The Rhetoric of Information



This class will explore the social, cultural and legal role of information. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which the self and society shape, and are shaped by, our changing information networks, and will look at the structure of these systems. We will examine such topics as social and collaborative networking, information retrieval and management, the function of creativity within an information economy, varied modes of information circulation and social norms, cultural diversity and the creation of information, intellectual property rights and the ethics of access to information. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to understand the function and limits of rhetoric within the current information society.

student learning outcomes


  • Understand how information is created, maintained and circulated in the digital age
  • Understand the history of information: its changing forms and values
  • Explore cross-cultural uses of and means by which information becomes meaningful to varied groups of people
  • Consider the implications of multiple media platforms
  • Explore information as a social and cultural asset
  • Examine the role of intellectual property rights in relation to the ethics of information use, access and circulation
  • Consider how best to organize digital information for specific audiences with key outcomes and goals in mind
  • Learn how to keep rhetorical concerns at the forefront of all choices
  • Examine critical theories of information circulation


required materials


  • No books required, but you will be downloading and accessing numerous readings throughout the semester. Have a smart filing/printing system.
  • A Twitter account (see assignments tab). Remember to use #dtcp356
  • A blog (see assignments tab)




  • Attendance: Because we will be working collaboratively on many assignments, and because learning is a communal effort, your regular attendance is important. You can miss two classes with no questions asked. After two absences, in order not to lose points you must contact me and explain your reasoning for the absence. More than five absences will result in a failing grade for the course.
  • Late work: No late work will be accepted.
  • Students with Disabilities: I am committed to providing assistance to help you be successful in this course. Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. Please visit the Disability Resource Center (DRC) during the first two weeks of every semester to seek information or to qualify for accommodations. All accommodations MUST be approved through the DRC (Admin Annex Bldg, Rooms 205). Call 509 335 3417 to make an appointment with a disability counselor.
  • Academic Honesty: All students are expected to act in accordance with the WSU policies on Academic Honesty found in the Student Handbook. These policies include falsification of information, fabrication of information, plagiarism, multiple submissions, and various others. Academic integrity will be strongly enforced in this course. Any student caught cheating on any assignment will be given an F grade for the course and will be reported to the Office Student Standards and Accountability. Cheating is defined in the Standards for Student Conduct WAC 504-26-010 (3). These policies will be discussed in class and students will be asked to acknowledge that discussion and a basic understanding of the policies. For additional information on plagiarism, WSU has a great new site, check it out. You are responsible for knowing and abiding by the WSU policies. If you are caught violating any academic honesty policy, you will fail the course and may be turned over to the proper WSU authorities.
  • Technology: If you bring a laptop to class please only use it for class-related purposes. IM-ing, checking email, web surfing (unless you’re looking something up related to class), etc, are incredibly disrespectful of our time together. But, you CAN tweet if it’s class related. No texting.
  • Grading: Final grades will be based on the assignments as well as participation. The breakdown is as follows: forthcoming. Participation is based on your attendance, your level of attentiveness in and preparedness for class, your participation in class discussion, and your respect for others. A: 93-100 ||| A-: 90-92 ||| B+: 88-89 ||| B: 83-87 ||| B-: 80-82 ||| C+: 78-79 ||| C: 73-77 ||| C-: 70-72 ||| D+: 68-69 ||| D: 60-67 ||| F: 59 and below.
  • Safety and Emergency Notifications: Washington State University is committed to enhancing the safety of the students, faculty, staff, and visitors. It is highly recommended that you review the Campus Safety Plan and visit the Office of Emergency Management web site for a comprehensive listing of university policies, procedures, statistics, and information related to campus safety, emergency management, and the health and welfare of the campus community.
This schedule is subject to change. it is your responsibility to visit regularly.


unit 1: changing landscape of information


wk1 in-class due by classtime
1/14 introduction to class: what is information?getting a twitter accountgetting blog set upkey dates/goals
  • nada
 1/16  information histories web 2.0 and beyond: key features of our current digital landscape. in-class we will explore social media predictions for 2014listen to “Information Overload Is Not Unique To Digital Age” Ann Blair, professor of history at Harvard.
  • Twitter account set up and test tweet tweeted #dtcp356
  • READ: “What is a Twitter Hashtag...”
  • READ “What is Web 2.0” by Tim O’Reilly (2005). Make sure to understand the following concepts: Web as Platform, Collective Intelligence, and The Wisdom of Crowds.
  • READ “Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On“” (2009) by Tim O’Reilly and John Batelle. Pay attention to any differences between, or elaborations on, “What is Web 2.0.”
  • READ “Ringside at the Web Fight” by Michael Wolff (2010). Notice connections and/or differences between Wolff and O’Reilly/Batelle.
 wk2  in-class  due by classtime
 1/21  participatory culture: we will watch Jenkins TED talk in class what is it? why/how is it different than before? why does it matter?
 1/23  participatory culture and the power of crowds: we will watch Shirky TED talk or Web 2.0 Expo talk in class): how does participatory culture matter in your daily life? what is crowdsourcing and how does it leverage participatory culture?
wk3 in-class due by classtime
1/28 orders of order–there’s a lot of ‘stuff’ out there, what do we do with it all? How do we make sense of italgorithms and search…are filters the answer? We will listen to John Battelle on ‘Search’ and Google’s Future (NPR interview)
1/30 wikipedia: who, how, where, why?
wk4 in-class due by classtime
2/4 Career Expo: no class
  • BLOG POST #1 Due: Given the readings you’ve done so far this semester, what are the most important takeaways? List and describe any terms, concepts, issues, or questions you feel are crucial to these first three weeks. This post should be in the ballpark of 600-800 words.
2/6 takeaway day. we will crowdsource the heck out of the first 3 week’s of course content. Group meetings: Discuss themes for group presentation Assign action items to each member
  • review list of possible topics on the blog
  • Come to class prepared to share your ideas from post#1
wk5 in-class due by classtime
2/11 Project 1: short essay exam`
  • exam due by 1:25
2/13 no class
  • 2-3 tweets about your group project

unit 2: social media in an information society


wk6 in-class due by classtime
2/18 definitions and history
 2/20  social media and “publics”
wk7 in-class due by classtime
 2/25  what can social media do for us? Social justice and social activism.Social Media + Activism/Awareness: how does social media help spread information about activism?mr. splashy pants?
 2/27  group meetings
  • outline complete
  • rough drafts of presentation
  • action items in progress
wk8 in-class due by classtime
 3/4  sharing: Come with some ideas about connections you can make between the Unit 1 and 2 readings/terms/theories and what you’re finding so far in social media.
  • BLOG Post #2: Summarize what you’ve started to notice about your organization’s use of social media. Describe whether, after starting to explore this topic, you tend to agree with Gladwell or Mirani, both or something else?
  • How does online activism matter?
3/6 group presentations group presentations: 1-3
wk9 in-class due by classtime
3/11 group presentations group presentations: 4-6
3/13 unit 2 takeaways BLOG POST #3: social media and the information age: discuss your takeaways from this unit: big, medium and small…600-800 words (see assignments page)


unit 3: ethics and access in an information society


wk10 in-class due by classtime
3/25 no class no class
 3/27  What is privacy in an information age? Facebook privacy settings and current state of affairs.
wk11 in-class due by classtime
 4/1  What does openness mean in the digital age? What does access entail? for whom does it matter and how?
 4/3 How is ownership defined and challenged in the digital age? How do we consider authorship? how does the colonial past matter today?
wk12 in-class due by classtime
 4/8  watch: guarding the family silver
  • TWEET: lessons learned from blog post #4 (2-3 tweets)
 4/10  fair use and cultural remix…
wk13 in-class due by classtime
 4/15 watch: RIP a remix manifesto –view on your own:
  • TWEET: 3 tweets based on the RIP video that define the notions of culture, authorship and creativity.
 4/17 RW/RO, Cultures of Production Lessig’s TED + Sunder TED: FAIRCULTUREdiscussion: remix and responsible remix? cultural differences and the ethics of “remixing”
  • READ Lessig, Lawrence. “Preface,” “Introduction,” and “Chapter 1: Cultures of our Past” (xiii-33) from Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Penguin Press. 2008.
  • BLOG post #5 due by the end of the day (see assignments page for deets)
  • TWEET: Can there be a balance between free and fair culture?
  • review notes from previous week for in class discussion of the movie
wk14 in-class due by classtime
 4/22  prepare for debates
  • prepare for debates
 4/24  free/fair culture debates
  • BLOG post #6 due FRIDAY4.25 by end of the day(see assignments page for deets)
wk15 in-class due by classtime
 4/29  DTC showcase
  • Project presentations–small groups
  • optional: @DTC showcase 5PM
 5/1  Final Project work
  • working on final projects–updates from group feedback
  • Projects due 05.05.15

Major Projects:


Project 1: Unit 1 Exam (150 points)


This will be a short essay exam based on the materials from Unit 1. There will be an in-class review prior to the exam. On Tuesday February 11th I will post the exam questions to the blog by 11:50 am. Your exam will be DUE TO ME VIA EMAIL as a WORD DOC by 1:25 PM. NO EXCEPTIONS.


Project 2: Group Projects on (sl)Ac(k)tivism (100 points)


You will be assigned a group and a will choose from a list of topics (or if your group feels strongly about one topic, you can persuade me). Your group will present on 3/6 or 3/11 about the relationship between activism and social media, the use and creation of varied types of information and the practices defined by the group.

  • This project requires you to work in a group of 3-4 people in order to explore how a certain subset of social activist organizations use social media in order to publicize themselves and their cause. The end result of this project will be a 10-minute formal presentation to the class that provides an overview of how your organizations use social media for better or for worse (and it may be the case that one of your organizations within the subset is fantastic, while the others are not so great).
  • You will be graded on 1) how well you cover the best (and worst, if relevant) practices for your particular grouping, 2) how well you integrate ideas/terms from the readings in Units 1 and 2, and 3) how professional and polished your presentation is.
  • Your group will be assigned one specific organization to work with, and it is up to you to find at least two other organizations that are somewhat similar in mission.


Project 3: Report on Open Access Movement (100 points)


Draft due March 6 (print out, bring to class), Final due March 13 (on blog) After following an open access group on Twitter (and any other SNS they might use) this blog post is a way to summarize your findings in light of the material we’ve read and discussed thus far. This will be submitted as a blog post. The post must do the following:

  • Provide a useful summary that clearly describes how the group views and constructs: information, openness and access in relation to their specific target (open science, open publishing etc)
  • Describe in detail the goals, motivations and outcomes of this group
  • Evaluates how successful you feel the group has been and specifically in their use of social media
  • Uses sources from class to support your summary and evaluation
  • The post should be roughly 1200-1500 words in length (the equivalent of 3-5 pages, double spaced) and must include citations, links, audio/video clips and images


Project 4: Unit 3 Remix Project (250 points):


The final project is a creative piece that engages with one of the issues raised in Unit 3. Essentially, think of it as an essay of sorts that either makes an argument for (or against) something OR that explores an issue in a bit more depth. That is, imagine either an argumentative essay or a research paper BUT instead of writing a paper, you will put this into some type of creative piece, be it a video, remix of some sort, musical piece, sculpture, etc. The final project must include the following pieces:

  • the project itself (10%, grade based on effort and creativity)
  • a justification paper (no page limit) that explains what you did and why you did it. You MUST explain how the project connects up to the issues raised throughout the semester and you MUST cite and/or refer to authors and readings. (10%, grade based on breadth and integration of references AND degree to which you use references from class to justify your own work.)
  • a presentation of your project in class. Time limit pending number of presenters.
  • This presentation must cover the same issues as the justification paper. No references? No points. (5%, grade based on polish of performance as well as degree to which you use references from class to justify your own work)


Other work:


BLOG (200 points) This class requires you to have and maintain an active blog. You will be evaluated on the quality and quantity of your blog posts. You must engage with class themes, discussions, lectures and all materials presented in class. You must link to outside sources and bring in other relevant materials. *These prompts MAY change over the semester, stay tuned.

  • General Posts (50 points) : You are responsible for keeping an active blog. Write posts about things you find interesting in class discussions, in the readings or from other sources online or offline. Your posts should be informative, critical and engaged. Your posts should ideally link to other sources and to topics that link to class themes.


  • Post 1 (35 points): Given the readings you’ve done so far this semester, what are the most important takeaways? Describe any terms, concepts, issues, or questions you feel are crucial to these first three weeks. Also consider what ideas you will want to carry forward throughout the semester and/or your career. Due Feb 4th at 12:00 posted to YOUR BLOG. I must have your blog URL to grade the assignment. Make sure I do.


  • Post 2 (25 points): Summarize what you’ve started to notice about your organization’s use of social media. Describe whether, after starting to explore this topic, you tend to agree with Gladwell or Mirani. Does online activism matter?


  • Post 3 (see above project 3)


  • Post 4 (25 points): Write a post that describes the key points of this week’s readings (in your opinion). Conclude by giving your own take on privacy, and make sure to refer to the readings.


  • Post 5 (30 points): Visit and dig around. Eventually choose one song and describe either how it’s been used AS a sample in music, or choose a song and describe what songs it samples. Using this song/songs as example(s), describe whether or not you see this use of sampling as innovative. Is it creative? Do you think it’s stealing? Why or why not? Make sure to cite the readings from Tuesday in your description of how you understand originality and authorship to function.


  • Post 6 (35 points): Given the readings you’ve done so far this semester, what are the most important takeaways? List and describe any terms, concepts, issues, or questions you feel are crucial to the entire semester (focusing a bit more on the info post-exam1 in that your post #1 includes the first few weeks). This post should be in the ballpark of 600-800 words.

TWITTER (100 points). This class requires you to have and maintain an active Twitter stream for #dtcp356. At times I will ask you tweet responses to specific questions, but for the most part this task is up to you. Post interesting links, talk to each other about class topics, summarize readings, do what you can to learn your own best practices for engaging with Twitter for a professional purpose. I will grade you based on quality and quantity over the course of the semester. You will receive a midterm evaluation of your tweets. Participation (100 points). Participation is based on your attendance, your level of attentiveness in and preparedness for class, your participation in class discussion, and your respect for others.

General Information

Spring 2014
Tu/Th 12:00-1:15
Avery 12

Professor Kim Christen
Office Hours: Tu/Th: 1:30-2:30
Office: Avery 339


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