ENGL 391 (Section 001, Schedule #32076)
Virginia Commonwealth University
Spring 2015
TTh 11:00am-12:15pm :: 264 Hibbs
Prof. David Golumbia
Office: 324D Hibbs Hall
Spr 2015 Office Hours: Tues 1:00-3:30pm

Digital Studies

This class provides a critical survey of issues in current digital media studies, addressing a variety of topics in the political orientation of both digital technologies themselves and, even more so, its users and promoters. 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) to which class members will direct us in an in-class presentation. Evaluation will be determined by that presentation, by two 10-page papers, and vigorous participation.


There are no texts to purchase for this class. All texts are available either in the blackboard site for the class, or on the web, linked in the week-by-week syllabus below. A complete bibliography of readings for the class is available for ease of citation in your written work.

Assignments and Evaluation

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

Course-Specific Policies


VCU 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.

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: 

More information can be found at in the VCU policy library.

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. The Student Code of Conduct also prohibits the possession of or carrying of any weapon. For more information see http://register.dls.virginia.gov/details.aspx?id=3436.

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). Please also visit the Disability Support Services website and/or the Division for Academic Success website for additional information.

Any student who has a disability that requires an 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 for deployment/mobilization, 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

You can view important dates for the Spring 2015 semester in the university calendar.

VCU Mobile

The VCU Mobile application is a valuable tool to get the latest VCU information on the go. The application contains helpful information including the VCU directory, events, course schedules, campus maps, athletics and general VCU news, emergency information, library resources, Blackboard and more. To download the application on your smart phone or for more information, please visit http://m.vcu.edu.

Class Registration Required for Attendance

Students may attend only those classes for which they have registered. Faculty may not add students to class rosters or Blackboard. 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 Floyd Avenue (Harris Hall) and/or contact your financial aid counselor regarding the impact on your financial aid. Contact information for the University Financial Aid Office is available online.

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. Students are ultimately responsible for any unpaid balance on their account as a result of the University Financial Aid Office or their third party sponsor canceling or reducing their award(s).

Week-by-Week Syllabus

Week One. Introduction

Week Two. All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace

Week Three. All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace

Week Four. Ideology

Week Five. Selling the Internet

Week Six. Internet Centrism, Internet Exceptionalism

Week Seven. Identity and Social Media

Week Eight. Identity, Sociality, Embodiment

Spring Break

Week Nine. Gender, Sexuality, LGBTQ

Week Ten. Race, Postcolonialism

Week Eleven. Labor, Class

Week Twelve. Automation, Surveillance

Week Thirteen. Data Brokering, Civil Rights

Week Fourteen. "Internet Freedom," the Internet as Public Sphere

Week Fifteen. Rhetoric

Final paper/project is due by the end of the final exam period, 10:50am, Tuesday, May 5, 2015, per the registrar's exam schedule. The paper or project should be emailed to me at dgolumbia-at-vcu.edu. No late papers can be accepted for the final paper assignment. There is no other final exam for the course.

Last updated April 21, 2015.