COM 200: Communication Theory & Practice

Spring 2016


Contact Information

Dr. Steven Hammer
office: 301 Bronstein Hall
office hours: MW 1:30-2:30


This introduction to communication and digital media studies focuses on various ways people employ language, image, and more cinematic means for communicative purposes. Through a series of hands-on projects students learn to research and analyze contemporary issues and trends in the field of communications, with an emphasis on digital media. In doing so, students examine how communication technologies are impacting the relationship between media audiences, producers, and content. In this course, students will:

University and Class Policies

Academic Honesty: Please familiarize yourself with the University’s Academic Honesty Policy.

Disability Support: In accordance with state and federal laws, the University will make reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. For those who have or think that you may have a disability requiring an accommodation (learning, physical, psychological) should contact Services for Students with Disabilities, Room G10, Bellarmine, 610-660-1774 (voice) or 610-660-1620 (TTY) as early as possible in the semester for additional information and so that an accommodation, if appropriate, can be made in a timely manner. You will be required to provide current (within 3 years) documentation of the disability.

For a more detailed explanation of the University’s accommodation process, as well as the programs and services offered to students with disabilities, please see the Student Resources Page. If you have any difficulty accessing the information on-line, please contact Services for Students with Disabilities at the telephone numbers above.

If you have any questions or concerns about the syllabus, assignments, or content throughout the semester, please feel free to contact me.

Required Materials

There are no required texts to purchase for this course. The vast majority of course material is free and can be found by following the links in the schedule.

Course Requirements

For specific requirements and grading criteria, click here.


> 20% of final grade
> Due 2/7

Your first project for this course involves purchasing your own domain and web hosting service and designing a WordPress site. This site will be used for your work this semester and serve as an online portfolio as you continue through your major/minor. You will learn effective principles of web design, hosting and design processes, and ways to frame your digital self in relation to digital communities. You will design your site, populate it with your work and information, and write a design philosophy/artist statement articulating your choices.

Theory in Context

> 30% of final grade
> Due 2/29

In the second unit of this course, we will read some foundational works in the field of digital media and communication to discuss the ways we are changing technologies and the ways that technologies are changing us. Be ready to read challenging material, make connections to current events, and articulate your own ideas about our relationship with emerging media. You will also get a crash course in presentation design and deliver a short presentation in class making connections between theory and our current technoCultural landscape.

Digital Community Project

> 50% of final grade
> Due Final Exam Week

The digital community project is the largest project of the semester in terms of both time and points. For this project, you will choose a digital community–it could be anything from a professional interest to your favorite band or sports team. You will study the communication practices of that community: where, how, why, when, modes, media, genres, rhetorical appeals, and so on. After you analyze the group, you will write a proposal and join the conversation. You will produce a lot of content in doing so, and you will log the time and energy you spend, as well as keep track of your progress in becoming a credible voice in the community. Then, you will learn the basics of writing with text, sound, image, and video, and use those skills to continue your work. This project culminates into a portfolio with all of the compositions you produced and published, as well as your final reflections on engaging with digital communities.


Attendance (being in class, on time) and participation (engaging with us while you’re in class) are vital to your success in this course.
You are allowed three absences for the semester without penalty, so use them wisely. After three absences, your final grade will be
lowered as follows:

0-3 Absences = no points deducted
4-6 Absences =    10% deduction of final grade
7-8 Absences =    15% deduction of final grade
9+  Absences = Automatic F for the course


Week 1
1/14 First Day of Class: Introductions + Discussion

1/15 Your Web Presence

Week 2
1/18 No Class. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

1/20 Reclaim setup, intro to WordPress
Use this Tutorial

1/22 Web Hosting, WordPress
Read 5 Key Guidelines
Read 5 Building Blocks

Week 3
1/25 No Class. Complete your hosting/wordpress setup.
Read/Watch WordPress/Reclaim Tutorials

1/27 Principles of Web Design

1/29 Principles of Web Design, cont.
Read How to Create a Site Structure…

Week 4
2/1     Studio

2/3     Studio, Peer & Instructor Review

2/5     Studio, Peer & Instructor Review

Week 5
2/8  Studio, Peer & Instructor Review
Website due 2/9 by 11:00pm

2/10 Introduction to Media Theory, Introduce Theory Presentation Assignment
Read McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, pp.1-40 (page numbers correspond to linked .pdf, not book pages; read through p. 70 of actual book)

2/12 Read McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, pp.41-85 (see above note on page numbers)

Week 6
2/15 Read Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, pp.1-29

2/17 Read Bolter & Grusin, Remediation, pp.1-15 (Introduction)

2/19 Read Jenkins, Convergence Culture (Introduction)

Week 7
2/22 Read Lessig, Free Culture, pp. 1-15

2/24 Presentation Design, Studio.
Read Introduction to Slide Design

2/26 No Class. Work on your presentations, rehearse with technology in groups.

Week 8
2/29  Slide Design Studio: Topics, Designs

3/2    Slide Design Studio

3/4    Rehearsals

Week 9
3/7-3/11 No Classes. Spring Break.

Week 10
3/14 Presentations

3/16 Presentations

3/18 Presentations

Week 11
3/21 Introduction to Digital Community Project
Community Analysis
Read A Model for Analyzing Online Communities

3/23 No class. Research 3+ Online Communities for your project. Choose one for an analysis.

3/25 No Class. Easter Break.

Week 12
3/28 No Class. Easter Break.

3/30 Analysis & Proposal Workshop.

4/1 Writing for the Web

Week 13
4/4 Analysis and Proposal Due in class (hard copy)

4/6 No Class.

4/8 No Class.

Week 14
4/11 Writing for the Web

4/13 Writing with Audio

4/15 Writing with Audio

Week 15
4/18 Writing with Video

4/20 Writing with Video

4/22 Writing with Video

Week 16
4/25 Writing with Images

4/27 Writing with Images

4/29 Writing with Images

Week 17
5/2 Final Report Studio

Final Exam (see schedule for our meeting time)
Digital Community Project Due