HUM 101: Visual Culture
Design saturates our lives, often without our even noticing. On Facebook, Instagram, and every website we visit, we are bombarded with an interplay of text and images, carefully crafted to inspire a particular effect or response. Advertising and marketing professionals have long understood the power of the image, and we must filter through it all in order to make sense of the world.
Understanding the principles of design is a vital 21st century literacy – a skill set that enhances your ability to communicate effectively in any situation. Understanding visual culture – the social and ethical implications of representation, consumer choices, and media – prepares you to be a critically aware consumer and citizen.
In this course, we will explore the ways in which images can be read, analyzed, constructed, and manipulated. We will interrogate how images inform our reading of historical and political events, of personal identity, of public and private spaces. We will think through issues of self-presentation: how our stylistic choices convey messages to the world around us, and how we interpret the choices of others. We will look at the spaces we frequent and consider the rhetorical effects of everything from the architecture to the furniture to lighting. In short, we will investigate how the visual (non-linguistic, non-textual) world conveys its messages.
HUM 101 is considered an introduction to college writing; consequently, it is a relatively writing-intensive course. We’ll be using images as our primary objects of analysis, but we will build a solid foundation of written analysis.
This class is paired with ARTS 250A: 2D Design and FYI as a Living and Learning Community designed to aid students in becoming intentional and critically savvy in the creation and consumption of art, design, and visual culture.
In this course you will learn how to:
- Critically analyze how images affect and produce debates
- Digitally manipulate images to achieve a desired rhetorical effect
- Engage the principles of design — effectively arranging visual and textual elements
- Navigate a number of digital media platforms and manage digital workflow
- Edit and proofread your own and others’ prose, cultivating a writing process
- Reflect on your own learning process and evaluate progress
Required Texts and Materials
- Beyond Words: Cultural Texts for Reading and Writing. Ruszkiewicz, et. al. 3rd Edition. Pearson, 2012.
Aside from the required text, I will assign a variety of excerpts from other works, newspaper articles, blogs, and essays over the course of the semester. Whenever possible, I will provide you with hard copies of these supplementary readings, and digital versions will be made available in Moodle.
Coursework and Grading
This is college a writing class. You will necessarily be expected to produce a substantial amount of writing. Regardless of your level of experience, one of my primary pedagogical goals for the course is to teach you writing as a process. Pieces of writing are like sculptures, the blank page is a lump of clay that takes shape slowly, with time and effort. With that in mind, revision is a built-in component of some assignments, but I also maintain an open revision policy.
Each substantial writing assignment (aside from the final paper/contribution to the class project) may be revised and re-submitted until you are satisfied with your grade. If you plan to revise an assignment, however, you must make an appointment to come speak with me prior to completing the revisions. Together, we’ll map out a revision plan and I’ll answer any questions.
Keep in mind that “revision” does not mean merely correcting mistakes. To have effectively revised a paper is to have re-envisioned it: to reconsider structure (both global and local); to weed out extraneous claims and clauses; to improve the flow of ideas and sentences; to provide additional support for weaker arguments.
Once you’ve met with me, you can complete your revisions. When you resubmit the work, you’ll also include a written explanation of the changes you made. I will only provide feedback (or a new grade) on resubmitted assignments that demonstrate substantial revision.
Final grades for the course will be calculated based on the following:
In general, grades can be understood along the following guidelines:
A: Excellent work. Shows an understanding of and/or engages with ideas discussed in class, is highly persuasive and/or legible to the audience, well-organized, and thoughtful.
B: Good work that falls short in one or two of the above areas. May not be as well-developed or insightful as an A project or may have the same level of insight but with less skillful execution.
C: Draft-level work. Shows promise, but would need significant revision to meet the standards of B or A work.
D: Unsatisfactory work. Fails in several of the above areas and would need substantial revision to be successful.
F: Highly unsatisfactory work. Fails in most if not all of the above categories and would need to be completely or almost completely rewritten to meet assignment criteria. Incomplete work also falls into this category.
Participation (5% of final grade)
This course is a seminar and therefore participation is an integral part of your learning experience. My baseline expectation for each of you is active participation, helpful contributions and feedback, thoughtful commentary, and a general attitude of willingness to learn. For the most part, you can think of this grade as something you work your way down from by failing to meet those expectations. Poor participation, a bad attitude, being disrespectful to me or your classmates (in person or online), unhelpful feedback in peer reviews, etc. will result in a negative impact on your overall grade.
Overview of Major Assignments
The course assignments build toward a final project that you’ll create together as a class using an online program called Scalar. The daily reading assignments and homework will help you practice analysis as you build to longer written projects. There should be no mystery to my evaluations, and I will distribute detailed instructions for each assignment.
Daily homework/writing | 15%
For each class/reading, you’ll be expected to answer response questions for an artifact in Beyond Words. These are informal writing assignments, but you should still be attentive to punctuation, grammar, etc. They are due by start of class.
Memoir and Visual Autobiography (800-1000 words) | 15%
For this assignment, you’ll compose a written memoir and then pair it with an autobiographical sketch (an introduction, a memoir, a life story) presented visually.
Artifact Analysis Papers (800-1000 words each) | 30%
You’ll write two papers analyzing some element of visual culture. These will be relatively formal essays, but you’ll be given a lot of leeway in topic selection.
Artifact Analysis in Scalar (1000-1500 words) | 25%
As a class, you’ll be creating an exhibit/archive of cultural artifacts using the online platform Scalar. You’ll each be responsible for contributing at least one entry analyzing an element of visual culture.
Final Portfolio | 10%
At the end of the semester, you will use Pathbrite to create a portfolio and curate various artifacts to compose a narrative of your learning over the course of this semester.
I do not accept late work. I strongly encourage you to turn in a polished, complete version of your assignment by the due date. However, all that is required is that you turn in something, however rough, by the due date. It could be an outline, a paragraph, a rough draft, but it has to be some version of what will become your paper/assignment. If you fail to turn in anything by the due date for any major assignment without arranging for an extension at least 24 hours in advance of the due date, you will not receive credit for the assignment. Please turn something in. If your work is incomplete, and you know it fails to meet the basic expectations, please notify me when you submit it. I will then provide feedback with revision/completion in mind.
You are responsible for making your own decisions regarding attendance. I do not excuse absences, but I do like to be informed about your well-being. If an unavoidable problem prevents you from attending class, please contact me as soon as possible, preferably ahead of time, to let me know.
Given that participation is a requirement for the grading criteria, multiple absences will certainly have a negative impact on your grade. If you miss more than two full weeks of class (4 absences), you will be withdrawn from the course (WP/WF as is appropriate). Similarly, habitual tardiness will affect your grade, and excessive tardiness (arriving more than 10 minutes late) or arriving to class unprepared (without your reading/book) will result in being counted absent.
Wofford has a strict and clear honor code, and it applies to all work done for this class. Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Although we will discuss it in class, you are expected to understand what plagiarism is at this point. Regardless of your intentions, any suspicion or evidence of plagiarism or academic dishonesty will be remanded to the honor council.
For further reading on Wofford’s policies, please refer to the following: http://bit.ly/woffordhonor
Use of Electronics
This course is held in a computer classroom, and we’ll be working on those computers with some frequency. I expect phones to be put away and left on silent. Please do not use your electronics for non-class purposes. In a class this small, I will definitely notice, and violations will affect my assessment of the quality of your participation. Prolonged use may count as an absence, as I may ask you to leave class if you are unable to manage your distractions.
That being said, if you have an issue that requires your attention, I would prefer you excuse yourself and handle it rather than disrupting class with attention to your phone.
I will be communicating with you via email with some regularity. Email is an official means of communication at Wofford, and you are expected to check it daily.
I make a concerted effort to respond to all emails within 24 hours. I typically only answer email between 8AM and 5PM, so if you send an email after hours, I’ll get to it the next day. Weekend response times are likely to be longer.
Conferences/Help Beyond Class Time
I'm happy to talk with you about your work at any stage of the writing/creative process. If my office hours don't work for you, please email me to set up an appointment – I’m on campus most days and happy to meet with you. If you would like feedback on a draft, I ask that you come talk to me in person and that you email me the draft ahead of time. I will read it (time permitting) before our meeting and have questions and comments prepared.
Wofford College seeks to provide disabled students with reasonable accommodations needed to ensure equal access to the programs and activities of the college. Support for students with special needs is coordinated through Wofford College Wellness Center/ Accessibility Services. Please let me know how I can best assist you.
Further information can be found at the following: http://bit.ly/woffordaccessibility
I expect that students will have different learning styles. For example, you may prefer to process information through reading, so some of our discussion may be difficult to absorb. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them. If you do not have a documented disability, remember that other support services, including the Writing Center and library services, are available to all students. I’m also on a mission to design inclusive assignments and activities, so if you have learning needs I haven’t anticipated, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do.