About the course

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Mike Lyons
office: Merion Hall 116
office hours: MW – 2:15-3:15; T – 10-12, or by appointment (book an appointment here).
e-mail: jlyons@sju.edu (Please allow at least 24 hours for a response. If you don’t get one by then, e-mail me again.)
twitter: @jmikelyons

about the course

The point of this course is to engage digital media as a producer, consumer and critical thinker. In what ways does digital media reflect us? How does it change the way we do things we have always done – play, work, read, share, love? The course will engage specific media forms – video, audio, text, still images, maps. Through a series of hands-on projects students learn to research and analyze contemporary issues and trends in digital communication. Another important goal for the course is to immerse you in a “DIY (Do it Yourself) ethos,” creating effective pieces of media requires a lot of tinkering and a certain amount of autodidactism – a fancy word for the ability to teach yourself new things.

For many of you this course will also be an important step from being primarily a content consumer to becoming a content producer (or produser).

Importantly, this is a learning community and I am a member like you. I have placed myself within this community as a guide. You, as members of this community, will do much of the teaching by helping and presenting your work to others.

more on “DIY”

As I mentioned above, the DIY ethos is an important set of strategies and guiding principles that you will need as you move through the Communication Studies curriculum. I will guide you through some of the software, but it’s your responsibility to advance your technique and understand – to make something worthwhile. You have to acquire digital literacy, which takes practice, intense thought, and long hours outside of class. This also means you have to master the ability to problem solve and debug as part of your practice. In this way, students not only learn digital media, but they learn how to learn digital media and the logic of this new literacy.


• Gain experience with a range of digital tools for capturing, curating, producing, and transmitting media.
• Understand the larger issues and debates shaping the transformation of the media landscape and, more importantly, society at large.
• Develop collaborative learning skills.

required stuff

Two books are required:

Net Smart, Howard Rheingold
The Yahoo Style Guide
• Your own domain name and web hosting with Reclaim Hosting, which is $25 for a year

I have left time in the beginning of the semester so that you can order these online  (where they are likely cheaper).


The course will require you to capture sound, still and video images. Your phone may work fine for many of these assignments, but other equipment – audio recorders and mics, DSLR, higher end video, a GoPro etc. – are available to check out in the Merion Hall basement.

Those of us who teach courses in the Communication Studies Department view our classes as a connected community of learners. If you take more than one communications course you will likely see familiar faces. The courses are connected in their use of technology as well, but we have a finite number of cameras and audio recorders. So it is critical that you borrow equipment only when you need it and return it promptly after you are done using it. It is very likely that someone else will be waiting for it.


One large assignment and a number of required smaller ones comprise your grade for the course.

Personal website creation and maintenance

A key outcome of this course will be a digital portfolio that you should continue to build during your time at St. Joe’s. This, along with your social media footprint, will be what potential employers will want to see.

 Weekly projects

We have “workshop” days on Fridays. Just about every week we’ll get started on new project. These are small project that usually can be finished over the weekend. The due date for these is the following Friday, when a reflective blog post that includes the project (maybe a embeddable map, a slideshow, etc.) is due at class time. All of these projects are required. You can’t miss any.

How it adds up:

Website creation/maintenance and weekly projects and reflective posts  (portfolio grade) – 65 percent

A note on portfolio grading. The idea in this course is to learn and improve over the course of the semester. So checkpoints are in place along the way – “portfolio check-ins” – during which I will look at what you are doing and offer advice for improvements.

Reading notes – 25 percent

Participation/attendance – 10 percent

The details for each project will be distributed during the Friday workshop.

participation and attendance

Our success as a class requires that everyone attend prepared to talk. That means having done the readings and required reading notes.

I take attendance. You get three unexcused absences – a week. After that, each absence will result in the loss of half a letter grade. More than five absences will result in a failing grade.

Perhaps most importantly, you have to be willing to share what you know with others in the class. If you have mastered a software platform or editing technique, then be ready to show someone else how it works. That’s part of the DIY ethos that we try to foster in the department.


Projects are due on the date listed on the schedule. Each day late will result in a letter grade deduction. Reading notes are due two hours before class. They will not be accepted after that.

academic integrity

No form of academic misconduct will be tolerated in this course. Cheating and plagiarism will result in an immediate fail and you will be reported to the appropriate official in your college. Plagiarism is defined in the Student Code of Conduct as follows:

1. Submitting another’s published or unpublished work in whole, in part or in paraphrase, as one’s own without fully and properly crediting the author with footnotes, quotation marks, citations, or bibliographical reference.

2. Submitting as one’s own original work, material obtained from an individual or agency without reference to the person or agency as the source of the material.

3. Submitting as one’s own original work material that has been produced through unacknowledged collaboration with others without release in writing from collaborators.

special needs

For those who have or think that you may have a disability (learning, physical or psychological), you are encouraged to contact Services for Students with Disabilities, Room G10, Bellarmine, 610-660-1774 or 610-660-1620 as early as possible in the semester. Reasonable accommodations can only be offered to students with current (within 3 years) documentation of the disability and to the extent that such accommodation does not interfere with the essential requirements of a particular course or program.


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