English 216, Literature, Technology, and Society: Invented Worlds
Spring 2008, T/TH 3:45-5:00 Ryland 205
Dr. Joe Essid
Writing Center 9c 289-8935 or jessid@richmond.edu
Office Hours: M & TH 10-11 and by appointment

Iggy and FridaAssignments & Useful Links: NOTE: You are expected to know this page well. If you do not understand anything, of course, ask. But slow down and read ALL of this.

  • 15%: first Wiki project
  • 15%: second Wiki project
  • 20%: final Wiki project
  • 15%: final exam
  • 15%: midterm exam
  • 20%: participation (class discussion, in-class reading quizzes, and regular updates to your Wiki)

Midterm & Final Exams: These are closed-book and in-class, as a check on how you think under deadline pressure and a method to keep you honest about doing the reading. Both exams will have an essay and several short answers to complete. If you have done your reading and seen the films, you will pass these.

Expectations for Writing: Paper is a frozen medium--we will work with media you can alter instantly in response to others. Thus you will be doing work online--aside from the exams and one short nomination for an award, I hope to never see a piece of paper from you this semester.

You will be doing regular work at your section of "Invented Worlds," a public Wikispace site. In writing for a Wiki or blog it is permissible to be a bit less formal than you would be with a traditional paper, but spelling and grammar must be correct. I'm not an easy grader; there will be few As in the course but As on individual projects are likely.

Writing Fellows: Amir Effat (amir.effat@richmond.edu -- help with Second Life) & Matt Lonnquest (matthew.lonnquest@richmond.edu -- help with Wikispace and photography).

Both Fellows will assist you with the content and design of your writing as well.

Web sites to help you study and write for the class:

Writer's Web Main Page: my and the Fellows' Online handbook
Our list of literary, Second Life, and film terms in your writing.
Second Life home, downloads page, community standards (or "the Big Six"), police blotter, and official blog
CyFishy Traveler's Absolute Newbie's Guide to Second Life (highly recommended)
Best of Second Life Blog (recommended sites--a good travel guide)
Essid's Pet Peeve List and "What is an A Paper?"
Internet Movie Data Base Main Page

Blogs to follow for your Wiki pages:

Wagner James Au's "New World Notes"
Beeble Baxter's "Beeble's Blog"
Joe Essid's "In a Strange Land"
Cecil Hirvi's "Blog of Assimilation"

Wiki Projects:

One: I want you to author a page like my "about" page for Rust in Peace, expressing your initial feelings about the idea of invented worlds. Turn to the "big questions" I ask on our first page of this syllabus to inspire you. A photo or two would be fine at this point, merely to show that you know how to upload them to your Wiki space. Most photos should simply be left or center justified. Too many photos will make a mess; you can embed them in tables if you must have a large number.

Plan to have about 600 words for this page (part of that might be in the discussion tab as background information). I recommend using Word to author your work so you can spell-check it, then paste it into the Wiki's editor.

I will make weekly backups of the entire Wiki, but I strongly recommend saving your work on your own. If I hear "the computer ate my assignment," I'll just point to our late-paper policy: one full letter-grade lost per day late.

Two: You will do this in four parts on your Wiki:

1) A critique of another's project (use the discussion tabs for the Wiki page you are reviewing)

2) A self-critique of your own site (at least a page of text--type it in Word and post it to your site's main page discussion section). In both this critique an that of the classmate, note: what is most memorable to you as you reviewed the work; goals you think are needed to make the site complete; anything you thought weak and why; anything you thought strongest, and why.

3) A photo essay of at least 12 images, from our world and/or Second Life, on this topic: Pick a real-world technology that interests you (as I did with junkyards). Get images of how people use this technology or are used by it. In an essay of at least 900 words, you should explore how the topic you selected reveals a theme from our course materials and/or your experience in Second Life. Be prepared to travel off campus as needed to finish this project (my bus rides on GRTC could give enough material to fill a book).

As an incentive to do really well on this project: the strongest of these projects will be presented at the A&S Symposium at the end of the semester. I'll invite a few of you to give a talk or a poster session about your projects.

4) Any revisions to the first project you did earlier, including anything you want to add about your mentors in SL and your initial explorations. Leave me a note in the discussion section of the revised bits to tell me what you have done and why.

Avs on the Sofa


1) A final self-critique and critique of a classmate's project (see above). You may review a different classmate's project if you wish.

2) An anonymous nomination, of at least 100 words on paper, to me on paper for the best class project and why.

3) Option One: A short literary essay (about 900 words--use Word's wordcount feature--that you post to your Wiki as its own page). Your task will be to use the "about" page from your first project to craft a final reflective piece that explores an idea suggested by at least two of our readings or films. You might, for instance, look at how Ignatius J. Reilly's "world in his head" resembles some of the fantasies you see (or explored yourself) in Second Life.

Option Two: A piece of short fiction of at least 900 words that explores the idea of an invented life. Your challenge here is to make it relate in a meaningful way to the other parts of your Wiki.

4) At least six photos from Second Life that relate to either the theme of part 3 or that stand on their own to illustrate some aspect of the virtual world that interests you. One clever idea would be to explore some aspect of the virtual world that relates to a major you have or might choose (Business School students might explore the world's virtual economy; sociologists how in-world groups and communities form and regulate themselves). In at least 300 words that accompany the photos, explain what we are seeing and what unites the photos you took.

5) Any revisions to the earlier parts of your Wiki. Leave me a note in the discussion section of the revised bits to tell me what you have done and why.

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