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PWR 1KDA: Digital Stories: Great Reads, Podcasts, and Instagram

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Catalog Number: PWR 1KDA

Instructor: Kevin DiPirro

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP)

Prerequisite: None


Course Feature: WR-1 requirement

As online digital platforms have shaken up the news publishing industry, writers are turning increasingly to newer, multi-media forms to tell their stories. From reels on Instagram and Tik Tok, to apps like Audio for the New York Times, to print/podcast articles in niche magazines like Emergence, content providers are mixing print, visual, and audio to tell fuller, more engaging stories.  In this class we will analyze the rhetoric of such multi-modal pieces to set up your individual research projects, asking: how do writers’ multi-modal choices in digital genres impact the stories they tell? The thinking on their subject matter? The audiences they intend?  

Our first work will be to analyze the specific digital strategies various writers use to craft their content. You will choose from full-length Great Read or Interactive stories from the Times, articles from Emergence magazine, a podcast, or select Instagram Reels. In your second work, you will craft a research question and compose the transcript of a simulated podcast interview among your major sources. Finally, you will write your RBA using what you’ve learned about how content and delivery impact each other, to craft an argument that keeps in mind how storytelling techniques involving text, visuals, and/or aurality might enrich your writing.  

Examples of Research Topics

1) Say you were interested in some of the downfalls of Biden’s green energy infrastructure policy—how might you draw on Ruth Maclean’s visuals and aural storytelling techniques (from her interactive Times article on the Congo Peatlands) to make your own policy critiques? 2) Or say you were inspired by David Abrams’ use of magic and tech to explain non-Western philosophies of animism—how might these rhetorical tools provide you an argument for powerful new forms of reaching crossover Western and tech-influenced audiences? 

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) In this essay, you will analyze the rhetoric of one of the selected digital articles from the syllabus. How does the author argue for their what for their intended audiences and WHY does that specific choice matter?

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) Write a transcript for a podcast interview using quotes and paraphrases from 3-5 key sources to construct an in-depth panel discussion on your research topic. You will have your sources reference at least 3-5 more useful secondary sources to position your topic as an ongoing and multifaceted discussion. 

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages) This essay should integrate a variety of appropriate sources in making a sophisticated and compelling argument in response to the research question you pursue. Your work will take up digital storytelling as either subject or context for your topic show how, for example, you, as a writer, might bring voice or other means of engaging audience into academic writing.

Notes: This course will not ask you to make a podcast or a multimedia piece. It will instead ask you to consider how your learning about multi-modal digital works might expand your sense of how your own writing can be strengthened by adding visuals or aurality in your written work in some way—or even in prepping, or storyboarding, or mapping out your drafts.