Web Identities

ENGL 3036: Studies in Media I
September - December 2009

Brief Description of Course

This course studies how identity is constructed on the world wide web and how identity is entwined with varieties of virtual seduction. The web has become for many a community where they can express themselves in ways they would often not in physical life. As it rose in popularity, the web quickly became a place where a person’s virtual identity did not have to correspond to the person’s “real world” identity. Because of some freedoms inherent in the Internet, virtual identities are perhaps more clearly fabricated than physical identities.

We will examine the various ways personal identity is constructed on the world wide web. This will include examining choices in the presentation of personal data, personal narratives, and collections of links. Where appropriate, we will devote attention to images and videos. We will also examine the construction of corporate identity on the web and examine the similarities and differences with the construction of personal identity. We will focus mostly on personal and corporate web sites, social networking sites, and web logs (blogs). Our discussions will include the topics of avatars, predators, virtual doppelgangers, and identity theft. We will test the theory that the construction of identity is a rhetorical seduction, more easily manipulated in the virtual world than in the real world.


All readings for the course are available online and will be posted on the course website. Some readings are freely available, and some are available to the Nipissing University community through subscription.


10%  Group presentation
10%  Group presentation report
25%  Individual presentation and essay
15%  Mid-term testOctober 27
30%  Final exam
10%  Participation


Plagiarism will not be tolerated. All assignments are subject to an additional written or oral test, at the instructor’s discretion. All suspected plagiarism will be reported to the chair of the department, the dean of the faculty, and the registrar of the university.


Written assignments are due in class, the same day as your presentation. You may, however, submit your written assignment up to two days after your presentation without penalty: essays for Tuesday presentations must be in by Thursday, essays for Thursday presentation must be in by Saturday. After the two-day penalty-free period, there will be a 2%/day penalty on the written assignment for every day (including weekend days) it is late.

Office Hours

Wednesday: 1:00 - 3:00
Thursday: 9:30 - 10:30


Please feel free to email me. To assist me, please place ENGL 3036 at the start of the subject line. You may have to wait a day or two for an answer: please do not email me requests that need to be answered immediately. Note also that if I think an email response will take too much time or will not adequately address the complexity of the issue raised, I will respond by requesting you meet with me during office hours to discuss the issue.

Please feel free to come to my office during my posted office hours: no appointment is needed. If you cannot make it to my office hours, you can request meeting me at another time, and I will do my best to arrange something with you.


You are expected to participate in class in an informed manner. At the very least, you are expected to come to class regularly, having read all assigned reading and completed any assigned exercises. Ideally, you will participate in class discussions and in-class exercises. Keep in mind that participating in class is usually a highly rewarding experience, greatly enhancing your ability to understand the course material and helping ensure your success in the course. Everyone is expected to be courteous and professional at all times in class.


You will be asked to present orally in class an analysis of a personal web site. The analysis and the presentation will be a group effort, where each member of the group (of four or five people) works on a different aspect of the same web site. You will submit a written report of your portion of the analysis. Each member of the group will share a grade for the presentation, but the analyses will be marked individually. You will also be asked to present orally in class an analysis of a corporate web site. The presentation and the written report will be an individual effort.

Class schedule (subject to change)

September 10Introduction
September 15Identity and impression management
September 17Anatomy of web pages
September 22Personal and social web sites
September 24Personal and social web sites
September 29Sociology of web identity
October 1Sociology of web identity
October 6Web site construction
October 8Web site construction
October 13Study week
October 15Study week
October 20Group presentations on personal web sites
October 22Group presentations on personal web sites
October 27Mid-term test
October 29Icons and signs
November 3Commercial and academic web sites
November 5Commercial and academic web sites
November 10Language on the web
November 12Social web spaces
November 17Virtual identities
November 19Virtual identities
November 24Individual presentations on corporate web sites
November 26Individual presentations on corporate web sites
December 1Individual presentations on corporate web sites
December 3Individual presentations on corporate web sites
December 8Final individual presentations and Review