English 238 (F 2024) – Assignments

Assignments for English 238 (F 2024):
Critical Infrastructure Studies

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, media studies, 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). (See examples of blog posts by graduate student sin the 2018 and 2020 versions of this course.)

Please propose to the instructor by Class 4 on Canvas possible topics for blog posts with a timeline for completing them (Canvas: Proposal & timeline for blog posts.) This proposal is fungible. You can later change topics or adjust your timeline. But submitting a proposal ensures that you are 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 to avoid bunching them up at the end.

Posts should be posted as they are completed (and submitted as they are completed as links on Canvas here: Blog assignment submissions). All posts must be completed by Dec. 9th, 2024.

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.

Advice on research blog posts

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 present or report on research in the field; discuss the context, method, implications, and problems of that research; relate the issues to other academic or world issues (where relevant and useful); and include some links or references (plus, as appropriate, images). By contrast with publications in journals and other venues of final record, research 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 at times to be avowedly exploratory, speculative, or controversial. For posts, 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 pros and cons of referring to/citing blogs in academic research (2013). A more recent guide is by Alice Fleerackers: “Blogging Your Research: Tips for Getting Started” (2020).

Below are a few good models of influential academic blogs. (These are selected just from the digital humanities field. Suggestions for examples from other fields are welcome.)

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. 9th, 2024.  Please submit through Canvas here: Research essay assignment submissions.

Assignment B — “Starter Kit” for Infrastructure Studies in an Area or on a Topic

Due by Class 10, Dec. 3, 2024 (for presentations that day)

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. (See also examples of starter kits created by graduate studies for the 2018 version of this course.) 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): Students should ideally publish their “Starter Kits” on their own blogs or other sites. (Alternatively, the CIstudies.org site can host starter kits. See below.)The English 238 course site and CIstudies.org site will then link to the kits (unless you would prefer not).

While developing your kit, it is best to 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 discrete text, images, and links. However, these latter formats are fine for presenting the kit when you want to show it in class.) If you wish CIstudies.org to host your kit, you can develop it 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.

For students wishing CIstudies.org to host their starter kit: during or at the close of the course, the instructor can provide permissions for you to mount your finished kit on the CIstudies.org site, or can do it for you if you do not have enough familiarity with HTML and CSS to do so. For a design template, you can follow the form of the webpage for the “Starter Kit” created by the instructor for the “Romanticism and Critical Infrastructure Studies” event at NASSR 2018. However, if you have HTML/CSS/JavaScript skills, you are free to improvise.

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.

Submission of Starter Kit: Please submit your starter kit in an appropriate format (e.g., link, HTML, document) on Canvas here: Starter Kit submissions.