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Advanced Rhetoric and Research

Fans, Games, and Bots: Whose Story IS It, Anyway?

TLDR: Dig deep into a rabbit hole of internet culture and digital technologies, and make something weird and wonderful with what you find. 

The digital world is transforming the way we make and enjoy stories. Stories that "count"– whether as canon, lore, truth, or art–proliferate online, along with the communities who spawn them. Video and augmented reality games invite players to become characters and authors, and sophisticated A.I. tools like ChatGPT and DallE-2 perform astonishing and uncanny masquerades of human creativity and invention. What do any of these profound narrative disruptions and opportunities mean for how we understand, make, and enjoy stories? 

In this course, we will explore this question by reading, playing and writing. During the first half of this course, students will investigate what literary and game theorists, critics and scholars of popular and digital culture, computer scientists, writers, artists, and makers of all sorts have to say about the way online life is transforming narrative (i.e., weekly readings of about 20-30 pages, with online annotations and/or short, informal response papers). Students will also learn about primary (interviews, surveys, social media, etc.) and secondary research methods to help them dive deep into an online community or digital narrative phenomenon of their choosing.

Throughout the course, but especially so during the second half, students will build on course readings and their own research to develop three projects, all focused on the same point of intersection between story and the digital world: one 2000-2500 word research-based essay on a course-related topic of their choice, one creative project that disrupts or transforms narrative in some way (lengths/formats will vary), and a reflective analysis/maker's statement (1500-2000 words) offering informed insight about the creative project. Additional course requirements include active class participation and regular attendance, engaged peer review (written and verbal feedback on early drafts of peers' projects), and one-on-one meetings with the instructor to help brainstorm and develop projects.