Science Fiction, Fall 2019/Lesson 3

From Gerald R. Lucas
Syllabus R1 R2 R3 L1 L2 L3 L4 L5 L6 L7 L8 L9 L10  
86228 humn 4460.01 Online Fall, 2019

Gibson & Doctor Who
September 9–September 13

“The Gernsback Continuum” by ahsheegrek.
Feedback for L1 and L2.

Welcome to lesson three. This week, we look at two texts that puncture reality and our attempts to control and invent reality through our media: William Gibson’s “The Gernsback Continuum” and the Doctor Who episode “Blink.”

We will also continue our work on Wikipedia by learning some formatting basics and adding more journal posts and comments.

Formatting Basics

Building our our previous experience with editing Wikipedia, this week we will have a look at some formatting basics and begin using them in our journal posts. Let’s begin with a tutorial on formatting and a more comprehensive look at wikitext.[1] Therefore, we must decide how pages on Wikipedia might most easily be used and the tools that the platform provides us for writing.

One of the golden rules of writing text that’s meant to be read off the screen is to think of usability and scan-ability — both of which consider the needs of the user in design and composition. According to “User Experience Basics,” usability may be evaluated by several factors, including ease of use.[2] Barr, in The Yahoo! Style Guide, states a “site is more usable when it is easy to navigate, meets visitors' needs and expectations, and provides a satisfying experience.”[3]

Wikipedia Usability Strategies

  1. Avoid large blocks of text. According to Jacob Nielson, people do not read on the web, they scan.[4] Therefore, blocks of text (i.e., long paragraphs), while acceptable and even expected in books, must be broken up on the screen to be scan-able. Nielson suggests one idea per paragraph.
  2. Use descriptive sections. Having different headers and subheads breaks up the information into related and digestible chunks.
  3. Highlight keywords with bold or italic text. Links, too, since they are a different color, draws the user’s eye to important elements in the text. You might also use bulleted lists or numbered lists when appropriate.
  4. Trim your prose to half the words you would normally write. Make each word count. Use active voice and avoid what Nielson calls “marketese,” a subjective style using boastful claims — this is inappropriate for Wikipedia anyway.
  5. Promote credibility by labeling images, using descriptive keywords in titles and headers, captioning images, and keeping users engaged.

Read and View

Read “Gernsback” and watch “Blink,” taking notes as you do. Note character names, dominant themes, motifs, symbols, and important passages. Where do these important aspects of the text appear? After a first read, try to find at least one secondary text[5] that addresses these texts on the Internet or in Galileo.[6] You might also check YouTube. Read or watch the criticism and take notes.

Journal Post 5

Write your post on any aspect of “Gernsback” or “Blink” that you’d like. Focus on one text for this entry; you will have the opportunity to write about both for your next entry. Try to focus: have a thesis statement and use a paragraph for each idea. Date and title your post.

Journal Post 6

Compare any aspect — character, theme, symbol — of the two texts. How do they complement each other? What does one say about the other? Is there a characteristic that both protagonists (antagonists) share? Your goal here is to find connections between the two texts. Again, be sure to support your ideas with at least one source, cited correctly. Date and title your post.


Reply to at least two different colleagues’ posts.

Due Date

Please have all of the above completed by Sunday, September 15, 2019. I will evaluate your this lesson the following day, email everyone a progress report, and post audio feedback at the top of the next lesson if necessary.


  1. Again, you might bookmark these pages for your reference, as there is a lot of information to digest.
  2. "User Experience Basics". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. n.d. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  3. Barr, Chris (2010). The Yahoo! Style Guide. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 12–13.
  4. Nielson, Jakob (October 1, 1997). "How Users Read on the Web". Nielson Norman Group. Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  5. It would be helpful to begin with their respective Wikipedia entries that I linked above, but these should not be cited as sources.
  6. Obviously, the latter is better.
  7. External sources are always footnoted as references; Wikipedia entries are always just linked in the text. Never cite a Wikipedia article like you would an external source.