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PWR 1NC: From Green Cards to Gaming Avatars: Mediated Identities

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Catalog Number: PWR 1NC

Instructor: Nissa Cannon

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP)

Prerequisite: None

Course Feature: WR-1 requirement


How is the “you” in your Instagram profile different from the “you” on your passport? Why do we learn different things about Taylor Swift’s persona from her album art than from a Vanity Fair profile? What does someone’s DNA profile tell us about them that their driver’s license doesn’t? From code-switching speech patterns, to knowing what personal anecdote belongs in a group-text and what belongs in a college application essay, our “self" appears different in different places. 

In this class you’ll use research and writing to explore a site where an individual is identified (such as a passport, a magazine profile, an Instagram page, or an avatar in the Metaverse), and consider how these forms’ restrictions are embraced or challenged by individuals. Past topics have included how Elizabeth Holmes used fashion to build her credibility; how humans depict themselves in communications to extraterrestrials; how facial recognition software replicates existing biases; and how cosplayers insert their own values into their costumes.

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) For this assignment we will visit the Cantor Arts Center and you will choose a portrait housed in the collection to rhetorically analyze. We will think about the relationship between form, content, and identity in a visual medium.

Texts in Conversation Essay

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) In this assignment, you will select a topic related to our course’s theme that interests you (some ideas include: law enforcement’s use of facial recognition software, Egyptian funerary masks, Syrian refugees’ legal papers, the portrait paintings of Yayoi Kusama, or nineteenth-century “freedom papers”) and read widely on this topic in order to understand the conversation around your topic and develop a compelling research question that will form the basis of your Research-Based Argument.

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages) For the course’s culminating assignment, you will build on your “Texts in Conversation”, developing a provocative argument in response to your research question through the use of primary and secondary sources.