General Statemement
of Purpose

In the broadest possible terms, the objective of this seminar is to begin doing American Studies.

For me, that phrase doing American Studies has come to have an unusually rich set of implications -- about active versus passive learning, about producing knowledge rather than merely consuming second hand information, about collaborating with others on projects of truly significant scale. It also suggests something like the re-invention of American Studies, discovering how to make it genuinely interdisciplinary, multi-mediated, and as complex and sophisticated as the new computing tools allow. Finally, we are also attempting to do something that is genuinely useful beyond the classroom, something that will provide resources for anyone -- student, teacher, or lay person, in this country or abroad -- who wants to understand more completely the dynamics and significances of American Culture.

This semester, we'll concentrate on building the conceptual framework and technical skills for doing this work. On the one hand, you'll start moving into the world of the web designer, learning basic html coding, text and image acquisition and manipulation, audio and video coding, and the principles of site design. On the other hand, we'll be working --individually and collectively -- toward constructing a paradigm for understanding American culture, a model for understanding how it is that we, as a society, construct this thing that, in turn, creates our collective reality.

This is going to look and feel a lot like work! And it is one of the few areas I know within the University where you will get out of the work exactly what you put into it. But, by the end of the term, you should be fairly comfortable -- if not expert -- at research, analysis, and production for the web. You should also be measurably closer to cultural literacy, i.e., able to read the various manifestions and processes of our culture, to understand the work they do and how they do it.

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