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Social Studies > Journalism > From Print to Digital: Technologies of the Word, 1
 From Print to Digital: Technologies of the Word, 1  posted by  duggu   on 12/12/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Ravel, Jeffrey S., 21H.418 From Print to Digital: Technologies of the Word, 1450-Present, Fall 2005. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 09 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

A portable ebook reader.

A portable ebook reader. (Photo courtesy of Matthias Zirngibl.)

Course Highlights

This course features all homework and paper topics in assignments and an extensive list of readings.

Course Description

There has been much discussion in recent years, on this campus and elsewhere, about the death of the book. Digitization and various forms of electronic media, some critics say, are rendering the printed text as obsolete as the writing quill. In this subject, we will examine the claims for and against the demise of the book, but we will also supplement these arguments with an historical perspective they lack: we will examine texts, printing technologies, and reading communities from roughly 1450 to the present. We will begin with the theoretical and historical overviews of Walter Ong and Elizabeth Eisenstein, after which we will study specific cases such as English chapbooks, Inkan knotted and dyed strings, late nineteenth-century recording devices, and newspapers online today. We will also visit a rare book library and make a poster on a hand-set printing press.




Subject Requirements

Active class participation is central to our work together. Attendance is mandatory, and students are expected to arrive in class on time and prepared to discuss common readings. A student who misses two or more class sessions will automatically fail the subject. At the beginning of most class sessions, students will hand in two-page papers that address issues from that week's readings; the questions will be distributed in advance. A ten-page paper will be due in class in Lec #6, and a five page paper due on the last day of classes, five days after Lec #12. I will hand out instructions for these assignments later in the semester. There will be no exams and no final. Each assignment will be weighted as follows in the calculation of the final grade, although these calculations will also take into account improved performance during the course of the semester:

Class Participation 40 points
Homework (8 Assignments) 40 points (5 points each)
Ten-page Paper 80 points
Five-page Paper 40 points
Total 200 points

Statement on Cheating and Plagiarism

The Web now hosts many sites which offer college-level papers of varying quality on a variety of topics. I am well acquainted with these sites, and with others that offer detection services to professors. Buying a paper and submitting it as your own work is cheating. Copying sections from someone else's print or online work into your own without an acknowledgement is plagiarism. MIT has strict policies against both activities that I will fully enforce. For the appropriate MIT definitions and policies, visit the following Web sites. If you are uncertain about what constitutes cheating or plagiarism, please contact me before submitting the work in question.

  • MIT Online Writing Communication Center
  • Avoiding Plagiarism


1 Introduction: The Perpetually Imminent Demise of the Book  
2 Theorizing Orality and Literacy Homework 1 due
3 Was There a "Printing Revolution"? Homework 2 due
4 English Chapbooks Homework 3 due
5 A Visit to the Burndy Library Homework 4 due
6 Critiquing Early Printing Assignments Ten-page paper due
7 Typesetting  
8 An Alternative to the Technologized Word: The Inkan Khipu (Guest: Prof. Gary Urton, Anthropology, Harvard) Homework 5 due
9 The Technologized Word in the Nineteenth Century Homework 6 due
10 Consultations with Instructor  
11 Reading Communities Today Homework 7 due
12 Reading Online Homework 8 due
13 Conclusion Five-page paper due 5 days after Lec #12   Tell A Friend