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Project Descriptions


Project 1: Blog

I have posted a detailed document outlining the project and general guidelines for professional blogging to Dropbox. I've divided you up into two groups. In the prompt for each week, I will identify which group will be posting and which group will be commenting that week. You will post and comment as individuals, but your group assignment will determine whether you are posting or commenting in any given week.

Audience and deliverables: Throughout the semester you will maintain individual commentary and reflections about the course readings, our in-class discussions, and  your own material culture analyses with our class as audience. In the weeks when you are in the posting group, you will create a post in response to the prompt for that week. In the weeks when you are in the commenting group, you will offer substantive comments to at least two of the posts created by your peers. This blog is for our class and interested readers; it is also available to the public.

Extra credit: The blog responses are the only way you can earn extra credit in this course. You can earn more credit by offering comments beyond the two that are required in those weeks when you're in the commenting group, or by commenting on your peers' posts--in addition to writing your own post--in those weeks when you are in the posting group.

Flexibility: Many, though not all, of the prompts ask you to create a post that directly relates to issues and best practices connected with the project on which you’re working. Some of your posts may be included in your portfolio as indicative of your thinking about course subject matter and your own composition processes.

10 post prompt categories and related reading: Each week, I will post the prompt to which you will be responding to our class blog. The prompt will include required and recommended reading to further your understanding of the prompt topic.

  • Post 1. Week 1 — Writing and Material Culture
  • Post 2. Week 2 — Cute Things
  • Post 3. Week 3 — Dead Things
  • Post 4. Week 4 — Old Things
  • Post 5. Week 5 — Sharp Things
  • Post 6. Week 6 — Smart Things
  •  Post 7. Week 8/9 — Reading Things
  • Post 8. Week 10 — TBD
  • Post 9. Week 11 — TBD
  • Post 10. Week 12 — What Is Exposition?

Project 2: Twitter Essays

Click here for the evaluation rubric.

This project asks you to compose two "essays" of 140 characters--no more, no less--and post them to Twitter, using the hashtag "#gsures" ("res" is Latin for "things," so "GSU Things" is our hashtag, but I'm open to suggestions on this as well). Jesse Stommel, the inventor of the Twitter essay, describes the form this way:

Tweets often attempt to convey as much information in as few words as possible. A tweet could be seen, then, not as a paragon of the many potential horrors of student writing, but as a model of writerly concision.

Here's the prompt: What do objects teach us about ourselves? Answer w/ a Tweet of exactly 140 characters. Tag it #gsures. Be creative! Don't waste a character.

(These instructions are exactly 140 characters, so this gives you a sense for how much space you have to work with.)

Before tweeting, you'll post three drafts of your essay to the forum in the collaborative Google Doc. We'll spend time workshopping drafts in class, and you will provide peer review feedback to one another in the forum. Reviewing and revising these essays provides a unique opportunity to think about sentence-level revision as substantive revision.

You'll then post a revised essay on Twitter. The only rule is that you must include the hashtag somewhere in your Tweet. You can add additional hashtags or links, but you can only write one Tweet and it must be exactly 140 characters. Feel free to address any aspect of the question in the prompt. You can offer a revised definition of the word “object” or narrow in on a more specific topic. Spend time carefully composing, making sure every character of your tweet is necessary and meaningful. As you work, think also about the components of a traditional essay: a hook, an argument, supporting evidence, etc. While you can take creative license in how you interpret the word “essay,” you should at least be able to make an argument (if pressed) for how your Tweet functions as an essay.

In your reflection, you will respond to the following (challenging) prompt:

Rather than thinking about this prompt as a series of questions that you answer in order, approach your reflections as an essay intended to explain the choices you made over the course of the project, how your intentions evolved, and what you learned from engaging with this project, along with the readings and class discussions.

How did your understanding of the relationship between people and things or your understanding of what an object/artifact/possession is and does change as you worked through this project? What new details or associations were brought into focus?

A corollary question to consider is, What did you learn about how linguistic, spatial, and visual modes work together in exposition? How does the function of linguistic content change or evolve in multimodal contexts?

I addition to responding to these questions, your reflection should give me some insight into your research and composition process. I want to hear about anything that helps me to understand the work you put into this process, your writing process for the linguistic content, your selection and revision process for the multimodal content, decisions you had to make about trade-offs between conventions and expressive content in this medium, the "angle" you took on the project, etc. I like to hear about strengths of your project and also weaknesses, as well as what you would change if you had more time.

Above all, have fun! I value creativity, thoughtfulness, professionalism, and analytical rigor. I grade your projects accordingly. I do not have an “ideal” project in mind; instead, I like to be taught something meaningful and surprised.

Project 3: 3-D Model and Object Description

Click here for the evaluation rubric.

For this project, you will construct a 3-D digital model of or related to the object you have chosen to study in your multimodal object analysis. Your model can be an artistic rendering or a precise reconstruction. You will create a digital model using the tools available at GSU's CURVE. You can create a model of the object (either the whole thing or just a part of it) you are studying, or you can create a model of something--such as a geographic location, a set of data points, a tool used in making the object, etc.--that is closely related to or helps us to understand something significant about the object you've chosen to study.

As you are working, you should document your process for constructing the model through written reflections or journal entries, images, and whatever other means you may find useful. You will submit your model as a 3-D PDF on Google Drive, along with a draft of your written object description.

This project is intended to help focus or re-focus your attention, to help you notice new details or make new associations that you might otherwise overlook. You might experiment with a couple of different approaches--documenting your experiences as discussed above--before settling on one. You might integrate labels that identify significant attributes of your model, and these labels might be straightforward identifiers of the model's physical features, or they might be fanciful, intended to evoke questions in the viewer's mind about what the model is or what purpose it is intended to serve. Throughout the process, consider what role modeling does or should play in material cultural studies,  as an archival, observational, display, or descriptive strategy.

In your reflection, you will respond to the following (challenging) prompt:

Rather than thinking about this prompt as a series of questions that you answer in order, approach your reflections as an essay intended to explain the choices you made over the course of the project, how your intentions evolved, and what you learned from engaging with this project, along with the readings and class discussions.

How did your understanding of the relationship between people and things or your understanding of what an object/artifact/possession is and does change as you worked through this project? What new details or associations were brought into focus?

A corollary question to consider is, What did you learn about how linguistic, spatial, and visual modes work together in exposition? How does the function of linguistic content change or evolve in multimodal contexts? In your model, what expository functions (explanation, definition, description, summation, comparison, contrast, entertainment, persuasion, etc.) are performed by each of the various modalities?

I addition to responding to these questions, your reflection should give me some insight into your research and composition process. I want to hear about anything that helps me to understand the work you put into the model and blog post, your writing process for the linguistic content, your selection and revision process for the visual content, decisions you had to make about spatial relationships as you tweaked your model, the "angle" you took on the project, etc. I like to hear about strengths of your project and also weaknesses, as well as what you would change if you had more time.

Above all, have fun! I value creativity, thoughtfulness, professionalism, and analytical rigor. I grade your projects accordingly. I do not have an “ideal” project in mind; instead, I like to be taught something meaningful and surprised.

Project 4: Timeline

Click here for the evaluation rubric.

For this project, you will conduct research relevant to understanding the history and cultural significance of the object you began documenting in Project 3, and you will present some of your research as an interactive timeline that documents, describes, narrates, and explains the history of your object, ideally from multiple perspectives (e.g., personal, cultural, technological, economic, social, etc.). In creating the multimedia entries describing events on your timeline, you can use the photographs and digital model you created for Project 3, and you may also choose to create new images, and borrow (with attribution and citation) images created by others. In addition to text and images, your entries might also integrate video, hyperlinks, and sound recordings (again, provide attribution and citation when using or re-mixing pre-existing material).

Your timeline must comprise at least ten distinct entries, and each entry should make use of at least two modes. You can compose your entries however you wish, but your final timeline submission will be in the form of a Google spreadsheet, submitted on Google Drive, the template for which is available here. We're using this template because it is compatible with the Timeline JS tool built by Knight Labs. You can access a complete tutorial on using Timeline JS to create interactive timelines on the project website. You will also create a post on our class blog that provides the title and a brief (200-250 word) introduction to your timeline, and integrates the timeline display as described in Step 4 of the Timeline JS tutorial. You will file these posts under the category "Timeline."

Once everyone has submitted their individual timelines, I will aggregate the data into a single spreadsheet to create a timeline that will be displayed on our course website here. Then, working in class, we will collaboratively author a framing narrative that describes the timeline, explains how to use it, and begins to compare and contrast the narrative styles and rhetorical attributes on display in the stories you tell about your objects.

As with the Photo Study, I encourage you to be creative. You might build your timeline entries into one seamless narrative, or you might treat each entry as a mini expository essay. You might narrate your entries from the perspective of the object(s), from the perspective of individuals who play significant roles in the history of the object(s) your timeline describes, alternate between these two perspectives, or take on the role of a neutral (or maybe even alien) observer. In addition to information you uncover in your research, you might also identify, describe, and explain how the history of your object sheds light on the reading we've been doing in class. Experiment with the different methods of material culture analysis we've encountered thus far. And you should also feel free to model your prose on the writing we've been studying.

In your reflection, you will respond to the following (challenging) prompt:

Rather than thinking about this prompt as a series of questions that you answer in order, approach your reflections as an essay intended to explain the choices you made over the course of the project, how your intentions evolved, and what you learned from engaging with this project, along with the readings and class discussions.

How did your understanding of the relationship between people and things or your understanding of what an object/artifact/possession is and does change when you begin to document the history of your object? What did the act of identifying, describing, and explaining significant events in your object's history reveal about the significance of objects in human lives?

A corollary question to consider is, How does working in a form that encourages and even requires multimodality change the way you communicate? What modes did you employ? And what rhetorical techniques (explanation, definition, description, summation, comparison, contrast, entertainment, persuasion, etc.) did you implement via each of these modes and why?

I addition to responding to these questions, your reflection should give me some insight into your research and composition process. I want to hear about anything that helps me to understand the work you put into the timeline you created, your writing process for the linguistic content, your selection and revision process for the visual content, decisions you had to make about spatial relationships as you tweaked your display post, the "angle" you took on the project, etc. I like to hear about strengths of your project and also weaknesses, as well as what you would change if you had more time.

Above all, have fun! I value creativity, thoughtfulness, professionalism, and analytical rigor. I grade your projects accordingly. I do not have an “ideal” project in mind; instead, I like to be taught something meaningful and surprised.

Project 5: Multimodal Object Analysis

Click here for the evaluation rubric.

For this project, you will compose an object analysis, using the guidance provided in Kenneth Haltman's "Introduction" to American Artifacts. Over the course of the semester, we have read a number of essays that you can use as models. These include, "Lucubrations on a Lava Lamp: Technocracy, Counterculture, and Containment in the Sixties," by Jennifer L. Roberts; "The Truth of Material Culture: History or Fiction," by Jules David Prown (Prown's analysis of the teapot); " "The Cultural Work of a Mohegan Painted Basket," by Stephanie Fitzgerald; and "Style as Evidence," by Jules David Prown.

In your object analysis, you may draw on the methods of observation, research, and interpretation exhibited in these essays. You may also use them as formal and stylistic models as you consider how to organize, and craft the tone or authorial perspective in your object analysis. Your object analysis should comprise about 2500-3500 words, and it should be multimodal, integrating images, video, graphs, sound recordings, diagrams, etc., in order to provide a rich and detailed exposition of your object and what study of your object helps us to understand about the culture that created it.

You will post your final multimodal object analysis to our Omeka site, and build an exhibit around it. In addition to the object analysis, in order to build your exhibit, you will upload at least five (5) digital images. At least two (2) of those images must be high-quality photographs of your object. The remaining three (3) images can include additional photos of your object, or images of other objects (such as advertisements, undamaged specimens, reconstructions, etc.) associated with your object. Finally, you will upload your digital 3D model in both the original Agisoft or Blender format, along with a 3D pdf or screenshot. You can use this template as a model for organizing your Omeka exhibit, or you can use your own organizational plan as long as it includes all of the elements from the template.

As with the other projects, you will also submit a detailed reflection with your final draft. The reflection should be submitted on in your Google Drive "Multimodal Object Analysis" folder.

As with the other projects we've tackled so far, I encourage you to be creative. Your object analysis should be grounded in careful observation and meticulous research, but it can use language and imagery that is affective and provocative. Feel free to play around with your authorial voice or persona, and consider crafting a "character" of sorts, like those personas that we encounter reading Walter Benjamin, or the studies of David Wilson and the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Remember, while your object analysis should be credible and to some extent persuasive, the primary purpose of your object analysis is to describe, explain, and inform, rather than to convince your audience about the "correctness" of your observations and interpretation.

In your reflection, you will respond to the following (challenging) prompt:

Rather than thinking about this prompt as a series of questions that you answer in order, approach your reflection as an essay intended to explain the choices you made over the course of the project, how your intentions evolved, and what you learned from engaging with this project, along with the readings and class discussions.

How did your understanding of the relationship between people and things or your understanding of what an object/artifact/possession is and does change as you worked through this project? What new details or associations were brought into focus?

A corollary question to consider is, What did you learn about how linguistic, spatial, and visual modes work together in exposition? How does the function of linguistic content change or evolve in multimodal contexts? In your multimodal object analysis, what expository functions (explanation, definition, description, summation, comparison, contrast, entertainment, persuasion, etc.) are performed by each of the various modalities?

I addition to responding to these questions, your reflection should give me some insight into your research and composition process. I want to hear about anything that helps me to understand the work you put into your object analysis, your writing process for the linguistic content, your selection and revision process for the visual content, decisions you had to make about spatial relationships as you tweaked the presentation of your final draft on the blog, the "angle" you took on the project, etc. I like to hear about strengths of your project and also weaknesses, as well as what you would change if you had more time.

Above all, have fun! I value creativity, thoughtfulness, professionalism, and analytical rigor. I grade your projects accordingly. I do not have an “ideal” project in mind; instead, I like to be taught something meaningful and surprised.

Project 6: Portfolio

Audience and Deliverables: This project involves the compilation of a writer's portfolio. Each of you, working individually, will create a digital, web-based, public portfolio to showcase your work in this class.

Because this project is intended to help you either begin or polish a professional portfolio that can be used outside the context of this course, the portfolio you create will be a hybrid academic/professional portfolio that will accomplish the following goals:

  • Demonstrate through examples of multimodal exposition and written reflection a knowledge of relevant rhetorical terms and concepts and an ability to apply these terms and concepts in your own expository composition process;
  • Demonstrate individual intellectual growth, significant accomplishments, and important contributions in this course;
  • Demonstrate the technological competencies you have employed and developed over the course of the semester;
  • Offer a big-picture narrative of the course, its themes, its goals, and its final learning outcomes;
  • Offer a well-organized, well-designed, and engaging user experience

The audiences for the portfolio will simultaneously be me--as the evaluator of your progress and learning in the course this semester and of your revised artifacts, the intended audience(s) for the artifacts you are revising and including in the portfolio, and potential employers or other outside evaluators interested in learning about your qualifications and experience.

You have three options for hosting your portfolio website. First, if you already have a professional or personal website that is hosted by an external provider (i.e., not Georgia State), you may use that website as a platform for your portfolio for this class. Second, you may register and host a new domain at a very low cost ($25/year) with the non-profit, educational hosting provider Reclaim Hosting (www.reclaimhosting.com). Third, if you are not yet ready to invest in creating your own independent personal or professional website, you may use your personal blog site provided through sites.gsu.edu to host your portfolio.

Required Deliverables: The portfolio should accomplish the pedagogical goal of engaging you in meta-cognitive reflection regarding your learning over the course of the semester. For that reason, you will select three project artifacts to reflect upon (you may include more than three, but you must have at least three). You must revise at least one of these artifacts, and the best portfolios often demonstrate substantial revision of all of the artifacts included. Each artifact selected for inclusion in the portfolio should be introduced by a short (150-250 words) process narrative that includes discussion of the following things:

  • the process for creating the original final draft,
  • what you learned through peer review, my evaluation, and class discussions, and
  • how you revised the artifact in response to feedback and using knowledge and skills gained over the course of the semester (for at least one, and possibly all three artifacts)

In your selection of artifacts for your portfolio, please follow these guidelines:

  • Each of the three artifacts must be from a different project. Thus, you cannot, for example, select two blog posts and another project artifact (Twitter essays, photo study, timeline, 3-D model, or multimodal object analysis) as your three portfolio artifacts.
  • For the artifact(s) you choose to revise, you should preserve your original final draft for reference and possibly even display in your portfolio, in order to demonstrate what changes you made during your revision process between the original final draft(s) and your revised portfolio version(s).

You may include more than three artifacts in your portfolio, but you must choose at least three to reflect upon. Similarly, you may revise more than one of your portfolio artifacts, but you must revise at least one. You draw material for your process narratives from the reflections that you've written for Projects 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Further, the goals outlined above include demonstrating your intellectual growth, significant accomplishments, and important contributions in this course. To that end, the portfolio must include a cover letter or introductory reflective essay (500-750 words) that describes what you have learned and how you have improved your expository composition processes and rhetorical knowledge over the course of the semester, using the three artifacts and your revision(s) as supporting evidence.

Optional Deliverables: In class, after going over the project goals and required deliverables, we generated a list of contents that would be useful in achieving the goals outlined in the "Audience and Deliverables" section of this project description. These include, but are not limited to, a personal biography, a digital version of your resume, a list of courses you've taken. If you have questions about what, in addition to the required portfolio elements, you would like to include on your portfolio site, I am happy to discuss them with you.

Project duration:

  • Semester-long project
  • Final Portfolios due Friday, May 1 at 9:00 am

Useful Resources:

  • "Creating a Successful Online Portfolio," Sean Hodge, Smashing Magazine, March 4, 2008: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/03/04/creating-a-successful-online-portfolio/
  • University of Washington Expository Writing Program ePortfolio example: "QLiu": https://sites.google.com/a/uw.edu/qliu-portfolio/ (note, while the organizational format and requirements for this portfolio are different from those in this course, the reflections, the student's descriptions of how each piece evolved through the process, the discussion of the student's own evolution as a writer over the course of the program, and the manner in which exhibits and reflections are linked into a seamless document provide useful examples of strategies that you may find helpful in putting together the portfolio for this course)
  • University of Miami, Ohio The Best of Portfolios 2012 and The Best of Portfolios 2013 (Here again, use these examples to get a better understanding of the portfolio and particularly the reflective essay as a composition genre, rather than as "go by" documents or forms that you are trying to replicate)

Image credit "Shoes" by Beverley Goodwin on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bevgoodwin/12114063533.

 

Writing About Material Culture

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