English 331 Project Suite

Project #2: Blogging a Text

Introduction

During the course of this semester, we will engage deeply with literature as conceived by our traditional humanities and English curriculum. This involves developing an awareness and appreciation for our literary heritage, contextualizing and analyzing works of literature within their unique historical moments, and expanding these historical contexts in order to gain insight into our own experiences. Furthermore, when engaging these texts we will work to develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, recognize nuance and complexity of meaning, and express our ideas in a clear, organized, and well-reasoned manner.

It is in the expression of our ideas, the form these documents take, that we will shift our emphasis to the digital humanities and the pedagogy of “making” things that are usable by a wider audience. In short, we are replacing the traditional essay with a new-media approach to knowledge representation. This project, “Blogging a Text,” asks you to combine the essential thinking and interpretive skills of the humanities with a digital platform that conveys your thinking to a wider audience. By posting your blog entries on the UWGB Commons for the Digital and Public Humanities, you will be making your work available to an audience that extends far beyond a single professor.

The Assignment

Each member of the group should post two substantial blog entries for the text they are assigned. (Exception: If we read the novel in the course of a single week, then only one entry is required.)

Each blog entry should meet the following requirements:

  • A minimum of 500 words
  • Critical Thinking: try to focus on a specific idea, or claim, that you are examining the validity of.  Example: The Navidson record in House of Leaves is “not real.” Another way to approach this is to ask a genuine, difficult question about the book and use your blog entry to try and answer the unanswerable.
  • Since the posts will come at different times in your reading, always focus on a specific part, element, or theme of the text we are reading.
  • The posts are to be appropriately spaced: if we are spending two weeks on a novel, then you have one post due per week. If we are spending three weeks on the text, maybe write one entry in week one and the other in week three.  In short, you cannot write two posts in the same week.
  • Add at least one piece of media to your post, whether it is an image, video, etc.
  • Make sure that each post you write includes one link to some outside source of relevance.
  • You will also comment on the blog posts of the other members of your group, and hopefully some engaging, public dialogue will follow.

Posting

Groups will post their blog entries to the assigned group space in the UWGB Commons for the Digital and Public Humanities, which is run through the popular blogging platform, WordPress. You can accomplish this by:

  • Selecting “New” in the top menu and picking “post” from the drop-down menu that appears.
  • You need to give your post a catchy title, and then click “Save Draft.” You will want to save your work throughout the process until you are ready to publish the post. Note: you can work on the post in draft form for as long as you want before publishing it; don’t feel like you need to write the full post in one sitting.
  • Give your post some categories (you will likely need to add new ones). One category should be the name of the book you are writing about; another might be “English 331”; another might be something specific to the theme of your post.
  • Consider doing the same with “tags.”
  • When you’ve proofread your work and are ready to go, click the “Publish” button and share your thoughts with the world.

Evaluation and Support

If you have any problems using the commons, I will be your main source of technical support.

Your blog entries will be assessed against the requirements listed above, as well as whether or not they engage an interesting idea in a unique and compelling way. The best way to avoid a bad blog entry is the following: do not summarize the reading. I repeat: do not summarize the reading. Assume that your readers have read, or are familiar with, the text in question—they are not coming to your blog for Sparknotes; they are coming to you for insight.

Reflection

In a document created in The Commons, I would like your group to collaboratively reflect on the following issues:

  • How did completing this assignment affect how you read the novel? How so?
  • Is there a level of knowledge that was provided uniquely by this assignment, beyond the initial reading itself?
  • What was your experience using WordPress? What were the problems and how did you solve them?
  • What would I change about this assignment to make it more relevant, informative, enjoyable, challenging, or interesting?
  • Do you see a mapping project like this being helpful for literary study? Why and how?

A note on images for all projects:

One thing about new media and writing for the web is that images are more often incorporated than in traditional print, and this raises issues of permissions.  In order to remain on the right side of copyright law, here are some good things to keep in mind:

  1. Most images at Wikipedia are already available for use
  2. Be aware of what Creative Commons is. Almost every image I use at my own blog was acquired through a Creative Commons search and simply require me to credit the author. Here is the link for a Creative Commons search of sites like Flickr, Google, etc. Copy it and use it in this course: http://search.creativecommons.org/

  3. When you use an image, add a caption that credits the source. Most often, a simple: “Image: Smith” will do.