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Designing for Function, Culture, and Ethics

As the Internet passes its 30th birthday, it's become increasingly integrated into social, economic, political, and other areas of life. Especially as "the Internet" becomes increasingly technically complicated, it is therefore especially important to get "under the hood" or into the "black box" to understand how the Internet actually works and to see how citizen users can/should engage in this process. This course approaches these goals through both content and digital composing work: you'll build a website for this course involving some templates and some hand-coding that you'll publish online. This website will serve as a portfolio of your work for this class, which will investigate the culture of a digital community, redesign the digital space in which that community operates, and research an issue related to the design of our online lives.

We also find ourselves at a point where--through web 2.0 technologies and WYSIWYG platforms--many people are beginning to return to the original purpose of the Internet as an evironment for reading and writing. And while these template-based composing environments have dramatically broadened particiation online, they also limit both the creativity and freedom of expression that characterized the early promise of the Internet. Similarly, the search technologies through which we primarily engage the Internet have also become substantially more complicated in their mediation of how we experience the wealth of information online that we rely on for personal, professional, and civic life, necessitating our heightened attention, especially to how information circulates (or doesn't) and its implications.

This is an Advanced Writing and Science, Technology and Society Course. It counts for three pathways: The Digital Age, Design Thinking, and Values in Science and Technology -- if you're taking this class as part of a Pathway, make sure to save your work for use in your Pathway essay.

This class emphasizes problem- and project-based learning. We will have regular "practicum" classes during which we will practice composing for digital publication by doing hands-on, practical activities. There will be occasions to discuss your own digital productions alongside our course readings. Our in-class work will be substantively directed by your own engagement with course texts and projects, meaning that you'll assume active responsibility for the specific outcomes of your learning in this class, within the parameters of the syllabus and schedule.

Course Learning Outcomes

Digital Culture & Design LOs

  1. Understand the relationship between the design and function of online platforms, text, and technologies.
  2. Compose texts that use design literacy to create arguments about the design, culture, and ethics of Internet culture.

Advanced Writing LOs

  1. Read and write with a critical point of view that displays depth of thought and is mindful of the rhetorical situation of a specific discipline. (Critical Thinking, Complexity, Communication)
  2. Compose texts that demonstrate intellectual and creative rigor, engagement, and clear purpose (Critical Thinking, Complexity, Communication)
  3. Independently locate, deliberately select, and appropriately use and cite evidence that is ample, credible, and smoothly integrated into an intellectually honest text appropriate for a particular discipline. (Complexity, Communication, Information Literacy.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of their writing processes as modes of learning and intentionally manipulate those processes in response to diverse learning tasks. (Critical Thinking, Complexity; Meta-Goal: Intentional Learning)

Science, Technology, & Society LOs

  1. Comprehend the relevant science and/or technology and explain how science and/or technology advance through the process of inquiry and experiment. (Scientific Inquiry, Science & Technology, Critical Thinking, Complexity)
  2. Analyze and evaluate the mutual influence between science and/or technology and society. (Science & Technology, Critical Thinking, Complexity)


A laptop of your own that you can bring to class and install free/open source software on. You'll use the Webpages@SCU system for your course projects.

Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (2018) -- the library has a digital copy

Other readings linked from course schedule (log in via SCU Google account to access)

Projects & Grade Distribution

Grading according to standard SCU grading scheme:

A 100% to 94%
A- <94% to 90%
B+ <90% to 87%
B <87% to 84%
B- <84% to 80%
C+ <80% to 77%
C <77% to 74%
C- <74% to 70%
D+ <70% to 67%
D <67% to 64%
D- <64% to 61%
F <61% to 0%

Digital Community Project -- 30%

Redesign of Digital Community Space Project -- 25%

Research Project -- 30%

Project Portfolio & Learning Goals -- 10%

Engagement -- 5%


Office Hours: To delve deeper into topics we discuss in class, prepare for assignments, get additional feedback on drafts, check your progress in the course, or anything else related to this class or your SCU experience, I strongly recommend that you meet with me outside of class, either during office hours or by scheduling a time to meet. This is a valuable way to get the most out of English 109, prepare effectively for assignments, and benefit from the mentoring opportunities provided by SCU's focus on student learning.

HUB Writing Center: In addition to writing exercises and peer review workshops that are part of this course, SCU's HUB Writing Center offers additional support for writing assignments including the ones in English 109. I encourage you to use their services, which follow the model of peer review and feedback used for in-class writing workshops.

Accessibility: Everyone is entitled to equal access to learning resources in this class. Please discuss your needs with me face-to-face or via email so that I can arrange accommodations. I am also happy to work with the Office of Disabilities Resources to ensure your success in this class. Students who are pregnant or parenting are also entitled to accommodations--please discuss your needs with me.

Cowell Center: To support SCU students' mental and physical health, the Cowell Center provides on-campus medical and psychological services. If you're facing health issues, having trouble managing workload or your life, etc., contact the Cowell Center to set up an appointment.

Undocumented and Recent-Generation Resources: Many members of our community—students, faculty, and staff—are either undocumented, first-generation, or are affected by these issues. SCU's LEAD Program serves as a clearinghouse of information, resources, and advising on issues relating to documentation.

Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct (Title IX): Santa Clara University upholds a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct. If you (or someone you know) have experienced discrimination or harassment, including sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, or stalking, I encourage you to tell someone promptly. For more information, please consult SCU's Gender-Based Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Policy or contact the University's EEO and Title IX Coordinator, Belinda Guthrie, at 408-554-3043/bguthrie@scu.edu. Reports may also be submitted online through the Office of Student Life or anonymously through EthicsPoint.


Digital Devices: Reflecting the topic of the class, you're welcome to use devices in this class to follow along with class discussion, take notes, and pull up relevant materials (examples, alternatives, etc) during class. On some day's you'll be expected to bring your laptop to class to work on course projects. Having devices at your disposal, however, makes you responsible for managing your attention and using those devices productively to engage in in-class activities in ways that help us understand, interrogate, and practice the ideas and tools we're working with.

Course Information & Communication: This website will be the primary information source for this class. We will also use Slack for pre-class discussions of readings, to share in-progress work, and to ask questions/share resources related to the digital design and composing you'll be doing in this class.

Attendance and Tardiness: Because this course involves in-class discussion, composing, and engagement, attendance is crucial. Please let me know if you must miss class for any reason, especially if circumstances arise that require missing multiple classes. If absences affect submitting course work, it's also you responsibility to discuss this with me.

Late Work: All work--including drafts and Slack posts--is due when assigned. To turn in late work you must have valid documented excuse (illness, university-sponsored travel, religious observation) and have made prior arrangements with me.

Classroom Conduct: Always show respect for one another. SCU is a place where ideas are shared, debated, and sometimes argued over. You must be prepared for ideas or values that are very different from your own. Rude or offensive language or behavior will not be tolerated.

Academic Integrity: From the SCU Undergraduate Bulletin: “The University is committed to academic excellence and integrity. Students are expected to do their own work and to cite any sources they use. A student who is guilty of a dishonest act in an examination, paper, or other work required for a course, or who assists others in such an act, may, at the discretion of the instructor, receive a grade of “F” for the course.” The bottom line is that the work you turn in must be your own. Passing off someone else's ideas or writing as your own is illegal, constituting fraud and possibly theft.

Mandatory Reporting Disclosure: While I want you to feel comfortable coming to me with issues you may be struggling with or concerns you may be having, please be aware that there are some reporting requirements that are part of my job at Santa Clara University. For example, if you inform me of an issue of harassment, sexual violence, or discrimination, I will keep the information as private as I can, but I am required to bring it to the attention of SCU's EEO and Title IX Coordinator. If you inform me that you are struggling with an issue that may be resulting in, or caused by, traumatic or unusual stress, I will likely inform the campus Student Care Team (SCU CARE).

If you would like to to request assistance directly from the Student Care Team, contact them at www.scu.edu/osl/reportLinks to an external site.. If you would like to talk to the Office of EEO and Title IX directly, they can be reached at 408-554-3043/bguthrie@scu.edu. Reports may be submitted online through www.scu.edu/osl/report (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. Links to an external site.or anonymously through Ethicspoint: www.ethicspoint.comLinks to an external site.. Additionally, you can report incidents or complaints to Campus Safety Services and local law enforcement. For confidential support, contact the Counseling and Psychological Services office (CAPS), the YWCA, or a member of the clergy.

Finally, please be aware that if, for some reason, our interaction involves a disruptive behavior, a concern about your safety or the safety of others, or potential violation of University policy, I will inform the Office of Student Life. This is to keep OSL apprised of incidents of concern, and to ensure that students can receive or stay connected to the academic support and student wellness services they need.