COM 200 – Theory and Practice • Spring 2017

“Our visions of technology and design and entertainment and creativity have to be married with visions of humanity, compassion and justice.”    – Bryan Stevenson

COM 200 – Communication Theory and Practice

Mike Lyons, Ph.D.
Office: Bronstein Hall
Office hours: M – 1-2; Th 12:30-2; and by appointment (e-mail me)
E-mail: jlyons@sju.edu
jmikelyons.com

If you print this out, keep in mind that the schedule may change. Always refer to this version.

Introduction

This introduction to communication and digital media studies focuses on various ways people employ language, image, and more cinematic means for communicative purposes. Through a semester long class project, students will learn the basics of online writing, audio and video production and digital photography. While doing so, students will examine how communication technologies impact the relationship between media audiences, producers, and content.

We will focuses on four areas:

• Digital writing – We will create a general website aimed at the campus community. This will be a semester-long class project.

Basic website design and maintenance – You will buy a domain and create your own personal website that will serve as a portfolio of your work during your time in the COM and after you graduate.

• Digital media production – Along with a lot of writing, you will be recording audio, shooting video and taking pictures to be posted on the class site and shared through social media.

 • Digital media theory – It’s also important that we understand the underlying logic of what we create and share. That’s where digital media theory comes in.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, students will:

• Learn how to create multimedia content and write clear, engaging prose for the web.
• Fine-tune your web presence and reach an audience online.
• Become proficient at finding, verifying, compiling, and organizing information.
• Develop collaborative learning skills and grow comfortable with digital tools that facilitate collaboration.
• Understand ideologies and histories behind technologies and practices; that is, you will learn to analyze the larger issues and debates shaping the transformation of the media landscape and society at large.

Required Books/Storage/Hosting

• Books:

Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee, Nicely Said: Writing for the Web with Style and Purpose
Henry Jenkins and Sam Ford, Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture.

• A minimum 16G SD card

Reclaim Hosting for your website ($25 per year)

Preparing for Class

Class discussion is critical to the success and enjoyment of the class. Make sure you do the reading/watching/listening(s) before class and be ready to participate. Reading responses (see below) will help you think through the readings and fuel class discussion.

Assignments/Projects

Reading/Watching/Listening Responses

You will write a response that demonstrates your understanding of the stuff we read/listen to/watch during the semester. These will be submitted through Blackboard.

The Class Website/Magazine

We will devise, build and contribute to a general interest website aimed at the SJU community, primarily students. Think of a combination of Her Campus and Buzzfeed. You will contribute to the site every week, rotating through several topics and running social media. You will post to the site weekly. These posts will be due the same day each week and are an integral part of your grade.

• Website/Portfolio creation, design and maintenance

You will install a website on your own url using Reclaim hosting and WordPress. This website will serve as a portfolio of your work during your time at Saint Joseph’s and will be an important part of your resumé after you graduate. You will post your best work from the online magazine (above) to your site.

Special Needs

Reasonable academic accommodations may be provided to students who submit appropriate documentation of their disability.  Students are encouraged to contact Dr. Christine Mecke in the Office of Student Disability Services, Bellarmine, B-10, at cmecke@sju.edu; or at 610.660.1774 (voice), or 610.660.1620 (TTY), for assistance with this issue.  The university also provides an appeal/grievance procedure regarding requested or offered reasonable accommodations through Dr. Mecke’s office.  More information: www.sju.edu/sds

Attendance

I take attendance. You get three unexcused absences – a week. After that, each absence will result in a half-letter-grade reduction. More than six unexcused absences will result in a failing grade.

Grading

• Reading/listening/watching responses – 30 percent
• Website/portfolio creation and posting – 50 percent
• Midterm reflection – 10 percent
• Final reflection – 10 percent

Equipment

The COM Studies department has most of the equipment what you will need to complete course assignments. Everyone in the department, including faculty, use the gear for their work, so it’s important that we all treat it kindly and return it on time.

Where is the gear?

The department equipment room is located on the second floor of Bronstein Hall. It is opened during limited hours during the semester, so be sure to plan ahead. A list of equipment will be available at sjucom.net.

Check-out

Equipment is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Equipment can be checked out for blocks of time. If you check something out on Mon.-Wednesday, it’s due on Thursday. If you check something out on Thursday, it’s due Monday. Check-outs are renewable if no one is waiting for it.

Loss and damage

You are responsible for the item that you check out. If you lose it or damage it, you are responsible for repairs or replacement.

Overdue gear

Overdue equipment will result in the suspension of borrowing privileges and could result in a hold placed on the borrower’s university account.

Charging

Please recharge the batteries before returning the item and make sure you remove your SD card (SD cards are not provided by the department).

Technology concerns

Because this class is about learning hands-on how technology changes culture, we will try out some digital tools that might be unfamiliar to you. You do not need any prior skill nor do you need any special software. It would, however, help to bring your own laptop to class if you own one. Plan ahead for technology problems and allow extra time to ensure that technology does not interfere with your work.

Writing center

You will write a lot in this class. If you are particularly concerned about your writing or think you might benefit from extra support, SJU has a writing center with peer tutors trained to help with all kinds of assignments. You name it; they’ve helped writers write it.

The undergraduate and graduate student writers who make up the staff can assist you in any stage of the writing process. Both appointments and drop-in sessions are available. The main Writing Center is located in 162 Merion Hall. The Center also has a satellite location in the Post Learning Commons (room 128). For more information, including hours of operation and instructions on how to make an appointment, please visit the SJU Writing Center website at http://www.sju.edu/writingcenter.

Schedule

This schedule is subject to shifts and tweaks as we see fit. But you will be kept apprise of the shifts and tweaks before they occur. The number next to the reading will be the number you will use on your reading notes.

Week of Jan. 16

W – Intro – What’s ahead/Website brainstorming

F – Intro to WordPress

“What is WordPress?”

Domain and WordPress installation workshop. We will work on installing and building your website in class. Register your domain before class. Pick something smart and professional (not your id or really anything with a number in it). – Bring laptop
• Register your domain and install wordpress.
More wordpress and Reclaim tutorials
Read: Bill Connolly, How Buzzfeed Discovered the Secret to Success on Social Media

In class: Website names/topics brainstorming

Week of Jan. 23

M – Website design and management workshop – Bring laptop
• Jerry Cao, The Five Pillars of Visual Hierarchy in Web Design
• How to Create a Site Structure that Google Will Love
• Five Key Guidelines for Visual Web Design

In-class: Online magazine design choices/portfolio critique

W – Navigating (y)our website

Read:Logging into WordPressWordPress Posts vs. PagesCreating a new postCreating links

Read: Elena Cresci, “21 Things You Need to Know About Buzzfeed’s Success,” The Guardian

F – Tech Friday – Headlines, tags and categories

Read: WordPress HeadingsAdding categories and tags

Read: Post ideas: A  “week’s worth” post, a multi-part series of posts, a top-5 or top-n post, a list of resources post, a checklist post, a review like this or this, an interview, a Q&A post, a post that asks a question, a post that begins with a quote as a jumping-off point, a “spotlight on” post, and more ideas here.

Week of Jan. 30 – Writing starts!!!

M – Theory Monday
Read: Jenkins, Spreadable Media (required), Introduction – How Media Spreads
Post ideas – You are expected to come to class today with two ideas for your weekly post (due Friday). The assignment for this is posted each week on Blackboard.

W – Writing Wednesday
Read: Nicely Said (required): Ch. 1, “What Writers Do”
F – Tech Friday

Read:  Adding images to your posts and pagesHow to edit images within WordPress 

Week of Feb. 6 – Production starts!!!

M -Theory Monday
Read: Spreadable Media, Ch. 1 – Where Web 2.0 Went Wrong
Post ideas – You are expected to come to class today with two ideas for your weekly post (due Friday). The assignment for this is posted each week on Blackboard.

W – Writing Wednesday
Read: Nicely Said, Ch. 2 “Get Your Bearings”

F – Tech Friday – Intro to Photography (Composition, lighting, sizing, editing, gear)

Week of Feb. 13

M -Theory Monday
Read: Spreadable Media, Ch. 2 – Reappraising the Residual
Post ideas – You are expected to come to class today with two ideas for your weekly post (due Friday). The assignment for this is posted each week on Blackboard.

W – Writing Wednesday
Read: Nicely Said, Ch. 3 “Make a Plan”

F – Tech Friday – Photography II

Week of Feb. 20

M -Theory Monday
Read Spreadable Media, Ch. 3 – The Value of Media Engagement
Post ideas – You are expected to come to class today with two ideas for your weekly post (due Friday). The assignment for this is posted each week on Blackboard.

W – Writing Wednesday
Read: Nicely Said, Ch. 4 “Writing Basics”

Read these 6 quick tips for bloggers who use Twitter

F – Tech Friday – Intro to Audio (Interviewing, recorders, mics, gear)

Mid-term reflection assigned (see Blackboard)

Week of Feb. 27 – Site launch!!!

M -Theory Monday
Read: Spreadable Media, Ch. 4 – What Constitutes Meaningful Engagement
Post ideas – You are expected to come to class today with two ideas for your weekly post (due Friday). The assignment for this is posted each week on Blackboard.

W – Writing Wednesday
Read: Nicely Said, Ch. 5 “Find Your Voice”

F – Tech Friday – Audio II

Week of March 6

M -Theory Monday
Read: Spreadable Media, Ch. 5 – “Designing for Spreadability”

Post ideas – You are expected to come to class today with two ideas for your weekly post (due Friday). The assignment for this is posted each week on Blackboard.

W – Writing Wednesday
Read: Nicely Said, Ch. 6 “Watch Your Tone”

F – Tech Friday – Introduction to Video (lighting, sound, gear)

Mid-term reflection due (see blackboard)

Week of March 13 – Spring Break

Week of March 20

M – Theory Monday
Read: Spreadable Media, Ch. 6 – “Courting Supporters for Independent Media”

Post ideas – You are expected to come to class today with two ideas for your weekly post (due Friday). The assignment for this is posted each week on Blackboard.

W – Writing Wednesday
Read: Nicely Said, Ch. 7 – “Build a Community”

F – Tech Friday – Video II (editing)

Week of March 27

M – Theory Monday
Read: Spreadable Media, Ch. 7 – “Thinking Transnationally”
Post ideas – You are expected to come to class today with two ideas for your weekly post (due Friday). The assignment for this is posted each week on Blackboard.

W – Writing Wednesday
Read: Neil Shea, How to Tell Powerful Narratives on Instagram, Nieman Storyboard

F – Tech Friday – TBA

Week of April 3

M – Theory Monday
Watch: “Beware online ‘filter bubbles’” by Eli Pariser and “Why our Webs are Rarely World Wide, and What We Can Do About It” by Ethan Zuckerman

W – Writing Wednesday
Read: Nicely Said, Ch. 9 – “Touchy Subjects”

F – Tech Friday -Drone photography

Week of April 10

M – Theory Monday
Read:  “Who Controls the Public Sphere in an Era of Algorithms?: Mediation, Automation, Power”  by danah boyd and Robyn Caplan

W – Writing Wednesday
Read: Nicely Said, Ch. 10 – “Make it Flow”

F – Easter Break

Week of April 17

M – Easter Break

T – Theory Monday (But it’s on Tuesday!)
Watch Alice Marwick, “Bridges to the Future: Privacy and Publicity in the Social Media Age”
Read danah boyd, from It’s Complicated Chapter 1 “Identity”

W – Writing Wednesday

Read: in Nicely Said, Ch. 11 – “The Revision Process”

F – Tech Friday – TBA

Week of April 24

M – Presentation Prep
Garr Reynolds, Organization and Preparation Tips

W – TBA

F – Portfolio Presentations

Final post due

Final reflection assigned

Week of May 1

M – Portfolio Presentations

W – Portfolio Presentations

May 8, 1 p.m. – Final reflection due/Semester wrap

I stole much of this syllabus from my colleague Rachael Sullivan. Thanks Rachael!

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