ENGL 391 (Section 901, Schedule #29187)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Spring 2014
MW 5:30-6:45pm :: 331 Hibbs
Prof. David Golumbia
Office: 324D Hibbs Hall
Spr 2014 Office Hours: Tues 1-3:30pm

Digital Studies

This class provides a topical survey of issues in current digital media studies, spending a week or two each on topics like digital democracy, social media and sociality, social media and activism, digital language, race and gender in digital media, games, the digital divide, digital politics, transparency/openness, online education, software studies, and the singularity. In each case we'll read a couple of short articles, some scholarly, some more journalistic, as well as looking at primary digital media objects (texts, software, media, websites). Students will work together with the instructor to determine topics (click here for the list of topics and readings) and readings for the course. Students will work in groups, write or create two assignment in which they will be encouraged to develop projects in nontraditional formats, and will present material to the rest of the class as part of their group work.

Required Text to Purchase (available at bookstore and online booksellers; one copy is also on reserve)

  1. James Curran, Natalie Fenton, and Des Freedman, Misunderstanding the Internet (Routledge, 2012) amazon.com link

Assignments and Evaluation

Evaluation will be based on written exercises and course participation as follows:

Course-Specific Policies


Email Policy
Email is considered an official method for communication at VCU because it delivers information in a convenient, timely, cost effective, and environmentally aware manner. Students are expected to check their official VCU email on a frequent and consistent basis in order to remain informed of university-related communications. The university recommends checking email daily. Students are responsible for the consequences of not reading, in a timely fashion, university-related communications sent to their official VCU student email account. This policy ensures that all students have access to this important form of communication. It ensures students can be reached through a standardized channel by faculty and other staff of the university as needed. Mail sent to the VCU email address may include notification of university-related actions, including disciplinary action. Please read the policy in its entirety: http://www.ts.vcu.edu/kb/3407.html
VCU Honor System: Upholding Academic Integrity
The VCU Honor System policy describes the responsibilities of students, faculty, and administration in upholding academic integrity, while at the same time respecting the rights of individuals to the due process offered by administrative hearings and appeals. According to this policy, "Members of the academic community are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity." In addition, "All members of the VCU community are presumed to have an understanding of the VCU Honor System and are required to:

View the Honor System in its entirety. More information can also be found on the Division of Student Affairs website.

Student Conduct in the Classroom
According to the Faculty Guide to Student Conduct in Instructional Settings, "The university is a community of learners. Students, as well as faculty, have a responsibility for creating and maintaining an environment that supports effective instruction. In order for faculty members (including graduate teaching assistants) to provide and students to receive effective instruction in classrooms, laboratories, studios, online courses, and other learning areas, the university expects students to conduct themselves in an orderly and cooperative manner." Among other things, cell phones and beepers should be turned off while in the classroom. Also, the university Rules and Procedures prohibit anyone from having "in his possession any firearm, other weapon, or explosive, regardless of whether a license to possess the same has been issued, without the written authorization of the President of the university...." For more information, visit the VCU Insider online.
Students with Disabilities
SECTION 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended require that VCU provide "academic adjustments" or "reasonable accommodations" to any student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. To receive accommodations, students must request them by contacting the Disability Support Services Office on the Monroe Park Campus (828-2253) or the Division for Academic Success on the MCV campus (828-9782). More information is available at Disability Support Services or the Division for Academic Success.

Any student who has a disability that requires an academic accommodation should schedule a meeting with the instructor at the student's earliest convenience. Additionally, if coursework requires the student to work in a lab environment, the student should advise the instructor or a department chairperson of any concerns that the student may have regarding safety issues related to a disability. Students should follow this procedure for all courses in the academic semester.

Statement on Military Short-Term Training or Deployment
If military students receive orders for short-term training or deployment, they should inform and present their orders to Military Student Services and to their professor(s). For further information on policies and procedures contact Military Services at 828-5993 or access the corresponding policies.

Excused Absences for Students Representing the University
Students who represent the university (athletes and others) do not choose their schedules. Student athletes are required to attend games and/or meets. All student athletes should provide their schedules to their instructors at the beginning of the semester. The Intercollegiate Athletic Council strongly encourages faculty to treat missed classes or exams (because of a scheduling conflict) as excused absences and urges faculty to work with the students to make up the work or exam.
Campus Emergency information
What to know and do to be prepared for emergencies at VCU:

Important Dates
View important dates for the Spring 2014 semester. 

VCU Mobile
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Class Registration Required for Attendance
Students may attend only those classes for which they have registered. Faculty may not add students to class rosters. Therefore, if students are attending a class for which they have not registered, they must stop attending.
Withdrawal from Classes
Before withdrawing from classes, students should consult their instructor as well as other appropriate university offices.  Withdrawing from classes may negatively impact a student’s financial aid award and his or her semester charges. To discuss financial aid and the student bill, visit the Student Services Center at 1015 Harris Hall or contact a financial aid counselor at http://www.enrollment.vcu.edu/finaid/contact.html
Student Financial Responsibility
Students assume the responsibility of full payment of tuition and fees generated from their registration and all charges for housing and dining services, and other applicable miscellaneous charges.

Week-by-Week Syllabus

Week One. Introduction

Week Two. Topic Selection

Week Three. Misunderstanding the Internet

Week Four. Misunderstanding the Internet

Week Five. Misunderstanding the Internet

Week Six.

Week Seven.

Week Eight.

Spring Break

Week Nine.

Week Ten.

Week Eleven.

Week Twelve.

Week Thirteen.

Week Fourteen.

Week Fifteen.

Second paper/project is due by the end of the final exam date, 4-6:50pm, Wednesday, May 7, 2014, per the registrar's exam schedule. The paper or project should be emailed to me at dgolumbia-at-vcu.edu. There is no other final exam for the course.

Last updated April 28, 2014.