Syllabus (Fall 2018)

ENGL 3726, New Media (Fall 2018)
Week 1 (Aug 22-24) Week 2 (Aug 27-31) Week 3 (Sep 3-7)
Week 4 (Sep 10-14) Week 5 (Sep 17-21) Week 6 (Sep 24-28)
Week 7 (Oct 1-5) Week 8  (Oct 8-12) Week 9  (Oct 15-17)
Fall Break (Oct 19) Week 10 (Oct 22-26) Week 11 (Oct 29-Nov 2)
Week 12 (Nov 5-9) Week 13 (Nov 12-16) Thanksgiving Break
Week 14 (Nov 26-30) Week 15 (Dec 3-5)
 Readings, Films, and Games
 Course Requirements

Course Description

This course explores the impact of new media on narrative through a focus on digital games.  Beginning with Lord of the Rings Online, a massively multiplayer role playing game (MMO), and indie games such as Braid, Journey, and Portal, the course introduces students to the literary and artistic challenges of constructing narratives in a digital environment and the implications of social media for concepts of self and society. In addition to the novels and films of Tolkien, the course looks at a variety of new media, films, and digital tools from Ready Player One to Twitter fictions, eSports, mapping programs, timelines, and video editing software.

Here is a trailer for a virtual reality environment based on Ready Player One that students produced in this class last year: https://youtu.be/StVIVT0FUZM.

The course has three components:

  • Games. Students will play a selection of indie games and the free-to-play MMO, The Lord of the Rings Online.  They will also do collaborative reports on games from diverse genres: first-person shooters, real time role playing games, mobile games, sports games, walking simulators, educational games, etc.
  • Readings. Texts will include literature in the romance tradition that inspired fantasy gaming from Keats, Tennyson, and Browning to J. R. R. Tolkien; novels and films about gaming such as Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One; Twitter fiction such as Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box”; media and game theory such as Bolter and Grusin’s Remediation: Understanding New Media, Jesper Juul’s Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, and McKenzie Wark’s Gamer Theory.
  • Digital projects. Students will create a blog and use social media platforms to learn how to convey complex arguments in visual, spatial, and audio formats. Assignments will introduce students to digital media such as visual storytelling tools, GIS mapping programs, timelines, and video editing software. The final assignment will involve creating a collaborative new media project.

No background in gaming or digital technology is required.  Students will learn the theory and practice of new media through demonstrations and hands-on workshops.  Students will need a laptop with a mouse that is capable of running Lord of the Rings Online (see system requirements at https://help.standingstonegames.com/hc/en-us/articles/115002036807-What-are-the-system-requirements-for-LOTRO-).

Learning goals

The course has two broad objectives, one concerning literary culture, the other focused on new media.

  1. Literary: To understand the cultural role of romance narrative down through the ages. In practice, this means learning about the roots of many online games in romance literature from Homer’s Odyssey  and medieval romance to Romantic and Victorian poetry to J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. New Media: To become more reflective about the media we experience in every aspect of our lives from film and television to social media to internet memes. In the process, students will develop enhanced skills in media production and analysis.

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Readings

  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) – purchase any edition, print or digital
  • Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl (1995) – multimedia USB or CD. Purchase the USB for $24.95 from Eastgate. There are a few CD copies available used from Amazon.
  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: A Novel (2011)  – purchase any edition, print or digital
  • Jennifer Egan, “Black Box,” New Yorker (June 4 and 11, 2012). Available free to Vanderbilt users.
  • Thomas Beller, “The Ongoing Story: Twitter and Writing,New Yorker (June 18, 2013). Available free to Vanderbilt users.
  • Neil Gaiman, “Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry” (Audio book, 2010). $1.95 from Amazon.
  • Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang, In Real Life (YA graphic novel)
  • Poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, and Constantine Cavafy (Brightspace)
  • Media theory:
    • Jesper Juul, “Introduction,” Half-Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, pp. 1-7, 18-21. (Brightspace)
    • McKenzie Wark, Ch. 1, “Agony (on the Cave),” Gamer Theory
    • J. David Bolter and Richard Grusin, from Remediation, “Introduction”

Films

  • King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, dir. Seth Gordon (2007)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, dir. Peter Jackson (extended version)
  • Frankenstein, dir. James Whale (1931)
  • Frankenstein, dir. Kenneth Branagh (1994)
  • Ready Player One, dir. Steven Spielberg (2018)

Games

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Week 1 (Aug 22-24)

Wednesday

Friday

  • Jesper Juul, “Introduction,” Half-Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, pp. 1-7, 18-21. (Brightspace)
  • Coursera, Online Games: Literature, New Media, and NarrativeWatch:
    • 1.5 A brief history of games
  • In class: Sign up for blog entry and presentation.
  • In class: PowerPoint as media

*

Week 2 (Aug 27-31)

Monday

  • King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007). Available for rent on Amazon

Tuesday (noon): Jonathan – blog 1 due

Wednesday

  • Braid (available on Steam) – Complete before class (alone or in teams).  Spend a minimum of two hours progressing through as many levels as you can of this platform game.  You do not have to finish the game, but there will be a prize for the individual or team who gets furthest.

Thursday (noon)  Kevis – blog 2 due

Friday

  • McKenzie Wark, Ch. 1, “Agony (on the Cave),” Gamer Theory. Available free online (and in Pdf for downloading) from the Library for Vanderbilt users.
  • LOTRO – Complete before class: Finish the Tutorial and begin the quests in the Intro region.
    • NOTE: If you complete the quests in the Intro region, your character will be around level 5-6.  You will know you have completed the Intro region when an NPC asks you to go with him to retake the region and warns you that you will not be able to do any more quests in the Intro area once you have accepted his quest.

*Week 3 (Sep 3-7)

Sunday (6:00 pm):  Sam G. – Blog 3 due

Monday

  • Frankenstein (dir. James Whale, 1931). Available for streaming on Amazon.

Wednesday

  • Frankenstein (dir. Kenneth Branagh, 1994). Available for streaming on Amazon.

Friday

  • Doctor Frankenstein (Flash Game, Y8.com, 2014) http://www.y8.com/games/doctor_frankenstein
  • LOTRO – Complete before class: Get your character past the Tutorial and into the Intro region.
    •  Your goal for today is to complete the quests in the Intro region, but don’t worry if you haven’t achieved that goal. Just be sure that you have made a good faith effort to complete quests and advance your charater.
    • When you complete the Intro, your character should be around level 5-6. You will know you have completed the Intro region when an NPC asks you to go with him to retake an important fort or cave in the region and warns you that you will not be able to do any more quests in the Intro area once you have accepted his quest.
  • In class workshop: Join Vicarious Universe and take a screen shot together in front of the kinship house (if possible–if you have not completed the Intro, you will not be able to join VU or go to the kinhouse with the rest of the class, but we will get you in the kinship on Monday).
  • In class: Preview Patchwork Girl

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Week 4 (Sep 10-14)

Sunday (6:00 pm):  Ishah – Blog 4 due

Monday

  • Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl (1995)

Wednesday

  • Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl (1995)

Friday

  • Shelley Jackson, Patchwork Girl (1995)
    • Read all of “Journal” and as much of “Story” as you have time for.
    • Each team should take 2-3 screen shots of interesting lexia in Patchwork Girl and send them to me before 8:00 am tomorrow. They will help me construct a pathway for our class discussion. I will post them all to Brightspace so that everyone can use the screenshots if they want in their video essay.
  • In class workshop: video essay.
    • Your assignment, due Monday, September 24, will be to create a video essay about King of Kong, Braid, Patchwork Girl, McKenzie Wark’s “Agony,” Jesper Juul’s “Introduction” to Half-Real, Cavafy’s “Ithaca,” Fellowship of the Ring (book, game, or movie), or another topic of your choice (as long as it’s relevant to the class).

*

Week 5 (Sep 17-21)

Monday

Tuesday (noon):  Leah – Blog 5 due

Wednesday

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (Book I, chapters 7-12 of the novel)

Friday

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (Read Book II, chapters 1-4 of the novel)

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Week 6 (Sep 24-28)

Monday

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (read Book II, Chapters 5-8)
  • Video due: 11:59 pm, Monday, September 24. Post a video essay to YouTube about King of Kong, Braid, Patchwork Girl, McKenzie Wark’s “Agony,” Jesper Juul’s “Introduction” to Half-Real, Cavafy’s “Ithaca,” Tolkein’s Fellowship of the Ring (book, game, or movie), or another topic of your choice (as long as it’s relevant to the class). Be sure that your video is marked as “public.”

Tuesday (noon):  Kathleen – Blog 6 due

Wednesday

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring (read Book II, Chapters 9-10)

Thursday (noon) Ben – blog 7 due

Friday

  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
  • In class: Major project introduced

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Week 7 (Oct 1-5)

Sunday (6:00 pm): Cole – Blog 8 due

Monday

  • Complete before class: Watch the extended version of the film, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, dir. Peter Jackson.  Note: the film is considerably longer than the theatrical release so please allow sufficient time.
  • If you have not done so already, you need to complete J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring before this class.
  • In class: Project selection begun

Wednesday

Thursday (noon) Joe – blog 9 due

Friday

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Week 8 (Oct 8-12)

Sunday (6:00 pm): Cassidy – Blog 10 due

Monday

Tuesday (noon): Ethan – Blog  11 due

Wednesday

  • Play Papers Please (3909, 2013). Spend a minimum of two hours progressing through as many levels as you can.  You do not have to finish the game.

Friday

  • Meet in small groups, at the Wondry or elsewhere. Pursue first project goals independently.

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Week 9 (Oct 15-17)

Sunday (6:00 pm):  Ben K. – Blog 12 due

Monday

  • Play Portal (Valve, 2007) – $9.99 on Steam.  Spend a minimum of two hours progressing through as many levels as you can.  You do not have to finish the game.
  • In class: Project check-in

Wednesday

Friday

  • FALL BREAK

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Week 10 (Oct 22-26)

Monday

  • Gone Home (Steve Gaynor, designer. Fullbright Company: 2013). Finish the entire game.
  • In class: Project check-in

Wednesday

  • In class: Project workshop

Friday

  • In class: Project workshop

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Week 11 (Oct 29-Nov 2)

Monday

  • In class: Project workshop

Wednesday

  • NO CLASS MEETING IN THE WONDRY
  • Project presentations (TBA, Central Library)
  • Sign up here for at least one 10-minute slot to read from Frankenstein and then perform your assigned reading at the time and place (one of 8 locations around campus) you have chosen from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Thursday (noon) Can – blog 13 due

Friday1

  • Jennifer Egan, “Black Box,” The New Yorker (June 4 and 11, 2012). Available free to Vanderbilt users here.

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Week 12 (Nov 5-9)

Sunday (6:00 pm): Youjia – Blog 14 due

Monday

  • Neil Gaiman, “Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry” (Audio book, 2010). Available from Amazon for $1.95 )
  • In class: Twitter fiction teams formed

Wednesday

Friday

  • Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang, In Real Life (YA graphic novel)
  • In class: Twitter presentation workshop

*

Week 13 (Nov 12-16)

Monday

  • Twitter fiction presentations

Wednesday

  • Firewatch (Campo Santo, 2016). Available for $19.95 through Steam. Play in pairs. Spend a minimum of two hours progressing as far as you can.  You do not have to finish the game.

Friday

*

Week 14 (Nov 26-30)

Sunday (6:00 pm): Megan  – Blog 15 due

Monday

  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: A Novel (2011), Chs. 1-20

Wednesday

  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: A Novel (2011), Chs. 20-30

Friday

  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: A Novel (2011), Chs. 31-39

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Week 15 (Dec 3-5)

Sunday (6:00 pm): Trae – blog 16 due

Monday

  • Ready Player One (dir. Steven Spielberg, 2018). Available for streaming on Amazon

Wednesday

  • Conclusion

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Course Requirements

  • Blog and presentattion: 20% of the grade.
    • Your blog posts will be peer evaluated, using the following criteria: Does the author seem deeply engaged with the topic? Is the blog entry thoughtful, creative, offbeat, or humorous? Is the entry coherent and well-suited to its apparent purpose?  Blogs will not be graded on length or mechanics unless major patterns of sloppiness appear.
    • Blog comments: Each student must comment on a minimum of 3 blog entries before class the next day.
  • Video essay: 30% of the grade.
  • Collaborative digital media project: 40% of the grade.
  • Completion of reading assignments and class participation, 10% of the grade

Class discussion and presentations

  • Rationale: Learning to speak articulately about topical issues is a valuable skill, which small discussion seminars are designed to foster. Pushing oneself to voice an informed opinion in public often forces a person to think more deeply and to respond to others, whereas listening passively can foster the tendency to accept others’ ideas rather than work out one’s own position. Speaking about specific features of the text also demonstrates that one has read the assigned material carefully.
  • Presentations will be evaluated on content, integration of media, and oral performance.
  • Class participation grades will be calculated as follows:
    • Attendance at the great majority of classes (no more than 3 unexcused absences) constitutes the minimum passing standard and establishes one’s participation grade as a D.
    • Speaking up only a few times during the course of the semester constitutes satisfactory performance and earn a grade of C.
    • Entering the discussion every second or third class period constitutes average performance and earns a grade of B.
    • Frequent participation that is intelligent, respectful of others, and clearly oriented toward contributing to the class experience constitutes excellent performance and earns a grade of A.
  • Alternative forms of class participation are available. Please speak to the instructor.