Writing, Public Culture, and (Viral) Circulation


Course Overview: 

This 4000-level course intends to help students learn how discourse circulates, transforms, and constructs public life. In addition, students learn how to design and distribute their own discourse in ethical ways with the hope of "going viral" and affecting consequences in local settings. 


Formal Assignments:

Rhetorical Design and Analysis, Individual Reports about Social Campaigns, TEDTalks, Final Reflection


Key Themes: 

Participatory Culture, Publics, Intertextuality, Metaculture, Rhetorical Ecologies, Rhetorical Velocity, Visual Semiotics, Image events, Convergence Culture, Media virus, Memes, Social Media, Rhetorical Design, Delivery, Remix, Brand, Presentation Design 


Primary/Supplementary Texts: (Small Sample)

Henry Jenkin's Convergence Culture and Spreadable Media for their insight into participatory culture and discursive flow

Michael Warner's "Publics and Counterpublics" for its useful theories of publics in relation to circulation

Greg Urban's Metaculture for its methodological insights into culture about culture 

Jim Ridolfo's and Danielle Devoss' article "Composing for Recomposition" for its insights into rhetorical velocity

Kevin Deluca's and John Delicath's article "Image events, the Public Sphere, and Argumentative Practice" for their theories of public argumentation

Lawrence Lessig's, Stephen Johnson's, and Shepard Fairey's NYPL event on remix culture for their productive discussion of intertextuality, remix, and fair use

Garr Reynold's Presentation Zen for its excellent design principles


Course Description:

This course aims to help students become more informed producers and distributors of their own discourse.

Throughout this course, we read a number of theoretical perspectives concerning why circulation matters to both publics and a functioning democracy. We also develop a theoretical, ethical, and practical understanding of how to compose materials for social campaigns intended to construct a specific public. As we engage with such scholarship, we consider contemporary debates over intellectual property, copyright, and fair use, especially in relation to remix. 

During the course, we also focus on putting discourse into circulation to attract a public and presenting our work to the public. We specifically explore how discourse can be distributed in physical spaces to increase chances for viral circulation. Students  also learn how social networking sites such as Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter and other digital technologies can be used to accelerate circulation. Putting this knowledge into practice, students work collaboratively on team to produce their own media campaign and attempt to make it go “viral” on a university campus. To share their ideas, students also give multi-media presentations about their campaigns in the genre of TEDTalks at semester's end.

Course Reflections:
This course typically attracts English  majors interested in writing for a public as well as a number of students from business, marketing, and public relations. The course content is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on material from rhetorical studies, cultural studies, graphic design, linguistics, and anthropology. The course design is set up as a studio environment in which students build collective knowledge and work through various stages of a semester long campaign project.