Close-up photo of the splash from a droplet falling into clear water. Like the ripple effect stretching out in all directions, the choices we make based on our digital literacies affect all aspects of our modern lives.

Overview: Critical Digital Literacies

Welcome to ENG 5045! As plans for the Fall semester develop, this page will expand to include information about each aspect of the Critical Digital Literacies.

Course Information

  • ENG 5045
  • Fall 2023 Meetings: Thu 4:30–7:15p in CAS 315
  • Prerequisite: ENG 5020
  • Instructor Details:
    • Chris Friend (he/him)
    • CAS 325
    • Office hours (appointments strongly recommended):
      • Mondays, 2–3:30p and 4:30–7:30p
      • Wednesdays, 2:30–4p


Examines technological systems that shape daily life and gives students tools to navigate, evaluate, and tactically respond to those systems. Major topics include privacy erosion, digital identities, surveillance, and data practices. We will study technology, writing, and data through a rhetorical lens, highlighting the intentional design behind our information, devices, and social networks.


Quoting from Hutchinson & Novotny’s (2018) CFP for the Rhetorics of Data special issue of Computers and Composition, this course helps you…

  • identify ethical concerns or issues within a technological infrastructure,
  • understand the rhetorical implications of these concerns or issues for how they impact people (users and non-users), and
  • respond with a range of tactics that promote more ethical outcomes for use of these technologies.

Details About the Course

Besides this site, the following resources will help you feel connected as you go about the semester:

Topics/Literacies to Explore

Our privacy is under attack online. In this class, we’ll look at how and when that happens, and we’ll build responses to those attacks to resist what may seem inevitable. As Estee Beck et al (2021) explain,

“While it seems public sentiment toward privacy erosion online relaxed since the advent of social media, the shortage of specific knowledge of what data is tracked, how, and for what outcome gives the illusion of security and safety online when it is anything but guaranteed. In several cases, technology, surveillance, and a lack of privacy result in oppressive systems.”

Critical Digital Literacy as Method for Teaching Tactics of Response to Online Surveillance and Privacy Erosion,” Computers and Composition

We’ll explore the following topics in order to understand how to navigate digital spaces and how to exert agency over our online identities.

  1. Identity
    1. Facial recognition
    2. Algorithmic prediction
    3. Content personalization
  2. Privacy
    1. Adhesion contracts
    2. Privacy policies and legal responses such as GDPR, California’s “Do not sell my data,” etc.
    3. Behavioral profiling
  3. Surveillance
    1. Roots of surveillance capitalism in racist, colonialist practices of slavery
    2. Power, privilege, and choice
    3. Digital redlining
  4. Resistance
    1. Technical: Incognito/Privacy mode, VPNs, the Tor network
    2. Legal: Congress, the FCC
    3. Social: Awareness, art, media projects

This course begins Fall 2023. See you then!