Calendar-style Schedule

A student in Section J1 suggested that a calendar-style schedule would be easier to read than the list-style schedule, and I agree. I’ve made the change, and the schedules for October, November, and December should now look like this:

Screenshot 2014-09-29 16.32.55

The dates on which students are scheduled to present their pecha-kuchas are also included on the calendar.

Please let me know if you run into any bugs or errors in the schedule.

Week of 9/28

This week, we’ll shift our attention from data and information in social media to the implications of mass datafication for state surveillance. In particular, we’ll be interested in the recent phenomenon of mass leaks of secret government information. We’ll talk about some changes that I’m making after Friday’s student feedback, from the blog setup to readings to assignment prompts. We’ll begin working toward the pecha-kucha presentations in earnest, and we’ll try to improve the comment discussions we’ve been having on the blog.

Monday, September 29

At the beginning of class, I’ll field questions about the new blog setup and outline some tweaks I’m making to the class after Friday’s feedback. Then, I’ll introduce the pecha-kucha assignment more fully. Most of the class, however, will be spent in a brainstorming and topic-narrowing exercise for the pecha-kucha presentations. You should leave class with a clearer idea of what your p-k may be about and with some resources to help you plan it.

Wednesday, October 1

The primary reading for Wednesday is Raffi Khatchadourian’s “No Secrets,” a profile of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, from 2010. The “Wikileaks Manifesto” has been made optional. Today, we’ll begin to explore surveillance and transparency as we also try to improve the blog.

One recurring comment in the anonymous feedback on Friday involved the current lack of active discussion in comments sections on the blog. One student noted that people tended to “half-ass” the comments, and that blog authors never responded.

On Wednesday, we’ll work on ways to improve the comments and make them substantive and useful. We’ll have a discussion about ideas for improving blog discussion. Then, we’ll  have discussions about Wikileaks in the comments section of reading-response posts. Your commenting responsibilities for the week, Group A, will likely be fulfilled by work we do in class.

Friday, October 3

This week, I’ll work on developing a pecha-kucha presentation of my own related to our course theme. I’ll begin class on Friday by performing this pecha-kucha, and I’ll field questions about the topic and the form of the presentation.

During most of the rest of class, we’ll be working to design slides for your own pecha-kuchas.

Potentially Interesting Links/Resources

Here are some links related to our course theme (and to communication in general) that might interest you:

  • “Collateral Murder,” the leaked video that brought Wikileaks to prominence, can be viewed below. Be warned, of course, that the content herein is disturbing.

  • This article by Stephen Pinker thinks about why so much writing in our culture is bad. He basically argues that it’s because we have a great deal of difficulty imagining the experiences of our readers.
  • This article from a couple weeks ago uses data to argue that Republicans and Democrats have such trouble getting along because of basic differences: Republicans are driven primarily by philosophy, while Democrats are driven primarily by a desire for policy changes.
  • This infographic on “What Makes an Infographic Bad” may help you think about visuals in your pecha-kuchas, and again later in the semester in your infographics. A sample:

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 7.04.18 AM

New, (Hopefully) Simpler Site Setup

In the student feedback I gathered on September 26, one recurring theme was that some students found the course blog hard to navigate, and I realized that I agreed. I realize now that it was hard for students to locate communications from me amid all the student posts. So I’ve set up another blog on which I’ll post syllabus content, assignment prompts, and other content from me. Since I’ll only have to update one site, this will also be a great place for me to answer questions about prompts—just use the comments section for each prompt’s page. Each weekend, I’ll post an update clarifying what needs to be done to prepare for class in the week ahead.

To switch back and forth between this main site and each section’s individual site, use the appropriate link in the upper-left-hand corner of the page:



You can easily navigate back to this main page from roughly the same spot on your individual’s section’s page:


The syllabus, including the full schedule, has been moved to this site. I’ve moved individual assignment prompts to pages here, too, and they can be accessed using the menu in the top bar:


Hopefully, putting these prompts in a more centralized place will make them easier to access. I’ve also attempted to eliminate some extraneous clutter on the section blogs. My hope is that the cleaned-up interface will make the site(s) more usable.

If you have a question about an assignment, please ask it on the blog, even if you do so anonymously. Below each assignment prompt, you’ll see a place for name, email, etc…. but you don’t even need to fill those out if you don’t want to. I prefer that you ask questions here so other students can benefit from the response:

Screenshot 2014-09-26 17.21.42

Screenshot 2014-09-26 17.29.24

I will do my best to respond to questions in a timely manner. If you have any questions about the new blog setup, please feel free to ask them here, in the comments section.

Welcome to ENGL 1101

Welcome to ENGL 1101, “Data, Information, and Culture.” You’ll find our syllabus via the links in the upper-right-hand corner of this page, divided into four sections:

You should read all of these sections, including the links to program-wide policies, before class on Wednesday, August 20. Once you have done so, please print and sign this acknowledgement of your understanding of the course’s policies.

On the first day of class, we’ll think briefly about this video, which Nature presented under this headline: “Humanity’s cultural history captured in 5-minute film.”

As you watch, think about what this video is actually showing us. Does it actually “capture” “humanity’s cultural history”? What are the advantages of displaying information this way? What are the disadvantages? What does this video leave out? This first discussion will begin a conversation about data, information, and culture that will continue throughout the semester.