Course Information


  • Number: ENGL 303
  • Title: Approaches to English Studies: Cyberculture
  • Term: Spring 2018


  • Name: Andrew Pilsch
  • Contact:
  • Office Hours & Locations:
    • , T 1-4 LAAH 417

Course Policies

These are the policies that govern our class. You are responsible for knowing the information on this page before contacting me regarding policy questions.

Email Office Hours

I am available to answer email from 9:00am until 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Emails arriving outside of that time will be answered at my earliest convenience, but do not count on a quick answer to emails sent late at night or on the weekends.

Office Door

If my door is closed and it is not during office hours, please do not knock. I open my door when I’m available to chat outside of office hours, but close my door if I am working and cannot be disturbed.


Per university policy, I cannot discuss grades via email. Please visit my office hours if you would like to discuss your grade on an assignment.

Grade Values

  • A 90-100
  • B 80-89
  • C 70-79
  • D 60-69
  • F 59 or less

Feedback and Assignment Points

Before each assignment, I will provide you with a copy of my grading rubric for the assignment to give you a sense of what I will be targeting in each assignment. This sheet will break down each component of your grade and add up to 100 points. I will read each assignment, mark up a rubric, and provide a few paragraphs of comments on your assignment.

These points will be weighted according to the point breakdown described on the Assignments page, which will determine your overall final grade.


Students are expected to attend all classes. For classes with readings, you are required to complete a participation card; for those without, I will keep a record of attendance. If you miss more than two classes for unexcused absences, your grade will start reducing with each additional absence.

Excused Absences

Student Rule 7 covers the cases in which absences will be excused and in which late work will be tolerated. The following conditions will be excused:

  • Participation in an activity appearing on the university authorized activity list. (see List of Authorized and Sponsored Activities)
  • Death or major illness in a student’s immediate family. Immediate family may include: mother, father, sister, brother, grandparents, spouse, child, spouse’s child, spouse’s parents, spouse’s grandparents, stepmother, step-father, step-sister, step-brother, step-grandparents, grandchild, step-grandchild, legal guardian, and others as deemed appropriate by faculty member or student’s academic Dean or designee.
  • Illness of a dependent family member.
  • Participation in legal proceedings or administrative procedures that require a student’s presence.
  • Religious holy day. (See Appendix IV.)
  • Injury or Illness that is too severe or contagious for the student to attend class.
  • Required participation in military duties.
  • Mandatory admission interviews for professional or graduate school which cannot be rescheduled.
  • Mandatory participation as a student-athlete in NCAA-sanctioned competition.
  • In accordance with Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, Texas A&M University shall treat pregnancy (childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy and recovery therefrom) and related conditions as a justification for an excused absence for so long a period of time as is deemed medically necessary by the student’s physician. Requests for excused absence related to pregnancy should be directed to the instructor; questions about Title IX should be directed to the University Title IX Coordinator.

Note About Excused Absences

In the event of a chronic illness or other sudden condition that will result in significant time away from class, please inform me of the situation before you return to class, so that we can work out how to handle the situation before it becomes an issue.

Late Work

Under Student Rule 7.4, I am under “under no obligation to provide an opportunity for the student to make up work missed because of an unexcused absence.” However, I do accept late work and will take off 5 points for every day late. These points are removed after the paper is graded, such that a paper that would have received an 85% that was 3 days late will receive a 70%.

Extension Policy

Additionally, if you are falling behind on a project and feel that you are not going to finish on time, email me 24 hours before the assignment is due to request an extension. In this email, propose how many additional days you will need to finish the assignment. Requests for extension that do not contain this information will not be honored.


In the 21st century, it is unreasonable to accept “my computer died” as an excuse for late work. If you are working on assignments on a computer, please back up your work offsite. Sites such as Dropbox and Google Drive provide space for storing copies of your work; even a USB drive can be enough. I have recently started using BackBlaze and found it to be a great and inexpensive online, automated backup. Save multiple times throughout each work session to both your backup and your computer’s copy. In this class, I hold you accountable for making sure your technology is working correctly.

Academic Integrity

Aggie Honor Code.An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.” It is the student’s responsibility to know the Aggie Honor Code and to understand what constitutes scholastic dishonesty and to avoid it all costs. Anything (particularly plagiarism and cheating on quizzes or projects) that appears to be a violation of the Aggie Honor Code will be reported to the appropriate authorities. For additional information please visit:

Also, the following is a helpful resource for describing kinds and severity of plagiarism. Note this graphic is not from A&M, where rules may differ:

American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact Disability Services, in Cain Hall, Room B118, or call 845-1637. For additional information visit


Assignment Values

Assignment Due Date Value
Participation Cards Daily 20%
Paper #1 – English Studies Story 2017.03.02 20%
Paper #2 – My English Literature Manifesto Technological Change 2017.04.06 25%
Paper #3 – Digital Toy Design Fiction 2017.05.04 35%

Assignment Descriptions

Participation Cards

Starting the second week of class, you will be required to bring a 3”x5” notecard to class each day. These cards will serve to record your attendance in class. More importantly, they will structure class participation.

There are three required elements on a participation card for it to count as attendance:

  1. Your name (top of card)
  2. A passage that stuck with you from the reading (front of card)
  3. An unanswered question based on class discussion (back of card)

At the beginning of each class, I will give you two minutes to write out one sentence from the reading that stuck with you: that you loved, that you hated, or that confused you (you may also bring a prepared card, if you like). We will begin class discussion by going around the room and reading our passages. This activity will serve to spark our discussion of the reading.

At the end of each class, I will give you three minutes to write out (in complete sentences) an answer to the following: “What topic did we raise today that is going to keep you up tonight? If nothing, what should we have asked that would keep you thinking into the night?” This is your chance to show me what you learned in discussion, what you wished you had learned, and/or what you still want to learn. I will be using these to help shape future discussions.

You are required to bring your own 3”x5” cards to class. Additionally, days where there are no readings (BigDIVA demo, days marked “Writing Day” on the syllabus), I will take attendance and no card is required.

Paper #1 – English Studies Story

Create a story that shows why you became an English major. The story can be fictional or true. The story can be as funny or as serious as you want. The story does not have to directly answer the question of why you became an English major. The story does not have to be a narrative. The story does not have to be prose. The story does not have to be written.

Paper #2 – My English Major Manifesto

Based on peer feedback and my feedback from your narrative, compose your intellectual statement for “why English?” Additionally, outline an action plan for completing your major, including research to pursue, skills to acquire, and courses you hope to take.

Paper #2 – Technological Change

As we have been discussing in class, digital technologies are changing a lot of day-to-day practices. For this assignment, think about a change you’ve observed in your own life, your peers’ lives, the life of your hometown, or at A&M that is being brought about by digital technology. As a few examples (which are not exhaustive of possible topics), you could talk about reading eBooks for class, the use of health trackers (such as FitBit), or coordinating student organizations through services such as Slack or Facebook.

As you select a change, think about the following elements I want in your paper:

  1. What is the history of the technology?
    1. How was it first created?
    2. How is it currently used?
    3. What analog or earlier digital technologies does it remediate?
  2. What are the affordances of this technology? You should have at least three.
    1. How are these unique to the technology?
    2. How are they different from earlier technologies?
  3. Given these affordances, what new social dynamics are revealed, created, or imagined based on these affordances? In other words, how do these technologies let their users do things differently?
  4. As a conclusion, what new social or cultural issues need to be taken into account as the technology evolves further?

Remember, as danah boyd reminds us in It’s Complicated, technology is neither utopian nor dystopian, but merely emphasizes or mutates existing social factors. I do not want a paper that argues that everything is great or that the sky is falling. Rather than engaging in moral panic, the challenge of this assignment is to think seriously and critically about what exists, both good and bad, and think about possible interventions that could be made in practice.

This paper should be between 6 and 8 pages in length, and will more than likely need to cite external sources, though there is no fixed number of required sources (but at least 1 per page is a safe number).

Paper #3 – Digital Toy Design Fiction

For this assignment, you will need to produce an artifact documenting or describing a digital toy (defined however you want) that might exist in the future. The artifact you produce can take a variety of forms, but here are some examples:

  • A user manual
  • A Kickstarter promotional video
  • Some blueprints / diagrams / patent applications
  • A collection of Instagram sponsored posts advertising the product
  • Yelp reviews
  • A short story
  • Promotional art
  • A press release
  • A corporate website
  • A pitch presentation

You are not required, for this assignment, to have actually created the device in question, but, instead, to create a piece of writing (defined broadly) that will tell a specific audience about the product you envision. So, you imagine a fake digital toy and then document it as though it were real.

The product you write about can be genuine, satiric, ironic, surreal, or familiar. In this assignment, you can celebrate digital culture, tweak it, critique it, and take it apart to see how it works.

This assignment is an exercise in design fiction, the recently defined practice of blending science fictional speculation with design practice. Here are some examples to take a look at:

Deliverables (added 04.17.2018)

You are required to turn in two deliverables:

  1. Your Artifact (described above)
  2. A Creator’s Statement
    • This will be a brief, 1-2 page document explaining the technology your artifact is exploring, why you are interested in exploring it, and why you chose to explore it in the way you did.


Week 1 – Introduction

Week 2

Unit 1 – Knowing w/ Interfaces

Week 3

Tue 01/30

Thu 02/01

Week 4

Tue 02/06

Thu 02/08

  • BigDIVA & IDHMC Presentation
  • Meeting in LAAH 433

Week 5

Tue 02/13

Thu 02/15

Week 6

Tue 02/20

Thu 02/22

  • Workshop Day
  • Come to Class w/ 2 copies of at least 2 pages of writing

Unit 2 – Identity w/ Online Personae

Week 7

Tue 02/27

  • “The Explorers” from You Can Do Anything by George Anders

Thu 03/01

  • “It’s 480 BC – You Have an Ax” from You Can Do Anything by George Anders
  • Paper #1 Due Friday 3/2 by 11:59PM

Week 8

Thu 03/08

  • “The Winter Market” by William Gibson

Week 9

Tue 03/13

No Class

Spring Break

Thu 03/15

No Class

Spring Break

Week 10

Tue 03/20

Thu 03/22

  • “Project Chanology” from Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy by Gabriella Coleman

Week 11

Thu 03/29

  • Workshop Day
  • Come to Class w/ 2 copies of at least 2 pages of writing

Unit 3 – Aliveness w/ Digital Toys

Week 12

Tue 04/03

Thu 04/05

  • From “Seven Dada Manifestoes” by Tristan Tzara
  • “The Cut-Up Method” by William S. Burroughs
  • Paper #2 Due Friday 4/6 by 11:59PM

Week 13

Tue 04/10

Thu 04/12

Week 14

Tue 04/17

  • Read/watch all the examples for Paper #3

Thu 04/19

  • Brainstorming Activity

Week 15

Tue 04/24

  • Workshop Day
  • Come to Class w/ 2 copies of at least 2 pages of writing

Thu 04/26

  • What Have We Learned?
  • Paper #3 Due Friday 5/4 by 11:59PM