writ4230/5230 | web design and digital culture | sec 001
Spring 2016
12:00–12:50 mon/wed/fri | montague 209
course home page:

instructor rob wittig | 726-7545
office: montague 234 | office hours: mon 1-3; tue 2-3
| or by appointment



web of relationships

The Web is more than just a storehouse of data.

The Web enacts a way of thinking about:

the relationship between text and image,

the relationship between text and time, and

relationships between human beings.

The world in which you will live, love, work, and play will be shaped by this way of thinking. It's not a bad idea to learn how it works.


The purpose of this course is to enable you to gain practice and expertise in the following areas:

  1. applying principles of rhetoric, design, cultural theory and creative thinking to your Web-design work and writing;
  2. discussing your work in critically informed ways;
  3. writing critically and knowledgeably about issues and questions raised by the digital culture;
  4. conceiving and carrying out writing/design projects that engage potential audiences on a variety of levels, especially socially;
  5. participating in and contributing to a community of writer/designers;
  6. learning to develop successful working relationships with clients and support teams, which are especially necessary in the creation of documents for institutions, businesses, and civic organizations;
  7. using a variety of software to create documents for delivery via the Internet.


exercises and projects

This course comprises a series of exercises and projects. We'll do the exercises together in class to learn particular skills or techniques, and you'll have 24 hours after the class meeting to complete and post each exercise to the Web for credit.

As described on the Assignments Page, the projects are larger pieces of work that you'll complete individually over a period of two or three weeks using the skills you learned from the exercises and insights from the readings and class activities. Three of the projects are Web sites/pages. Two of them are essays about digital culture. The final, Web-based project is a"Client Project" for a real-life organization, individual, business, professor or campus unit of your own choosing.

There is a three-point penalty per day for late projects, including the annotations that are explained below.

Due dates for all requirements are included in the online schedule, which will be updated throughout the semester.


individualized technical instruction

The primary focus of this course is for students to gain evergreen lifelong skills — visual, verbal, conceptual and creative — that will allow you to work in and around the production of online culture as it evolves. The course will also support you in learning currently relevant technical skills. Given the state of online production today it seems inevitable that culture workers of the future will be learning new technical coding and programming languages and new communication design platforms every two or three years throughout their careers. It is important that you learn how to learn new programs. This technical instruction will be individualized.

This course typically includes students who have a wide variety of experience levels with web design software — from first-timers to experienced programmers. Therefore, technical instruction will be given using UMD's institutional subscription for its students to, the premiere online technical instruction service in the world. It's great that this is now free for our students! The basic web design tool for this course is Dreamweaver. Experienced programmers may discuss alternatives with the professor.

Students will be responsible for completing 10 hours of at an appropriate level for their initial technical skills over the course of the semester. Students typically use around 5-7 hours of online instruction for their first project and the remaining 3-5 hours for the final project. The requirement is that all students challenge themselves equally to gain new technical skills, starting from their current knowledge level. Students already confident in Dreaweaver HTML and CSS are recommended to learn JavaScript or equivalent web program as their next step.

In-class technical instruction also will be given by the professor. It will be adapted to the unique needs of the students registered each semester.



other writing and design work

In addition to the design, creation and writing of the exercises and projects themselves, you will complete

  • drawings, plans and preliminary writings or designs for your projects,
  • peer critiques of classmates' work
  • other writings as called for, usually submitted by e-mail



On days when readings are assigned, please do the following:

  • have the readings done by the beginning of class;
  • since we will be reading different essays in some cases, be prepared to present and summarize your reading to the class
  • expect brief quizzes or guided reading responses at the beginning or end of class. There are no make-ups on these responses if you are absent, late or leave early.



Since this class will function as a community of writer-designers, your regular attendance is absolutely necessary. This is especially important since we only meet once a week

  • Absences in excess of 2 (with excused tardiness, see below, over 10% of the class meetings) will deduct 3 percent each from your overall grade.
  • These 2 possible absence can be spent however you wish and so there are no "excused" or "unexcused" absences. Save your "free" absence for a rainy (or snowy) day.
  • If you are absent, you are responsible for all material covered in class. You are responsible for getting information about classes you missed from fellow students.
  • In the case of absence or lateness, some requirements like quizzes and guided in-class activities cannot be made up when timeliness or group interaction is critical.
  • In addition to your allowed absence, you also have 2 instances of arriving late or leaving early to use (with or without an excuse) if necessary. Instances in excess of 2 will decrease your overall grade by 2 percentage points each. If on some occasion during the semester you need to leave class early, even if it's one of your three allowed instances, please arrange it with me in advance.



A larger goal of this course is to establish a community or network of writer-designers--with a wide variety of backgrounds, expertise, and interests--to enhance your learning and enjoyment during the next sixteen weeks. The class is designed to provide a number of avenues for this community building, including peer workshopping and critiquing, in-class production work, support groups, and various Internet-based communications and collaborations. Your sincere and regular contributions to maintaining this collaborative environment will count in your grade, and of course will greatly benefit your final products in the course. Because your work is the subject matter for this course, turning in all projects and writings on time is critical; work turned in late will be assessed a 3% penalty per day.




  • Your work on the five major projects and various exercises (weighed according to the size and complexity of the project): 75% total
  • Participation and teamwork in class generally, including in-class activities and contributions, assistance to your teammates possible online discussions, attendance, conferences, quizzes, peer workshop responses, class discussion, promptness: 25%


Incompletes for the semester will be given only in the following very limited circumstances:

  • you must contact me in advance of the semester's end to make a request for an incomplete;
  • no more than one or two weeks of class, or one or two assignments, can have been missed;
  • you must be in good standing in the class (not already behind, in other words);
  • you must have a documented family or medical emergency, as required by university policy;
  • you must arrange a time table with me for completing the missed work that is acceptable for both of us.

resources needed

  • Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken, Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World
  • Patrick McNeil, The Web Designer's Idea Book, Volume 3, Inspiration from Today's Best Web Design Trends, Themes and Styles
  • 10 hours of independent technical training on; specifics to be individually contracted with professor
  • a UMD e-mail account
  • Memory stick/card for saving and transporting your work (at least 100 Mg.)
  • occasional access to a digital camera
  • access to a printer, or funds for printing
  • hard-bound, unlined sketchbook


It is the policy and practice of the University of Minnesota Duluth to create inclusive learning environments for all students, including students with disabilities. If there are aspects of this course that result in barriers to your inclusion or your ability to meet course requirements – such as time limited exams, inaccessible web content, or the use of non-captioned videos – please notify the instructor as soon as possible. You are also encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Resources to discuss and arrange reasonable accommodations. Please call 218-726-6130 or visit the DR website at for more information.

writing support

If you are interested in receiving writing support outside of this class, you have two options, both of which are located in the new Learning Commons on the second floor of the Library. The first is to see an undergraduate peer tutor in the Supportive Services Program Tutoring Center. See for more information. The second is to work with a writing consultant at the Writers’ Workshop. These consultants are graduate students or faculty members who will work with you in a one-on-one session to discuss your writing. To make an appointment at the Writers’ Workshop or for more information, visit




academic integrity

Academic dishonesty (cheating, plagiarism, etc.) is regarded as a serious offense by all members of the UMD academic community. This course adheres strictly to UMD's Student Academic Integrity Policy, which can be found online.Please see UMD's pages concerning these two issues:

student conduct code

The instructor will enforce and students are expected to follow the University's Student Conduct Code (