Reverse detail from Kakelbont MS 1, a fifteenth-century French Psalter. This image is in the public domain. Daniel Paul O'Donnell

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English 4400b: Cyberscholarship and Culture

Posted: Jan 07, 2009 09:01;
Last Modified: Jun 02, 2009 08:06



Times and location

Wednesdays, 15:05-17:45, E650.

Office and Office Hours

My office is room B810B. My telephone numbers, a map, and other contact information are available on my Contact page.

You can find my scheduled office hours by following this link:

I am also available by appointment. To make an appointment, please consult my appointment schedule, and email me with a specific time or set of times.

About this course

English 4400b: Cyberscholarship and Culture is a senior seminar on the Internet revolution: how and why it occured and how and why it affects the way we communicate, research, and teach. Most of the course will be concerned with the mechanisms and effect of what I like to call the second Internet revolution—the change in how the web is being used that was made possible in large-part because of the development of robust and extremely flexible standards based in large part on XML and Unicode technologies.

The humanities and people with humanities backgrounds have played a very important role in the development of this second revolution. Several of the key technologies that make it possible have close relationships to initiatives in earlier Humanities Computing problems or drew on scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The problems these technologies are especially good at solving are those that are core to these same disciplines: How to we organise ourselves? How do we handle, validate, study, use representations of texts and cultural objects? How does ideology, commerce, ethnicity, and gender play out in the social spaces we can now create? What is scholarship? Should we distinguish between canonical or expert and non-expert and non-canonical texts and scholarship? And if so, how?

This course will explore these topics by looking at various aspects of the history and practice of the Internet, before and after this “second” Internet revolution. Our approach will be very much hands on and this course will differ quite significantly from other English department courses in the approach and type of work students will be expected to carry out. A major goal is to give humanities scholars such as senior English students hands-on experience using the technology that is and will be so important to the future practice of their discipline.

Learning goals

The principal goal of this course is to help students discover (and where necessary demystify) the range and impact of second-generation web technologies in the worlds of culture, humanities scholarship, and pedagogy, A second major goal will be to give students practical hands-on experience with this technology.

By the end of the course students should be able to


There are no required texts. All work will be done on the basis of self-directed library and Internet research.


This course uses two types of evaluation, formative (intended primarily to assist students measure their progress, identify areas of improvement, and experiment with new ideas) and summative (intended primarily to assess students’ success in accomplishing the course’s main learning goals).

Formative Assessment

In this course there are four main types of formative assignments:

All of these are intended to encourage students to experiment with new ideas, to help them prepare for class, or measure their progress in this unusual course.

Students must carry out all four types of assignments in order to pass the course. But a poor performance in any one or two exercises will not have an adverse effect on a student’s grade.

To reward students for participating in the exercises and to encourage serious work on them, the average of the students results in the best two of these four assignments will be included in the calculation of the final grade as an “Effort, preparation, and participation” grade (see below).

I reserve the right to add additional formative assignments throughout the semester in response to class interests and needs. Regardless of whether additional exercises are added, the “Effort, preparation, and participation” grade will be determined by the average of the best two assignments.

Summative Assessment

Summative Assessment is used to determine how well students have accomplished the course’s learning goals. These grades will contribute directly to the student’s final grade in the course.

Assignment Value
Effort, preparation, and participation (see above) 20%
Basic Concepts Review 20%
In class research presentation 30%
Research Project 30%

The summative evaluation scheme presented here should be considered tentative and open to change until the beginning of the last class before the add/drop deadline (i.e. Monday, September 8). After this date, the version found on-line will be definitive.


The following policies will be followed in all my classes unless otherwise announced. You are expected to be familiar with the policies reproduced here and in the more general section on my website. These additional web pages are to be considered part of this syllabus for the purposes of this course. Failure to conform to any of these policies may result in your grade being lowered or an ‘F’ on the course.

Grade scale

The University of Lethbridge keeps track of student performance using a letter and grade point system (See section 4 of the University Calendar). Instructors assign students a letter grade at the end of each course (the University does not issue or record mid-term grades). These letter grades are converted to a numerical value (a Grade Point) for assessing overall academic performance (a Grade Point Average or GPA). The University does not record percentage-type grades and does not have a fixed scale for conversion from percentage scores to letter grades and grade points. Each instructor is responsible for determining their own methodology for determining students’ final letter grade.

In my classes, I use the following letter-grade to percentage correspondences:

  Excellent Good Satisfactory Poor Minimal pass Failing
Letter A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D F
Percent range 100-94 93-90 89-86 85-82 81-78 77-74 73-70 69-66 65-62 61-58 57-50 49-0
Conventional value 100 92 88 84 80 76 72 68 64 60 56 49-0
Grade point 4.0 3.7 3.3 3.0 2.7 2.3 2.0 1.7 1.3 1.0 0

How your grade is determined depends on the type of work being assessed. Tests of specific skills or knowledge (such as identification questions in literature classes, or fact-oriented tests in my grammar and language classes) are usually assigned a numeric score which is easily converted to a percentage. Essays, presentations, and other performance-oriented tests are usually graded by letter. I convert letter grades to percentages by taking the median value in each grade-range, and rounding up to the nearest whole percent. The only exceptions are A+ (which is converted to 100%), and F (which is converted to an arbitrary percentage between 0% and 49% based on my estimation of the work’s quality). These scores can be found in the conventional value row of the above table.

In marking work I try to keep the University’s official description of these grades in mind (a description can be found in the University Calendar, Part IV.3.a). If you get an A it means your work is excellent; a B means your work is good; a C means it is satisfactory; a D that it is barely acceptable (minimal pass); and an F that it is failing to meet University-level standards.

I have prepared rubrics for most types of qualitative assignments (assignments that do not expect the student simply to provide a correct factual answer). These can be found in my Academic Policies section.

Submitting Work

Tests, Exams, and Quizzes

Tests and Exams will be written in the University’s testing labs using course management software (currently Moodle). Quizzes may be assigned on course management software; more commonly they will be given on paper in class.

Essays and Reports

Essays and reports will normally be collected using Turnitin. Information on our account (URL, ID number, and password) is available from our class space on our course management software:

My style sheet should be followed exactly. There are significant penalties for students who do not follow this in formatting their work for submission.

Plagiarism and Cheating

This course uses plagiarism detection software. I treat all forms of cheating, including plagiarism, with the utmost seriousness. In most cases, and especially at the senior level, students caught cheating or plagiarising will receive a grade of ‘F’ for the course and a letter to the Dean for inclusion in their student record.

Class schedule

The following schedule is intended to help you plan your work for this course. The schedule is tentative and subject to change.

Week Date Topic Due
1 Wed 7/1 Introduction; Basic History and Overview  
2 Last day of add/drop (Tues 13/1)
Wed. 13/1 Linux tutorial by Trent Takeyasu. Room C513  
3 Wed. 21/1 How does it all work? An introduction to networking, webservers, webbrowsers, and other basic infrastructure Blog
4 Wed 28/1 Markup: HTML, XML, and related technologies Blog
5 Wed 4/2 “Web 2.0”: History, effect, examples Blog
6 Wed 11/2 “YouTube is a phenomenon, not a business”: LonelyGirl15 and the communal space Blog
Reading Week (16/2-21/2)
7 Basic Concepts Review (9/2-15/2)
Wed 25/2 Intellectual responsibility and the crowd: Wikipedia and scholars; bloggers and the “mainstream media” Blog
8 Wed 4/3 CyberPedagogy Blog
9 Wed 11/3 CyberPedagogy: Information Flows in the Classroom Blog
10 Last day for withdrawal (Wed 18/3)
Project outlines due
Wed 18/3 Gaming Blog
11 Wed 25/3 No class. Instructor Absence
12 Wed 1/4 Cyberart/Hypertext (Guest Instructor: Kiki Benzon)
Note: This class will take place in B 650
13 Wed 8/4 Final Projects due
Project demonstrations/Reports  
14 Wed 16/4 Project demonstrations/Reports  


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