ENGL 282 A: Intermediate Multimodal Composition

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
LOW 202

Syllabus Description:

University of Washington

ENGL 282 A Intermediate Multimodal Composition

Spring 2018


Ethical Composition in the Digital Information Economy


Instructor: Tait Bergstrom

Office: Art Building 347

Office hours: W 3.30pm-5.30pm

Email: taitb3@uw.edu
Class Time: MW 1.30-3.20pm
Class Location: LOW 202                  
Site: https://canvas.uw.edu/courses/1200202  



In an ocean of online content polluted with lies, how can anyone tell what’s real?


New technologies have made it easier than ever for us to communicate, but we’ve also seen them hijacked to make our world a more divided and suspicious place. So, it’s more important than ever that we know how to communicate effectively while also understanding the ethical consequences of what we put out there.


In this class, we will study how to compose messages that get attention without abusing it. From social media campaigns to YouTube channels to twitter bots, there is a battle going on over who gets to define what’s real and, like it or not, you’re a part of it.


The Intermediate Multimodal Composition course is designed to help you become a more effective creator of texts that use multiple modes to participate in a variety of genres. Multimodality refers to the combination of different means of communicating, such as written language, spoken language, sounds, images, movement, and so on. So, for example, a television program is a multimodal text that uses images, sounds, and, usually, spoken language to create meanings that are communicated to an audience. You are already the author of plenty of multimodal texts in your private life: messages combining written words and photographs or videos that you post to social media platforms are good examples of multimodal texts. As we shift from a print-based to a screen-based media economy, the ability to use the multiple modes at your disposal to communicate your ideas clearly will help you regardless of what you choose to do in the future. No matter where you go, you will need to demonstrate that you can think critically about ideas and then convey the results of that thinking to others in ways that they can understand. As your own media consumption habits might suggest to you, increasingly, we understand ideas by engaging with them in a multimodal fashion.


This section of Intermediate Multimodal Composition will use texts in a variety of media and modes to investigate how different communities make sense of what matters to them. We will pay special attention to the question of how multimodal texts circulate in an information/attention economy that functions as a complex system. When the supply of texts is potentially infinite, the data products that regulate social media feeds and search engine behavior exercise great control over what information we can pay attention to. Multimodal composition tools are now entering a critical point in their ability to allow composers to command audience attention in a manner incentivized by such data products. These new developments that allow us to create texts that shape what we and others believe is real and true may have a potentially destabilizing effect on what we mean by reality and truth. Effective and ethical multimodal communication skills will be increasingly valuable as we enter a period of human history in which anyone may soon be able to make it appear to everyone as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it has.


English 282 is a multimedia writing and professional communication course open to all majors that would be useful for students considering careers in any number of disciplines, including Business, Engineering, Law, the Sciences, or the Humanities or pursuing advanced academic work in English, Communication, or related fields. The course satisfies the "C", "W", or VLPA requirements at UW and has no pre-recs.


You do not need to have special technical expertise to take this course and instruction in the use of online platforms, hardware, and software will be provided as needed. This is an intermediate multimodal composition course, so it is assumed that students will have taken some kind composition course that has introduced them to strategies for claim formulation, integration of evidence, expository writing organization, audience awareness, and so on.



  1. To develop critical skills that can be used to analyze and assess the rhetorical and design-related effects of multimodal texts created for different writing contexts.


  1. To find, read, evaluate, and synthesize complex texts and incorporate multiple kinds of evidence purposefully in order to generate and support writing.


  1. To compose complex multimodal texts that target a specific audience and are designed to travel far and fast.


  1. To develop flexible strategies for revising, editing, and proofreading texts that make full use of one’s community (peers, instructor, librarians, target audience, etc.).


  1. To develop skills with composition tools appropriate for a writing situation (software, hardware, online platforms, etc.).


  1. To develop a critical understanding of this new media environment we are creating and its problems and complexities.



  • Writer/Designer: A Guide to Making Multimodal Projects (Arola, K.L., Sheppard, J., & Ball, C.E.).
  • Internet access, UW Net ID, and UW email account that you check daily
  • A notebook/tablet/laptop for in-class writing
  • All other texts will be made available to students online or through other media.



  •  Short Assignments          10% 
  •  Project 1                            15%
  •  Project 2                            25%
  •  Final Project                      30%
  •  Participation                     20%


Short Assignments (10%)

During the quarter, you will be asked to complete short assignments that are designed to help you complete the three projects that are the focus of the course. Most of these short assignments ask you to find, analyze, or critique multimodal texts, or to present some of your work to the rest of the class. Occasionally, I may ask you to write short reader responses to texts on our Canvas discussion board. These short assignments are graded on a credit/no credit basis. You cannot “fail” these responses – this is your way to tell me that something is confusing or boring or even nonsensical. The readings I have assembled are not set in stone. I will move them around as the quarter proceeds based on all kinds of things: your feedback, class discussions, what you choose to write about, and my own gut instinct. You can use the discussion board to influence my decisions and you cannot get penalized for it, so you might as well let me know what you think.


Projects (70%)

You will complete three projects over the course of this quarter: a rhetorical analysis of a multimodal text that is part of a larger complex system; a community profile; and a community intervention that targets a specific community and an issue that matters to it. You will have the opportunity to revise each of these assignments and peer review makes up an important part of the Participation section of your grade (detailed below). Short Projects 1 and 2 may be revised for a higher grade. These revisions will be due the week following the original due date. When you revise, I will ask you to either highlight what you have revised or provide some short statement itemizing revisions. With the Final Project, you will turn in a Final Project First Draft and will receive feedback both in Peer Review as well as during individual conferences with me. The Final Project Final Draft is due on Friday, 1 June 2018.


Participation (20%)

You are expected to contribute actively in class discussions. The participation component of your final grade takes into account the substance and quality of your contributions to the learning that we do as a class. A major part of actively participating in class includes reading, thinking, and talking about assigned texts. Peer Review also forms an important part of this course. Sometimes, peer review will take place in class; sometimes I will ask you to review the work of your peers using the Canvas course website. If you must be absent, please let me know and please consider asking a classmate for notes and handouts about homework.


Late Work: Assignments must be completed and turned in on time. Late Short Assignments will not be accepted. Late Projects will be accepted, but I will deduct a grade point for each class that the assignment is late.



Class Technology: Please do not use cellular phones during class unless specifically instructed to do so. While we will be using computers/mobile devices in class, please do not check e-mail, text messages, or social media accounts during class.


Academic Integrity: Plagiarism, or academic dishonesty, is presenting someone else's ideas or writing as your own. In your writing for this class, you are encouraged to refer to other people's thoughts and writing as long as you cite them. As a matter of policy, any student found to have plagiarized any piece of writing in this class will be immediately reported to the College of Arts and Sciences for review. If you are not sure whether or not something you have written constitutes plagiarism, feel free to ask me either in person after class or during office hours, or email me. You might also consider visiting the Odegaard Writing and Research Center and asking them for advice about proper citation and avoiding plagiarism.


Our course textbook contains information about how to cite different kinds of sources in different kinds of multimodal composition, so please refer to this guide. We will also discuss citation practices in class.


Complaints: If you have any concerns about the course or your instructor, please see the instructor about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the instructor or not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact the following Expository Writing Program staff in Padelford A-11: Director Candice Rai, (206) 543-2190 or crai@uw.edu or Assistant Directors, Bom Kim, bbkim@uw.edu; Sumyat Thu, smthu@uw.edu; TJ Walker, tjwalker@uw.edu. If, after speaking with the Director or Assistant Directors of the EWP, you are still not satisfied with the response you receive, you may contact English Department Chair Brian Reed, (206) 543-7895.



Accommodations: If you need accommodation of any sort, please let me know so that I can work with the UW Disability Resources for Students Office (DRS) to provide what you require. This syllabus is available in large print, as are other class materials. More information about accommodation may be found at http://www.washington.edu/students/drs/.


Campus Safety: Preventing violence is everyone's responsibility. If you're concerned, tell someone.

  • Always call 911 if you or others may be in danger.
  • Call 206-685-SAFE (7233) to report non-urgent threats of violence and for referrals to UW counseling and/or safety resources. TTY or VP callers, please call through your preferred relay service.
  • Don't walk alone. Campus safety guards can walk with you on campus after dark. Call Husky NightWalk 206-685-WALK (9255).
  • Stay connected in an emergency with UW Alert. Register your mobile number to receive instant notification of campus emergencies via text and voice messaging. Sign up online at www.washington.edu/alert. For more information visit the SafeCampus website at www.washington.edu/safecampus.


Writing Help: You can always come to me for help with your writing either by sending me an email, coming to my office hours and talking with me after class, but getting another opinion is also valuable. Luckily, getting someone to work with you on improving your writing is very easy to do at UW. Two excellent resources include:

  • OWRC (Odegaard Writing & Research Center), offering free one-to-one support from writing tutors and librarians on all your writing assignments. For more information visit https://depts.washington.edu/owrc. Please consider signing up to join a Targeted Learning Community (TLC) if you are interested in developing your writing skills with a small group of students and tutor-facilitators also taking a composition course. These TLC groups are only open to students for whom English is not their first language. If you are interested in joining, please email me at taitb3@uw.edu or the OWRC at owrc@uw.edu.
  • CLUE (The Center for Learning and Undergraduate Enrichment), offering free drop-in tutoring, a writing center and discussion sessions. Best of all, CLUE provides support Sun-Thurs in Mary Gates Hall from 6:30 pm-Midnight. More information is at https://depts.washington.edu/clue.


Counseling Center: UW Counseling Center workshops include a wide range of issues including study skills, thinking about coming out, international students and culture shock, and much more. Check out available resources and workshops at: http://depts.washington.edu/counsels/.


Q Center: The University of Washington Q Center builds and facilitates queer (gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirit, trans, intersex, questioning, same-gender-loving, allies) academic and social community through education, advocacy, and support services to achieve a socially-just campus in which all people are valued. For more information, visit http://depts.washington.edu/qcenter/.


FIUTS: Foundation for International Understanding through Students: FIUTS is an example of a campus organization that can bring together your social and academic learning. "FIUTS is an independent non-profit organization which provides cross-cultural leadership and social programming for UW's international and globally minded domestic students. FIUTS is local connections and global community!" FIUTS also offers a free international lunch on the last Wednesday of every month beginning with a lunch on September 28 from 11:30-1:30 in the Kane Hall Walker-Ames room. Consult FIUTS' web site for a detailed calendar of events and links to many resources http://www.fiuts.washington.edu.




Spring Quarter 2018:



in-class activities



What is Rhetoric? What is Multimodality?


Mon 03/26




Review Syllabus & Outcomes; What is multimodality?

Read W/D, Ch. 1-2


Write Short Assignment 1: Multimodal Text Collection

Wed 03/28

What is rhetoric? What is a genre?


Rhetorical situation; rhetorical analysis; genre as social action; “uptake”



Read Mitchell, Ch. 1-2


Write Short Assignment 2: Rhetorical Analysis of one multimodal text




What’s Complexity?


Mon 04/02

Introduction to complexity; rhetorical appeals; five canons of rhetoric; genre expectations;



Read Mitchell, Ch. 15; McKinnon, A. (2017)

Wed 04/04

What is a complex system? What is a network?


Complexity; feedback loops; data products in daily life



Read W/D Ch. 4; O’Neil, Intro & Ch. 1; Thompson, B. (2017)


Complex Claims & Data Products


 Mon 04/09

The new monopolies; monetizing millennials; the neglected canons of rhetoric: memory and delivery

Read O’Neil Ch. 5; Angwin, J. et al. (2016)


Write Short Assignment 3: Project 1 Proposal

Wed 04/11

Complex claims; “The Big 5;” Evaluating and incorporating the arguments of others


Rhetorical analysis of claims made using data products



Write Project 1: Rhetorical analysis of a multimodal text that is part of a complex system


The Manipulation of Data


Mon 04/16

Peer Review Workshop



Read W/D Ch. 6;


Write Project 1 Revisions

Wed 04/18

Citing sources; avoiding plagiarism; revisiting complex claims





Write Short Assignment 4: Project 2 Proposal and source collection


Conducting Research


Mon 04/23

What is intertextuality? How is a research project different from other kinds of composition?



Read W/D, Ch. 7


Write Project 2: Community Profile

Wed 04/25

What is a community? How do texts travel in different types of communities?



Read Edbauer (2005)



Communities & Rhetorical Complexity


Mon 04/30

Rhetorical ecologies and complexity;



Peer Review

Write Project 2 Revisions

Wed 05/02

Measuring and evaluating the rhetorical effects of texts in rhetorical ecologies; Revision as an iterative process; revision strategies



Read Ridolfo, J., & Rife, M.C. (2011)



Designing for rhetorical velocity


Mon 05/07

Delivery in the attention economy; What is rhetorical velocity?


Read Shao, C. et al. (2017).


Write Short Assignment 5: Final Project Proposal

Wed 05/09

Revisiting network theory; optimizing multimodal design for non-human rhetorical agents – uses and abuses;  



Read Vosoughi, S., Roy, D., Aral, S. (2018)




Ethical Composition in a Post-Truth Attention Economy


Mon 05/14

How should we collect and share data? Incorporating transparency into multimodal composition

Read Nguyen, N. (2018); Rosenberg et al. (2018)


Write Final Project Draft 1

Wed 05/16

Revisiting intertextuality; Joining the conversation vs. dropping the mic


Peer Review



Read Madsbjerg (2017); Rainie, L., & Anderson, J. (2014).


The Future of Privacy


Mon 05/21

Measuring privacy; What are our identifiable data worth?

Write Short Assignment 6: Revision Notes

Wed 05/23




Read Chiang, T. (2002)




Mon 05/28




Wed 05/30

Big Messy Conclusions: What has emerged?


Final Project Workshop

Write Final Project Final Draft: Community Intervention



Catalog Description: 
Strategies for composing effective multimodal texts for print, digital physical delivery, with focus on affordances of various modes--words, images, sound, design, and gesture--and genres to address specific rhetorical situations both within and beyond the academy. Although the course has no prerequisites, instructors assume knowledge of academic writing.
GE Requirements: 
English Composition (C)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:21pm