Warning: This is an archived course website that is part of my teaching portfolio, so some links may no longer work. Please contact me with any questions about this site.

Unit #3: Instructional Comic

(Worth 15% of your grade; due on November 26)


This semester, we have explored a variety of topics related to the field of digital writing, and our readings have introduced us to numerous concepts that you may not have encountered before. For this assignment, you will create a short instructional comic that (a) illustrates a specific concept taken from one of our reading assignments, or (b) provides “how to” advice for using one of these concepts to become a better digital communicator.

Selecting a Topic

The following topics, taken from our reading assignments, are all “pre-approved”:

  • Attentional blink
  • Cocktail party effect
  • Collective intelligence
  • Connective writing
  • Continuous partial attention
  • Crap detection
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Curation
  • Dataveillance
  • Distributed computation
  • Disintermediation
  • Dunbar number
  • Echo chamber effect
  • Flash mobs
  • Folksonomy
  • Google juice
  • Group-forming networks
  • Infotention
  • Long tail phenomenon
  • Magical Number Seven
  • Meme
  • Metacognition
  • Metcalfe’s law
  • Microdecisions
  • Mirror neurons
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Pareto distributions
  • Playbor
  • Pomodoro technique
  • Power law of participation
  • Prosumerism
  • Reciprocity
  • Selective inattention
  • Social capital
  • Six degrees of separation
  • Technological determinism
  • Tragedy of the commons

If you would like to focus on another concept from our readings, that’s great. As long as you can demonstrate a strong connection between your idea and one of the texts we have studied this semester, you will have my blessing. On Wednesday, October 31, you should come to class with a list of four topics (in ranked order) that you would be willing to pursue for this project. I will compile everyone’s choices and announce the final assignments later that day.

Creating Your Comic

To create our comics, we will use a software program called Comic Life, which is available for Mac and PC. You may purchase the software if you choose, but the 30-day free trial should be sufficient for this project. As you create your comic, you can draw on Comic Life’s library of pre-designed templates, or you can build your comic from scratch. However, the one thing that is not included in Comic Life is images, so you will need to take photographs, create original artwork, download images shared with a Creative Commons license, or design characters using Pixton. (We will discuss how to do each of these things in class.) You will then combine these images with a script you have written to create your finished comic. Your comic can be funny or serious, and your artwork can be simple or sophisticated, but the final product must be instructional — it must help your readers understand a complex concept or apply that concept to their digital writing processes.

The length of your finished comic will depend on the size of images you create and the page layout you select, but generally speaking, your comic should be 3–4 pages long. (Comics that make use of half- or full-page images might be longer.) There is no minimum word-count requirement for this assignment, but your comic should include a substantive written component. (In other words, it shouldn’t consist solely of pictures.)

Submitting Your Comic

Your comic is due before you come to class on November 26. To submit your comic, create a folder in your Dropbox titled “Full Name Instructional Comic” (e.g., my folder would be called “Quinn Warnick Instructional Comic), place your Comic Life file and a PDF version of your comic in the folder, and share the folder with email hidden; JavaScript is required. In addition, bring one printed copy of your comic (in color, if possible) to class that day.

Evaluation Criteria

I will evaluate your instructional comic using the following criteria:

  • Content: Does the comic contain a thorough, accurate explanation of the chosen concept? Does the comic successfully connect this concept to the field of digital writing and/or provide sound advice for helping readers incorporate this concept into their writing practices?
  • Originality: Does the comic offer a unique perspective on its subject? Has the creator attempted to do something new and different?
  • Multimodality: Does the comic effectively blend written words with images? Do the words and the images support one another, rather than detract from one another?
  • Citations: Does the comic (or an attached Works Cited page) acknowledge all external sources for both text and images?
  • Correctness: Does the comic adhere to the conventions of standard written English (i.e., spelling, punctuation, grammar)? Does the comic follow the conventions for the genre of comics (e.g., speech bubbles, sequencing)?
Where am I?
This is the class website for English 3984: Writing and Digital Media, taught by Quinn Warnick at Virginia Tech in fall 2012.
Worthwhile Reading
The links below are the most recent additions to my collection of bookmarks that are relevant to this course. You can find a complete list of ENGL 3984 bookmarks on Pinboard.

  • Buffy vs Edward Remix Unfairly Removed by Lionsgate
    A long, carefully documented saga about fair use. Great case study.
  • The Always Up-to-Date Guide to Managing Your Facebook Privacy
    Nice guide from Lifehacker: "First, we'll walk through the basic privacy settings that determine what you share, then look at a few lesser-known settings you'll want to tweak, and finish with a few third-party tools that will help keep your Facebook information private."
  • The enduring mystery of Roberto Clemente's bat
    Great writing by Kevin Guilfoile, but also a beautiful example of multimedia storytelling.
  • tapestry: a new way to write
    John Borthwick explains what tapestry is and collects some examples of great tap essays: "When we started developing tapestry it struck us that there weren’t many native reading experiences on the iPhone or iPad. Our goal is to build such a tool. A space to slow things down and let you create or experience, short, tappable stories in a simple, clean, distraction free reading environment."
  • All You Need Is (Facebook) Love: ‘Compliments’ Accounts Go Viral at Colleges and Universities
    Time magazine reports on an encouraging trend: college students setting up Facebook pages to collect compliments for/from their fellow students.
  • Demand a Plan
    Online effort to improve gun control, started in response to the Newtown school shooting.
  • Causes.com
    "Causes is a free online platform that provides easy-to-use tools for driving change. We help passionate people share ideas, find supporters, raise money, and make an impact."
  • What Ancient Greek Rhetoric Might Teach Us About New Civics
    Ethan Zuckerman: "If we want to prepare people to be effective citizens, we need to think about teaching this new civics as well as older forms of civic participation. Citizens need to do more than watch or read about the issues and then vote. They need to know how to report, to advocate, to coordinate, to propose and test solutions."
  • SPOT Survey - Fall 2012
    Students: If you haven't completed the SPOT evaluation for this course, please do so during class on Wednesday. I take this feedback very seriously, and I use it to revise my classes each semester, so please be specific about the aspects of the course (and my teaching) that you found successful and unsuccessful.
  • Popcorn Maker
    New web-based app from Mozilla: "Popcorn Maker makes it easy to enhance, remix and share web video. Use your web browser to combine video and audio with content from the rest of the web — from text, links and maps to pictures and live feeds."
  • The People's Bailout
    David Rees explains how the Rolling Jubilee works: "OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)"
  • Understanding Digital Civics
    Ethan Zuckerman: "I’m beginning to think that certain types of civic participation are simply organic to the internet. Once we have the ability to create and share our own information, we create and spread media to promote the causes we care about and raise money to support the causes we value."
  • Google Docs Stories Builder
    Fun little tool to create text-based stories in which various characters interact within a Google Doc. (Sound confusing? Yeah, you kind of have to see it in action.)
  • Twitter Is A Truth Machine
    John Herrman: "Twitter is a fact-processing machine on a grand scale, propagating then destroying rumors at a neck-snapping pace. To dwell on the obnoxiousness of the noise is to miss the result: That we end up with more facts, sooner, with less ambiguity."
  • The Fallacy of Digital Natives
    Amen to this: "Sure, there may be a larger percentage of Millennials that tap into technology first compared to their elders, but oversimplifying the division of generations to suggest one prefers an all-technology learning style whilst the others use it when necessary is preposterous. Learning and technology has nothing to do with generational divides."
  • Click and Drag
    An amazing, endless xkcd comic.
  • Nice piece in Transom explaining Cowbird
    Annie Correal: "Our goal is to build a public library of human experience, so the knowledge and wisdom we accumulate as individuals may live on as part of the commons."
  • Being Online Has Become So Common That Some People No Longer Identify It As Being Online
    Techdirt, quoting a study by Forrester Research: "Our analysis revealed that 'being online' is becoming a fluid concept. Consumers no longer consider some of the online activities they perform to be activities related to 'using the Internet.' In fact, given the various types of connected devices that US consumers own, many people are connected and logged on (automatically) at all times. The Internet has become such a normal part of their lives that consumers don’t register that they are using the Internet when they’re on Facebook, for example. It’s only when they are actively doing a specific task, like search, that they consider this to be time that they’re spending online."
  • Reddit's balance of power: community values are tested as a troll is unmasked
    Links to all of The Verge's coverage of the Violentacrez debacle.