System Analysis

This assignment asks you to produce an analysis that draws on concepts we have discussed and texts we have read in our Procedural Rhetoric unit and apply them to a procedural artifact – that is, anything that can be defined as a system: a game, a social media platform, or any other computer program; a conceptual system (a philosophy, religion, political party, educational system, your major, a specific class); an organization or institution (Bonaventure, the postal service, a corporation); or a mechanical system (a car, a computer, or other technology). Your analysis should be 700-1000 words, make substantial use of at least one of our class readings, analyze a procedural artifact, be posted on your class website, and address one of the following prompts.

  • Ian Bogost’s discussion of procedural rhetoric helps us think about how systems represent some aspect of the world and/or make an argument about how the world works, doesn’t work, or could work. Drawing on Bogost, offer an analysis of a procedural artifact that addresses how it represents or makes an argument about some aspect of the world. How does the system work? What are the rules of the system? How do these rules work to make an argument about the world or represent it in some way? How does the system embody a particular ideology? In what ways is the system effective in terms of what it achieves or how it shapes our thinking about the world? What does the system leave out, obscure, or otherwise fail to address in some way?
  • James Paul Gee’s work helps us think about literacy as a set of practices rather than the acquisition of knowledge. Drawing on Gee, analyze a “semiotic domain” in terms of his main concepts. What sorts of social practices (activities, actions, and behaviors) are allowed, encouraged, or discouraged in this domain or system? What are the purposes of these practices, and what value do they have for the community that participates in this system? Who makes up this community? Are there specific people or types of people? What do they share in terms of ideas, attitudes, and values? What role does this domain or system play in the world more generally? How does it interact with other systems?
  • Allison Parrish helps us think about the ethics of hacking, both in terms of computer hacking and also any other way that we can modify a system. Drawing on Parrish, analyze the ethics of a specific procedural artifact using her main questions. Who gets to use this system or technology? Who is left out? How does the system facilitate or hinder access? What data and information does the system draw on? Whose labor produced this information and what biases and assumptions are built into it? And what do the data leave out? What systems of authority are enacted by the system? What kind of community does the system assume? What community does the system invite or allow for?