Course Spotlight: Digital Self and Rhetoric


RHE 330C, 43780, Digital Self and Rhetoric

Are social media sites designed to pull you in whether you want to be a part of them or not? Would you believe the notion that no one is not on Facebook? Well, do you remember when you went to that concert and the people in front of you were taking a selfie? It turns out you were unknowingly in the background of those, which ended up on Facebook. So, since we can’t avoid being drawn into certain digital spaces, what can we do when this inevitably happens? What’s the big deal?

A new course at UT, “Digital Self and Rhetoric,” taught by Professor Casey Boyle, aims to explore how we develop, present, and manage our identities in digital spaces. Professor Boyle joined the UT Rhetoric and Writing faculty just this fall. He is very much enjoying his return to UT as a professor, having received his undergrad degree here before pursuing his masters and doctorate degrees elsewhere. Professor Boyle’s interests within Rhetoric include trying to understand how media affects the way that we communicate and create communities.

What makes this course a Rhetoric rather than a English course? Is anyone else confused in terms of what the difference is? According to Professor Boyle, Rhetoric allows for a public engagement and is often considered the art of persuasion, but he also emphasizes that Rhetoric is about creating possibilities for people based on how we present information.

Since this course focuses on understanding identities in digital space, we need to ask, what exactly encompasses this “digital space”? Professor Boyle explains that this may be difficult to define because we are never entirely sure. There is a public side of digital space, which we generally understand, including anything from Facebook to e-mails we send. Then there is also a private side of digital space, and we can only speculate about what this covers, possibly including information that the government has collected on us using surveillance tactics.

Now that we have an idea of what this digital space may encompass, why is the way that we present our selves in it so important? Did you know that when you apply for a job, the first thing an employer might do is google you? Do you know what’s out there on you? Say you decided to run for Senator. Well, one of those people at that concert you went to ten years ago is reminiscing through old pictures, when they notice you in the background, having recently seen your face on the news. They also notice that you seem to be holding a bong. This person might just decide to share this photo again, this time with even more people than before, and the consequences could be dire to your upcoming election. We’ve all seen it happen in the news from politicians to Miss Americas. The underlying message here is that our identities in digital space may open or close possibilities for us.

So how can we use media to better present ourselves and habituate good practices in order to open possibilities? Professor Boyle plans to delve into this sort of informal training during his course by connecting classical rhetorical concept of ethos with our electronic media of today. Students will focus on how to find, understand, and shape digital identities, by looking at case studies, involving their own experiences in digital media, and looking at the changing media sources themselves, which are constantly evolving and therefore changing the ways our identities are formed and interpreted in them. This course is relevant to every student, since we are all increasingly affected by our digital identities in the world today, and since this has the ability to give or take away opportunities. So why not take this opportunity and learn how to develop your best digital self?

More 2015 Snapshots

ANS 372, 31070, Globalizing East Asian Popular Culture



If you’ve recently found yourself working out to bubblegum K-pop, obsessing over the latest Japanese anime, laughing and crying over Asian television dramas and films, then this may be the perfect class for you.

Taught by Dr. Youjeong Oh, this course focuses on examining the increasing international visibility of East Asian cultural products, like the spread and impact of the Hallyu wave. The goal of the course delves far beyond learning about modern East Asian trends: through ANS 372, students will discover how to analyze the globalization of popular culture to reflect deeper societal constructs such as urbanization, gender politics, and identity formations in East Asia.

This course may be used to satisfy the Global Cultures flag requirement.

PHL 363L, 42025, The Outer Limits of Reason

Outer Limits

What exactly is reason? And how far can it get us? According to Oxford dictionary, reason means to “think, understand, and form judgments logically,” but what types of events or phenomena cannot be answered in this way? What encompasses those instances when reason is beyond its limit?

Professor Cory Juhl plans to tackle these complex questions in his philosophy course, “The Outer Limits of Reason.” The class will cover fundamental questions that seem to transcend the capacities of reason in different ways. Students will look at classic thought experiments involving paradox, such as Theseus’ ship, which raises the question of whether or not an object that has all its components replaced remains the same object fundamentally. Other topics that will be covered include philosophical controversies surrounding Quantum mechanics and how mathematics applies to the physical world. It will also delve into what computers have the capacity, or potential, to do in the future and what they are limited from doing.

GSD 341F, 37480, Women and the Holocaust

Women Holocaust

We all “know” the history of the treatment of Jews under the Nazi regime, but do we know whether the treatment of Jewish men and women differed? What were German women experiencing during this time period?

Professor Pascale Bos works to reveal these answers by exploring autobiographical texts and historical accounts that allow students to better understand the experiences of Jewish women as compared to Jewish men, non-Jewish women, and other groups. Film also provides a rich historical medium for students to explore when looking at femininity and masculinity during the Nazi regime, along with the role of women in the public and private spheres.

This course may be used to satisfy the Global Cultures and Writing Flag requirements.

Spring 2015 Course Snapshots

MEL 321, 40795, Youth Culture in Iran


Youth Culture

It is easy to look past a course with a title that may not immediately grab your attention. The danger lies in that you might miss out on an awesome course. These hidden gem courses exist far beyond “Debating the Bible” and “Rhetoric of South Park”. Take MEL 321 “Youth Culture in Iran”. While reading through new courses for the Spring 2015 semester, I did not think anything of it. It was only after looking into this course that I found it interesting.

The course studies the trends and culture revolving around the younger generation of Iranians who were born after the Iranian Revolution in 1978-1979. The instructor will use material that goes beyond textbooks and lecture slides such as “music videos, graphic novels, documentaries, graffiti, narrative films and cutting-edge anthropological works.”

For students who may not be a Middle Eastern Studies major or may not even keep up with the current events in Iran, this class can be an engaging and riveting way to satisfy a Global Cultures flag requirement.

AFR 372C, 29690, Beyonce Feminism, Rihanna Womanism

Beyonce Rihanna

By comparison, this class has a very eye-catching title. Whether or not you are a Beyoncé Bey or part of the Rihanna Navy, it will cause you to do a double take while scrolling through electives. The one downside, students may not realize the type of academic inquiry or material that will be covered in the course.

Students in this class will learn that there is far more than catchy melodies to Beyoncé’s and Rihanna’s music. They will not be simply listening to Beyoncé and Rihanna for fun or even comparing the roles of Beyoncé and Rihanna in popular culture, rather, students will be studying how the lyrics, music videos, and actions of these women express various aspects of black feminism such as violence, economic opportunity, sexuality, standards of beauty, and creative self-expression. The instructor hopes for students to understand the role black feminism plays in popular culture as well as everyday life.

For any student interested in women’s and gender studies or how popular culture reflects social studies, this is a class that will make them fall crazy in love.

LAH 350, 29515, Disruptive Innovation in Sports

“Disruptive Innovation in Sports” could be your next homerun course selection. This class, partially inspired by the book, Moneyball, examines the use of statistical analysis in the sports world.

Students will not be running regressions and studying graphs during class but instead focuses how analytics is used for in-game decision-making, player compensation, fraud detection, and performance evaluation. This class will also explore the analytical disruptions that have occurred both recently in the sports world and in its history. Such innovations include the “West Coast Offense”, the “Air Raid” system, and endurance training programs.

If you want to craft case studies and trace the trajectory of disruptive innovations in the sports sphere, there is a 100% chance that “Disruptive Innovation in Sports” should be your number one draft pick for your next elective.

Special note: LAH courses are not restricted to honors students but registrants would need to meet the gpa requirement.

Spotlight: ANS 361

By: Student Worker G

North Korean Grahic

It is almost impossible nowadays to touch upon the subject of North Korea without mentioning hot button issues such as famine, nuclear breakout, and human rights violations. If so, is it even possible to have a course purely based on the art, literature, film, everyday life, and selfhood of the private citizen of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea?

The answer is yes.

The University of Texas at Austin has always offered a wide array of unique classes, and ANS 361: Self and Culture in North Korea may be the first of its kind to be taught. I recently sat down with Professor Robert Oppenheim to discuss this fascinating course, along with toilet paper, cats, and Gangnam Style.

Self described as “a social scientist by training,” Dr. Oppenheim is interested in critical social scientific work in relation with Korea. An internship abroad and some difficult experiences in “going and buying toilet paper with only hand signals” at the local convenience stores in Korea spurred on his interest in learning the language and culture. He has been teaching at UT Austin for more than ten years since receiving his M.A. and PhD in Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Kyongju Things: Assembling Place, and just finished drafting his second book on the American anthropology of Korea. His research interests involve the impact of Korean globalism, such as the Hallyu wave, and its intersection with many other disciplines.

When I asked Dr. Oppenheim to describe his course, he posed a very interesting question:

“How often do you think of North Korea as an actual country, rather than a problem?”

We oftentimes think of North Korea as a chronic problem, only to later realize that it is very much still a country. The DPRK is characterized by its horrors in the Western media; so much that cultural aspects of the nation are disregarded and dismissed. While Dr. Oppenheim does not want to completely ignore these issues, he aims to focus on the citizens of North Korea and their relationships with the public state, their leader, and their private lives. The course is meant to facilitate a paradigm shift and examine the development of culture and self through literature, performances, films, artwork, mass games, etc. Documentaries, movies (such as the North Korean version of Godzilla, or “Pulgasari”), graphic novels, and texts will be part of the syllabus to allow a more intimate look at the nation.

It is finally possible to teach a course on society and culture in North Korea, and there is much to be examined and many questions to be asked. Simply saying that the Kim family and the elite class lounge around drinking expensive cognac while the masses are thirsting to overthrow the regime may be too simplistic. Dr. Oppenheim notes: “Just because people are forced to wear lapel pins with Kim il Sung [on it] doesn’t necessarily mean that they believe it, and also doesn’t mean that it’s a fact of life.” What we think we know may not be the entire truth, and the goal of the course is to achieve a deeper understanding of North Korea beyond its failings.

When asked about himself, Dr. Oppenheim was quite reserved, “There’s nothing really interesting about me…but there is a crazy cat that rules my life.” I must disagree. His passion for his research and zeal for this course was infectious, and I found myself wanting to learn more about this subject. Regardless if you are an Asian studies major, ANS 361: Self and Culture in North Korea is definitely a class worth putting on your schedule.

To find out more about Asian Studies, check out the department’s website:

Operation Small Classes

Through our work with departments in Course Management Services, we are trying to develop strategies that will assist smaller departments and centers to increase their major numbers and class sizes. Some of the ideas we generated seemed easy enough, in theory, but are actually a lot of work and involve a great deal of cooperation in practice. Of course, a few of the ideas were not new but had been/are currently being employed by departments and centers on campus. I’ll be devoting a few blog postings this semester on our efforts.

The first of these efforts involved “branding” our courses via their descriptions, particularly those that satisfy curriculum flag requirements. There are six flags and we now have, thanks to our amazing Student Worker G, icons representing them. These can be added to the descriptions that have been entered into the college/department Courses web page as well as any that are posted across campus or in slide advertisements. We hope students will come to recognize and look for these icons when searching through courses on our site and various publications.

Welcome to their debut!

flag icons


If you’d be interested in “flagging” your courses, please let me know.