Skip to Content


Credits: 1 | May be elected 3 times for credit | May be elected more than once in the same term

In WRITING 201, students analyze and apply rhetorical principles in their writing with “new media.” As members of a media-saturated culture, we know that print text is only one form of writing, and sometimes it is not the most effective choice. Because all of us make sense of texts and issues in a variety of ways, these courses ask students to utilize multimodal (visual, aural, etc.) forms of communication and become more informed, critical consumers of new media writing themselves.

The Rhetoric of Blogging

Blogs are the perfect paradox of the information age: they’re easy to start, but if over 150 million exist, how do you attract readers and connect with them? This mini-course looks briefly at the background of blogging—history, technology, and economics—and the different roles that blogs play. Quickly we turn to examine the writing and rhetoric of personal and genre blogs. We’ll look at how writers frame their niches, appeal to audiences, construct personae, and use design and new media. With these elements in mind—and lots of writing prompts to get you typing—you’ll create your own blog, and maybe carve out a niche of your own.

The Audio Essay

In this course on the audio essay, students will learn how to compose and publish their own podcasts, using a mixture of music, sound effects, and narration. Students will begin by developing several short sound-based narratives (“audio postcards”), focusing on such elements as place, voice, and/or music. Using the creative nonfiction genre as a model, students will then write an original audio essay, which they will record and workshop with their peers. In doing so they will examine what role sound plays in the development of voice and point of view, and what particular limitations and opportunities are afforded by writing in this medium. By listening to a variety of audio essays (from Orson Welles to Laurie Anderson to Ira Glass), students will also learn effective techniques for pacing, audio layering, and balancing anecdote with reflection. Finally, students will consider whether they can enhance their audio essays by introducing visual elements, in the form of an audio slideshow.

Previous Course Topics

The Rhetoric of Online Dating

In 2015, 27% of 18- to 24-year olds reported using online dating, a threefold increase from just two years before. As the popularity of online dating grows, so does the variety of sites and apps offering a rhetorically complicated landscape for seeking romance online. In this course we will examine the strategies used by online daters to position themselves within the romantic marketplace – including profile text, images, match questions, and messages. And we will consider how different dating sites and apps shape would-be daters’ priorities and choices in the matchmaking experience. Actual engagement in online dating will be completely optional, and no public posting of coursework will be required, so this course is suitable both for students looking to improve their active profiles and for those curious to study the phenomenon from the sidelines.

The Rhetoric of Online Reviews

“My brother found a Band-Aid in his meal and we've never been back. It was a dreadful experience in a diner we used to love.” So begins a disgruntled customer’s Yelp review of a local Ann Arbor establishment. Online reviews have become a ubiquitous and important form of communication. On websites like Amazon, Goodreads, Yelp, IGN, Rotten Tomatoes, and Rate My Professor, we read and write reviews in order to make decisions about where to eat, what to buy, what to watch, what to play, what classes to take, and what to read. Meanwhile, industry professionals across all sectors of American culture rely on online reviews to advertise their products, improve their services, and generate revenue. Yet, the undisputed currency of online reviews has also resulted in increasingly questionable practices, including purchasing reviews, using bot-generated reviews, and hiring “reputation management” services to clean up negative reviews. In this course, we will examine the genre of the online review, considering how its purposes, participants, and conventions vary within particular locations and conditions. Drawing from these investigations, and based on their own interests, students will compose a series of online reviews that demonstrate their rhetorical knowledge and genre awareness.

The Rhetoric of Memes
Memes not only entertain, they also make claims about our world and how it does, could, and should work. In this mini-course we’ll examine what memes say and how they say it, analyzing them from the perspective of visual and argumentative rhetoric. You will also create memes related to our particular discourse communities. This is a course in writing and rhetoric, not in contemporary culture, so we will pay particular attention to strategies for effectively conveying your arguments to your audiences of choice. Visit the Rhetoric of Memes (Fall 2014) and UofMemes2015 (Winter 2015) websites.

Composing with Images
This mini-course is an inquiry into the video essay as a form. We will explore the interplay between text and image as we investigate how to evoke a feeling and to build a narrative through image. We will examine and analyze video essays and mini-documentaries — including work by John Bresland, Tony Zhou and Ursala Biemann. You will have the opportunity to create an image EPortfolio, as well as make video essays. We will explore campus resources that can assist in the creation of our video essays. The course will culminate with a final individual video essay project of your own design.

The Art of the Photo Essay
This course introduces students to elements of photographic composition, editing, and curation and asks: how can these elements work together to tell a story? Throughout the course you will keep a blog that documents the evolution of your projects as well as your development as a photo essayist. The photo essays you create will be workshopped by your peers; while this process is aimed at improving your technical skills and narrative vision, you will also draw inspiration from seeing how others in class are handling the assignments. This course also includes an introduction to Photoshop as an editing tool and Wordpress as a blogging and presentation platform.

Professional E-Portfolios: Crafting Your Online Image
In this mini-course, we will be examining the rhetoric of professional self-representation in the digital age as we create individual electronic portfolios. These portfolios may serve a variety of purposes: academic, professional, artistic or a combination of the above. We will also look closely at the different ways in which social media can be used to enhance or complement these portfolios.

Powerful Electronic Portfolios

An article in Forbes last year reported that 56% of employers are influenced by online websites when making hiring decisions — the same article reported that only 7% of jobseekers have such websites. This course considers a particular form of online website, the electronic portfolio (e-portfolio). Whether you’re attracting collaborators, seeking funding, representing yourself as an artist, or applying for a job or graduate school, an e-portfolio can help you shape your story, present your strengths, and communicate your personality. You’ll spend time in this course working out the “story” you want to tell, gathering media and samples that help you tell it, and working with online platforms to create a draft of an e-portfolio you can build on and refine. Because the key to telling a good story is knowing how to lead your reader, we’ll examine the rhetoric of many types of sample portfolios and practice a variety of rhetorical strategies you can employ. As you shape your e-portfolio, you’re also likely to refine your goals and the way you’re positioning yourself in the professional world.