Schedule • Com 201

Here’s the schedule for the semester. As always, this is subject to change if things come up in the news or if we get a little behind. So don’t go too far ahead in your reading/watching/listening because the schedule could change a little.

There is a number next to each set of readings (for example “1.”). Please put this number in your reading responses.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

– George Orwell

Jan. 19 – Intros

• Introduction to the class and brief discussion.
• Setting up google doc for reading notes. There is a video tutorial for setting up and sharing a Google doc on the Reading Response page.

Jan. 21 – Ethical frameworks
Should society operate on the idea “greatest good for the greatest number?” Or is it all cultural (just do what seems right to you)?

• Read pp. 167-176 from this: Charles Ess, Digital Media Ethics (pdf)
Reading response: In addition to the summary of those pages, explain utilitarianism and provide an example.

Case studies: The Trolley Problem, drunk driving photos, ticking time bomb, Marine photo


Jan. 26 – Ethical Frameworks II
Are there absolute laws that we must abide by?

• Louis Alvin Day, “Ethics and Moral Reasoning,” from Ethics and Moral Reasoning (pdf) Ethics and moral reasoning
• Watch Scott Berkun, “Why and How to Give an Ignite Talk” (This will come in handy as you prepare first group Ignite talk on Thursday.)

Reading response: In addition to the summary of those pages, explain deontology, relativism, “the situation definition”

Case studies: Brittany Maynard

Jan. 28 – Free speech

• John Stuart Mill, “On the Liberty of Thought and Discussion,” from On Liberty (pdf) On Liberty – Chapter 2 (start at the bottom of page 15)

• Erik Eckholm, ISIS Influence on Web Prompts Second Thoughts on First Amendment, The New York Times

As you consider Mills in your reading response, write a little about his stance on limitations on freedom of expressing opinion. Does he believe there should be limits on speech?

For example, what does he mean here:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.39.27 PM.png

or here,

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.47.53 PM.png

And how do his ideas work with the ISIS article? How is Mills’ approach to free speech utilitarian?

Case studies (ignite talk): Elonis v. United States;  Brandenburg v. Ohio;  Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District;  Bethel School District v. Fraser;  Morse v. Frederick.

Feb. 2 – Why do we need a “free press”?
• George Orwell, “The Freedom of the Press” The original preface in the first edition of Animal Farm.

Reading response: Summarize Orwell’s take on freedom of the press and speech and pull out three quotes that you think exemplify that stance.

Case studies (ignite talk): Charlie HebdoObsidian Finance Group, LLC v. Cox, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, Branzburg v. Hayes.

Feb.4 – Making a Murderer and the ethics of storytelling

In class: Watch episode 1 of Making a Murderer

No reading response for today, but a big one for Tuesday.

Feb. 9 – “Making a Murderer” and the ethics of storytelling


• Watch  episodes 2 and 3 of “Making a Murderer” (You can get a free trial of Netflix).
• Read Kathryn Schiltz, “Dead Certainty: How Making a Murderer Goes Wrong”, The New Yorker
• Listen Making a Murderer: Behind the Scenes of An Unbelievable New True Crime Series (podcast. You can also get it through iTunes)

For your reading responses:

Making a Murderer doesn’t seem very objective in telling the story of Steve Avery and Brendan Dassey’s cases. Does that matter? Ate the filmmakers starting with presumptions about this case and the evidence presented in court? Does that matter?

Making a Murderer is, in the end, entertainment. Is it ethical to treat such a sensitive matter – someone’s murder and the incarceration of two other people – as entertainment? Should these characters – like Avery – have any control over the narrative?

• The story is told from a very specific angle using a set of “characters” that seem to support one side. Is that fair? What have the implications of this type of narrative been in the Avery case? What has happened?

Feb. 11 – Aren’t “technology” and “digital technology” and “social media” all really the same thing?


6. Read:

• “Teenager’s View of Social Media, Written by an Actual Teen
“An Old Fogey’s Analysis of a Teenager’s View on Social Media”

Danah Boyd is skeptical of Andrew Watts’ observations of social media. Why? Summarize her argument? Do you agree?  I’m not asking if you agree or disagree with Watts’ take on social media (for example “Instagram is by far the most used social media outlet for my age group.”). I’m asking you to assess Boyd’s critique. What’s her point?

Assign Norms Breaching Project

Feb. 16 – Alone Together – No class today. But a reading response is due on the stuff below.

7. Read:

• Sherry Turkle, “Author’s Note: Turning Points” and “Introduction: Alone Together” from Alone Together: Why We Expect  More from Technology and Less from Each Other (required book)

Reading Response: Summarize Turkle’s thoughts on relationships. How are they changing?

Feb. 18 – Technology as “the architecture of our intimacies”

8. • Watch Her (You can rent it on Amazon for $3.99 or do whatever you do in these situations. It might be worth to get together with others int he class to watch)

Him, a parody

What ethical issues does Her raise regarding human-machine (or in this case “code”) relationships?

Case studies: Furbie, Paro

Feb. 23 – Always On … from birth

9. Read Sherry Turkle, Ch. 8 Always On and Ch. 9 Growing Up Tethered

Reading response: Turkle talks about the “new state of self” throughout these two chapters. How has the conception of “self” changed, according to her?

Feb. 25 

10. Read Turkle, Ch. 10 No Need to Call

March 1 – A response to Sherry Turkle


• Zeynep Tufekci, Social Media’s Small, Positive Role in Human Relationships (pdf)

danah boyd, “Participating in the Always on Lifestyle” (Social Media Reader, ch. 6) Boyd – Participating in the always on lifestyle

Explain these: “always-on ethos,” microdata, “laissez-faire approach to social media,” asynchronicity, affordances

March 3 – Social media, business and crafting identity


Elle Hunt, “Essena O’Neill Quits Instagram claiming social Media is not Real Life,” The Guardian

Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Turning Microcelebrity into Big Business, New York Times Magazine

March 8 – Spring Break

March 10 – Spring Break

March 15 – Privacy


I hope you enjoyed the break. Today we will start talking about a topic that will occupy us for the next few weeks – Privacy, surveillance and anonymity.

In class today we will begin to watch Terms and Conditions May Apply to help kickstart a conversation about privacy.

The reading responses for today and Thursday are due the following morning by 9:30 a.m. So we will watch part of the film Tuesday and your response is due by Wednesday morning. Same with Thursday.

If you miss class on one of these two days, you can figure out where to rent it here.

13. Response (due 9:30 a.m. Wednesday:

How does our relationship with with media companies like Snapchat, Facebook and Google reconfigure our relationship with the concept of “free”? Does it matter? Why or why not?

March 17 – Privacy

Continue with Terms and Conditions May Apply

14 Response (due Thursday at 9:30 a.m.):

March 22 – Anonymity and trolling

15. Read:

• Eric Hughes, A Cypherpunk’s manifesto
• Emmett Rensin, “Confessions of a Former Internet Troll” from Vox
• Listen to The Writing on the Wall

Response: How are these three pieces related?

From Vox.

March 24 – Real names policies

16. danah boyd, “Real Names Policies are an Abuse of Power.” + comments

Response: In light of what danah boyd writes, should anonymity be regulated or controlled? What would she say?

March 29 – Open access/Production day

17. Watch The Internet’s Own Boy – the movie is free online. Watch it before class.

Reading response: Aaron Swartz believed in the “open access” ethos. Why? How was this belief reflected in his life, according to the film?

March 31 – Hacking/Hackers/Hacktivism

18. Watch We Are Legion (free online, watch before class)

Reading response: In the film, journalist Steven Levy says: “Hackers, whether they’re aware of it or not, make a statement about how we should treat information.” What does he mean by that? Think about this concept of “ethos.”

April 5 – Surveillance I


19. Read: Foucault, Panopticism (pdf) Foucault D and P

This is a tricky reading. Think about the physical metaphor that Foucault writes about. How does it relate to the concept of societal control and digital media (like cameras, the internet)?

April 7 – Surveillance II

20. Watch We Live in Public (free online)

A very strange and sometimes troubling film. In your reading response, describe a scene that you believe illustrates the point of the film. To do that, you will have first discern the point of the film (The capital “A” About).

April 12 – Production day


We will work on the timeline in class today. So you will need to come to class familiar with Timeline JS. There is instruction on their site, including a video that walks you though it.

Here are examples.

April 14 – Copyright and remix


21. Watch RIP: A Remix Manifesto

To what extent should artistic creations be protected? What is the Remix Manifesto? Do you buy it? Why?

Remix project assigned

April 19 – Copyright and remix – Fair Use


For, class have a look at this on the fair use doctrine. You should be comfortable explaining what it is and arguing for or against its application in various cases.

Be sure to look at these links at the bottom of that page:

Timeline due as a link on your google doc. The timeline itself should be posted on a website.

April 21 Mash-up Production

Today we will start practicing with iMovie and Audacity. We’ll start with Audacity, which is a free audio editing platform that works for Mac or Windows. Please download this to computer before class and familiarize yourself with it a little. It’s pretty easy to use.

Here is an FAQ on Audacity.

Here is a video tutorial on the basics:

Sound files

April 26 – Mash-up Production

April 28 – Review for Final

The final will be on fair use and the questions will come out of the reading for April 19.

You should be able to argue for or against fair use for a variety of cases, much as we have done in class.

Student evaluations – Please take a couple of minutes to fill this out for the course. Thanks.

May 2 – Remix due

May 9 – 10:30 in Merion 150.