Shadow Syllabus

Really, all I want to write here can be found in Sonya Huber’s Shadow Syllabus. There is a lot of truth in this list for your college careers and beyond. Read it and believe it.

Course Logistics

  • Class Meetings: Wednesday and Friday, 11:45am-1:25pm
  • Location: mostly Zoom, with some on-site activities if public health allows
  • Professor: Ryan Cordell
  • Professor Email:
  • Student Hours: Available for virtual discussions (text, voice, or video) via Discord on Tuesdays and Fridays 2-3pm, and by appointment most other days.

Course Supplies

All readings will be freely available online or through the University Library’s Leganto course packet software (available in the left-hand sidebar of Canvas).

You will need to order supplies for some of our book labs, however, either to complete activities remotely or to bring to our socially-distant in-person labs. These are:


The best way to get in touch with me is to drop by (virtually) during student hours, or to schedule a check-in. If you’re unsure about our readings, struggling with an assignment, or just want to talk, please schedule a call. You can drop me a note via Discord to see if I’m around, and if not just email me with at least three possible meeting times for me to choose among.

Class Engagement

This studio course requires active engagement in class activities, discussions, and studio sessions. There will be no Powerpoint lectures and we will not be building toward an exam. Instead, we will work together to build our facilities for thinking critically about media and to conceive, plan, and create innovative final projects. You should come to every synchronous class having read all of the required reading, watched the required videos, browsed the suggested resources, and so forth. You should enter our videochat prepared to discuss these materials with colleagues and complete both individual and group in-class assignments. During our asynchronous days, you should watch any provided materials and complete any assigned activities in a timely manner.


I will not explicitly grade participation in this course (i.e. “participation = 20% of final grade”), but I will take account of your reading and course engagement through your class preparation, our discussions, and related activities. As a reminder, all of our class grading contracts require you to:

Come to class prepared to discuss any assigned readings, games, videos, or other media. Participate actively in class activities and discussions, making observations and asking questions that help the class think together.

There are many ways to participate in a college class. Just a few of the most valuable contributions are:

  1. Raising ideas from our assigned materials for class discussion, including directing our attention to specific moments you found evocative, inspiring, infuriating, or otherwise salient;
  2. Asking questions about materials or ideas you found puzzling or difficult (I cannot overstate how valuable good questions are to a thriving class, and how desperately I wish more students were courageous in asking them);
  3. Sending pertinent materials discovered outside of class to the course email list, or bringing them to our attention during discussion;
  4. Assisting classmates with lab assignments or other in-class work amenable to cooperation;
  5. Dropping into student hours to extend course conversations around subjects or questions you find particularly interesting.


Maintaining an active class conversation requires that the class be present, both physically and mentally. “Attendance” does not simply mean that your likeness appears in the Zoom gallery (and in fact I do not require you to keep your cameras on). It’s most important that you are are mentally present, which means you must:

  1. Be awake and attentive to the conversation of the day;
  2. Prepare assigned texts before class begins;
  3. Have our assigned texts at the ready.
  4. Join activities and contribute to discussion, whether vocally or through chat.

Missing Class

You may miss the number of classes specified in your chosen grade contract and you need not provide an explanation. If you find yourself in extraordinary circumstances that will impact your attendance, please talk with me during student hours or schedule a conversation. When you must miss class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed, get updates on upcoming assignments, and/or ensure that you are prepared for future classes. As always, keep in mind the COVID Caveat and keep lines of communication open.

For as many absences as allotted in your grade contract, you will be exempted from the class preparation assignment. If you miss more classes than agreed, we may need to reevaluate your contract.

“Information Overload” Day

I do understand that the semester can get hectic. The reading load for this class is often challenging, and you must balance it with work in your other classes or a job. This semester will be especially challenging as you negotiate family, friend, and roommate situations amidst a pandemic. Most likely you will have days when you simply cannot—for whatever reason—complete the assigned reading. Please do not simply skip class, compounding your stresses, when this happens. Instead, you may take “information overload” (IO) days during the semester up to the number specified in your grade contract. On these days you will not be expected to contribute to class discussion and you will receive a pass on class preparation. In order to take an IO day, you must follow these rules:

  1. You must attend class, listen attentively to any lectures or class discussions, and take part in any activities or group work not dependent on the day’s reading. Your IO days cannot be used as additional excused absences.
  2. You must inform me before the beginning of class that you are taking your IO day. You may not wait until I call on you or until you see day’s the in-class assignment. I will deny any IO requests made during class. To that end: take special care to be on time if you plan to request an IO day, as you won’t be allowed to request one if you arrive late.
  3. You may not extend an IO day into another class session.
  4. You may not take an IO day to avoid completing a major assignment. If you are unsure whether an assignment is “major,” the syllabus is a good guide. If a particular assignment has its own “assignment” page on the course website, it is a major assignment.

IO days are intended to help you manage the inevitable stresses of your individual semester. Use them wisely.

Studio Sessions

Studio sessions are intended to give you time to experiment with the book technologies introduced throughout the semester, make substantive progress toward your final project, and get sustained feedback from your peers. Studio group meetings should happen in real-time—whether remote or in-person—and are not optional. Groups may decide to use weeks differently, perhaps simply working in proximity one week while sharing their progress another. Perhaps a group would decide to ask one member to share progress each week for part of their meeting time while devoting the rest to sustained project work. You should use this time as best supports your projects’ development, but you should make use of this time, even given the strangeness of studio during a pandemic. Each studio group should document their meetings—short bullets are fine—in a format that I can access regularly. For example, a group might choose to meet through a channel in our class Discord (or use one to take notes during a meeting) which would provide a rough outline of what was said and done in a given meeting.

Digital Etiquette

In-class Devices

Some of this section and much of the rubric below were inspired by and adapted from this cell phone use rubric from Zombie Based Learning.

This should go without saying, but let’s say it anyway: while in class, you should be focused on class. You may think that you are an excellent multi-tasker, but there is a growing body of evidence that argues multitasking is a myth: trying to do multiple things simultaneously means you do all those things worse than if you focused on them serially—the act of multitasking literally drains your brain’s energy reserves In an online course like this one, it will be particularly challenging to stay focused on class activities during class.

In your professional lives, people will have their phones and other devices with them at their jobs, in meetings, at conferences, and so on. Adults do not have their devices taken away from them. They are expected to manage their own use. These days professionals are conducing much of their work virtually, in platforms much like we’re using for class. During class, please use your laptop and other devices for accessing our readings, class resources, or for finding outside materials pertinent to our discussions and activities. You should not use them to follow a game, message your friends, check your friends’ Tumblrs, commit (non course related) code to Github.

Device Use Rubric

The rubric below outlines my expectations for device use in this classroom. This rubric was developed for in-person classes and so probably doesn’t translate perfectly to online delivery, but its general principles still pertain. We can discuss these expectations in our first days together and edit them if the class agrees on amendments. You will assess your device use periodically and include these measures in your grade contract assessments.

1. Unacceptable 2. Below Expectations 3. Meets Expectations 4. Exceeds Expectations
Use is inappropriate. Device is a distraction to others. Examples: A student uses their device to play games, view material unrelated to the course, OR hold social conversations. Use is distracting to the student, their colleagues, and/or the instructor. Student frequently checks devices for information unrelated to the class. Example: A student takes out their phone to look at text messages several times in one class period. Device is not used except during designed times, or device use is limited to quick checks during times of transition. Example: a student receives an important text from a parent, which they check quickly during our transition between group work and full-class discussion, but waits to respond until an appropriate time. Device only used as an efficient academic tool for a direct purpose. Device is not a distraction. but used at appropriate times as an extension of work or learning. Examples: A student uses their phone to do research during a research project, or uses their laptop to create a collaborative document for a group project.

Academic Integrity

In this class you will abide by Northeastern University’s Academic Integrity Policy at all times:

A commitment to the principles of academic integrity is essential to the mission of Northeastern University. The promotion of independent and original scholarship ensures that students derive the most from their educational experience and their pursuit of knowledge. Academic dishonesty violates the most fundamental values of an intellectual community and undermines the achievements of the entire University.

If you have any questions about what constitutes academic integrity in this class—particularly as the concept applies to digital course projects—please talk to me. We will also discuss the ethics of digital scholarship in class.

Writing Center

In most terms, the Northeastern University Writing Center is located in 412 Holmes Hall and in Snell Library. During Fall 2020, they will be offering mostly virtual consultations, which you can learn more about here:

The Writing Center offers free and friendly help for any level writer, including help with reading complex texts, conceptualizing a writing project, refining your writing process (i.e., planning, researching, organization, drafting, revising, and editing), and using sources effectively. I strongly recommend that you make appointments to go over drafts of your work—including your digital work—before turning it in. Questions about the Writing Center can be directed to