American Studies 418E — Digital Media & Everyday Life


Tuesday and Thursday 9:30-10:45am

Dr. Jason Farman


Office: 4123 Susquehanna Hall

Office Hours: Tuesdays 8:30-9:30; Wednesdays 1:00-2:00pm (or by appointment)

Office Phone: 301.405.9524

Course Website:


Why is the study of “everyday life” important and how has digital media become an integral part of our everyday lives? As Oscar Wilde wrote, “Every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character.” Everyday life is thus an important topic of study because it is the small, seemingly inconsequential actions that chisel out the ultimate shape that our lives take. Increasingly, digital media have become an essential element of those day-to-day actions. In this course, we will situate digital media among our everyday lives and examine the shifts that these technologies have brought about in our daily routines. This class will offer insights into the ways we interact with media, including an investigation into how media become immersive and intimate. We will also focus extensively on the various elements of digital life that often go unnoticed: labor, e-waste, and infrastructure. The course will conclude with a collaborative final project that will get participants to use everyday technologies in new and unexpected ways (thus offering them the critical distance necessary to examine these media and the ways they are woven into our everyday lives).


Required Texts: All required readings will be posted on ELMS. 

Assignments:  Reading assignments are listed on the day they will be discussed in class. You are expected to arrive to class having read the works listed.  All written assignments are to be turned in at the beginning of class. All written assignments will be turned via e-mail ( as Microsoft Word or PDF files. Computer problems are not an excuse for late work. NO LATE WORK WILL BE ACCEPTED.


  • Charting the Everyday: 10%
  • Lifecycle of a Digital Medium: 10%
  • Maryland Mis-Guide: 10%
  • Twitter: 15%
  • Active Engagement: 15%
  • Project Proposal: 5%
  • Final Project:  25%
  • Final Self-Evaluation: 10%

Written Assignments:

You will have several writing assignments due throughout the semester. These papers must be written in 12 point Times New Roman font, double-spaced, and sources cited accurately in MLA or APA style.  You must turn in your essays electronically by emailing them to your discussion leader as either Word Documents or PDF files. Please note: no late work is accepted on any assignments except under extraordinary circumstances.

Note on Academic Honesty and Plagiarism: Any source that you draw ideas, quotes, or images from must be cited accurately in your paper in APA or MLA style. If you use any source in your work without correctly citing the work, this constitutes plagiarism. Any intentional plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the assignment and will likely result in a failing grade for the course (and an XF on your transcript).


  • Category A: Sloppiness. Automatic “0” on paper, with option to rewrite for no better than a “C”
  • Category B: Ignorance. Automatic “0” on paper, with option to rewrite for no better than a “C”
  • Category C: Obvious Conscious Cheating. Automatic “0” on paper, with no option for rewriting. Depending on the egregiousness of the violation, you may receive an XF for the course (failure due to academic dishonesty). Please see the University of Maryland’s policy’s on academic dishonesty:

For those of you who are not aware of what constitutes plagiarism, here is a breakdown of the various types:

1. Buying papers, borrowing papers, or recycling former papers unrevised and claiming these types of papers as your own for your assignment in this course. (This constitutes a Category C offense)

2. Cutting and pasting text or images from a webpage or borrowing passages from a book for your paper without properly citing these parts and claiming the material as your own for the expressed intent of cheating. (This constitutes a Category C offense)

3. Failing to use proper citation style for material you borrow, accidentally. (This constitutes either a Category A or B offense)

Active Engagement:

Your participation is crucial to the learning you will experience in this class and absences are weighed accordingly. Because this is a discussion-driven and hands-on class, the quality of the class for everyone is in large part dependent on the quality of preparation and visible engagement of each participant. Please realize that although you may have prepared the readings and assignments and may be listening to others, if you do not actively demonstrate your preparation and ideas in discussion, there is no way to observe and, hence, evaluate the quality of your preparation and participation. You may miss up to three classes, however, anything beyond this amount will lower the grade significantly and six missed classes may constitute a failing grade. Attendance is taken only during the first 10 minutes of class. If you are 10 minutes late, this will constitute a tardy. Multiple tardies equate an absence and can affect your grade just as missing a class can. Active engagement constitutes 15% of the grade.

Twitter Responses (to Readings and to Lectures):

You will need a Twitter account to interact with the in-class lectures. You may set up a separate account just for this class. Please be sure to email your username to your discussion leader. Please note, your Twitter account cannot be set to private (so that your tweets are searchable by other students in the class). Please be sure to email me your username.

You must post to Twitter four times during the week:

  • once during each lecture (Tuesdays and Thursdays during class)
  • twice outside of class. These tweets must be a response to the readings for that week.
  • After Week 11, you will tweet constructive, positive feedback about your collaborative group project as well as a second weekly tweet about how your project is progressing. (From this point, you will tweet twice a week.)

All tweets must include the hashtag #amst418e.

Your baseline score is out of 10 points; exceptional posts and uses of Twitter may garner you a bonus score up to a maximum of 12. To gain the 2 bonus points (for a total of 12 points for the semester), you must post especially insightful posts, provides useful links to outside material, or offers consistently helpful and engaged responses to classmates’ posts. Tweeting multiple times in some weeks will not make up for weeks that you miss. Throughout the semester, you are allowed to forego using Twitter during 2 lectures of your choosing.

I recommend downloading a Twitter application to use during class. Recommend applications include Tweetdeck, HootSuite, or simply the Twitter homepage.

Note: for students who don’t have a laptop or smartphone, you can send tweets during class by using the text message feature on your phones. You must text your message (140 characters maximum) to 40404 after setting up your cellphone at

Your Twitter Responses are worth 15% of your grade.

Collaborative Final Project:

The goal of this group project is to take an everyday technology and create an experience of the technology that radically transforms the way that medium is used. Drawing direct inspiration from one of the projects we will discuss during the semester, your group will design a project that gets people to use the technology in a way that pulls it out of the everyday and into an experience that offers participants a new perspective. Your group will come up with a proposal (between 250-500 words in length) that must be approved by me. The proposal should explain your idea for the project and how you intend to complete it (you must also attach a separate schedule for milestones you plan on completing). Once approved, you will spend the final weeks of semester working collaboratively to conceive, design, and implement your project. Once the projects are done, we as a class will spend time exploring your work. This Collaborative Final Project is worth 25% of your grade (and grades will be given for individual work, not assigned as a whole to everyone in the group).

Final Self-Evaluation: In lieu of a final exam, your final assignment will be to write a self-evaluation reflecting on the topics studied in this course. You must pick two ideas, terms, or concepts covered at some point in this course and discuss how your ideas about these concepts have changed throughout the semester. You must also connect these topics to your larger interests, majors, or career goals. The objective is to trace how an idea evolves through analysis and how that idea can have an impact on areas of your life that are important. Questions to consider include: How has the course lectures, readings, and discussions influenced the ways that you think about your chosen terms/concepts? How has the collaborative final project influenced the ways that you put these ideas into practice? How can you use the knowledge gained about these terms and incorporate these ideas into your majors or your possible career paths? The final paper must be 3-5 pages in length, doubled spaced, in Times New Roman font. You must email me a Word document or PDF by Monday, May 16 at 10:00am. No late work will be accepted. This final self-evaluation is worth 10% of your grade.

Students with Disabilities: The University is legally obligated to provide appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities. The campus’ Disability Support Services Office (DSS) works with students and faculty to address a variety of issues ranging from test anxiety to physical and psychological disabilities. If a student or instructor believes that the student may have a disability, they should consult with DSS (4-7682, email Note that to receive accommodations, students must first have their disabilities documented by DSS. The office then prepares an Accommodation Letter for course instructors regarding needed accommodations. Students are responsible for presenting this letter to their instructors.


Please Note: This syllabus is subject to change at any time according to the professor’s discretion.  The assignments below may also include readings handed out in class, which each student is responsible for completing.



Week 1: Course Introduction & Theories of Everyday Life

Jan. 28

  • Overview of Syllabus

Jan. 30

  • Ben Highmore, “Introduction” to Ordinary Lives: Studies in the Everyday
  • Alice Kaplan and Kristin Ross, “Introduction to Everyday Life: Yale French Studies.” Ch. 7 in The Everyday Life Reader.


Week 2: Work, Play, and Boredom in Everyday Life

Feb. 4

  • Henri Lefebvre, “Work and Leisure in Everyday Life.” Ch. 22 in The Everyday Life Reader

Feb. 6

  • Siegfried Kracauer, “Boredom.” Ch. 30 in The Everyday Life Reader


Week 3: Tactics, Strategies, and the Hegemony of the Everyday

Feb. 11

  • Michel de Certeau, “General Introduction” to The Practice of Everyday Life. Ch. 6 in The Everyday Life Reader.

Feb. 13

  • Dick Hebdige, “From Culture to Hegemony”


Week 4: Encountering Media: Immersion vs. Media Awareness

Feb. 18

  • Remediation, Introduction and Ch. 1 by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin


  • DUE: Charting the Everyday Project


Week 5: Intimate Objects

Feb. 25

  • “The Things that Matter,” by Sherry Turkle in Evocative Objects
  •  “The Embodied Computer/User” by Deborah Lupton in Cybercultures Reader

Feb. 27

  • “Alien Phenomenology” by Ian Bogost in Alien Phenomenology


Week 6: Labor and E-Waste

March 4

March 6

  • Giles Slade, Introduction, Ch. 2 and Ch. 9 from Made to Break


Week 7: Infrastructure

March 11

March 13

  • Wendy Chun, “Introduction” from Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics




Week 9: Creative Misuse: Flash Mobs and Games

March 25

  • Jane McGonigal, “SuperGaming: Ubiquitous Play and Performance for Massively Scaled Community,” Modern Drama 48.3 (2005): 471-491.
  • Bill Wasik, “#Riot: Self-Organized, Hyper-Networked Revolts—Coming to a City Near You.” Wired Magazine. January 2012,

March 27

  • Play an in-class mobile game
  • DUE: Lifecycle of a Digital Medium


Week 10: Creative Misuse: Mis-Guides, Audio Walks, and Augmented Reality

April 1

  • Paula Levine, “On Common Ground: Here as There”

April 3

  • Michael Bull, “Investigating the Culture of Mobile Listening: from Walkman to iPod”


Week 11: Creative Misuse: Stories, Performances, Maps, Locative Art

April 8

  • Drew Hemment, “Locative Arts,” Leonardo 39, no. 4 (2006): 348-355.
  • Rita Raley, “Walk This Way: Mobile Narrative as Composed Experience” in Beyond the Screen

April 10: Group Meeting: Choose Project

  • DUE: Maryland Mis-Guide


Week 12: Group Work

April 15

  • DUE: Project Proposals

April 17


Week 13: Group Work

April 22

April 24


Week 14: Group Work

April 29

May 1


Week 15: Experience the Group Projects

May 6

May 8


Week 16: Finals
  • DUE: Self Evaluation on May 16 at 10:00am via e-mail

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