Reading and Writing Electronic Text
This course introduces the Python programming language as a tool for reading and writing digital text. This course is specifically geared to serve as a general-purpose introduction to programming in Python, but will be of special interest to students interested in poetics, language, creative writing and text analysis. Weekly programming exercises work toward a midterm project and culminate in a final project. Poetics/text analysis topics covered include: character encodings (and other technical issues); cut-up and appropriated text; the algorithmic nature of poetic form (proposing poetic forms, generating text that conforms to poetic forms); transcoding/transcription (from/to text); n-gram analysis and Markov chain generation; performing digital writing. Programming topics covered include: data structures (lists, sets, dictionaries); strategies for making code reusable (functions and modules); functional programming (list comprehensions, recursion); getting data from the web; simple web applications; and parsing data formats (e.g., markup languages). Prerequisites: Introduction to Computational Media or equivalent programming experience.
Class schedule with readings, assignments and due dates.
Ethos and practice
This is a creative writing course. After a fashion. It might be more accurately termed a creative reading course: specifically, how can we write computer programs that give digital texts interesting readings? What interesting artifacts might we thereby create?
This course is about the Python programming language. Why Python? Because it’s easy to learn, it’s elegant, and it makes text processing easy. It is also awesome.
This course incorporates performance. A text has many affordances, and one of those is to be read aloud. Don’t expect the output of your programs to stay on the screen. The final project will take the form of a public reading: you must read or otherwise perform a text/poem/piece generated by a program that you wrote. You may be asked, when presenting your completed homework assignments, to read the output of your program aloud.
|Attendance and participation||30%|
|Weekly assignments||6 x 8% (48%)|
Here’s the breakdown of how grades correspond with percentages.
|A||90 to 100|
|B||80 to 89|
|C||70 to 79|
|D||60 to 69|
For students taking the class as pass/fail (i.e., all ITP students), anything below a B (79% and below) will be graded as a fail. More information on ITP’s grading policy here.
Reading and materials
Reading material will be assigned on alternate weeks. Readings are made available either as links to documents on the web or as handouts. Generally, the first twenty to thirty minutes of alternate classes will be devoted to a discussion of the reading.
Books of interest (not exhaustive by any means):
- Hartman, Charles. Virtual Muse: Experiments in Computer Poetry.
- Mac Low, J. Thing of Beauty (highly recommended!)
- Berrigan, T. The Sonnets
- Bergvall et al., eds. I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing By Women
Assignment and project expectations
This class has seven deliverables: six weekly assignments and a final project.
Please use this form to turn in your homework assignments.
There are a total of six homework assignments, which in aggregate are worth 48% of your grade. In addition to complying with the parameters of the assignment as outlined in class, you are expected to post (to your blog) documentation of your assignment. This documentation should include a description of what goals you set out with, what you accomplished, what your next steps would be if you were to continue to follow this line of investigation, and what works (art, poetry, literature, research, etc.) you understand your work to be in dialogue with. For assignments that require programming, your documentation should include a link to your code.
Students may be called upon (and are encouraged to volunteer) to present their homework assignments in class.
Homework assignments will not be accepted after their respective due dates.
The final project has three different components: presentation, documentation, and performance. Here are the details:
- The final project presentation should consist of (a) a performance of your piece (3-5 minutes) and (b) a presentation of your methodology (inspiration, goals, technical challenges, etc.). This presentation should last no longer than 10-12 minutes (leaving plenty of time for critique and Q&A).
- The final project documentation should consist of (a) the text of the piece the student plans to read (or equivalent documentation in the form of video, still images, audio recording, etc. depending on the shape the piece takes) along with (b) a discussion of methodology and (c) the Python source code for the project. (Basically, I’m expecting a nice, meaty blog post.)
- Students will perform the piece from their final projects at a final performance event.
Due dates and scheduling for the final project and the final performance will be posted on the class schedule.
Work will be evaluated according to the following criteria: compliance, gregariousness, and stubbornness.
- An assignment is compliant if it meets the brief.
- An assignment is gregarious if it makes connections between course content and the rest of the world; e.g. your own interests as an artist, designer, technologist, etc. and/or other fields of research and practice.
- An assignment is stubborn if it provides evidence that its maker was opinionated about what they wanted to accomplish and did not let small setbacks (whether conceptual or technical) deter them this end.
Each assignment will be assigned a score of 0, 1 or 2 in these categories, in accordance with the extent to which the assignment demonstrates the properties described.
- 0: No evidence of quality
- 1: Meets expectations
- 2: Shows exceptional effort
Each category will be weighted equally when assigning a final score to each assignment.
In addition to the homework assignments described above, students will be assigned a number of programming exercises (in the form of digital worksheets) designed to challenge and confirm their understanding of the technical concepts under discussion in the class. Completion of these exercises is optional, but recommended, especially for students who judge themselves to be better learners when they’re “on the hook” to complete directed work. (I’m one of these students, for what it’s worth.) We won’t review these exercises in class, though I’m happy to answer questions about them by e-mail.
Attendance, lateness and in-class behavior policies
You are expected to attend all class sessions. Absences due to non-emergency situations will only be cleared if you let me know a week (or more) in advance, and even then only for compelling personal or professional reasons (e.g., attending an important conference, going to a wedding). If you’re unable to attend class due to contagious or incapacitating illness, please let me know (by e-mail) before class begins.
Each unexcused absence will deduct 5% from your final grade. If you have three or more unexcused absences, you risk failing the course.
Be on time to class. If you’re more than fifteen minutes late, or if you leave early (without my clearance), it will count as an unexcused absence.
Procedures should punch up
Read Leonard Richardson’s Bots should punch up. “You can poke fun at yourself (Stephen Colbert famously said ‘There’s no status I would not surrender for a joke’), you can make a joke at the expense of someone with higher social status than you, but if you mock someone with lower status, it’s not cool.” Be sensitive to what your classmates might find offensive, triggering, or violent; be graceful (not defensive) and listen carefully when your work gets called out.
Statement of academic integrity
Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work as though it were your own. More specifically, plagiarism is to present as your own: A sequence of words quoted without quotation marks from another writer or a paraphrased passage from another writer’s work or facts, ideas or images composed by someone else.
Statement of principle
The core of the educational experience at the Tisch School of the Arts is the creation of original academic and artistic work by students for the critical review of faculty members. It is therefore of the utmost importance that students at all times provide their instructors with an accurate sense of their current abilities and knowledge in order to receive appropriate constructive criticism and advice. Any attempt to evade that essential, transparent transaction between instructor and student through plagiarism or cheating is educationally self-defeating and a grave violation of Tisch School of the Arts community standards. For all the details on plagiarism, please refer to page 10 of the Tisch School of the Arts, Policies and Procedures Handbook.
Statement on accessibility
Please feel free to make suggestions to your instructor about ways in which this class could become more accessible to you. Academic accommodations are available for students with documented disabilities. Please contact the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities at 212 998-4980 for further information.
Statement on counseling and wellness
Your health and safety are a priority at NYU. If you experience any health or mental health issues during this course, we encourage you to utilize the support services of the 24/7 NYU Wellness Exchange 212-443-9999. Also, all students who may require an academic accommodation due to a qualified disability, physical or mental, please register with the Moses Center 212-998-4980. Please let your instructor know if you need help connecting to these resources.
Statement on use of electronic devices
Laptops will be an essential part of the course and may be used in class during workshops and for taking notes in lecture. Laptops must be closed during class discussions and student presentations. Phone use in class is strictly prohibited unless directly related to a presentation of your own work or if you are asked to do so as part of the curriculum.
Statement on Title IX
Tisch School of the Arts to dedicated to providing its students with a learning environment that is rigorous, respectful, supportive and nurturing so that they can engage in the free exchange of ideas and commit themselves fully to the study of their discipline. To that end Tisch is committed to enforcing University policies prohibiting all forms of sexual misconduct as well as discrimination on the basis of sex and gender. Detailed information regarding these policies and the resources that are available to students through the Title IX office can be found by using the following link: Title IX at NYU.