Welcome to the archive site for my Spring 2005 course on Network(ed) Rhetorics. I've shuffled the sidebar a bit, so as to make what's here a little more visible and available, but the site itself pretty much settled into stasis shortly following the end of the course.
However, this course grew out of an emerging interest of mine, one that I'm still working on, and so I'm taking some of the design of this site, as well as the intellectual exigency underlying it, and porting it over to my own domain. Where, if things go well, I'll be producing a book on the very topic of network(ed) rhetorics, and doing so "live." So if you're interested in what's happened here, I hope you'll join me over there as well.
In the meantime, below is the initial course description for this class, and you can access course documents, archives, etc., from the sidebar... cgb
Over the past few years and across a range of disciplines, writers have turned to the study of networks to assist them in modeling various phenomena: fashion trends, sexual contact, social cohesion, disease outbreaks, the development of organizations, the diffusion of ideas, et al. And now, with the development of various forms of social software, the emerging field of network studies has never been more relevant to the study of rhetoric and writing. With more than 4 million active weblogs, according to Technorati, this phenomenon represents a massive site for rhetorical inquiry, one that has gone largely unnoticed. Weblogs are posing a serious challenge to the entrenched customs of both politics and journalism; Wikipedia is causing many to reconsider how trust and credibility are developed in online environments; RSS feeds, Google queries and the like are changing the way we conduct research; graph-based data visualizations offer us new perspectives on collecting, presenting, and understanding information; and on our own campus, The Facebook is reinventing the social lives of our students. The question is no longer whether networks are relevant to what we do, but whether we can continue to ignore them.
Because network studies is an emerging field, we will read broadly across disciplines in this course, and ask some of the fundamental questions that necessarily arise in an encounter with a new field of study:
- What are networks, and how do they behave?
- What are the central tenets of network studies? Its key terms and vocabularies?
- How does the study of networks translate into the field of rhetoric? Is it possible to identify and investigate what we might call discursive networks?
- How might network studies inform our field methodologically?
- Are there implications in network studies for our own writing, and the writing we ask of our students?
We will approach these questions inductively, for the answers themselves are still developing. Network studies is animated both by a spirit of inquiry and by frequent collaboration, and we will attempt to instantiate those values in this course. Students will maintain their own weblogs, contribute to a collaborative course blog, and experiment with a variety of social software applications. I will invite many of the writers whose work we read to participate as guests on our course blog, and I am currently working to network the course itself with related courses at other institutions. In this way, I hope to develop the course itself as a relevant site for our discussions and reflections. Course projects, written or otherwise, will be negotiated within the context of the workload for the class.
This course will be technology-intensive, and while there are no "computer literacy" prerequisites, developing some facility and familiarity with a range of software will be one of the expectations. Whenever possible, I will attempt to build that development into the course itself, but you should be prepared to spend some time outside of class, beyond the reading and writing, to work on this element of the course.