New Telecommunication Studies

Comm 4291: New Telecommunications Media

Instructor: Tony Nadler


Office: Ford 275

Phone: 612-626-0574 (do not trust messages here, go with email!)

Office Hours: Tues 9:00 – 9:45 am, 11:00 – 11:30 am; Thurs 11:00 am – 12:00pm.

Course Description:

What role do new media technologies play in changing the world in which you live?  How are new media affecting different lives across the globe?  This course offers an introduction to thinking about relationships among emerging media technologies, everyday life, society, and history.  This course will examine new media through a perspective informed by critical theory – an approach that to understanding historical events that tries to understand the complex forces that maintain social reality at any moment and asks how a better world might be possible.  We will be asking questions about what kinds of social impacts new media are having as well as how social contexts are shaping the way new technologies are used, designed, and deployed.  The aim of this course is both an introduction to key themes in the academic field of new media studies as well as to promote critical thinking as media users and members of a society that is making pivotal decisions about what kind of a social order will be supported by emerging technologies.

Reading and Learning Materials

  • Reading packet will be available at Paradigm Copies (now in Stadium Village).  Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture will be the only required book.
  • All other required readings and materials will be available either through Internet links on this syllabus or on the course’s WebVISTA site.  You should print every reading and bring it to class on the day we discuss it.  I suggest printing all online readings at least one week ahead of time, and if you have any access problems, contact me right away.  If you want to avoid printing for environmental reasons, speak with me about alternatives.
  • For paper writing I recommend: A Writer’s Reference, Fifth Edition (2002), by Diana Hacker and The Elements of Style (any edition), by William Strunk and E.B. White.  Both should be easily available by order online.
  • We will also create a course wiki to post related readings that have informed lectures or might help students pursuing further research in each area.  If you come across a reading, video, or podcast that might add insights to a topic we discuss, please add a link or citation to the course wiki.

Course Expectations

The overall success of the course depends on all of our efforts. Much of our class time will be spent in discussion, and the quality of these discussions will depend on how well everyone prepares and the willingness and curiosity we all bring to discussion.  Student input can help make this a better course, so I encourage you to talk with me about feedback or suggestions at any time.  We’ll spend our last content week on a collectively chosen topic and collaboratively designed lesson plan.

I will try to stick to this syllabus, but I reserve the right to make changes.  Some additional timely readings will be added as the course progresses.

How we’ll use class time

On most days, we’ll spend time discussing our readings and related questions as a whole group.  Classes will often begin with an interactive lecture.  Please come to class with any questions relating to making sense of the readings.  Toward the end of certain sessions, I will briefly discuss the next week’s readings and any terms, contexts, or questions that might be helpful in making sense of them.

I will try to carve out a little class time for workshopping papers and other projects.
Course Policies:

Creating a comfortable and respectful environment

As a group, you are coming from many different backgrounds and experiences.  It is a great opportunity for each of us to learn from each others’ perspectives.  We need to work as a group to make everyone feel as comfortable and willing as possible to express their views and create an environment that fosters an appreciation of difference.   I encourage you to add to class discussion when you are still thinking things through or you are puzzled by something.  If you tend to talk a lot in class – wonderful! – but please make sure you’re giving others a chance to speak.


The reading assignments come from a variety of sources from scholarly publications to magazines and popular press books.  Some weeks we’ll have a bit more reading than other weeks.   Please have all the readings assigned for the day completed before class and bring them to class.

Class Participation

Class participation includes in-class discussion (small and large groups), blog, and wiki participation.  It is a major grading factor.   Both ‘A’ and ‘B’ level participation expectations requires coming to class prepared everyday and participating in discussion regularly.  Please talk with me if you have trouble participating in class discussion.


We will have two in-class exams. Each will consist of short-answer and short-essay questions asking you to explain, assess or compare arguments made in our class readings and discussion. These exams will be open note and open book, but it will be impossible to do well on the exams unless you have done the reading in advance.


Attending class on a regular basis is imperative to your learning and keeping a consistent and lively dynamic in our group discussion. I will be passing around a sign-in sheet each day.  While I strongly encourage you to come to every class, everyone can miss up to 3 classes without specific grading penalties, but after that you will lose 1% of your grade for every additional day you’ve missed except for excused reasons – illness, sporting events, family emergencies, religious holidays, etc.  If you miss class, please put in extra blog participation that week.

If you miss class, please get notes from a classmate.  I will post any power points I use or that student presenters want to make available.   However, I will not be able to provide notes for anyone who misses class, though I’m happy to discuss the material with you.

Class will start on time each day, please respect that by being in class on time.

Late Work

For all individual projects you will lose 5% of your grade for that assignment for each day late. Group projects must be presented on the day assigned to your group.


If you are registered with disability services and require any accommodations, I will be happy to work with you. Please speak with me as soon as possible to discuss any arrangements.

Plagiarism/Scholastic Dishonesty

Any act of willful plagiarism or other forms of scholastic dishonesty (cheating, creating false records, etc.) will result in a failing grade for this class and a formal report may be filed with the Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity. Please visit their website ( for more information. Avoiding plagiarism does not mean you cannot refer to other people’s ideas, you are absolutely encouraged to do so — but cite your sources.

Study Abroad

The University of Minnesota and the Department of Communication Studies is committed to helping students learn and test their knowledge in a global context. If you are interested in seeking the opportunity to study, work, intern or volunteer in another country you should seek out the Learning Abroad Center in 230 Heller Hall and

Assignments and Grading

Grading Breakdown

Participation 12.00%
Reading Log 7.00%
Weekly Blogging 6.00%
Presentation 10.00%
Paper 35.00%
Exams 30.00%

Reading Logs

For every starred (*) reading, you should keep an ongoing log in which you briefly describe the author’s main arguments and one of your own questions, comments, or initial reactions.  Keep these in a notebook that you will bring to class every day, as I will be collecting them at random times.  You will earn 85% of the points on this assignment by having your entries completed satisfactorily on the days I check for them.  You can earn the extra 15% if your log shows that you have occasionally gone above and beyond the assignment and contributed longer, more thoughtful reactions and summaries to your reading log.

Class Blog

We will keep a class blog on the WebVISTA site to continue discussion from class or address aspects of the reading or topics that we don’t have time to discuss fully in class.  My expectation is that each of you will keep up with this site and contribute to it during at least 7 weeks out of the semester.   For grading purposes, your seven entries must be posted on a topic before our class meets to go on to the next one.  You should have at least 4 entries competed before Thanksgiving break.  I will ask two students to sign up to pose questions on the blog after each week.  You can respond to those questions, to questions posed by other students or me, or make your own comments.  I also encourage you to use the blog to give us info on any news articles or events related to course themes.

Student Presentations

Student presentations are your chance to speak to the class about an area of interest or expertise relating to new media.  Each student has 5 minutes for their presentation, and you can work in groups of up to 3 people (in which case the group would have a total of 15 minutes to present).      Your presentation should bring information and ideas that will be genuinely new to most of the class.  It should also address some aspect of social or cultural change or controversy – presentations cannot be product reviews or just provide consumer information (i.e. how to choose a netbook).  The more specific the topic, the better.  For instance, “Facebook” is too broad of a topic and even “activism on Facebook” would be too broad, but giving us a specific history of the Facebook “Beacon” controversy and how it relates to issues of surveillance and commodification would probably be just right.  Other ideas might include focusing on a specific website, web advertisement, or policy issue and its relation to course themes.   Along with your presentation, each presenter should turn in an annotated bibliography covering at least 3 sources (this can include news articles or websites).

Research Paper

Your final research paper will be a 10-15 page work of original analysis focusing on a topic or question relating to new media and society.  You may focus on the social significance of a particular media technology, a new media policy question, or a new media related event.  Your paper should bring scholarly perspectives to bear on your topic in addition to taking account of  perspectives from the popular or technical press.  Remember as with the presentations, the papers should focus on political, social, or theoretical questions pertaining to your topic, rather than technical explanation or consumer evaluation.  Making an argument about the historical development about a particular technology and the social questions it raises would be a highly recommended approach.  The paper must have a central argument (a thesis) and connect with issues discussed in class.  Your research paper should include at least 8 sources, at least 6 of which must be from scholarly or specialized sources.

Grading will be based on the quality of your writing (including your ability to articulate your arguments in a clear and compelling fashion), the logic of your argument, the thoroughness of your discussion of the topic and ability to cover differing viewpoints, and how well you support your argument with evidence.  You should make sure you strive to represent the best arguments in opposition to your own and offer sound reasons for the advantage of your perspective.  Your paper topic may relate to your presentation if you would like to build on that research.  While I encourage you to help each other with ideas and sources, papers must be written by you as the primary author and reflect your own original analysis and research work.  A portion of the paper grade (15%) will reflect your satisfactory completion of the step deadlines along the way.

I will offer more examples of paper topics in class, but here are some ideas to get you thinking about what paper topic starting points might look like (some of these would need to be narrowed in the course of your research):

  • Twitter, microblogging, and activism.  What kinds of narratives have mainstream U.S. media sources offered about the relation between these technologies and political protests in Iran or the Philippines?   How do these uses relate to the history of how microblogging sites came into existence? What other perspectives on this relationship have not been part of mainstream media?  How do you relate these arguments to themes from class about how we can assess the democratic potential of new media?
  • Race and the blogosphere.  Is the blogosphere racially segregated?  What does this tell us about the relationship between online groups and offline social divisions?  You might want to focus on a particular event, such as the role played by black bloggers in raising awareness of the Jena Six story and what this campaign reveals about the relationship between bloggers of color and the mainstream media.
  • Social media and “cyber-bullying.”  How have news outlets narrated the relationship between social media and bullying?  Does the coining of the term “cyber-bullying” reflect something genuinely new or is it best seen as the continuation of a familiar type of social relationship?  Do the actions of parenting and media literacy groups offer helpful approaches to dealing with cyber-bullying or are they more reflective of distorted anxieties surrounding new technologies?
  • Net neutrality and online activism.  What is at stake in the debate over net neutrality?  What principles and theories of innovation matter to this debate?  How have different sides been organizing popular voices?

The paper grade and due dates are broken down into a series of smaller steps.  Here are brief descriptions of each:

  • Brief Proposal: In a one-page proposal, you should identify your topic and research questions.  You should also outline your working hypothesis and why you think this is an important argument to make.  Your proposal should include a description of the kinds of sources you plan to use and what kind of information you expect to find from those sources.
  • Detailed Outline: This outline should include your thesis statement and a sketch of the structure and the content of your research paper. The outline should indicate all key arguments, subarguments, and historical information that you will provide and indicate the sources you have to back each of those claims.  The outline should also include a reference page citing your sources using MLA, APA or Chicago format.  The outline with reference page should be 4-5 pages.
  • Rough Draft:  This draft should be at least 7 pages and reflect all your major arguments and evidence.  You should be developing ways of introducing the topic and making it compelling by this point as well.  You may indicate certain areas on the draft where you still have work to finish, but it should be close to a state of being complete but in need of revision and refinement.   Your draft should be proofread and free of grammatical errors before it is turned in to me.
  • Final Draft. The final paper should be between 10-15 pages of polished writing.

Detailed Timeline for Research Papers

When John Campbell taught this course, he provided his students with a very detailed timeline of suggested steps for completing the paper.  Here is a modified version of it that I highly recommend you follow:

Task Deadline
Familiarize yourself with the library and computer search tools 09/10/09
Select a topic and plan a search strategy based on initial set of research questions 09/17/09
Find sources 09/19/09
Read and take notes Starting 9/19
Devise a tentative thesis and abstract 09/22/09
Submit proposal and initial references 09/29/09
Draft a rough outline based on tentative thesis 10/02/09
Devise comprehensive list of references 10/04/09
Revise thesis based on further analysis of data 10/10/09
Devise a final thesis and detailed outline 10/05/09
Submit detailed outline and references 10/20/09
Devise a rough draft of paper based on detailed outline 11/01/09
Proofread rough draft 11/10/09
Submit rough draft 11/12/09
Visit writing center for help with revisions 11/13/09
Conduct further research if necessary 11/27/09
Revise paper and prepare final draft 12/05/09
Proofread final draft 12/12/09
Submit final draft 12/15/09

Only shaded dates are class deadlines; the others may serves as helpful guideposts.

Reading Schedule

Week 1  Intro to class, New Media, New Minds? (Sept 8, 10)

Tuesday:          Course Introduction

Thursday:        Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid”

Shirky, “Why Abundance is Good: My Reply to Nick Carr”

Carr, “Why Skepticism is Good: My Reply to Clay Shirky”

Week 2 Media, History, Society (Sept 15, 17)

Tuesday:          *McLuhan “The Medium is the Message” (WebVista)

*Williams, “The Technology and Culture” (WebVista)

Thursday:        *Marvin, “Community and Class Order” (focus on 63-65, 85-108) (WebVista)

Berlin Johnson “Don’t Fear the Digital”,9171,1174824,00.html

Week 3 (Sept 22, 24)  Digital Community and Identity

Tuesday:          *boyd, “Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8:Writing Community Into Being on                                       Social Network Sites” (or WebVista)                          Blood, “Weblogs: A History and Perspective”

Mulrine, “”

Thursday:        *Turkle “Who Am We”

*Nakamura “Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the                                                  Internet”

Lecture – Short History of Internet Community Sites

Week 4 (Sept 29, Oct 1)  Digital Marketing, Selling, and Attention Economy

Tuesday:          *Turrow, Chapter 1 from Niche Envy

Video (in class) The Persuaders

Thursday:        *Anderson, “The Long Tail”

Gladwell, “Priced to Sell”                                                                                                                                 

*Shirky, “Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality”                                                                                            

Week 5 (Oct 6, 8) Collective Intelligence; Surveillance

Tuesday:          *Jenkins, “Worship at the Alter of Convergence”

On the Media (podcast) “People Power”

*Bratich, “The Fog Machine”

Lecture – Collective Intelligence, Technological Rationality and the Frankfurt School.

Thursday:        On the Media (podcast), “Resisting Google”

*Andrejevic, “The Work of Being Watched: Interactive Media and the Exploitation of                                          Self-Disclosure”

Week 6 (Oct 13, 15) Public and Private Spheres in Digital Era

Tuesday:          Jurgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article”

*Nancy Fraser, “A Critique of Actually Existing Democracy”

Lecture – The Question of the Public Sphere

Thursday:        *Sunstein, “The Daily We”

Responses from Schudson, * Jenkins, and *McChesney in Boston Review Forum

Note: This is a heavy reading week, you might want a head start.

Week 7 (Oct 20, 22) New Media Policy Challenges

Tuesday:          Readings for this week TBA

Thursday:        Chris Mitchell (Institute for Local Self Reliance, Dinkytown, Minneapolis),

Week 8 (Oct 27, 29)  Exam and Special Topic: Cell Phone Topic

Tuesday:          Midterm exam Oct 27

Thursday:        Tchouaffe, “Everywhere Means Nowhere: Cell Phones and the Reconfiguration of                                          Space and Information”

*Shade, “Feminizing the Mobile: Gender Scripting of Mobiles in North America”

Week 9 (Nov 3, 5) Free Culture part

Tuesday:          Lessig, Intro – Chapter 5 (1-85)

Thursday:        Lessig, Chapters 6 – 10 (81-174)

Note: For Reading Log, pick one chapter for each day.

Week 10 (Nov 10, 12)  Free Culture part II

Tuesday:          Lessig, Chapters 11 – 14 (175 – 256)

Thursday:        Conclusion – Afterward (257 – 306)

Note: For Reading Log, pick one chapter for each day.

Week 11 (Nov 17, 19)  Student Presentations

Week 12 (Nov 24,Thursday  Thanksgiving)  New Media, New Society?; New Work?

Tuesday:          *Castells, “An Introduction to the Information Age”

*Winner, “Mythinformation”

Thursdays:       *Ross, from No Collar

Grossman, “Where Computers Go to Die — and Kill”

Week 13 (Dec 1, 3)  Journalism and New Media

Tuesday:          *Carlson, “Blogs and Journalistic Authority”

Johnson, “Old Growth Media and the Future of News”

*Starr, “Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to a New Age of Corruption)”

Thursday:        Special Guests: Bloggers Panel

Readings TBA

Week 14 (Dec 8, 10) Collaborative Lesson Week

Week 15 (Dec 15) Final exam

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