Fall 1999 Syllabus
Available in the off-campus Student Bookstore, corner of College and Sloan, and at www.bigwords.com, access code B-UBR9. This is a new service, so if they give you any trouble, there is always AMAZON. You might also look into a new online college bookstore, www.varsitybooks.com, which is giving away $10 gift certificates to new users.
Creating Killer Web Sites: The Art of Third Generation Site Design. 2nd ed. David Siegel. Hayden Books, 1997. See also http://www.killersites.com.
The Secrets of Successful Web Sites: Project Management on the World Wide Web. David Siegel. Hayden Books, 1997. See also http://www.secretsites.com.
Other Readings provided on Electronic Reserve and in a box in the MATRF Lab.
Optional texts recommended but not required:
Deconstructing Web Graphics 2: Web Design Case Studies and Tutorials. Lynda Weinman, Jon Warren Lentz, 1998.
Snow Crash. Neal Stephenson. Bantam paperback.1993.
You will also be REQUIRED to subscribe to the World Wide Web Artists Coalition (WWWAC) listserv during the time that you are enrolled in this class. It is part of the weekly assigned course readings. I recommend you subscribe in digest form, and refrain from posting to the list itself. This is a very active professional listserv based in New York City, and its members work in the heart of Silicon Alley. Naive newbies are often flamed if they say the wrong thing. Instead, if you want to discuss topics from the WWWAC list, lets take them to our class listserv, WebPub, instead, where we don't have to worry about sophisticated web professionals flaming us.
This course is a graduate seminar in the theory and practice of communicating effectively on the World Wide Web.
Prerequisites: Visual Communication Seminar 860.
Objectives: This course examines the evolving cultures of the World Wide Web in a proactive fashion, taking a rhetorical approach to interactivity and hypertextual structuring. Students will also study methods of professional conduct in the burgeoning field of new media, preparing them to enter a workplace where their skills are in high demand. Students will learn to plan, produce, and launch comprehensive "third generation" Web sites with a high degree of sophistication. They will also develop (on their own) personal project sites that will serve as their online portfolios to show future employers and freelance clients. By using a rhetorical framework and considering the effects on online audiences and cultures, students will be able to apply what they have learned to other situations as new media evolve online.
We will be using the collaborative electronic learning forum on the CLE. I will also introduce you to other leading edge forms of electronic communication, as we explore what it may mean to communicate effectively in the future. The most important goal for me is that the computers do not obstruct human interactions, but rather, that they become a tool for accessing people, images, and ideas, and thinking and writing about them.
This course will take both a theoretical and hands-on approach to web publishing and will include topics such as "real" and "pseudo" interactivity, hypertext theory, privacy and ethics, the rhetorics of online social movements, as well as issues in technology and social theory. This course will help you improve your ability to adapt to fast-changing web cultures and design trends, as well as to critically examine the social effects of those trends. It will not be organized around creating a list of "RULES" for web design, because the web is in a constant state of flux. Rather, we will learn to ride the chaos as the fragmented and socially constructed subjects we are. My goal is to give you critical tools to grow and thrive with the web as it continues to evolve as a significant force in our culture.
Four types of activities will take place in this class, and you are expected to actively participate in all of them.
We will have active discussions of assigned scholarly and professional readings (both paper and electronic texts). You are expected to come to class prepared to contribute to the seminar discussions at a graduate level.
We will also have public viewing of our case study presentations and projects, called "Crit Sessions" or "Crits," in which everyone will contribute positive and constructive comments, articulating the principles we have developed and learned. As part of this activity, you are expected to collaboratively author a class "textbook" for the course, as we creatively archive our collective knowledge-making in a class web site, called "Ginger" (named for the movie star in Gilligan's Island).
We will have minimal lecture and instruction in various software packages, as needed. You are expected to follow along in any tutorials, and to come to the aid of any nearby classmates who might be struggling. This class operates under the principle that learning is a collaborative experience. We will cover a lot of ground very quickly. You will have to stay sharp and help each other in order to keep up. If we all work together, we will be able to move past html fundamentals in order to have sophisticated discussions and third generation projects by the end of the semester.
Finally, a good portion of this class will involve hands-on workshop time, as you work on your projects and get help in process. Even with this in-class workshop time, you are expected to put in considerable hours outside of class on your projects.
Academic honesty is expected. Due to the interactive nature of the class, there will be many opportunities for collaboration on projects. However, it is not acceptable to turn in pieces professionally designed by someone else as your own work. I will enforce this rule most strictly.
Coursework will be evaluated as follows:
There will be three major
web projects, one wild and crazy, existing
as a site of experimental bleeding edge web design, one
community-based and focused on evolving web cultures, and one
more focused on pragmatic information delivery or e-commerce. There
will also be
Twenty percent of your grade is based on Class Participation. This includes required reading response papers posted weekly to the WebPub class bulletin board, weekly case study presentations on the readings (archived and linked afterward on Ginger), and a final academic research paper that seeks to integrate what you have learned about hypertext theory, cyberculture, and e-commerce. Clearly attendance is mandatory, especially because this is an evening seminar where so much ground is covered. Please speak to me if you absolutely must miss class. More than one absence will adversely affect your grade.
I want to specifically request that you keep flaming to a minimum and treat all classmates with the honor and respect all human beings deserve. I will be just another list member, posting along with you. You may also email me privately at any time during the semester. Also, should you get carried away and accidentally write a response paper that you realize in hindsight is too personal or volatile for the public forum, you may send it to me privately, with a clear disclaimer explaining what happened. I will give you credit and keep such correspondence private, but I expect it not to happen too often. Since this is a 15 week semester, there will be a required 15 minimum posts to WebPub, spaced out over the semester, on either assigned topics or open topics. If you do not meet this minimum number of posts, IT WILL adversely affect your grade. Please read that sentence again.
Project #1: Collaborative Class Web Site. A no-holds-barred exercise in web creativity. Here is where we push on the envelope of web interface design. Ginger is YOUR site. It will evolve and grow over the course of the semester, linking our case study reports, archived discussions, and ongoing projects.
Project #2: Entering a Dialogic Web Community or Culture. Investigate and observe how cultures and communities sustain themselves on the Web. Individually or in groups, choose a sector of cyberspace that interests you and attempt to create a web site that both introduces and integrates your site into the ongoing conversations of that community. This is a study in rhetorical ethos and interactive communication. The biggest mistake web designers make is operating out of the model of an individualistic creator foisting her completed work out on an unsuspecting Internet, a shortsighted and one-way approach that doesn't really fit in a dialogic medium. During this project, we will be trying to develop a class definition of interactivity, as well as an attempt to hash out exactly what makes up an online culture or community.
Project #3 Developing a Professional Information Delivery or E-Commerce Site. Individually or in groups, find a real world client in need of a comprehensive and navigable web site. The selection of a client and site must be approved by the instructor. A simple storefront "hanging out a shingle" site will not be adequate for this project. Those kinds of pages are a dime a dozen, and the jury is still out on whether or not they will be effective. Rather, the proposed site design (and redesigns will only be considered if the work required is substantive) must adopt a comprehensive web marketing strategy, incorporating audience analysis and all that we will have learned about interactivity and user testing. There should be a clear navigational strategy as well, worked out in storyboards through various sectors of the site. The goal for this project is to take you beyond the status quo, beyond entry level, and turn you into sophisticated and web savvy site designers.
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