Mark Vega is a doctoral candidate in the English Department at Stanford, specializing in late-19th and 20th-century American literature. His work examines the intersection between theories of the novel and the developing foreign policy/relations discourse of the latter 19th and early 20th century in America. At Stanford he has TAed courses on Chicano literature and culture, and American comedy and satire. As a graduate student instructor in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, he has taught writing courses on the protest rhetoric of 1960s America and the "Rhetoric of the Insult."
In 2010-11, he will teach a PWR course entitled "Too Much Information?": The Rhetoric of Social Networks & Online Privacy." In this course, students will engage with online life and social networks from a more critical perspective than than of the "user," the perspective with which they are most familiar. Students will examine how online lives and identities--Facebook, Twitter, and Second Life, to use particularly powerful examples--have catalyzed both alarmist and utopian stances and rhetoric. Students will analyze both of these positions in the first weeks of the course and use the critical skills and vocabulary they develop to address arguments on online privacy, anonymity, and virtual "crimes" such as cyberstalking and piracy. Following a sustained immersion in the first half of course with the rhetoric of and around online life and social networking, students will undertake a major research project of their own devising. Possible topics might include the rhetoric of specialized communities such as Etsy; whether, as Clay Shirky asks, online life has ushered in a new era and culture of producing, participation, and sharing; or the lineage of online "trolling."