English 415 Interdisciplinary Approaches to Literature/516 Literature and Computers




PowerPoint Overview w/ Exercises



Class Roster & Projects

Individual and Group Work

Supplementary Materials


415 001 / 516 001 TTh 1:10-2:30 2004 Kraus (Rabkin & Rosenberg: discussions/demonstrations)
415 002 / 516 002 W 11:10-1:00 G444D MH (Rabkin: lab)
415 003 / 516 003 W 1:10-3:00 G444D MH (Rosenberg: lab)

Eric Rabkin, esrabkin@umich.edu, Office: 3243 Angell Hall, TWTh 3:10-4:00 & by appt; 764-2553
Victor Rosenberg, victorr@umich.edu, Office: 305C West Hall, W 3:30-5:00 & by appt; 764-1493


The broad objective of this course, designed for graduate students and upper-level undergraduate students in departments across the University, is to work with—and study the theoretical implications of—the tools and techniques used to create, gather, manipulate, analyze, and present electronic information both locally and via computer networks. We will pay special attention to the techniques available to facilitate scholarship, especially collaborative scholarship, in the humanities, and to the creation and publication of "compound documents" be they on diskette, on CD-ROM, or on network servers. In addition to each student’s pursuing work to generate an individual product, by the middle of the semester all students in the class will be working in groups of four or more to tackle a real project in the humanities and produce a fairly sophisticated and substantial multimedia product. Such projects might include, for example, a) the generation of an on-line resource, including historical material, video clips, class handouts, science lessons, and literary criticism in the support of the University's existing lecture/discussion course in science fiction; b) the publication of a poetry anthology, using typographical techniques and page design to get a desired effect in digitally published paper versions, and augmented for an on-line version with graphic and textual critical and background materials made available through hypertextual links; c) the assembly of a documentary resource annotating a series of films, complete with film clips to illustrate points; d) the creation of a literary research paper using digital texts alongside images of the originally published paper texts; and e) the design and construction of information products, for example, a 17th-century English culture database that can be searched on-line and/or explored on CD-ROM or via a hypertext navigator such as Netscape, or, using similar techniques, a database exploring the uses of verbal and visual idioms across cultures. We can take advantage of the University’s capability of publishing these course projects as Web pages or CD-ROMs. The range of possible projects will be restrained only by the time available, the imagination of the students, and the concurrence of the instructor.

The course calendar indicates specific tools and techniques to be discussed and demonstrated, topics and readings to be discussed, and work to be presented. Other tools, techniques, readings and topics will arise for the whole group and for particular project groups. Some of us necessarily will know more than others about one or more of these matters of technology or humanistic study. Working with research technologies in the humanities may sometimes be exhilarating and sometimes frustrating but always can be satisfying if those who can help do. Thus, we will maintain what might be called an open seminar environment in which we can all teach each other. Everyone will be expected to be fully responsible to the work, the project group, and what will doubtless be a class of people diverse in backgrounds and interests. These technologies can build communities; our greatest achievements are possible only if we take advantage of the class as a community and contribute to it accordingly.
(return to top)


The texts already selected are available at Shaman Drum Bookstore on State Street. They are:
Tufte, Edward R., The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Graphics Press, 1983.
Piercy, Marge. He, She and It. New York: Fawcett, 1991.
Norman, Donald. The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Doubleday, 1990.
Dooling, Richard. "Diary of an Immortal Man." Esquire, May 1999.
Joy, Bill. "Why the future doesn't need us." Wired, April 2000.

Further materials may be selected by the class during the semester.
(return to top)


Each student in the course will create an individual product and contribute to a group project.

Each task will begin with a printed proposal. These proposals should be discussed at least with the instructor and, if need be, revised. (Count on needing revision; start early!) When accepted, the proposals will be signed by the instructor. Whether the final product is on diskette, CD-ROM, or network server, signed proposals should be handed in at the beginning of class on the day each product is due. If the product is on diskette or CD-ROM, the signed proposal should be attached. If the product is on a server, access instructions for the product should be added to the signed proposal. For the individual products, proposals should include the proposer’s name, the date, a statement of the topic, some materials likely to be relevant for background and/or analysis, and either a reason the student wants to study this topic or a tentative hypothesis about the topic. For group projects, proposals should include the names of the group members, the date, statement of the topic, what the group hopes to accomplish by pursuing the project, some materials likely to be relevant for background and/or analysis, additional resources the group may need (e.g., electronic reproduction rights, learning Director, translating from Russian), and a tentative work plan indicating the distribution of responsibilities and schedule of activities.

Individual product: A critical study of the humanistic implications of some technology as broadly conceived (e.g., alphabetic phonography, papyrus, telegraphy, sound movies, hypertext, microwave ovens) or of the exploration of humanistic implications of some technology as treated in one or more imaginative works. All individual products should be done as free-standing PowerPoint presentations that do not require a presenter for their full appreciation. Each presentation should represent as much finished work, and be of the same scholarly rigor, as one would expect of a traditional, tightly reasoned, well supported, argumentative paper of at least ten pages. Students should feel free to dovetail the work on their individual products with that on their group projects. Students are expected to make a finished individual product available online in Windows format on or before midnight on the due date and to notify the instructors by email of its location. Those who, in the light of later developments, wish to revise, may do so. If the first submission is judged serious and the revision judged substantial, the later grade will supplant the earlier. (More on the individual product)

Group projects can range widely, as discussed in the Overview section earlier on this syllabus. The projects themselves have two parts: a) the group product itself, and b) a group analysis discussing and/or demonstrating one or more theoretical problems encountered in producing the product. The group product should reflect in rigor and substance the committed, extended work of a number of people. This product might be anything so long as it reflects a serious and creative approach to a well-defined humanistic problem, uses appropriate tools to address that problem, presents its results in compelling ways that are appropriate to the problem and audience, and takes proper advantage of today’s available presentational technologies. The group analysis should be equivalent to a 5-10 page traditional paper in rigor and substance. Its length will depend on the nature of the project group's experience. The nature and focus of the group analysis may well vary from group to group, but the "theory" in "theoretical problems" always should have to do with our continuing concern for the humanistic implications of technology. What have your experiences been in pursuing the group project? Could it be that your fundamental presentational design needed major revision? If so, how did you come to notice that need? What assumptions did you need to revise to make that revision properly? What solution did you come up with? How did you come up with it? What did you, in general (that is, theoretically) learn about presentational design? Or, could it be that you have discovered that the very medium you have chosen enhances, inhibits, or distorts your viewer/auditor's appreciation of the materials you want to treat? How did you discover that? Why and/or how does it happen? What did you do to compensate for or take advantage of that? Again, what did you learn in general from this process? Or, could it be that the methods by which you worked in a group mediated by certain technologies enhanced or inhibited collective progress? How? Again, what did you learn from this? I invite you to come talk to me about these group analyses. Although they are to be objective, the objects under analysis are supposed to be your collective experience in producing your group product itself. The resulting group analysis is supposed to be something as solid and informative as a traditional analytic essay. Indeed, it very well may be a traditional analytic essay.
(return to top)


The individual product contributes 25% toward the student’s final grade. Each student receives the grade of his or her project group on the group work. The group project contributes 50% toward the student's final grade. (The relative weight of the group product and the group analysis will depend on what each project group encounters but is likely to be about 2/3 and 1/3 respectively.) Participation in the course as a whole contributes 25%. (N.B.: Plagiarism—an especially important issue when dealing with electronic reproduction—will not be tolerated. If in doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, please see the English Department Plagiarism Policy Statement and/or consult the instructor. Even a single instance of plagiarism may result in failure in the course.) The course will not be graded on a curve; rather, each participant and product will be judged against what it could ideally have been. If all work by all individuals and groups are excellent examples of their kind, every student will earn and be awarded an A.
(return to top)


W 5 Sep

Get-Acquainted Lab
Activities for all subsequent labs will be determined by the exercises in the course PowerPoint Overview and, once completed, by the individual or group work in which each student is engaged.

Th 6 Sep

Course Overview and gathering roster information

Weeks 1-5


Week 1


T 11 Sep

Netscape (World Wide Web)
Distant databases (OED, HTI, etc.)
E-lists and News groups (see http://tile.net)
Library catalogs (e.g., MIRLYN)
Personal notes (Advanced Find)
CDs & DVDs
Graphic scanning & OCR (Deskscan & OmniPage)
Video & audio capture

Th 13 Sept

Access to ephemeral materials (e.g., ephemeral films)
Gresham’s Law Applied to Information
Value Added? Project Gutenberg v. Oxford Text Archive
Evaluating Information

Week 2


T 18 Sep

Begin seeking ideas for group projects
Email (including editing and attaching files)
Locating e-mail addresses
X.500 Mail Groups
IFS file exchange (Chooser v. ftp; binary v. ASCII)
Annotation and editing in MS Word
Outlining in MS Word
Quality Evaluator (report due Th 28 Sept)

Th 20 Sep

The Nature of Authorship
The Importance of Temporal and Physical Location
The Nature of Readership
The Stability of the Text (Photoshop demo if time)

Week 3


T 25 Sep

Groups should be meeting with instructors about project proposals
General & Specialized database software (e.g., FileMaker & ProCite/Silver Platter)
Comparing alphanumeric data manipulation options (Srpeadsheets, Databases, & Statistical packages)
Text manipulation (WordCruncher,SGML, HTML, etc.)
Advanced image manipulation (Photoshop v. MS Office)
Video editing

Th 27 Sep

QE report due in class
The Stability of the (Original?) Text
The Territory v. the Map (e.g., in photos and film)
Text Analysis v (Trained?) Human Understanding

Week 4


T 2 Oct

Deadline for getting group project proposal signed
Streaming media
Inserting "objects" in MS Word
Linking v. embedding
Painting v. drawing
PowerPoint presentation software
Web sites
Authoring packages
Comparing presentation options: Word, PowerPoint, Flash, Netscape/Internet Explorer, Director/Authorware, FileMaker

Th 4 Oct

Deadline for getting proposal for individual product signed
How Much Should Neatness Count?
lIlustrations v. Visuals--The Grammar of Graphic Narratives
The Relations of Text and Context

Week 5


T 9 Oct

Exploring model pages and sites
Design issues
Scholarly character of e-publication
HTML authoring
Flash animation & navigation

Th 11 Oct

Individual product due
Hypertext and the Linearity of Texts
The Changing Meaning of "Publication"
Production Values and Compound Documents
Copyright issues
Never-ending Authorship

Weeks 6-9


T 16 Oct

The Visual Display of Information: Tufte

Th 18 Oct

To be announced or used for group work

T 23 Oct

Science Fiction: Piercy

Th 25 Oct

To be announced or used for group work

T 30 Oct

Design: Norman

Th 1 Nov

To be announced or used for group work

T 6 Nov

Unintended Consequences: Dooling and Joy; each project group should contribute in class two URLs per member bearing on this week's topic

Th 8 Nov

To be announced or used for group work
Deadline for optional revision of individual product

Weeks 10-13


T 13 Nov

Group work

Th 15 Nov

Group work

T 20 Nov

Group work

T 27 Nov

Group Presentation: Subliminal Messages

Th 29 Nov

Group Presentation: The Nature of the News

T 4 Dec

Group Presentation: "The Godfather" Trilogy: From History to Today

Th 6 Dec

Group Presentation: Utopia

T 11 Dec

Summary and Course evaluation
All group analyses due as e-mail attachments to instructor by midnight
All group products must be available online by midnight.

(return to top)

Collaboration PowerPoint presentation
Databases: basic concepts visualized
Excel: a sample gradesheet list/database
Flash sites
Net Searching
Photoshop demo
Presentation options (download files from ~lsarth/Public): Word, PowerPoint (II2PPT.ppt plus Supplement 1 [babydance.avi], Supplement 2 [Beowulf.ppt]), Netscape/IE, Flash on the web and free-standing (FlashTest000823.exe), Director/Authorware, FileMaker (Teach3.FP3)
Progressive authorship: Howl, Allen Ginsberg; Yowl, Christopher Buckley & Paul Slansky; Howl.com by Thomas Scoville; Howl generator, Chris Seidel
Unintended consequences (see Calendar above for T 6 Nov)
Web design excellence: some examples
(return to top)