Attendance and participation

As an advanced graduate seminar which only meets once a week, students are expected to attend regularly and participate consistently.  Sometimes health, work, or family responsibilities get in the way of class attendance; that is understandable with a seminar full of adult students.  Please let me know if you will be absent, and be prepared to compensate for your physical absence by posting an extended essay on that week's readings to the weblog.  One or two absences over the course of the semester is not a big deal; more than that indicates that perhaps you should not be attempting to combine this seminar with the rest of your responsibilities this semester. 

Critical and active reading

Each week we will read from four to eight serious articles on the future of print.  Some of these will be provocative essays or journalistic reports; some will be data-driven research reports or dense theoretical arguments.  Many will be historical pieces that we will treat as primary sources to get at what authors, readers, publishers, and vendors were thinking at a particular moment in time; others will be present-day discussions that engage our contemporary situation.  Sometimes a "reading" for this class might be an online video, or a graphic novel.  Treat all our texts with seriousness and carve out enough time in your schedule to read them; they form the core of our group discussions and the backbone of our group project work.

To support our reading and discussion, I will ask all of you to do some individual writing, analyisis, and online searching, in turn:

  • For each reading, I'll ask one student to summarize/critique that reading on our blog before we meet in person to discuss.  A summary/critique should be between 250 and 500 words.  It should concisely state the argument of the reading, and describe what kind of evidence is used to make that argument.  Then it should pose some questions or comments about that argument, evaluating it in comparison to other things we've read (or other knowledge you have on the subject).
  • For each author, I'll ask one student to conduct a brief background search and description of that author, also posted on our blog before we meet in person.  A background search and description can begin with a Wikipedia or search, but should not end there. Describe for us why the author might bequalified to speak on the topic of the future of print. Find out how others have reacted to the authors arguments.  Again, this should be from 250 to 500 words. 
  • For each week, I'll ask one student to act as overall discussion leader for that session, coming up with a few questions that cut across all the readings.  These questions should be posted to the weblog at least 12 hours before we meet for class.  (Don't worry, you won't have to manage the group for the whole 2-1/2 hours; I tend to hijack the discussion with fair regularity.) 
  • Also each week, I'll call on yet another student to take detailed, hand-written (NOT typed) notes of the discussion, handed in to me immediately afterward so I can scan them in and upload them as a reference. (I may even invest in one of those "smart pens" to explore yet another aspect of the future of print through technological practice.) 
  • Finally, after each session I'll call on one more student to do a 24-hour-turnaround "just in time" literature search to seek out some suggestions for further readings that we can mobilize the following week. By Tuesday evening after each Monday discussion, you should have your list of readings for the following week posted and available online. 

As you can see, through the mechanisms of online readings, blogging about the readings, digitizing hand-written notes on the discussion, and using online article archives for quick turnaround for new class readings, I plan to make our current print and digital textual environment and tools here at UW-Madison part of the course to be experienced and problematized. (Tricky, I know.)

Please note: Much of the work you do on the blog for your active reading assignments can be repurposed to end up in your group project, below.

Group project

Working individually, in teams, and as a whole, the class will  create both a static print and dynamic multimedia book on "the future of print." We will be trained in the new-ish iBooks Author program for creating books on either iPads or in PDF format, and we will split up into three teams in order to produce this book:

  1. editorial (introduction, conclusion, contents, index, organization, proofing)
  2. design (visual layout, typography, colors, images, multimedia performance, look and feel)
  3. technology (bringing all the components together and outputting in various formats, testing and quality control, custom HTML coding)

Those are perhaps imperfect and overlapping divisions, but again, problematizing the print/digital production process is part of the point of the class. You'll each get to vote on what topics/themes our book will try to cover, and you'll each be expected to individually author various parts of the book, coming together in your three groups to pull it all together at the end. And we'll present our findings to some interesting UW-Madison VIPs -- I have in mind the Chief Information Officer, the Director of UW Libraries, the Director of the UW Press, and the like. (In a pinch, at least we can get the Director of SLIS.)


This is a graduate-level seminar so grading will be based on quality of participation in all three of the tasks above, with both individual and group effort taken into account, both online and in-person:

25% participation and discussion

25% critical and active reading products

25% individual contribution to the final project

25% group contribution to the final project

I expect an enthusiastic and creative bunch of students, and if that happens, you can expect that grades will reflect your energy and initiative, especially since this is such an unusual experiment.


I have found that it is important to state certain obvious assumptions about university education explicitly in a course syllabus, so here you go (follow the links for more information):