “studio” work. It is essential that everyone has carefully considered the week’s material, attends class, and participates. If you cannot attend ENGH 376/508 regularly, please reconsider your decision to enroll. The deciding factor in borderline final grades is often your class participation grade. ENGH 508 graduate students: in addition to the usual level of participation, graduate students in the class will also be responsible for leading a class discussion on the week’s reading. I will work individually with the graduate students on the details of this assignment.

Participation is worth 15% of your final grade.

(2)  Each student will contribute to the weekly class blog. There will be two roles on the blog, and each week a third of the class will rotate through these roles (one group has the week off in terms of blogging). Students in one group will post an approximately 300-400 word critical response to the week’s reading, while students in another group will write with a critical eye about a new media object they have explored on their own (called creative response on the daily schedule below). Blog posts are due by 7pm the day before class.

Blogging is worth 20% of your final grade.

(3)  Every student will design one expressive digital object, emulating the examples we study and using the tools we encounter in the workshop part of the class. Some possibilities include generative digital poetry, a small videogame, a Twitter bot, and so forth. The digital project will be accompanied by an Artist’s Statement. This project is due Wednesday, November 21.

The digital object is worth 20% of your final grade.

(4)  Over the course of the semester you will have several opportunities to write a media-specific analysis. This short paper is a media-specific analysis of a single new media object, in which you explore its literary, rhetorical, and expressive potential. The investigation will be roughly 4-5 pages long. While there will be several media-specific analysis topics to choose from over the course of the semester, you will only select one of these to work on.

The media-specific analysis is worth 20% of your final grade.

(5)  The final project is a multimodal project that explores several existing new media artifacts using new media itself as an organizing and interpretive principle. ENGH 508 graduate students: final projects for graduate students will include a research component that consists of an annotated bibliography and a “literature review” that situates your object of study within the larger framework of new media studies. For all students in ENGH 376/508, the final project can build upon your media-specific analysis, and it is due Wednesday, December, 12.

The final project is worth 25% of your final grade.


The final grade will be calculated in the following manner:

  • Participation: 15%
  • Blogging: 20%
  • Digital Object: 20%
  • Investigation: 20%
  • Final Project: 25%

The blog posts will be evaluated according to the following 0-4 point scale:

4 Exceptional. The blog entry is focused and coherently integrates examples with explanations or analysis. The entry demonstrates awareness of its own limitations or implications, and it considers multiple perspectives when appropriate. The entry reflects in-depth engagement with the topic.
3 Satisfactory. The blog entry is reasonably focused, and explanations or analysis are mostly based on examples or other evidence. Fewer connections are made between ideas, and though new insights are offered, they are not fully developed. The entry reflects moderate engagement with the topic.
2 Underdeveloped. The blog entry is mostly description or summary, without consideration of alternative perspectives, and few connections are made between ideas. The entry reflects passing engagement with the topic.
1 Limited. The blog entry is unfocused, or simply rehashes previous comments, and displays no evidence of student engagement with the topic.
0 No Credit. The blog entry is missing or consists of one or two disconnected sentences.

Every other assignment will be given a letter grade that has a percentage equivalent:

A+ = 100% /A = 95% /A- = 90%
B+ = 88% / B = 85% / B- = 80%
C+ = 78% / C = 75% / C- = 70%
D = 65% /F = below 60%


Students are responsible for verifying their enrollment in this class. The last day to add this course is September 4, 2012. The last day to drop this course without tuition penalty is also September 4, 2012. After September 28, withdrawal from ENGH 376/508 requires the approval of the dean and is only allowed for nonacademic reasons.

Attendance is mandatory (excepting hospitalization or observation of religious holidays). More than four absences will lower your class participation grade by at least one letter grade. More than six absences will result in a zero for your class participation grade.

Academic Integrity

Mason is an Honor Code university. The principle of academic integrity is taken very seriously and violations are treated gravely. What does academic integrity mean in this course? Essentially this: when you are responsible for a task, you will perform that task. When you rely on someone else’s work in an aspect of the performance of that task, you will give full credit in the proper, accepted form. Another aspect of academic integrity is the free play of ideas. Vigorous discussion and debate are encouraged in this course, with the firm expectation that all aspects of the class will be conducted with civility and respect for differing ideas, perspectives, and traditions. When in doubt (of any kind) please ask for guidance and clarification.


Students must use their MasonLIVE email account to receive important University information, including messages related to this class. Failure to check your MasonLIVE email every day may result in missed messages, which you are responsible for. See for more information.

If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) at 993-2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through the DRC.

Classroom Courtesy

Laptops and smart phones may be used in class but only for classroom activities such as note-taking. Occasionally I may ask students with laptops of tablet computers to turn them off. Text messaging unrelated to class is not acceptable. The use of MP3 players and portable game systems during class is also unacceptable.

Late arrivals or early departures from class are disruptive and should be avoided.

Emergency Information

George Mason issues emergency warnings affecting the university community through its Mason Alert system. If you have not already signed up to receive email, page, or text message alerts, please do so at

A Note about Changes

While the assignments and major readings are fixed, other details about ENGH 376/508 may change over the course of the semester, including additional readings and changes in due dates. The most recent version of the syllabus can always be consulted at