DTC 475: Digital Diversity

Fall 2019

AMER ST/DTC 475.01: Digital Diversity 3 credits

Instructor: Rosamond (Roz) Thalken

Email: rosamond.thalken@wsu.edu


Catalog Description

475 [DIVR] Digital Diversity 3 Course Prerequisite: Junior standing. Cultural impact of digital media in cultural contexts; issues of race, class, gender, sexuality online. (Crosslisted course offered as DTC 475, AMER ST 475). Typically offered Fall, Spring, and Summer.

Course Description

DTC/AMER ST 475 explores historical, social, and cultural understandings and implications of digital space, looking specifically at the intersections of race, nation, class, gender, dis/ability, sexuality, and cultural context. We will begin the course by analyzing and deconstructing notions of digital technologies as neutral, objective, or passive. In the course, we will consider intersectional identities and their effect on everything from identity performance online; issues of surveillance and control; algorithmic bias; the environmental impact of production, use, storage, and disposal of digital devices and cultural products; material access to digital tools; digital literacy; the political affordances of digital space; and the ways that the Web is influenced by corporations and economic progress. Together, we will end by considering the broad effects of digital spaces, and how we might (re)construct relationships with our tools as we use and develop them.

 Course Learning Outcomes

This course focuses on Student Learning Outcomes 3, 4, and 5 from the Digital Technology and Culture major, using cross-disciplinary theoretical frameworks to assess the factors that contribute to, and are affected by, digital consumption and production (full list of DTC Student Learning Outcomes below).

  1. Demonstrate competency with technology for designing and distributing digital works in various mediums.
  2. Demonstrate competency with design principles through both the production and analysis of media objects.
  3. Demonstrate and articulate an understanding of the way digital media and information function and circulate in multiple cultural contexts.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the history of technological development, from local to global perspectives, and its implications for a variety of mediums.
  5. Utilize an interdisciplinary perspective in order to understand the global changes brought about by digital media.
  6. Effectively communicate through writing and speech why and how digital media texts make meaning.

Course Units

  1. Surveillance Capitalism
  2. Algorithmic Bias
  3. Digital Sovereignty
  4. Material Conditions


Required Texts

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, by Safiya Unoja Noble (2018)

*This text can be found through the bookstore or online through another seller; students are allowed to use an e-version

Recommended Texts

Weapons of Match Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, by Cathy O’Neil (2016, 2017)


 Grade Distribution

60% Research Portfolio (portfolio distribution described below)

20% Blog

15% Participation

5% Padlet Show and Tell

Research Portfolio

Early in the semester, students will develop a research question that will be incrementally pursued throughout the continuation of the course, with my feedback. The research question should investigate the impact of digital technology on identifiable groups, audiences, environments, or users. Students may find it easiest to enter this broad research topic by choosing one of our units (Surveillance Capitalism, Algorithmic Bias, Digital Sovereignty, or Material Conditions) as a point of entrance. Students will consider the interconnected and complex nature of identity, especially with the influence of social categories and demographics like race, nation, class, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. After each assignment submission, students will receive prompt and individual feedback centered on how to pursue the next part of the portfolio.

This Research Portfolio will be created and submitted in four main parts. I will give prompt feedback that will help you approach each consecutive part. The portfolio is divided as follows:

  1. Project Proposal (10%) due Thursday, October 10 to Blackboard

By Thursday, October 10, students will determine a research interest that they would like to pursue. This project proposal will include a proposition for the research project, involving a rationale for interest, explanation of significance, and affirmation of research “potential” (i.e., whether enough information exists on this topic). Students will also include a brief bibliography of popular and scholarly sources on this topic, and outline the data collection they will do on their own.

  1. Project Visualization (10%) due Tuesday, November 5 to Blackboard

By Thursday, October 31, students will have collected data and identified a potential argument or thesis for their research portfolio. This argument will be conveyed through whatever visual means seem most impactful. Each student will determine the medium and mode through which this data and argument are best communicated. Potential project ideas include posters, blogs, maps, websites, video games, hyperlinked essays/blogs, etc. (projects are recommended, but not required, to be made and/or conveyed digitally).

  1. Panel Presentation (~30 minutes/panel) (10%) presented November 19 and 21

3- or 4-person panels with relatively related topics will present and discuss their individual projects. Each student will present their research topic and visualization for five minutes, and then together the panel will describe how their topics intersect and relate to the course materials. The panel will also assign a short reading on their broad topic for the rest of the class to read. Like an academic panel, we will conclude with an interactive and respectful Q&A session. Each panel will work together to prepare this presentation.

  1. Research Paper (8-10 pages) (30%) due December 5 to Blackboard

As the concluding portion of this ongoing research project, students will compose an argumentative and informative essay on their research topic. This essay should utilize and rely on both scholarly and popular sources as evidence. Though a scholarly form is expected, students are given the option of adding visualizations or more experimental-style writing, as long as these are made in a rhetorically appropriate way.

Blog (12 posts)

By the Tuesday class of each week (starting Week 2 and lasting until Week 13) students will compose and share a blog post reflecting on the various assigned texts for that week. These may be written informally, as long as they display a degree of interaction, reflection, and critical assessment of the texts. During the beginning of every Tuesday’s class, students will discuss their blog posts with small groups of fellow students.

Padlet “Show and Tell”

Students will sign up for one day to satisfy the Padlet Show and Tell assignment. On Thursdays, multiple students will post to the course’s Padlet site and present a digital artifact (video, twitter thread, blog post, etc.) relating to our weekly reading in some way. This might be an example of technology’s (positive or negative) influence or a critical discussion of technology. On their assigned day, students will pull up their artifact on the class Padlet board, and briefly discuss how they see it relating to our subject matter.


As this class is predominantly discussion-based, participation is essential for a student’s full experience and analysis of course subjects. Students must attend class, and any lack of attendance should be communicated prior to the missed class. To ensure students are able to individualize the learning process, students will participate through many forms (e.g. large discussion, small groups, presentations, individual writing). All students will be expected to share their thoughts and questions with the rest of the class, and this is built into the schedule (see Padlet Show and Tell and Project Panels). Because of this, we will foster a respectful and balanced combination of listening and responding during each class.

 Grading Scale

94-100%                      A

90-93%                        A-

87-89%                        B+

84-86%                        B

80-83%                        B-

77-79%                        C+

74-76%                        C

70-73%                        C-

67-69%                        D+

64-66%                        D

0-63%                          F

WSU Grading Standards

The grading for DTC/AMER ST 475 follows WSU standards:

A: Outstanding achievement-awarded only for the highest accomplishment

B: Praiseworthy performance-above average in most respects

C: Satisfactory performance-work meets the standards for competency

D: Minimally passing-effort and achievement less than satisfactory.


 Instructor Communication

For simple questions, please reach me at my WSU email and expect to hear back immediately between the hours of 8 am – 5 p.m. on weekdays. I will try to respond outside of those hours and during the weekend, but do not expect immediate responses. Plan to check your emails most every weekday (this is a good habit, in general) just in case I send reminders or new information over email. For any extensive discussions or questions about the course, please attend my office hours or set up an appointment to meet in-person.

Name/Pronoun Statement

I will gladly honor your request to address you by your identified name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records.

Attendance Policy

Attendance in this class is vital for your success. This course is collaborative in nature and requires extensive in-class work. Therefore, consistent attendance is integral to your learning. You are responsible for communicating with me when you are absent; you are also responsible for the missed material. Excessive absence or lateness will have consequences on your final grade.

Late Work

Late work is not accepted, except in the case of documented events or emergencies. For these cases, please communicate the potential late submission in advance, if possible.

Personal Communication Devices/Laptops

I allow personal computers or digital readers in my class, but they must be used for course purposes.

Academic Integrity

The Council of Writing Program Administrators (CWPA) states that “In an instructional setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) material without acknowledg­ing its source.” The WSU Academic Integrity Policy (based on State of Washington Code) expands the CWPA definition of plagiarism as well as explaining other categories of academic misconduct. As a WSU student, you are bound by these policies and are responsible for being aware of and abiding by them. Students who commit intentional acts of plagiarism will be reported to the Assistant Director of Composition and the Office of the Dean of Students and will fail the class.

Reasonable Accommodations

Students with Disabilities: Reasonable accommodations are available for students with documented disabilities or chronic medical conditions. If you have a disability and need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please visit the Access Center website to follow published procedures to request accommodations: http://www.accesscenter.wsu.edu. Students may also either call or visit the Access Center in person to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor. Location: Washington Building 217; Phone: 509-335-3417. All disability related accommodations MUST be approved through the Access Center. Students with approved accommodations are strongly encouraged to visit with instructors early in the semester during office hours to discuss logistics.

WSU Safety Statement

Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Washington State University, and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population. WSU urges students to follow the “Alert, Assess, Act,” protocol for all types of emergencies and the “Run, Hide, Fight” response for an active shooter incident. Remain ALERT (through direct observation or emergency notification), ASSESS your specific situation, and ACT in the most appropriate way to assure your own safety (and the safety of others if you are able).

Please sign up for emergency alerts on your account at MyWSU. For more information on this subject, campus safety, and related topics, please view the FBI’s Run, Hide, Fight video and visit the WSU safety portal.

Office of Equal Opportunity Syllabus Statement

Discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct (including stalking, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence) is prohibited at WSU (See WSU Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct (Executive Policy 15) and WSU Standards of Conduct for Students).

If you feel you have experienced or have witnessed discriminatory conduct, you can contact the WSU Office for Equal Opportunity (OEO) and/or the WSU Title IX Coordinator at 509-335-8288 to discuss resources, including confidential resources, and reporting options. (Visit oeo.wsu.edu for more information).

Most WSU employees, including faculty, who have information regarding sexual harassment or sexual misconduct are required to report the information to OEO or a designated Title IX Coordinator or Liaison. (Visit oeo.wsu.edu/reporting-requirements for more info).

Additional Course Resources

Avery Microcomputer Lab (AML)

All English 101 students have access to the services and facilities of the AML (Avery 101, 103, & 105), including free printing.

Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation (CDSC)

All DTC students have access to the computers, scanners, and digitization equipment at the CDSC from 8:30-4:30 daily. Students may also request tutorials for specific hardware and software at the CDSC by emailing: cdsc.info@wsu.edu

Writing Center

The Writing Center provides free, walk-in peer consultation services.  Use of the Writing Center is strongly encouraged. Online tutoring is available through eTutoring.org.

Student Wellbeing

Counseling and Psychological Services

If a student poses an immediate threat to self or others, call 911. If you are in crisis, come in to Counseling and Psychological Services (Washington Building, Room 302) or call 509-335-4511. After hours, weekends and holidays call 509-335-2159 for evening and weekend crisis services. https://counsel.wsu.edu/

Sex and Gender Based Violence

Sexual Assault, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence

WSU is committed to ending sex and gender-based violence on our campus. We are here to listen and support you. Do not hesitate to reach out. If you have any questions, please contact the Office for Equal Opportunity at 509-335-8288, stop by our office in the French Administration Building, Room 225, or email us at oeo@wsu.edu.

Food Help: Women’s Resource Center

The Women’s Resource Center provides gently used clothing for children and feminine hygiene products, and has a small food pantry located in Rosario’s Place. The food pantry is open 24/7 and is located in Wilson-Short Hall. Food is available for any WSU student. https://women.wsu.edu/resources/food-pantry/


DTC 475: Schedule


Date Topic To read/watch before coming to class What’s due?
Week 1  
Tuesday, Aug. 20



Course Introduction


Digital Footprints

Thursday, Aug. 22




Course Blog Setup

Kimberlé Crenshaw, “The urgency of intersectionality”


Amy Earhart, “Can Information Be Unfettered?”






Week 2
Tuesday, Aug. 27



What are our assumptions about digital technology? Cathy O’Neill, “Introduction”


Richard Brautigan, “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”


Rick Webb, “My Internet Mea Culpa


Blog #1 due
Thursday, Aug. 29



Surveillance (theories and reflections)


Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Control Societies”



Week 3   
Tuesday, Sep. 3 Surveillance Capitalism


Raw Data, “About Us, But Not For Us”


“How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did”


Blog #2 due
Thursday, Sep. 5





Julie E. Cohen. “The Inverse Relationship Between Secrecy and Privacy”


Week 4   
Tuesday, Sep. 10



Facial Recognition  

Amazon Facial Recognition


Pick one:

“Facial recognition use by federal agencies draws lawmaker’s anger”


It’s techno-racism: Detroit is quietly using facial recognition to make arrests”


“Facial Recognition Tested At Dallas Fort Worth Airport”



Blog #3 due
Thursday, Sep. 12


Surveillance in the Home

Location Tracking







Shoshanna Zuboff, “Home or Exile in the Digital Future”


Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu, “The House That Spied on Me”



Violet Blue, “How Google’s location tracking affects you”




Optional: WATCH “Nothing to Hide” – 1.25 hours long




Week 5
Tuesday, Sep. 17 Algorithmic Bias



Cathy O’Neill, “Propaganda Machine: Online Advertising”



Blog #4 due


Thursday, Sep. 19


Algorithmic Bias


Safiya Noble, “Challenging the Algorithms of Oppression”


Noble, Introduction, Algorithms of Oppression


Week 6   
Tuesday, Sep. 24 Algorithmic Bias Noble, Chapters 1 and 2, Algorithms of Oppression Blog #5 due
Thursday, Sep. 26


Algorithmic Bias


Noble, Chapters 3 and 4, Algorithms of Oppression  
Week 7  
Tuesday, Oct. 1


Algorithmic Bias Noble, Chapters 4 and 5; Epilogue, Algorithms of Oppression


Blog #6 due
Thursday, Oct. 3




Kriti Sharma, “How to Keep Human Bias out of Artificial Intelligence”


EU: “Building Trust in Human-Centric AI”





Week 8
Tuesday, Oct. 8 What is digital sovereignty?



Arun Kumar, “What is Digital Sovereignty? Who owns your personal data?”


John Perry Barlow, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”


Henry Story, “From Digital Sovereignty to the Web of Nations”


Blog #7 due
Thursday, Oct. 10 Open Access/Storage


WATCH “Digital Amnesia”


Explore Creative Commons Website


Week 9
Tuesday, Oct. 15


Sovereignty Kimberly Christen, “Does Information Really Want to Be Free?”


Blog #8 due
Thursday, Oct. 17






Marisa Elena Duarte, selection from Network Sovereignty

Week 10  
Tuesday, Oct. 22


Sovereignty James Gorrie, “Do You Have a Right to Be Forgotten in a Digital World?”



Tamas Kocsis, “The Case for a Decentralized Internet


Blog #9 due
Thursday, Oct. 24


Control and Identity



John Cheney-Lippold, “Introduction,” We Are Data


(Skim) Netizens Security Guide





Week 11
Tuesday, Oct. 29



Meet in Access Center

George Williams, “Disability, Universal Design, and the Digital Humanities”


W3C WAI, “Introduction to Web Accessibility”


—, “Accessibility, Usability, and Inclusion”

Blog #10 due
Thursday, Oct. 31


Universal Design



Reading TBD



Week 12   
Tuesday, Nov. 5



Visual Project Sharing


Tech and Military

Arthur Holland Michel, “The Military-Style Technology Being Used in US Cities” Blog #11 due


Thursday, Nov. 7



Tech and Weapon Development



Raw Data, “Weaponized”



Week 13  
Tuesday, Nov. 12 Environmental Harm Peter Yeung, “The Toxic Effects of E-Waste in Accra, Ghana”


WATCH E-Wasteland (20 minutes)



Blog #12 due
Thursday, Nov. 14 Innovation




 DK Osseo-Asare, “What a scrapyard in Ghana can teach us about innovation”  
Week 14   
Tuesday, Nov. 19




Panel assigned reading/viewing (TBD) PANELS
Thursday, Nov. 21





Panel assigned reading/viewing (TBD) PANELS
Week 15  
Tuesday, Nov. 26  



Tuesday, Nov. 28  



Week 16  
Tuesday, Dec. 3 Closing Discussions


Ursula Le Guin, “The One’s Who Walk Away From Omelas”


Thursday, Dec. 5