How have literacy and literature changed in the age of Twitter, Facebook, video games, big data, cell phones, interactive narratives, and textual markup? How do digital technologies influence how we read, write, and even think? How does texting change how we write and talk? How are Facebook and Google adjusting our relationship to writing, memory, and culture? In what ways can digital archives change how we write and conduct research? What exactly is digital literacy and why is it so important? How will it change the future of literature in a digital age?

This course will engage digital literacy as both a concept and a practice, offering students an introduction to the critical perspectives and tools needed to understand, critique, and participate in our contemporary digital environment. In addition to surveying the history of writing and the role of technology in the humanities, we will investigate the cultural, cognitive, and aesthetic consequences that digital technologies have on conventional notions of literature and literacy. From a practical perspective, this course is designed to help students approach new technology, new software, and new programs with curiosity and confidence, equipping them with the skills needed to understand and critique the digital humanities. Students will learn how to use and manipulate the basic building blocks of writing in digital environments (text, sound, image, video, design, and interactivity), while experimenting with multimedia composing tools and learning about the basic principles of markup, metadata, and archival research. In the process, the course will investigate digital literacy from a variety of perspectives, exploring issues like the problem of attention and distraction online; the influence of emojis and social media on writing; the role of machine reading in literary analysis; and the evolution of art, storytelling, and other cultural forms in the wake of digital computers. 

In addition to the primary texts, readings will include examples of digital art, electronic literature, interactive storytelling, and videogames. No technical experience is required. All students are welcome.

Required Texts and Materials:

Required readings include the following texts, as well as all other materials listed on the syllabus.

  • The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media, edited by Ryan, Emerson, and Robertson, 978-1421412245
  • Adam Hammond, Literature in the Digital Age: An Introduction, 978-1107615076
  • T. Anderson, Feed, 978-0763662622

Course goals and Objectives:

By the end of the course, students should have improved their ability:

  • To understand digital literacy as both a concept and a practice, gaining critical perspective on new media, digital media, and the relationship between writing and technology.
  • To critically and creatively participate in our current digital environment, deploying digital tools and literacies for a different purposes.
  • To adapt and learn new skills through self-reflection and critical thinking
  • To understand the basic building blocks of reading and writing in Internet environment, including the broader cultural issues involved with digital and online media.
  • To read across a variety of different genre and media, contextualizing forms of expression in the wider context of historical forces.
  • To understand how digital tools, archives, and databases are changing our relationship to reading, writing, literature, and history.
  • To understand digital art and electronic literature and the kind of questions that raise
  • To identify and understand different plot types, genre, and media in the expanding world of art and aesthetics, writing and literature.
  • To hone your critical thinking, reading, and writing skills by analyzing multimodal media and using online digital tools to create multimodal projects.
  • To self-learn new modes of literacy and their associated techniques, including basic HTML, data visualization, graphic design, distant reading, and multimodal storytelling
  • To articulate and discuss the cultural implications of digital media, digital literacy, and new forms of communication, while becoming more self-conscious about their own interaction with media

Course Information:

  • ENG 365: Digital Literacies (“Digital Literacy & Digital Literature”)
  • Spring 2017, MWF, 1:00-1:50 PM
  • Location: LAB 205

Professor Information:

  • Professor Craig Carey, University of Southern Mississippi
  • Email Address: craig.carey@usm.edu
  • Office Phone: (601) 266-4072
  • Office: Liberal Arts Building 342
  • Office Hours: W 2-3:00 PM and T 11-1:00 PM; and by appointment