Jun 16, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2009-2010 
Rensselaer Catalog 2009-2010 [Archived Catalog]

Language, Literature, and Communication

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Schools & Departments

Head: Cheryl Geisler

Department Home Page: http://www.llc.rpi.edu/

The Department of Language, Literature, and Communication (LL&C) is an internationally recognized center for interdisciplinary education, research, and theory development. The department’s programs span areas including Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), composition and writing, computer-mediated communication (CMC), foreign languages, graphics and visual communication, literature and cultural studies, rhetoric, and technical communication.

The department offers four undergraduate degrees. The first, a B.S. in Communication, is a program that deals with general studies in communication. Also offered is a B. S. in Communication witha Concentration in Graphic Design.This program prepares students for professional practice and graduate study in creative problem solving for print and electronic media. The B.S. in Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication (EMAC) prepares students for careers opened by the electronic revolution in Communication and Arts. The B.S. in Information Technology (IT) with Communication as the Second Discipline is another degree offered in cooperation with the department of Information Technology. For more information about any of these programs, please visit http://www.llc.rpi.edu/programs/undergraduate.shtml.

The department also offers a Ph.D. and three M.S. degrees. The Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric has a unique focus on communication in technologically mediated contexts. With the M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), students can take a unique approach to human-computer interaction by being centered in communication. Also offered is one of the oldest technical communication degrees in the nation, the M.S. in Technical Communication. This program enables students to gain design skills that have obsolescence and the capacity to generate content for several electronically-based communication media. Finally, the M.S. in Communication and Rhetoric is a degree that prepares students for applied research in industry or government, or for further study in a doctoral program. For information about graduate study in LL&C, please visit http://www.llc.rpi.edu/programs/graduate.html.

The growing need for people who understand the new communication technologies and their impact on society and individuals creates a demand for all LL&C program graduates. B.S. graduates seek employment in fields related to graphic/communication design, communication technology and technical communication, multimedia design and production, and careers in the emerging Internet technologies. The M.S. graduates pursue careers as information architects, Web designers, multimedia specialists, graphic designers, electronic communication specialists, technical communicators, usability engineers, and instructional interface designers. The M.S. programs also provide a foundation for doctoral study. Ph.D. graduates find careers in business and government as well as in academia.


Research Innovations and Initiatives

In research, the department’s mission is to develop and assess new understandings of how people create and manage their social and professional worlds through the mediation of symbol systems and communication technologies. The major thrusts of department research are described below.

Communication and Technology
Research in this area focuses on technologically mediated communication, design of human-computer interactions, information technologies in community development and networking, and technical and professional communication practices.

Rhetoric, Culture, and Communication Technology
Specific research projects in this area include cultural studies of film, photography, advertising, and cyberspace; rhetorical theory and analysis, with particular emphasis on digital, visual, and cultural rhetoric; and language in collaborative design work. Also underway is research in cultural rhetoric, which includes ethnographic studies of themed cultural environments.

Media Design and Theory
Design of hypermedia text and artwork, writing for print and digital media, visual communication and design, and the integration of visual with verbal code are current areas of research in this category.

Research Facilities
To support these programs, LL&C maintains a variety of research-centered laboratories and facilities: 

Social and Behavioral Research Laboratory (SBRL)    The SBRL contains space and equipment for applied and basic research in computer-mediated communication (CMC), human-computer interaction (HCI), psychology, cognitive science, community informatics, and technology studies. Faculty and graduate students from the Departments of Language, Literature, and Communication, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Electronic Arts, Management, and Science and Technology Studies conduct multi-disciplinary studies in the social and behavioral impact of information technologies.

The SBRL is located in the newly renovated Winslow Building, adjacent to the Rensselaer campus on the West side of 8th Street. The 8,500 square foot lab contains HCI and human factors research suites with eye-tracking and observational video systems, focus group rooms with both direct and video observation and recording facilities, small CMC research rooms with computer and video systems, an immersive virtual reality studio, a computer-aided telephone and Web survey research lab, and a large-group research room. The facility provides research teams with physical space for research projects, laboratory equipment for a broad range of projects, technical support services like computer programming, networking, and equipment construction, administrative support for conducting funded research, and space for housing postdoctoral associates and graduate research assistants. It promotes cross-disciplinary research efforts by providing a space for interaction among researchers of differing backgrounds and training. More information can be found at http://www.sbrl.rpi.edu/

Center for Game Research     The Center for Game Research provides an umbrella organization that develops and coordinates research in games and simulation by multidisciplinary teams from diverse backgrounds in arts, cognitive science, computer science, and human-computer interaction. Rensselaer has emerged as a national leader in games and simulation with its existing minor in Game Studies. The initiation in Fall 2007 of a full dual-degree B.S. in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences is already attracting industry notice for its attention to games-specific curriculum combined with in-depth skills in arts, computer science, cognitive science, and management; and a committed group of faculty researchers already conducting and publishing games research. The Center for Game Research is a unit of the Social and Behavioral Research Laboratory (SBRL). Its affiliates are Associates of the SBRL, which provides its facilities.

Facilities include (1) Games Research Suite. This living room-like environment is equipped with all major game consoles, an extensive library of current and historic games, a comfortable seating area, a large wall-mounted plasma screen display, and video and audio monitoring and recording, including split-screen video combining views of the game and its players; (2) Motion Capture, VR, and Animation Systems. With a major NSF grant, a Vico motion capture system is installed into a large Virtual Reality studio; (3) Networked PC Room. A large 10-station networked PC room is available for study of social gaming; (4) Focus Group Rooms. Two professionally designed focus group rooms with unobtrusive audio and video recording are available for concept studies, marketing research, and other research studies that use group discussion. (5) Real-time Streaming Video. Video from all research rooms in the SBRL, including the Games Research Suite and Focus Group rooms, can be viewed from any Web browser in real time so remote collaborators can view and participate in studies as they are conducted.

Center for Communication Practices     This newly-renovated tutorial service located on the First Floor of the Folsom Library is available to all Rensselaer students and provides one-on-one consultation in preparing written, oral, and electronic communication products. Additional information about the Center’s resources (including on-line publications) can be accessed on its web site at http://www.ccp.rpi.edu/

Distance Seminar Room     Located in the heart of the department, the Distance Seminar Room in Sage 4304 provides facilities for small group and seminar interaction with students and colleagues at a distance. Newly renovated, it supports on-line learning, web conferencing, video-streaming, and teleconferencing.

Media Classroom     Located in Sage 2202, the Media Classroom supports media studies with a facility that supports display and control of high-quality film and video.

VAST Lab (Visualization, Animation, and Simulation Technology)     Located in Sage 2411, the VAST Lab is an advanced digital imaging lab consisting of 26 high-end PCs running a full complement of digital imaging and animation software. 

Undergraduate Programs

Undergraduate programs in LL&C provide students with the multidisciplinary education that is essential for leadership in an “information society,” a society that is rapidly being transformed by new communication processes and technologies. Building on Rensselaer’s strong technological infrastructure, these programs offer students hands-on education in new communication technologies and theoretical frameworks in order to understand and shape the cultural impact of these technologies. Our programs prepare students for advanced study of communication or for employment in the fields related to communication technology, technical communication, graphic design, or multimedia production.

Undergraduates in our programs may use some of their elective credits to complete a Certificate in Communication Design.

Minor Programs

Students in all undergraduate degree level programs are strongly advised to develop a minor in a compatible field of interest. Participation in an internship or co-op is also recommended to allow students to gain professional work experience.

The Department of Language, Literature, and Communication offers a selection of minors for majors in other departments, all of which require at least 16 credit hours.

Graduate Programs

The Department of Language, Literature, and Communication (LL&C) addresses the communcative processes by which humans construct and share meaning in all media including the new electronic media.  It is a multidisciplinary scholarly community embracing literacy study, speech communication, composition and rhetoric, foreign languages, media studies, visual design, human-computer interaction, and technical communication.

Over twenty faculty are involved in graduate education. They comprise a large, diverse, yet integrated community dedicated to teaching and mentoring graduate students. They make an exceptionally strong contribution to research in communication in technologically mediated contexts through an active program of publication in a variety of fields and in the production of artistic media. They are also successful in securing external funding for their work. Recent research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Society for Technical Communication, and the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education. At last count, LL&C faculty had won over 30 awards including numerous fellowships, awards for best articles, visiting professorships, and professional society awards. They come from such organizations as the College Art Association, the Fulbright Program, the Game Developer’s Conference, the IEEE Professional Communication Society, the International Visual Literacy Association, the National Communication Association, the Popular Culture Association, the Rhetoric Society of America, and the Society for Technical Communication.

Currently, the Department of Language, Literature, and Communication’s graduate programs consist of three master’s level degree programs, a Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric, and two certificate programs.

Doctoral Program

The mission of the Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric is to enable students to make a contribution with rigor, depth, and creativity on issues related to Communication in Technologically Mediated Contexts.

For over 30 years, our graduates have been the leaders in the study of the relationship between communication and technology. As new forms of technologically-mediated communication emerge, research and scholarship are needed to describe their nature and account for their unique effects. We are uniquely positioned to provide an environment for graduate study in communication in technologically mediated contexts. We combine the resources of a premier technological university with a faculty strongly grounded in theory and research as well as technology and media.

The key to the Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric is its multidisciplinary nature. Our program draws from numerous disciplines across the humanities, the socials sciences, and the arts. Students in the Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric take advantage of this multidisciplinary base to design dissertation projects that are both innovative and rich. In the Ph.D. program in Communication and Rhetoric, all students complete a two-course core, two methods courses, and at least three graduate seminars. Students may also take up to three application courses in areas such as graphics, human-computer interaction, hypermedia, web design and development, or writing. With this structure, our program is highly tailored to the individual career goals of each student. Students who join the LL&C community are expected to become active researchers and scholars. All have at least four public presentations or publications prior to completing the degree.

Ph.D. students also have numerous opportunities to further their teaching. All students teach under the direction of a faculty supervisor and may take our teaching core course, Teaching Communication in Technologically Mediated Contexts. We value professional service and offer graduate students opportunities to undertake important service obligations to the department and community. Two years of teaching assignments and two years of support through fellowship or research are available. Our students are also very competitive for university-level scholarships. 

The Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric requires satisfactory completion of 90 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree, which includes an appropriate master’s degree, which will be counted as 30 of the required 90 credit hours. After completion of an appropriate master’s degree, students are required to take 36 credit hours of course work at Rensselaer. Some Plans of Study may require additional course work beyond this 36-credit-hour minimum, typically not to exceed 42 credits. More information about this program can be found at http://www.llc.rpi.edu/programs/graduate_phdcmrt.html.

Special Graduate Opportunities

Certificate Programs  The Department of LL&C offers two specialization certificates, one in Graphics and the other in Human-Computer Interaction, as options in the master’s programs, though additional courses over the 10-course minimum may be required to pursue either certificate.

Cooperative Education Participation in the Cooperative Education Program is encouraged as part of our departmental degree offerings. The intent of co-op is to provide a full-time, career-related work experience that will enhance students’ knowledge and skills in their chosen professional field. Students who accept co-op assignments typically work from one to two terms (one of which must be an academic semester) prior to graduation. As a result, it is not uncommon for co-op participants to extend their graduation date.

Since graduate funding may be forfeited in any semester (not including summer) during which students are away from campus and unable to fulfill Teaching Assistant (T.A.) or Research Assistant (R.A.) duties, funded students should discuss their situation with their adviser and with the department’s Graduate Programs Coordinator before accepting a co-op position.

Before accepting a co-op assignment, graduate students must have completed Proposing and Persuading (WRIT 6550)[Technical Communication or Communication and Rhetoric students] or Foundations of HCI Usability (COMM 6820) [HCI students], one (1) additional LL&C course (such as COMM 6530, Communication Research I), and have matriculated in the department as a graduate student for at least one semester.

Students may continue their education while on assignment by registering for Communication Studies (COMM 6940), or they may petition the department’s M.S. or Ph.D. Policy Committees to take credits elsewhere. While working on co-op, students will also be registered for Co-op Industrial Assignment and will be considered full-time, regular students.

Please note that international students with an F1 visa must receive permission to work from the Cooperative Education and International Student Services offices to fulfill Immigration and Naturalization Service requirements.

Course Descriptions 

Courses related to all LL&C curricula are described in the Course Descriptions section of this catalog under the department codes COMM, LANG, LITR, or WRIT.

Faculty *


Geisler, C.—Ph.D. (Carnegie-Mellon University); writing in workplace and professional contexts; the intersection of text, technology, and design;  methods of the analysis of verbal data; the advancement of women in the academy, genre theory; academic literacy. 

Odell, C. L.Ph.D. (University of Michigan); composition theory and research; integrating visual and verbal information; writing in nonacademic settings; writing in engineering; rethinking “literacy”; education reform.  

Search, P.M.A. (Goddard College); visual design theory and practice; interaction design and multimediate art; computer animation and hypermedia interface design; indigenous knowledge and interaction design; multiliteracy models for intercultural communication.

Whitburn, M.Ph.D. (University of Iowa); history and teaching of technical communication; history of rhetoric; rhetoric bibliography; history of English studies.

Zappen, J. P.Ph.D. (University of Missouri); contemporary rhetorical theory; digital rhetoric; community networking; information design.

Clinical Professors

Grice, R.Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); information usability; human-computer interaction; communicating on the WWW; usability testing and evaluation; analysis of computer-games interfaces; effective teaching and learning in the virtual classroom; designing the total user experience.

Associate Professors

Bennett, A.M.F.A. (Yale University); design theory and research for cross-cultural communication and social change.

Deery, J.D.Phil. (Oxford University); media studies; television and new media; advertising and culture; popular culture; utopian literature; literature and science. 

Esrock, E. J.Ph.D. (New York University); cognitive/neuropsychological approaches to literature and visual art; theory and history of photography; modern literature; women writers.

Gordon, T.Ph.D. (University of California-Berkeley); religion and media; ethnographic methods; discourse analysis; documentary theory; visual culture; themed environments; South Pacific and U.S.

Haskins, E.Ph.D. (University of Iowa);  rhetorical theory and history; visual rhetoric; rhetorics of public memory and national identity.

Clinical Associate Professors

Lewis, B.Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); composition theory and research; writing center theory and research; theory and practice of peer tutoring; writing in disciplines across the curriculum, especially in engineering design.

Miyamoto, P.M.F.A. (Otis Art Institute); visual communication design theory and practice; exploration of paint-based medium as an expressive art form.

Assistant Professors

Fernheimer, J.—Ph.D. (University of Texas-Austin); rhetorical theory; history of rhetoric; Jewish rhetorical theory and history; nineteenth-century African-American rhetoric; Holocaust representation; rhetoric of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict; literacy, technology, and writing pedagogy; archival research methods; nineteenth and twentieth century African-American and Jewish literature.

Freier, N.—Ph.D. (University of Washington); children’s technology; value sensitive design; human-computer interaction; human-robot interaction; social and moral development; cross-cultural impact of information technology.

Godoy, C.G.—Ph.D., J.D. (University of Southern California; University of California, Berkeley); socio-psychological consequences of human interaction with media; health communication; message framing; developmental factors in risk-taking; modeling realistic personality in virtual agents; pedagogical agents; interactive media as an unobtrusive behavioral measure; socially optimized learning in virtual environments.

Clinical Assistant Professors

Lynch, M.Ph.D. (University of Connecticut); interactive storytelling; design of AI within computer games in support of social interaction and communication; cognitive processes for modeling computer game AI; analysis of computer game interfaces.

Professors Emeritus (Active)

Halloran, S.M.Ph.D. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute); memory studies; the role of museums and historical artifacts in presereving collective memory; historical sites as sites of rhetorical education and citizen formation; rhetorical tradition(s) in the United States.

*Departmental faculty listings are accurate as of the date generated for inclusion in this catalog. For the most up-to-date listing of faculty positions including end-of-year promotions, please refer to the Faculty Roster Section of this catalog which is current of the May 2009 Board of Trustees meeting.





Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Schools & Departments