COM201: Ethics in Communication

Spring 2018


Contact Information

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


In this course, we will discuss some of the historical and ongoing ethical issues facing our techno-cultural landscape, including #postTruth, privacy, piracy, sharing, copyright, anonymity, leaks, planned obsolescence, and more. The objectives of this course are as follows:

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. Some materials may require a small rental fee, but feel free to organize group film screenings, etc. to lower costs.

Course Requirements

Reading Notes: 20%

Because this course aims to get you engaged with ongoing conversations in media ethics, you will do a lot of reading and watching of those conversations. You will also create projects in this class that will require you to call back on material that we have read and make connections between people, issues, and arguments. As such, you will create and maintain brief reading notes in a Google document, share it with me, and receive credit for that work. There are a total of 13 days on which a reading is assigned, so you will have a total of 13 entries at the end of the semester. Complete the note entry by class time.

Your Tasks/Requirements

  1. Create a Google Document titled “COM201 Notes”
  2. Change the “Share” settings to “On-Anyone with the link” and “Anyone…Can comment”
  3. Send the link to
  4. For every day that the schedule says “Read” or “Watch,” complete an entry that includes:
    1. The big idea/main point of the piece (if there are more than one assigned piece, you may choose one), summarized in your own words in 1-3 sentences;
    2. The most important quote/excerpt;
    3. A link between this piece and something else (another issue or topic, current event, article, video, etc.); and
    4. A question you would ask the author/director/subject.
    5. Something you didn’t understand (optional)

Point Breakdown & Evaluation Criteria:

18-20 A – You completed all entries (on time), all entries were complete and thoughtful.
16-17 B – You completed all entries, most were complete and thoughtful.
14-15 C – You completed 11+ entries, most were complete and thoughtful.
12-13 D – You completed 8-10 entries, most were neither complete nor thoughtful.
0-11 F – You completed less than half of entries.

Team Debate: 30%

Your first major project is a collaborative debate–in groups of 3-4–in which you will prepare arguments for both sides of an issue we have read about and discussed in class.

The debates will be conducted in a modified version of the team-policy debate format.  Each debate will consist of four speeches.  The first two speeches are called constructive speeches, because the teams “construct” their most important arguments during these speeches.  The last two speeches are called rebuttals, because the teams are expected to extend and apply arguments that have already been made, rather than make new arguments.  After these speeches are made, the floor will be opened to questions from the class about the arguments and rebuttals each team made.

The structure and time limits for each speech are as follows:

  1. Affirmative I [constructive]: define essential terms and concepts; provide overview of argument and facts to support argument. [8 minutes]
  2. Negative I [constructive]:  define essential terms and concepts; provide overview of argument and facts to support argument; and identify errors in affirmative’s argument. [10 minutes]
  3. Affirmative II [rebuttal]: respond to criticisms of negative speaker; identify errors in facts or logic of negative speaker; return to original argument and show how it is still correct. [6 minutes]
  4. Negative II [rebuttal]: respond to criticisms of affirmative speaker; identify errors in fact or logic of negative speaker; return to original argument and show how it is still correct. [4 minutes]
  5. Q&A: Floor opened to questions from class.

Keep in mind that your team must be prepared for BOTH affirmative and negative perspectives.  This means each team must write FOUR speeches.  This will help you anticipate the criticisms of each perspective in order to prepare the rebuttal speeches. You need to choose TWO different people give the speeches and the others on the team must be prepared to answer questions from the class.

Getting Started:

Point Breakdown & Evaluation Criteria:

Grades are determined by the following:

  1. the quality of research and preparation for speeches;
  2. argument strength: rhetorical appeals, avoiding fallacies, etc.;
  3. verbal execution of speeches;
  4. quality of responses to classmates’ questions;
  5. classmates’ ratings; and
  6. intra-group ratings.

Video Project: 40%

For your second major assignment, you will gain some hands-on experience with copyright, fair use, and remix. You will compose a critical remix–one that comments on a digital media ethics issue/figure/event/etc. In other words, your remix will make an argument/offer a critique. You will use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit and combine 4 or more source materials, use your understanding of remix techniques and genres, and post your work online with a creative commons license. Read on for specific requirements and evaluation criteria.


Evaluation Criteria

Final Exam: 10%

Your final exam will take place during our scheduled exam time, and will consist of a collaborative multimedia essay consisting of 1000 words in which you will draw from readings and sources in response to a prompt. As the exam nears, I will provide more detail as well as your prompt.



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 two absences for the semester without penalty, so use them wisely. After three absences, your final grade will be lowered as follows:

0-2 Absences = no points deducted
3-4 Absences =    5% deduction of final grade
5-6 Absences =    10% deduction of final grade
7+  Absences = Automatic F for the course


Week 1: Introductions and Frameworks
1/16 First Day of Class: Introductions + Discussion

1/18 Ethical Frameworks
Read Charles Ess: Digital Media Ethics


Week 2: Ethics, Power, and Understanding the Internet

Read Louis Day: Ethics in Media Communications
Read Michel Foucault: Discipline & Punish

Watch There and Back Again


Week 3: Privacy, Anonymity

1/30 Privacy
Read “Debate Simmers…”
Read Eric Hughes: A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto

Watch Do Not Track (all 7 episodes)

Week 4: Leaks, Anonymous
Watch Citizenfour
Watch We Steal Secrets

Watch We Are Legion

Week 5: Terms, Conditions, and Corporate Practices
Watch Terms and Conditions May Apply
Read Instagram Terms & Conditions

Read Rosa Menkman: GLitch Studies Manifesto
Read Dirty New Media Art
Watch Phil Morton: General Motors Part 1; Part 2
Watch Nick Briz: Apple Computers
Watch How to/Why Leave Facebook 


Week 6: Whatis: Net Neutrality
Watch The Internet Must Go

Read Am I the only techie against net neutrality?
Read What Everyone Gets Wrong…

Week 7: Copyright/copyleft
Read Lawrence Lessig: Free Culture pp. 1-20 and pp.62-84
The Pirate Book: El Paquete Semanal & Marakk

Watch The Internet’s Own Boy
Watch RIP: A Remix Manifesto


Week 8
3/6 Recap/Review, Debate Preparation

3/8 Debate Preparation


Week 9
No Classes. Spring Break.


Week 10



Week 11
Read Measuring Fair Use
Sampling Media
Writing Workshop

Last day to withdraw from course

Writing and Storyboarding Workshop


Week 12
4/3 No Class.

4/5 Premiere Pro Workshop
Watch all 10 “Getting Started with Premiere Pro” Videos


Week 13
Premiere Pro Workshop

Premiere Pro Workshop


Week 14


Week 15
Video Due. Revise/Resubmit.

Video Due. Revise/Resubmit.


Week 16
5/1 Video Due

5/3 No Class. Reading Day


Final Exam (see schedule for our meeting time)
Screening of Final Projects