About the Class
This course provides a look inside the technologies and infrastructures that make digital media function. Students investigate and manipulate code, formats, platforms, and networks in order to consider the relationship between these structures and the audio, visual, and interactive media representations that are possible. This includes material about search engines; audio, still, and motion picture formats; bots, advertising and content distribution networks. Although some topics will be technical, no previous technical experience is expected.
- Master the distinction between analog and digital and the idea of digital convergence.
- Appreciate the constraints of formats, standards, and computer systems as technical, economic, and social media of communication.
- Demonstrate familiarity with the key issues surrounding the evolution of the Web and the Internet, including technologies, business models, and the changing media industries.
- Recognize and understand the basic parts of a computer program.
- Write simple computer programs in Scratch and Processing
- Build a technical/practical project that extends your knowledge of one topic in a direction that you choose. This may be suitable for a portfolio of work.
- Accrue knowledge of foundational concepts about digital media technologies that will enhance future study of either their social or technical aspects (or both aspects).
- This elective course has no prerequisites and is open to students from any major or level.
- Completing this course provides four hours of undergraduate credit.
- This course counts as an "advanced communication study" elective for the Major in Communication Studies.
- This course counts toward the Minor in Science, Technology, and Society.
- This course counts toward the Minor in Digital Studies.
The course consists of two lectures each week and one lab section. Class meetings supplement but do not duplicate the readings; readings supplement but do not duplicate the class meetings. Some of the course content is available only from class meetings and students are responsible for that material.
Overall, the bulk of the work in this course (60%+) consists of a series of lab assignments building up to a final project. Lab sections (which begin in week 3) will include time to work on the lab assignments, but additional time will be necessary. All lab assignments and the final project must be submitted in order to receive a passing grade in the class. However, if you receive a poor grade on a lab assignment there will be an opportunity to revise it to improve your grade.
In-person attendance is required. However, some time after each lecture, a recording of the lecture will be made available on the course Web site, along with lecture slides. These are meant for review. In the event that a lecture video is not made available (e.g., due to technical problems) you are still responsible for the content of that lecture. You are expected to attend lecture and attendance is part of your course grade. Students verify attendance in lecture by answering a short lecture question that may be posed at any time during the lecture, including the beginning.
Final projects may be completed alone or in a team of your choice. The final project counts as a final exam for this course: there is no other final exam. Quizzes are used instead of midterms in this course: there is no other midterm. There are no surprise or "pop" quizzes.
Overall Class Requirements
- Attend all lectures, lab sections, and the final exam period.
- Submit the lab assignments, take three quizzes, and complete a final project.
- Thoughtful, informed participation during lab sections, in-lecture exercises, and when answering lecture questions.
This course contains a broad spectrum of students with different skills, from noobs to hackers and in between. In order to ensure that those less comfortable are not at a disadvantage, this course is not graded on a curve, there are opportunities to revise assignments for a better grade, and there are extra credit opportunities. The teaching staff reserves the right to award additional points to reward remarkable effort and an upward trend in your work regardless of your starting point.
Your final grade will be weighted:
Lab Assignments: 40%
Final Project: 15%
Attendance and Participation: 15%
Attendance and Participation includes lab section attendance, lecture attendance, answering the lecture questions, and more generally your overall quality and quantity of contribution to the course.
There are no required textbooks for this course.
Course readings will be provided to you electronically at least two weeks before the reading is expected to be read (with the exception of the readings in the first two weeks). If you wish to read ahead or would like additional information about the course material, purchase or borrow the optional textbooks.
- Rushkoff, Douglas. (2011). Program or be Programmed. Soft Skull Press/OR Books: New York.
- Comer, Douglas E. (2007). The Internet Book. (4th ed.) Pearson/Prentice-Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ. (Important: Do not use an earlier edition of this book as it describes an earlier Internet.)
- Duckett, John. (2011). HTML and CSS: Design and Build Web Sites. John Wiley & Sons: New York.
- Anderson, Erin et al. (2010). InterACT with Web Standards. (1st ed.) New Riders Press. Berkeley, CA.
- Reas, Casey & Fry, Ben (2014). Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists. (2nd. ed.) Cambridge: MIT Press. (Important: Do not use the 1st edition. It is obsolete.)
Photo credit: lolcatbible.
Some assignments may involve specialized software and/or small online purchases. We think about these costs as we do textbook costs. We will make any required software available for you on university computers, but if you wish to obtain this software for your own computer you are responsible for the cost. We promise that we will recommend free or inexpensive software to you whenever possible. If assignments involve online purchases, we do not anticipate the overall semester total will exceed $30, and in the past it is typically $0. An assignment involving an online purchase will probably require the use of a credit card. If you don't have a credit card, but you have someone you trust that will buy things for you (mom?) that will also work. If these costs are prohibitively expensive and would make it impossible to participate, e-mail the primary instructor during the first two weeks to make alternate arrangements.
Deadline dates may change as the semester progresses. See the schedule page for deadlines.
The final project will be due during the final exam period for this course (Wednesday, April 27, 2016; 8-10 a.m.). You must attend the final exam period.
There will be three multiple-choice quizzes given during the lecture period. These are closed book except that you may prepare and bring to class one 8 1/2 x 11" sheet of notes (typed or written) to consult during the quiz. You may use this sheet and a pencil to take the quiz. No other aids may be used.
There will be no pop quizzes or surprise quizzes.
- Class Attendance. You are expected to attend all class meetings and to be on time for class. Attendance is taken and factored into your grade (see "attendance and participation" above). Attendance may be taken at the beginning of class. If you arrive after attendance is taken this is counted as an absence.
- Electronics in the Classroom. No laptops, phones, or other electronics are allowed to be used during lecture unless an instructor specifically requests them for an in-lecture activity. If you need to use electronics during lecture for a legitimate reason, please ask an instructor. During lab sections, any electronics that are useful to you are welcome. Some students prefer to bring their own laptop rather than using the university's lab computers.
- Late work and examinations. You are responsible for planning ahead and taking whatever steps are necessary to allow you to turn in assignments on the specified due dates and to be present for quizzes and the final exam period. Late work will not be accepted except in documented cases of illness or emergency (see below). Computer problems are not acceptable as an excuse for late work: many assignments in this class require unfamiliar software, allow enough time to get help if you have problems. (It is hard to help you when presented with a problem five minutes before an assignment is due.)
- Extended Illness, Emergencies, or Other Serious Unforeseen Situations. If an illness makes it impossible for a student to attend to their responsibilities, they must contact the LS&A Dean's office of student affairs and report the problem. For example, students may use the LS&A "Report an Illness" form. The Dean's office will then notify all of the student's instructors. I will then make any necessary accommodations after receiving notice from the Dean's office and reviewing documentation of the illness. In the event of an emergency or other serious unforeseen situation, the student should seek help from the Dean of Students.
- Academic Integrity. Unless otherwise stated in a specific assignment, all submitted work must be your own. The College's community standards of academic integrity contain very strict and explicit policies prohibiting plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, and facilitating these acts. Penalties for violations can be severe, such as an automatic failing grade in the course and/or disciplinary suspension from the university. These rules will be strictly enforced. Note that it is a violation of academic integrity to turn in the same work for more than one assignment without permission. However, materials created in class assignments can be used during subsequent assignments and the final project as allowed by the instructions.
- Students with Disabilities. If you think you need an accommodation for a disability, please let me know at your earliest convenience. Some aspects of this course, the assignments, the in-class activities, and the way the course is usually taught may be modified to facilitate your participation and progress. As soon as you make me aware of your needs, we can work with the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office to help us determine appropriate academic accommodations. SSD (734-763-3000; http://ssd.umich.edu) typically recommends accommodations through a Verified Individualized Services and Accommodations (VISA) form. Any information you provide is private and confidential and will be treated as such.
- Student Mental Health and Wellbeing. The University of Michigan is committed to advancing the mental health and wellbeing of its students. If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and/or in need of support, services are available. For help, contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at (734) 764-8312 and https://caps.umich.edu/ during and after hours, on weekends and holidays, or through its counselors physically located in schools on both North and Central Campus. You may also consult University Health Service (UHS) at (734) 764-8320 and http://www.uhs.umich.edu/mentalhealthsvcs, or for alcohol or drug concerns, see http://www.uhs.umich.edu/aodresources. For a listing of other mental health resources available on and off campus, visit: http://umich.edu/~mhealth/.
- Sexual Misconduct. The University of Michigan is committed to fostering a safe, productive learning environment. University policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, which regards sexual misconduct — including harassment, domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Sexual violence can undermine students’ academic success and the university encourages students who have experienced some form of sexual misconduct to talk to someone about their experience, so they can get the support they need. Confidential support and academic advocacy can be found with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) on their 24-hour crisis line, 734-936-3333 and at http://sapac.umich.edu/. Alleged violations can be non-confidentially reported to the Office for Institutional Equity (OIE) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reports to law enforcement can be made to University of Michigan Police Department at 734-763-3434.
We record parts of our course to help students review the course material. To make this possible, by enrolling in this course as a student you authorize the University of Michigan and the COMM 313 instructors, and anyone that the University or COMM 313 instructors may permit, to film, videotape, audio record, and photograph you during COMM 313 activities for subsequent broadcast or other dissemination in perpetuity through any media, which includes, without limitation, commercial and public radio, television, cable, and the Internet. And you acknowledge that you might not receive a copy of any film, videotape, audio recording, photograph, or computer file that is or may be produced. If you wish to opt-out of the lecture recording process contact the professor and you can be seated in an area of the lecture room not covered by a camera if a camera is being used. You should also be sure to avoid volunteering to participate in any recorded lecture activities (such as demos) at the front of the room if there is a camera present. As there are a variety of vehicles for course participation credit, avoiding lecture demos will not disadvantage your performance in the course.