Assignments for English 238 (F 2018)
Assignment A — Research Blog Posts or Essay
Students have the choice of completing a writing assignment for the course in one of two ways. (See below for timeline and due dates.)
Option A: Research Blog Posts
Write and post online a set of blog posts (at least three blog posts of moderate, 1,000-word length; or two longer blog posts of at least 1,500 words each). The focus of the blog posts should be on infrastructure studies as related to your field, area, or topic of interest. For example, if you are working on the Early Modern period, postcolonialism, or the digital humanities, you should write blog posts that bear either on the general relation between infrastructure studies and those fields (e.g., “Why Infrastructure Matters in Postcolonial Studies”) or on some specific infrastructural aspect of those fields (e.g., “transportation” or “waste” in any of the above).
Timeline: Please propose to the instructor by Class 4 a set of “possible topics for blog posts” and timeline for completing them. This proposal does not commit you (you can change topics and adjust the timeline). But it ensures that you do some planning for the posts and gives the instructor an opportunity to provide guidance. You will also have a chance to discuss your plans for the posts (along with your “starter kit”; see assignment below) during Class 6 of the course, which is devoted to interim reports. Try to space out the writing of your blog posts during the course to avoid bunching them up at the end. Posts should be completed by Dec. 10th, 2018. Unless you prefer otherwise, links to your blog posts will be included on the course site and the CIstudies.org site as contributions to critical infrastructure studies by students in the course.
Blogging Methods and Best Practices:
Students who already keep a blog can, if appropriate, publish the required blog posts on their own blog or create a category on their blog titled something like “[Name of My Field] and Critical Infrastructure Studies.” Students new to blogging will need to start a blog. A widely-used and free blogging platform (which can also be used as a full-fledged “content management system” to build other kinds of sites) is WordPress.com. (You may want to consider establishing at low cost a personal domain and site for yourself at an educator-oriented provider like Reclaim Hosting. For example, alanyliu.org is hosted at Reclaim Hosting. This will allow you to evolve a full-fledged professional and research/teaching site identified with you that you will not need to migrate from institution to institution as you progress in your career.)
Good academic research blog posts commonly report on research (or instruction) in the field; discuss relevant contexts, methods, implications, and problems; relate the issues to other academic or world issues (where useful); and include links and references (plus, as appropriate, images). By contrast with publications in journals and other venues of final record, blog posts are more free to present partial or in-progress reports, to use personal voice, to supply only the necessary links without a complete bibliography, and to be avowedly exploratory, speculative, or controversial. For advice and resources on academic blogging, see for example: Tim Hitchcock, “Doing It In Public: Impact, Blogging, Social Media and the Academy”(2014); Rohan Maitzen, “Blogging: Accept No Substitutes!” (2013). See also Jenny Davis on citing blogs in academic research (2013).
Option B: Research Essay
Write a research essay that you think could be the basis of an article or a section of your dissertation. The essay should be between about 14 and 18 pages long, double-spaced (not including apparatus). There should be a bibliography formatted according to the style manual of your choice (e.g., MLA, Chicago Manual of Style). (Suggestion, use Zotero or the ZoteroBib tool to generate citations.)
The research paper is due by Dec. 10th, 2018. Please submit as a digital document (in word processor format).
Assignment B — “Starter Kit” for Infrastructure Studies in an Area or on a Topic
Due by Class 10, Dec. 6, 2018 (for presentations)
Please create a “Starter Kit” for infrastructure studies related to an area or topic that interests you. The “Starter Kit” should be similar in concept to the one the instructor prepared for the “Romanticism and Critical Infrastructure Studies” event at NASSR 2018. However, you have latitude to vary your target audience, content, and design.
Audience: By default, the audience for your “Starter Kit” should be a scholarly one (e.g., scholars in a particular field for whom your kit will serve as a quick-start introduction to infrastructural thinking). However, feel free to be innovative in choosing an intended audience—for instance: the general public, policy-makers, K-12 teachers, children. (The kit should clearly designate its intended audience if it is not a scholarly one.)
Content: The “Starter Kit” should include an interesting mix of readings, viewings, and exhibits with links and images, plus supporting bibliography. (Images and audio can only be reproduced if they are in the public domain, if they are under open license, or if you have permission.)
Design (and Preparation/Publication Method): Unless you would prefer not, “Starter Kits” will at the conclusion of the course be published under your byline on the CIstudies.org site, which is kept by the instructor. Also, you are free to publish the kit on your own blog or another site.
While developing your kit, please prepare and organize materials in a way that will allow for relatively easy migration to a webpage. For example, create your kit as Word document, Google Doc, or webpage on a blog site. (Do not create the kit in a PDF, PowerPoint, or other format that makes it difficult to migrate out discrete text, images, and links. However, these latter formats are fine for presenting the kit when you want to show it in class.) Alternatively, develop your kit natively on the CIstudies.org site on a page the instructor can start for you (see below). Good practice is to archive materials (especially Internet ones) as you work so that they do not disappear. For example, ask the Wayback Machine (Internet Archive) to take a snapshot of a site you are linking to in your kit.
Timeline: By Class 6, you should be far enough along that you can give an interim report on progress and directions (this class will also be a chance for you to report on your plans for your research blog posts or essay [see assignment above]. The “Starter Kit” should be ready for presentation by Class 10, which will be a show of student “Starter Kits.”
Optional Alternative: You are welcome to propose to the instructor an alternative to the “Starter Kit” assignment—for example, any of the following: a digital project, a video, a photographic essay, an art work, or a creative writing piece. The alternative project should have the same basic purpose as a “Starter Kit,” meaning it should function as a catalyst for thinking about infrastructure in a specific field or in relation to a particular topic (and also provide hints of relevant approaches, cases, materials, sites, etc. to think with). There should be a bibliography to accompany any alternative project.