Course Overview

This course is about looking closely at what people say and do in digital spaces and how they make meaning with the different communication resources at their disposal. We’ll investigate the social, communicative and rhetorical strategies they use and the impact this has on our broader culture. Through a lens of literacy studies, we will explore the everyday reading, writing, and communication practices people engage in online and the ways in which this impacts identity, social relationships, and participation in public spaces.  We will also draw on rhetorical perspectives to better understand audience, persuasion and the use of digital tools to create rhetorically effective texts in online environments.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • identify a range of effects digital technologies have on contemporary literacy and rhetorical practices
  • demonstrate an understanding of how multimodality changes conceptions of literacy, meaning making, and persuasive practices
  • explore critically a range of digital tools to understand their affordances and constraints for various contexts
  • utilize theory, research, and analytical practices for investigating the implications of digital technologies on literacy and rhetoric in specific online spaces

Course Materials

Required Texts:

  • Barton, David and Carmen Lee. Language Online: Investigating Digital Texts and Practices. Routledge, 2013.
  • Jones, Rodney H. and Christof A. Hafner. Understanding Digital Literacies: A Practical Introduction. Routledge, 2012.
  • Eyman, Douglas, Digital Rhetoric: Theory, Method, Practice. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015.
  • Additional readings in PDF format will be provided by instructor via Blackboard
  • Note: Each student is required to bring his or her own annotated copy (that is, a copy that you read and took notes on) to class on days readings are assigned. You can use a tablet or laptop for course readings as long as you are able to take notes on the screen.

Attendance, Participation, and Professional Etiquette

This course is run as a graduate-level seminar and you are expected to be present and engaged for all class sessions (except in the case of illness, emergency, or official university-related activity). Learning in a seminar format depends upon preparation and active participation by the students as well as the professor. Therefore, it is very important that you not only read assigned texts but that you also think critically about the arguments, concepts, and potential applications of the materials. To do well in this course, you will need to read all assigned material prior to class, respond to assigned writing prompts, and engage in thoughtful, critical discussion with your classmates. Although this does not necessarily mean speaking up during every class session, it does mean arriving on time, being prepared, asking questions, and being attentive to the activities at hand.

In order to explore a breadth of perspectives on digital literacy and rhetoric, we will need to rely on the work and resources each of us brings to this experience. Throughout the semester, we will discuss readings, share collected materials and reading responses, and provide feedback on drafts of one another’s work. Your sustained engagement in this process will create a rich learning environment for yourself and your classmates and will help to construct a network of support for your intellectual and professional development.

My goal is to create a comfortable, inviting environment for all students so learning can take place. To this end, I expect professional and respectful behavior in class. Please be mindful of your behavior, language, and tone in all interactions with classmates and me. Behavior that detracts from the culture of respect and professionalism a class such as this requires will not be tolerated. Please do not text or talk on cell phones, use computers for reasons outside of our classwork, or engage in any other behavior that distracts from our work.

Late Work

With the exception of presentations or in-class activities (which cannot be made-up), I will accept late work only if prior arrangements have been made. Both major projects (1 & 2) must be completed to pass this class.


To help create productive discussions of assigned readings, I will ask you to respond in writing nearly every week. This practice will not only help you think critically about the arguments, concepts, and potential applications of our readings, but will also help us identify points of confusion, conflict, and consensus for discussion. These small assignments are a significant part of your final grade because they are designed as the heart of our class. They will provide you with an opportunity to apply reading concepts to concrete digital practices and examples. They will also help you to unpack the scholarly work we read and to explore connections to areas of interest to you.

Everyone will create a course blog/website on Edublog where these responses will be written as posts. This will help us enact and explore some of the concepts surrounding technology and writing. It will also make these responses public, at least to other members of the class, so that our discussions can draw from the expertise and experience of everyone in class.

In addition to the short writing you’ll do on your blog, you will also complete two longer seminar projects. Both projects, one on digital literacy and one on digital rhetoric, are flexible in focus and approach. That means you will have considerable latitude in choosing your specific topic of inquiry and method of investigation. We will discuss options and grading criteria in detail in class.

When assigned, I will ask that you respond to the day’s readings in a blog post equivalent to around 1-3 single-spaced pages (about 250-750 words). A good response will also do at least a few of the following:

  • addressing the day’s specific prompt
  • connect the reading to other readings and/or larger conversations in the field
  • reference specific passages (with page numbers)
  • provide summation when necessary to clarify points
  • focus on unpacking the meaning/implication of key ideas
  • pose questions to stimulate discussion
  • link to and discuss examples or other material relevant to the reading and our course discussions

Assignments and Points

Assignments %
Project # 1: Examining Digital Literacies 25
Project #2: Investigating Digital Rhetorics 25
Edublog with weekly posts to readings and activities 40
Participation 10
Total 100

Students with Disabilities

Every attempt will be made to offer reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities in this course.  Students with disabilities who may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to notify the instructor privately and to contact Student Disability Services (SDS) as soon as possible.  SDS staff are available in the Capulli Center in Suite 3101 or by phone at (619) 594-6473 (voice) or (619) 594-2929 (TTD/TTY).

If you are a student with a disability and believe you will need accommodations for this class, it is your responsibility to contact Student Disability Services. To avoid any delay in the receipt of your accommodations, you should contact Student Disability Services as soon as possible. Please note that accommodations are not retroactive, and that accommodations based upon disability cannot be provided until you have presented your instructor with an accommodation letter from Student Disability Services. Your cooperation is appreciated.


There are many events and situations that put additional stress on being a student.  SDSU has an excellent center for Counseling & Psychological Services that is open to students Monday through Friday from 8am-4:30pm. To set up an initial consultation, call (619) 594-5220. For immediate or emergency help, you are welcome to use San Diego’s free 24-hour counseling access line at (800) 479-3339.  C&PS on campus also has a “Center for Well-Being” with multiple stations for relaxation if you are feeling stressed during the semester.  C&PS is located in the Capulli Center, Room 4401.

Academic Honesty

All work in this course must be original. Plagiarism will result in serious consequences ranging from grade reduction to failure in the class to expulsion from the college. For more information on the university cheating and plagiarism policy, please visit: policy/pfacademics.html.  SDSU’s library also has an excellent tutorial on how to avoid plagiarism.

Discrimination and Harassment

SDSU complies with all federal and state laws regarding discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, medical status, veteran status, and disability. Further, the expectation for our classroom is that it is a safe, collegial space where differences of background and perspective are treated with consideration and respect. Disagreement on some issues is expected as part of the learning process, but should always be expressed within a framework of collegiality.