This is the course website for English 213, Section A, taught by Quinn Warnick at Iowa State University during fall 2008. Please refer to the policy document, found at the top of the center column, for more information about this class. Updates to the syllabus will be posted to this site one week in advance, and any changes to the readings and/or assignments will be reflected in the summaries for each week.
Interrogating the Interface ResourcesAs you work on your Interrogating the Interface assignment, you might get stalled as you try to answer some of the following questions:
- How should I begin the essay?
- How much background should I provide about the history and evolution of the software program I'm analyzing?
- How much should I "dumb it down" for readers who might not be familiar with the software program I'm analyzing?
- What strategies can I use to highlight a few specific features in the program?
- How can I make recommendations to my readers without coming across as overly enthusiastic or overly critical?
None of these articles is "perfect," so you should not simply use one of them as a template for your essay. However, I hope that reading a few of these articles will help you get a feel for the genre of "software writing."
If you have questions about what is and isn't appropriate for an essay of this type, please refer to the original instructions for the Interrogating the Interface assignment, or come see me during office hours.
The ArticlesNote: Several of these articles deal with complex computer programming languages and other confusing topics. For some of you, the technical aspects of these articles will be WAY over your head. That's OK — the point of reading through a few of these essays isn't to become computer programmers; it's to see how the authors organize their analysis and tell compelling stories.
PC World Software Reviews — PC World magazine's homepage for software reviews. These are short and sweet; pick a few for programs you recognize and read the reviews.
Macworld Software Reviews — Macworld magazine's homepage for software reviews. Again, read through a few reviews for programs you recognize.
Shawn Blanc's Macintosh Software Reviews — One blogger's in-depth reviews of his favorite Mac applications. One note of caution: because Blanc is reviewing his favorite applications, some of these articles are a bit heavy on the praise and light on the interrogation.
Goodbye, Cruel Word — A personal essay about one writer who stopped using Microsoft Word in favor of WriteRoom.
An Interface of One's Own — A personal essay in the New York Times comparing Word to other, "simpler" word processors.
Spotlight Strikes Back: In Leopard, It Works Great — A review of a new version of a pre-existing feature in Apple's operating system. This article is a nice example of a compare/contrast review.
The Location Field Is the New Command Line — A wide-ranging essay about the evolution of web-based applications.
Mac Word 6.0 — A memoir by one of the developers of a long-forgotten version of Microsoft Word for Mac.
Excel as a Database — A very nonacademic critique of Excel, in cartoon format. (Definitely not what we're after for this assignment, but worth a laugh, perhaps.)