IDS 121.19: Race and the Internet (Spring 2014)

Click here for a .pdf of syllabus and assignment sheets

Course Description

This section of Interdisciplinary Studies 121.19: Texts and Contexts at Illinois State University, is focused on Race and the Internet. Race is a historically created, socially constructed worldview with vast ramifications for people’s lives that has been and continues to be one of the largest organizing features of the U.S. In this course, we will explore how race emerges on one of the most important mediums of our time—the Internet. We will investigate how different populations engage with online technologies and social media in particular, how online environments present racial stereotypes and limit racialized identities, and how social justice movements combat limiting representations and fight for toward racial equality. These investigations—on how race and racism manifest on the Internet—take place amidst decades-long debates about whether the Internet offers a utopian place that might level the inequalities that exist in our physical spaces; that is, that perhaps we can solve social inequalities by solving the digital divide.

These investigations will be facilitated by readings from a number of disciplines, from critical race studies to sociology to education to new media studies, but they are primarily informed by a rhetorical studies approach within English Studies, although no prior knowledge is required. In addition to the assigned readings, we will examine numerous online texts throughout the semester, from social media sites to corporate websites to blogs to news articles and more. In addition to analyzing external texts, students should also be prepared to engage in self-reflection about their own internet and social media use, as making personal connections to the course material will enhance our ability to make meaning and increase retention of the course material.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the historical and social construction of race;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of how Internet use varies according to racial characteristics (e.g. the digital divide) and potential contributing factors for those variances;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the different representations of raced bodies on the Internet and the effects of those representations;
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the some of the ways that racism manifests online, as well as some of the ways that racial justice work happens online; and
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how these factors affect your own’ use of the Internet and social media.
  • Additional readings that you will need to access and print from our course ReggieNet site.

Course Materials

  • Monroe, Barbara Jean. (2004). Crossing the digital divide: Race, writing, and technology in the classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Everett, Anna (Ed.). (2007). Learning race and ethnicity: Youth and digital media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

*The policies that follow in this syllabus are intended to function as a contract. By staying in this course, you are signaling that you understand and agree to the policies contained therein.

Attendance

Attending class is important for your success in this course and important for everyone in order to make class a productive, communal learning environment. In order to support that mission, beginning with the third absence, your final letter grade will be lowered by 1/3 letter grade per absence. The University does not differentiate between excused and unexcused absences unless in the case of a University event (in which case I must be notified IN ADVANCE). You can only make up course work if you notify me of an absence IN ADVANCE, regardless of the reason. Please communicate with me via email about ALL of your absences as soon as possible so that you do not fall behind in class and inhibit your ability to succeed in this course.

Because it is extremely disruptive for students to come into class late, three tardies add up to one absence (and these are cumulative). Leaving early counts as a tardy. Missing significant portions of a class counts as an absence. If late attendance becomes an issue for the class, I reserve the right to disallow late additions to class entirely.

Participation

This classroom is a learning community, and all students must participate in order for it to function as one. Participation includes speaking during class discussion and being actively involved in all class activities. Keep cell phones off (not on vibrate), do not text, and do not listen to music during class time (no earphones please). Please avoid side conversations during class time. If you have a question, it is probable that other students have the same question, so please feel confident asking it aloud.

Assignments and Grades

The grading scale for course is: 90-100 = A, 80-89 = B, 70-79 = C, 60-69 = D, Below 60 = F

Course grades are comprised of: Homework (20%), Test 1 (20%), Paper 1 (20%), Test 2 (20%), Paper 2 (20%)

Homework: This category includes daily homework such as written summaries, reading responses, or other assignments brought to class and in-class work such as quizzes, in-class writing, and small group work. In general, some activity will be due for every class period.

Tests: There will be two tests during this semester that will ask you to demonstrate your knowledge and application of the concepts covered in this class. If you read all of the assigned readings thoroughly, complete all of the homework assignments with care, and pay attention and participate in class, you will be prepared for these tests.

Papers: There will be two papers for this class; the first paper is a short paper responding to a question related to the course content. The second paper is an informal research project asking you to explore an issue related to the course in more detail. The second paper will be the conclusion to our semester. You will be provided with assignment sheets on these essays ahead of time.

Late work

Late work is not accepted for homework and small assignments (unless arrangements have been made in advance). Tests cannot be made up after the test date, so contact me in advance with any issues or emergencies. Papers will be accepted late (up to a period of three days late) for half credit, but since this can significantly damage your grade, it is best to contact me in advance with any problems or requests for extensions.

Plagiarism

Work you submit for this course must have been written by you for this course. You may not submit work in this course and in another, and you may not submit under your name work written entirely or in part by someone else. Provide sufficient citations for any ideas or quotations used from another source in order to avoid any associations with plagiarism. ISU requires that all cases of plagiarism be reported to the office of Community Rights and Responsibilities.

Technology

We will use ReggieNet, ISU’s current course management system, for this course; all course materials, including assignments and supplementary readings, will be uploaded there and you will upload homework and essays there. Be careful to save all of your work often (in .doc or .docx format – I cannot open .pages or .wps documents!) and in multiple locations (personal computer, email, USB drive, etc.). Technological problems occur often but will not excuse you from an assignment that is due (but contact me immediately about any problems!). Submit work ahead of the due date as much as possible in order to avoid uploading issues. Being out of town and not having access to your computer or the Internet is not an excuse for missing or late assignments – you must take responsibility for making arrangements in advance.

You will need to print often for this class, so be sure to have access to a printer, whether it is your personal printer (make sure it has ink and paper) or one at school (keep money on your Redbird care). Print in advance of a due date, as technical difficulties will not excuse you from a due date. Print on clean, white paper, in black ink. Double-sided printing is acceptable. Staple assignments that are multiple pages in length, rather than fold pages together or submit them unstapled.

Special Needs and Accommodations

I am committed to making this classroom accessible to all needs and learning styles. Students who desire consideration because of any disability or situation should come see me as soon as possible. Any student needing to arrange an accommodation for a documented disability should also contact Disability Concerns at 350 Fell Hall, 309-438-5853 (voice) or 309-438-8620 (TTY) as soon as possible.

Julia N. Visor Academic Center

Free outside writing assistance can be found at the Visor center, which offers consulting in almost all subjects. Call 309-438-7100 for an appointment or visit http://ucollege.illinoisstate.edu/about/visor/ for more information.

Student Counseling Services

College students sometimes feel overwhelmed, lost, experience anxiety or depression and struggle with relationship difficulties or diminished self-esteem. Student Counseling Services (SCS) helps students cope with difficult emotions and life stressors. SCS is staffed by experienced, professional psychologists and counselors who are attuned to the needs of college students. The services are FREE and completely confidential. Find out more at Counseling.IllinoisState.edu or by calling (309) 438-3655. 

Schedule

Week 1  
Jan 13 Introduction to the course
Jan 15 Monroe, Ch 1: “Reconsidering the Terms of the Debate”
Week 2  
Jan 20 No class – MLK, Jr. Bday
Jan 22 “Understanding Race,” Handout on ReggieNet
Week 3  
Jan 27 ISU closed due to weather
*LAST DAY TO WITHDRAW FROM A COURSE WITH NO WITHDRAWAL GRADE IS JAN 27
Jan 29 Bonilla-Silva, excerpt from Racism without Racists (ReggieNet)
Week 4  
Feb 3 Scalzi, “The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is” http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/
Gay, “Peculiar Benefits” http://therumpus.net/2012/05/peculiar-benefits/
Feb 5 Monroe, Ch 2: “Putting One’s Business on Front Street”
Week 5  
Feb 10 Byrne, “The Future of (the) ‘Race'” (in Everett)
Feb 12 Prepare for Test 1
Week 6  
Feb 17 Test 1
Feb 19 Gay, “Justine Sacco’s Aftermath” http://www.salon.com/2013/12/23/justine_saccos_aftermath_the_cost_of_twitter_outrage/
Introduce Project 1
Week 7
Feb 24 Daniels, “Race, Civil Rights, and Hate Speech in the Digital Era”  (in Everett)
Feb 26 Work on Project 1 – Bring in Topic and Model Blog
Week 8
Mar 3 Draft of Project 1 Due
Workshop Project 1 in Class
Mar 5 Project 1 Due
Share projects in Class
*LAST DAY TO DROP A FULL-SEMESTER COURSE IS MAR 7
 
Week 9  
Mar 10 No class  – Spring Break
Mar 12 No class  – Spring Break
Week 10  
Mar 17 Taborn, “Separating Race from Technology”  (in Everett)
Mar 19 No class – I will be traveling for a conference
Week 11  
Mar 24 Monroe, Ch 3: “Crucible for Critical Literacy”
Mar 26 Monroe, Ch 4: “Storytime on the Reservation”
Week 12  
Mar 31 Guins, “Hip-Hop 2.0”  (in Everett)
Apr 2 Sandoval & Latorre, “Chicana/o Artivism” (in Everett)
Week 13
Apr 7 López, “Circling the Cross”  (in Everett)
Apr 9 Prepare for Test 2
Week 14
Apr 14 Test 2
Apr 16 Discuss results of midterm feedback
Introduce Project 2
Week 15  
Apr 21 Group work on Project 2
Apr 23 Group work on Project 2
Week 16
Apr 28 Group work on Project 2
Apr 30 Course Evaluations
Group conferences on Project 2
Week 17 – Finals Week
No class – have a nice summer!

 Project 1

100 points

The first project – both projects for this class, in fact – is intended to be an application of the concepts of this class. It is where you get to investigate the questions we posed in the syllabus and on the first day:

  • How do various racial and ethnic identities emerge online? Specifically, how do social media sites construct and limit racialized identities?
  • How do online communities (like online discussion boards and online reader comments) facilitate and produce racism? How do anonymous settings particularly seem to contribute to racism online? How does racism happen in more subtle ways in online communities?
  • How do various races and ethnicities use the Internet (and different social media) at different rates, for different purposes, and to what ends? What are potential contributing factors for those differences?
  • How are different races and ethnicities represented online, visually and textually? Who produces those representations? What are the stereotypical representations and what are those effects? What are representations that disrupt those stereotypes, that disrupt racism, and that serve as sites of activism?

 Project description

The project assignment is to write your own blog post analyzing a racialized event online. There is no end to these events/controversies/debates once you start looking, but since this is only one small blog post, try to pick something narrow, like one small event (the snow day Twitter outrage at the UofI) rather than a large-scale controversy like the killing of Trayvon Martin (that would be way too large to cover in one blog post). Use the reading for today (Roxane Gay’s blog about Justine Sacco’s tweet) as an example.

This blog post should be between 1,000 (min) and 1,500 (max) words and should contain the following:

  • An introduction and description of the event that you are analyzing, with hyperlinks and other media as appropriate (video, images, etc.).
  • Critical analysis of the event. This analysis should be informed by the readings and content of this course. You may find it beneficial to reference and quote from the material we have used from the course, unless the connection is extremely obvious (you may want to discuss this with me in advance).
  • Although the format and style of this should be like that of a blog post (and can thus be informal), you should still properly attribute all ideas and words to their sources. Please use citation conventions when using material from other sources whether you are summarizing, paraphrasing, or quoting from the material.
  • I have uploaded a handout under Resources and Materials in ReggieNet as a reference for you about citation and integrating source material.
  • Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) is also a great source: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

 Project evaluation

Your blog post will be evaluated based on how well it meets the above specifications, including:

  • Choosing an event relevant to the topic of this course, which is race and the internet, to analyze;
  • Describing the event at hand, with hyperlinks and other media as appropriate;
  • Analyzing the event – this is where you will add YOUR insight (informed by what you have learned in this course) and might be the most difficult part. Please come see me at any time for assistance!!!;
  • Engaging with the course material in your analysis. For example, you might think about how the digital divide, access, privilege, colorblindness, dedicated sites, etc., inform the controversy;
  • Properly attributing your sources (citation);
  • Meeting the length requirements; and
  • Logical organization, solid paragraph unity, appropriate transitions, and few grammatical or spelling errors.

 Project submission

Post your blogs to our class blog site – http://www.raceandsocialmedia.wordpress.com

You should have received an invitation to be an author, but let me know asap if you have any trouble registering or posting.

 Resources (where to look for ideas)

  • If you have a topic or area of interest already, you can look at general news sites: Atlantic.com, Huffingtonpost.com, Cnn.com, Usatoday.com, Nytimes.com
  • Blogazine sites can be more useful for drawing attention to the controversial things people are doing on social media: Jezebel.com, Gawker.com, Buzzfeed.com, Salon.com
  • If you do not have a topic in mind already, I suggest looking at sites that are focused on race and looking for internet- (and social-media-) related stories: Colorlines.com, Racefiles.com, Root.com
  • Don’t forget about social networking sites like tumblr.com or local news sits like the Bloomington Pantagraph!

Any other suggestions?

Examples of topics

http://jezebel.com/5896408/racist-hunger-games-fans-dont-care-how-much-money-the-movie-made

http://jezebel.com/racists-very-upset-over-interracial-family-in-cute-chee-510647487

http://jezebel.com/pr-exec-justine-sacco-sends-racist-tweet-about-getting-1487773691

 Schedule

Wed, Feb 26 – In-class work day

Mon, Mar 3 – Workshop draft of Project 1

Wed, Mar 5 – Project 1 due – share them in class

Each person will have TWO MINUTES to speak about your post. You can read from it, talk us through it, or otherwise informally explain your work to us. Have fun – this is your opportunity to show off!

Project 2

100 points

The second project, like the first, is intended to be an application of the concepts of this class. It is also where you get to investigate some of the questions we are investigating in this class. Specifically, we will focus on the activism part of the questions that we have been looking at over the past several weeks.

  • How are different races and ethnicities represented online, visually and textually? Who produces those representations? What are the stereotypical representations and what are those effects? What are representations that disrupt those stereotypes, that disrupt racism, and that serve as sites of activism?

Project description

In groups of three to four, choose a relatively narrow topic related to social justice activism and analyze the role of social media in that activism. For example, did social media (and which platform) facilitate, enhance, limit, debilitate, etc. the activist efforts? How so? In what way? To what ends? Use data from the event in the platform (tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, Tumblr photos or posts, etc.) to support your claims.

Project requirements

Your analysis should be at least 2,000 words long (approx. 8 pages) (for groups of 3) or 2,500 words long (for groups of 4) and contain:

  • An introduction and description of the event that you are analyzing;
  • A clearly articulated argument (thesis statement/main point) about social justice activism and social media;
  • Support of the event in the form of critical analysis; support includes detail from the social medial platform, such as specific tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, Tumblr posts, etc.
  • Support can also be found in course readings (quote, paragraph, and summarize accordingly). Hint: course concepts can be great ways to make analysis and arguments!
  • Use of media, such as hyperlinks (embedded in the words, not entire URLs), images, video, screen prints, etc.;
  • Attribution of sources by quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing with appropriate citations (see handout on ReggieNet, Purdue OWL’s site, and me for guidance on citations)
  • Submit your work on the course blog (www.raceandsocialmedia.wordpress.com), although your group can propose to submit it somewhere else with appropriate justification.

Project evaluation

Your project will be evaluated based on how well it addresses all of the items listed above, as well as having logical organization, solid paragraph unity, appropriate transitions, and few grammatical or spelling errors.

Resources (where to look for ideas)

  • If you have a topic or area of interest already, you can look at general news sites: Atlantic.com, Huffingtonpost.com, Cnn.com, Usatoday.com, Nytimes.com
  • Blogazine sites can be more useful for drawing attention to the controversial things people are doing on social media: Jezebel.com, Gawker.com, Buzzfeed.com, Salon.com
  • If you do not have a topic in mind already, I suggest looking at sites that are focused on race and looking for internet- (and social-media-) related stories: Colorlines.com, Racefiles.com, Root.com
  • Don’t forget about social networking sites like tumblr.com or local news sits like the Bloomington Pantagraph!

Schedule

Mon, Apr. 21 – make groups if not made before this date; work on projects in-class

Wed, Apr. 23 – informal proposals due (mini conferences in class)

Mon, Apr. 28 – out-of-class work day to meet with groups

Wed. Apr. 30 – in-class group conferences

Mon, May 5 – final drafts of Project 2 due

 

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