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.
Display a conceptual understanding of computer programming as a genre, a form of composition and a kind of
(very restrictive) human language.
Write a professional-quality essay about a relationship between the structure of digital media and its content.
This elective course has no prerequisites and is open to students from any major or level.
Completing this course provides four units of undergraduate credit.
This course satisfies the Upper-Level Writing Requirement (ULWR)
If you already satisfied the ULWR requirement with a different class, this course counts toward the "Communication Study Elective" for
the Major in Communication and Media.
This course counts toward the "Technology and Society" focus track for the Minor in
Science, Technology, and Society.
This course counts as an elective toward the Minor in Digital Studies.
The course consists of two lectures each week and one lab/discussion 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 consists of a series of lab assignments building up to a final project. Lab/discussion
sections (which begin in week 2) will include time to work on the lab assignments, but additional time will be necessary. Lab/section meetings also
include other activities, such as question/answer sessions and writing workshops. 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.
Each of the four lab assignment involves an associated report and a short reflection paper.
Lab assignments are your individual work.
A final project is similar to the lab assignments, but you choose the topic and the work may be completed alone or in a team
of your choice. Like the lab assignments, the final project also includes a report and reflection paper.
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.
All of the reflection papers except the last one must be revised in response to feedback. They form the basis for a
paper-length essay on the topic of this course due at the end of term. This final paper counts as a final exam for
this course: there is no other final exam.
Quizzes are used instead of a midterm in this course: there is no other midterm. There are no surprise or "pop" quizzes.
An Important Note About Writing
As an upper level writing course, one goal of this course is to improve your academic composition skills. You should be prepared to
put in the time and effort it takes to do this.
Papers must be proofread and spell checked before they are turned in. This is an upper-division writing class and the basics of grammar
and mechanical will not be addressed in class. We will be focusing on strategies for structuring an argument, using evidence effectively,
and polishing an essay’s thesis statement.
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.
Complete and carefully revise a professional-quality essay on the topic of this course, using the reflection papers as raw material.
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:
Assignments (4) + Final Project (1): 55%
lab reports ((4 + 1) x 3% ea.): 15%
reflection papers ((4 + 1) x 8% ea.): 40%
Quizzes (3 x 5% ea.): 15%
Final Paper: 20%
Attendance and Participation: 10%
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.)
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.) [Details.]
Reas, Casey & Fry, Ben (2015). Make: Getting Started With Processing (2nd ed.) Maker Media: San Francisco, CA.
(Important: Do not use the 1st edition. It is obsolete.) [Details.]
Becker, Howard S. & Richards, Pamela. (2007). Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (any edition is fine.) (Note that although the phrase "social scientist" is in the title of the book,
this book is equally relevant to any researcher from the social sciences, humanities, arts, natural sciences, or really any field–even
if they don't identify with the phrase "social scientist.")
Strunk, William Jr. & E. B. White, E. B. (2000). The Elements of Style. (4th ed.) New York: Longman, 2000 (reprinted 2018).
(I like the fourth edition, but any edition is fine as long as it is not a rip-off that does not include E. B. White.
Don’t buy anything that says "original edition," "simplified," "workbook," etc. if it does not include E. B. White
as a co-author: it’s a scam. If it says "Illustrated" and has Kalman as a co-author too, I think that is OK–this just means it has
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 (a parent? a friend?) 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 home page for deadlines.
The final project will be handed in and presented in-person during the last class meeting for this course.
You must attend the last class meeting to turn in the final project.
The final paper will be submitted online and is due at the beginning of the final examination time assigned by the registrar.
This is Wednesday, December 18 at 4:00 pm. There is no in-person final exam.
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 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.
Quizzes are closed book except for the following rule:
Side Channel Rule: You are allowed to bring one page of notes to the quiz. This must be one 8.5 x 11” sheet that you personally
write by hand, has your name on it, is entirely your own work, and must be turned in at the end of the quiz. Using any other notes is a violation
of academic integrity.
Letter grades will be calculated using the following scale.
59% or below
Other policies include:
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 student affairs office of their college,
e.g., the LS&A Dean's office of student affairs operates an advising center and LS&A
students may use the LS&A "Report an Illness" form.
The Dean's office will then notify all of the student's instructors. we 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) 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) (734-764-8312) 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) (734-764-8320),
or see Resources for AOD for alcohol or drug concerns. A listing of other
mental health resources available on and off campus can be found here.
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 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.
This class participates in the University of Michigan's efforts to bring certified therapy dogs to campus
for student and patient wellness. Note that a Therapaws therapy dog may visit class lectures. If you are not a fan of dogs, don't worry:
You are under no obligation to interact with the therapy dog. If you sit near the middle or back of the class you will not be near the dog.
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 362 instructors, and anyone that the University or COMM 362 instructors may permit, to film,
videotape, audio record, and photograph you during COMM 362 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.