COMS 454 CSUN Waking Up to the Natural World Around Us Paper Please follow the files that are attached. All information is included there. the paper must be 5-6 pages in length not including the reference page. All other details are included in the attached files, please message me if you have any other questions. COMS 454 – Communication & Technology
How to Do Nothing Project Assignment: Waking Up to the Natural World
In How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell argues that social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter,
Youtube, and Instagram have hijacked users’ attention in the interest of relentless productivity
(and the capitalist system that requires it). In an effort to resist the dehumanization that results
from having one’s attention optimized by algorithms, Odell recommends more than just stepping
away from our devices. We must also, she contends, retrain ourselves to be more aware, alert,
and attuned to the place––or, bioregion––in which we live. Furthermore, she says we must think
deeply about our local ecology not just as it currently exists, but as it was before the damage
wrought by compulsory progress toward an unspecified future.
Following this prescription for reclaiming our stolen attention, this assignment asks you to
redirect your focus away from the timeless, placeless zone of the internet and toward the natural
world within which you immediately live. To complete the assignment, follow these steps:
Select an Aspect of Your Natural Physical Environment to Focus On
Go outside and listen to the futuristic sound of an Allen’s Hummingbird in flight,
observe the resolute stillness of the black soldier fly, breathe in tens of thousands
of years of life and death at the tar pits, marvel at the vastness of the Pacific
Ocean, notice the undulation of an impossibly tall palm tree, or watch a California
Poppy reach for the sun’s rays. You could also stay inside and consider how the
natural world is either spirited to you (e.g., potable water) or away from you (e.g.,
human waste). These are just a few ideas to help you imagine the horizon of
possibilities for this project. If you’re unsure about what to focus on, visit my
virtual office hours so that we can brainstorm further.
Attune Yourself to This Chosen Aspect, and Reflect Carefully on Both It and
Your Experience of It
Without the distraction of other people and digital technology, practice being idle
alongside your object of analysis, and log your immediate sensory experience
over a period of at least one hour: what do you notice about your object of
analysis in terms of sights, sounds, smells, taste, and tactile experience? How does
your object make you feel? To what extent did you think about your object before
this exercise? What, if anything, did you know about it? Is your object living? Do
you think your object thinks about you? Does it rely on you in any way? Do you
rely on it?
Consult Outside Sources to Craft a Regionally-Specific History of Your
Object of Analysis
To supplement your experiential understanding of your chosen object of analysis,
consult secondary sources to learn about its history. If you’re focused on a
particular plant, animal or geological formation, research when and how it
appeared here. What is its ecological role in the region? How has human activity
in the region transformed it? What, if any, debates have taken place around its
preservation or annihilation?
If you’re focused on a system that channels the natural world to or away from you
(e.g., the sewer system), when was it built in Los Angeles? Why was it built? By
and for whom was it built? What debates took place around its development? In
what ways has it transformed the ecology of our bioregion? How did it further the
project of Manifest Destiny? Could it be ‘manifestly dismantled,’ and, if so, what
would that entail?
Identify Relevant Ideas and Passages From How to Do Nothing to Extend
Identify passages from HtDN that explain why this exercise in attention is
important. What is at stake in redirecting our attention? What do we have gain by
doing so, or lose in failing to do so?
Assemble These Steps into a Conventional 5-6 Page Paper or Develop a
Creative Piece Around This Exercise
Papers should include in-text citations and a Works Cited page; projects should
orally cite their sources and/or include citations in concluding credits.
Projects will be evaluated on the quality and depth of ideas (i.e., responds to assignment,
demonstrates original, careful thought, incorporates relevant support from outside sources and
Odell) and the strength of their expression (i.e., clarity, development/structure).
! Due: Wednesday, May 13 by 6:00 p.m. (papers uploaded to Canvas; links to creative pieces
emailed to me directly)
! 200 pts.
Book Review Assignment
A book review generally has two aims: 1) to inform the reader about the contents of the book and
2) to provide an evaluation of the book’s central claim(s). Book reviews may be structured any
number of ways, but the following outline offers one model for approaching the genre. (Do not
subdivide your final draft with the outline headings below):
I. Introduction (1 paragraph; approx. 1 page)
Start your Introduction with a sentence that engages or ‘hooks’ your reader. Follow
your hook with a brief introduction of the book and a brief statement summarizing
II. Book Summary (several paragraphs; approx. 2 pages)
Your goal in the Summary section is not to relate minute details or summarize each
chapter, but to provide a succinct global summary that identifies the author’s central
claim(s) and evidence. The summary should demonstrate your ability to assimilate
and explain the author’s ideas in your own words. The author’s language should only
be incorporated into your review if paraphrasing the idea in your own words would
somehow change the flavor or meaning of the idea. For example, the famous
twentieth-century writer and poet Audre Lorde wrote the powerful line “the master’s
tools will never dismantle the master’s house” to explain why feminism hadn’t yet
realized its goals. One could paraphrase this idea, but doing so would invariably
diminish the impact and poetics of the idea. Most writers are not so lyrical, though, so
use direct quotations sparingly. All quotations and paraphrased ideas should be cited
parenthetically (i.e., in-text) per MLA guidelines. The following sentences are
examples of proper referencing:
For a direct quote
Haraway closes her manifesto by proclaiming that she would “rather be a
cyborg than a goddess” (14).
For a paraphrased passage
Haraway concludes her ironic myth by juxtaposing the figure of the cyborg
with that of the goddess in order to reiterate her commitment to a new feminist
Avoid analysis in the summary section; you will have plenty of opportunity to
deconstruct the book in the following section.
III. Book Critique (several paragraphs; approx. 3-4 pages)
Your goal in the Critique section is to assess the book’s conclusions and execution.
Are the conclusions logically sound? Was the evidence drafted in support of the
Book Review Assignment
conclusions well chosen and sufficient? Was the book organized in a rhetorically
compelling way? Was the tone and writing style rhetorically effective? Be sure to
point to specifics from the book to support your evaluation. Keep in mind, too, that a
critique is not a complaint. The following comments are mere complaints, not
It was boring.
The font was too small.
She used French words, and I don’t speak French.
It was too long.
I didn’t get it.
Conversely, the following comments are mere compliments, not critiques:
It was interesting.
The book taught me a lot.
I enjoyed this book.
IV. Conclusion (1 paragraph; approx. 1 page)
Your Conclusion should consist of a paragraph reiterating the book’s main thesis and
your overall evaluation of the book. Strong Conclusions will also leave the reader
with something additional to think about vis-à-vis the book’s central claim.
PHRASES, CLICHES, & OVERGENERALIZATIONS TO AVOID:
“Since the beginning of time/history…”
This is ‘filler’ language; resist the urge to use it.
“In today’s society…”
“…in this day and age…”
“I recommend this book because…”
This is fine for an Amazon.com review, but
one should avoid first-person pronouns in
“My favorite part was…”
Book Review Assignment
FORMATTING & CITATION CHECKLIST
12 pt Times
1” margins (how to set margins: go to Format àDocument à Reset all margins to 1”)
No extra space between paragraphs (how to format document w/o extra space:
Format à Paragraph à Check box that says “Don’t add space between paragraphs”)
Last name and page number in header (View à Header and Footer à type last name)
Standard heading information on first page (Your Name, Class Name, Due Date)
No title page
No Works Cited page (you should not need any other sources beyond the review book)
Stapled (paper must be stapled for submission)
Parenthetical MLA style citations of all directly quoted and paraphrased material
‘A’ – Outstanding work that goes above and beyond requirements of assignment; demonstrates
exceptional critical thinking and engagement with book; writing is sophisticated (and nearly
error-free), and review is properly formatted and cited.
‘B’ – Above-average work that meets the specified requirements; review is well developed, and
ideas demonstrate a strong level of engagement with book; writing is clear and mostly error-free;
review is properly formatted and cited.
‘C’ – Average work; review does not demonstrate a serious effort to engage the book or move
beyond summary/description toward original analysis; review may lean too heavily on direct
quotation rather than effective paraphrasing; review may contain significant
grammar/mechanical errors that render it unclear.
‘D’ – Below-average work; review fails to clearly summarize book and/or forward an analysis;
significant grammar/mechanical errors that render it unclear.
‘F’ – Review has been plagiarized in whole or in part.
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