Step one

Try your hand at summarizing Jill Lepore’s essay, “The Prism: Privacy in the Age of Publicity.” Keep in mind the tips Graff and Birkenstein provide:

  • Describe the essay in a way Lepore could recognize as being true
  • Play the “believing game” and be open to what Lepore is trying to do with this essay
  • Avoid just making a list of things she says. Instead, select details that go together and lead the reader towards a point (even if you’re not sure yet what that point might be).

Other tips:

  • Find out who Jill Lepore is. Knowing something about her background could help you understand the kinds of essays she writes and what she wants readers of this essay to think about.
  • Remember to include the author’s name and the title of the piece in your summary. It can be helpful sometimes to note when and where the article was published, too. Even if you don’t include that information in the summary itself, this information can help you clarify the relationship to other articles we’ll read, and to imagine the kind of audience she has in mind.
  • Look up the words and concepts you don’t know. Even familiar terms like “secrecy” or “privacy” are being used in particular ways in this essay.

Step two

Now raise two questions for discussion:

  • One should be about the content of the piece (something you want clarified, something that can probably be answered by looking in the text).
  • One should be analytical in nature (something that has more than one possible answer, a question the essay raises for you but which may not be answered in the essay itself).
  • Working through these questions gets you started on thinking about the response you want to make to Lepore and, possibly, how you should revise your summary later.

Instructions for Discussion Questions

For most readings, you will have a set of discussion questions, both to guide your reading but also to prepare you to engage in, well, discussion in class. These assignments are due by the beginning of each class and will be graded “done” or “not done” and given a point or no points. Because they’re meant to prepare you for that class’s discussion, a late posting (for example, one that comes in after class has met) will be marked as “not done.”

Generally speaking, your answers to each question should be about a paragraph long (3-5 sentences). Better answers draw in language from the reading itself and make an effort to move beyond the most immediate or obvious answers. That said, this is “low stakes” writing, so you don’t have to be absolutely right to get credit for thinking through the readings. The more you can show what the text is making you think, however, the better–and then we can discuss it all as a group.

Use the “comment” function at the bottom of each post to submit your answers. Others will see your responses (and you’ll see theirs), so feel free to start the conversation here before coming to class, too.

Discussion Question (DQ) 1


Brooks, “The Solitary Leaker”; Waytz et al, “The Whistle-Blower’s Quandary”; Carr, “Whistle-Blowers in Limbo

For Discussion

Read each of these articles from the New York Times and look up any vocabulary words or concepts you don’t recognize.  Use the comment function below to answer these questions:

  1. What is the general conversation all of these articles is responding to; in other words, what is their shared context?
  2. What particular angle on this topic does each piece take?
  3. What is the specific point each article makes?
  4. What do you want to add to this discussion; for example, do you have a new question or another point? Do you want to correct or disagree with a view? What do these articles, taken together, make you think about?