Digital copies of the readings are available here. [UW logon required.]

29 articles, 41% are new

Chances are, you have at least one or two digital devices on your person right now, and some of them are buzzing and beeping for your attention. It’s quite possible that you’ve spent more time today reading content on a screen, delivered electronically to you. The way we experience media and the way that we communicate is mediated through digital technology—to the point that it’s the primary way we engage with media.

In Media Fluency for the Digital Age, we will cast a critical eye on digital media, looking seriously at the ramifications of digital media and communication, be they political, social, economic or cultural. We will look at the shift to this new paradigm of distributed communication, fragmented audience, and crowdsourced communication.

The topics we’ll cover in this course are unfolding around us right now, yet they have deeper roots and histories that we will investigate in this class. We will use a number of sources as we do so. Some of the readings for this class will be scholarly. Others will come from popular media sources. Others, still, will come from blogs or Tumblr, or won’t be readings at all: they will be audio or visual. Combined with our discussions in class and your group media fluency blog, in this class, we will examine the contemporary media landscape.



On Mondays each week, most of the class will be a lecture that incorporates some discussion. You should complete the readings each week in time for Monday’s class. You MUST hand in your response paper before class.

Wednesdays will be discussion with the class, led by the discussion leaders.

On Fridays in your discussion/lab section, we will focus on your blog and your blog group assignments.


The first weeks of class coincide with Jewish and Islamic holidays. If you are observing a religious holiday and can’t attend class, please notify me via email during the first two weeks of class. You will be allowed to makeup the work that you miss, with assignments due within a week of their due date.

If you have a disability and need accommodation, please meet with me and bring a visa from the McBurney Center during the first two weeks of class, and Manisha and I will accommodate your needs accordingly.


The class blog is updated several times a week. So is my @uwmolly Twitter feed. You need to stay on top of both. How to do this and stay on top of digital news?

* For blogs and news, you should use an RSS reader. This will allow you to subscribe to a page. From one place, you can then see when the blogs you follow have been updated. The blog has a list of RSS readers you might use. I’m using Feedly.

* You should follow:

– Your classmates’ blogs
– Major newspapers and networks (,,, Wisconsin State – Journal – , your hometown newspaper, a conservative paper, a liberal paper).
– Networks: aside from CNN & Fox, Al Jazeera America
– News magazine sites (,
– Other websites you like

* Listen to NPR and to podcasts. There’s a whole world of things to listen to out there: keep your ears and brain busy. I’m a fan of Decode DC, which is about Washington D.C. behind the scenes, 99% Invisible, a podcast about design and architecture, and Too Much Information by Benjamen Walker.

* Get a Twitter account. This is VITAL for keeping up on class.

  1. Follow @uwmolly for news on our class, #j176 for our class.
  2. Earn extra credit by posting to Twitter: participate by posting new, relevant links or content to the #j176 hashtag, worth .1 per week for a maximum of 1 point, or 10 links, one per week. Signal, not noise matters here. Provide a log to your TA at the end of the semester.


You are responsible for keeping track of extra credit in a log that you will hand into your TA at the end of the semester, with a brief description of what you did and when.


Your attendance is required: be prepared for class. You are allowed no more than two unexcused absences. If you are late more than twice without an excuse, it will count as an absence.

Your work in this class—weekly papers, discussion leadership, group blog, final project—all depend on you being present and ready to do your work. Your grade will drop if you don’t participate, and if you’re not showing up, it will affect your group projects’ grade as well.


Please don’t cheat, steal, or represent other people’s work as your own. Do not take words verbatim without quoting them, and don’t paraphrase them without citing them. Likewise, do not use images without saying where they came from. I realize that many of us don’t read it unless we have to, but please take a look at the school’s Plagiarism & Student Cheating pages ( One important aspect about media fluency is owning your own words and not taking those of others: we’ll even look at it critically as an issue in this class as we see what journalists and writers have done, on one hand, and what services like do, on the other. If your work sounds too good, sounds too familiar or seems like something we’ve seen last year or in another section, we will check it. The consequences of plagiarism can be harsh. Please ask your professor or TA if you have any questions, even small ones, about how to write about, blog about or represent other people’s work within your own.


Individual work: 50 points

  • 20 points – Weekly one-page, single-spaced article summary/critiques
  • 20 points – Two exams, midterm and final
  • 5 points – Online assignments
  • 5 points – Participation

Group projects: 40 points

  • 25 points – Group weblog
  • 15 points – Final project and presentation

Discussion leadership: 10 points

WEEKLY ARTICLE CRITIQUES: 2 points each, up to 20 points total.


Each of you will turn in a short paper on one of the reader articles each week. Your response needs to be a hardcopy-printed, one-page, single-spaced, typewritten summary and critique of the article, approximately 500 words excluding name, title and other basic information. (Use no larger than a 12-point font, no larger than one-inch margins, and put your name, TA, and the author/title of the article at the top of the page.)

These are formal writing assignments and should be taken seriously. Hone in on the main topic, argument, and evidence that the author presents in the article. Critique: Provide your own reaction to the author’s argument, either evaluating it (saying what is convincing and/or unconvincing about the argument and evidence) or extending/connecting it to a different issue.

Print this one-page paper out and bring it to lecture on Monday. You will want to save these summary/critique papers, because you may want to recycle them into your media fluency blog. LATE PAPERS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED AND WILL EARN A ZERO.

Please note: Each of these article summary/critique papers is worth 2 points, and the total grade for all is worth 20 points. However, you will be asked to write 12 of these papers over the course of the semester! Yes, that means you can earn back any missed points, up to four points, to a maximum of 20.


One time during the semester, each of you will be a discussion leader for the big class meeting with two to three other students. This will take place on a Wednesday, unless otherwise noted. You will each:

  1. Come up with one good, open-ended discussion question. Good questions ask “how” and “why,” and not “What do you guys think of ______?” In order to get to those questions, you might want to start by brainstorming a number of questions with your other discussion leaders in order to combine them or boil them down into strong questions.
    1. Share the discussion questions with Professor Steenson and your TA, Manisha Shelat via email.
    2. On the class blog by midnight the day before class (typically a Tuesday), post the questions.


  1. Post to the class blog ( a relevant link, article, video, podcast or other digital media. Some examples: an article on a well-written blog, an interview on a Soundcloud podcast, a Youtube video, even a meme and animated GIFs from a Tumblr blog.
  2. After opening remarks from Prof. Steenson, the discussion leaders will lead the discussion. They will ask their questions of the class, clarifying and prompting the students when needed, calling fairly on students by name, if at all possible.
  3. Summarize the discussion: in 30 seconds to 1 minute each, each discussion leader highlights the main points and thanks the class for participation.

Being a good discussion participant:

  • Your perspective is unique. Do raise your hand and participate, even if you’re shy.
  • Be to the point. Make a quick note about your key points. This keeps from rambling.
  • If you’re someone who talks more readily, give others a chance to jump in, too.
  • Respond to your fellow students by name.

Total points 10

How you’ll be graded:

1. Preparation for discussion (preparing and emailing relevant and stimulating questions): 2
2. Posting appropriate media/material to the class blog: 2
3. Conducting discussion (generating discussion, calling on people, maintaining relevance and flow): 4
4. Summary: 2

GROUP WEBLOG: 25 points
Your will work in groups to produce a rich-media web site over the course of the semester that brings “media fluency” to life for an undergraduate audience in an engaging and insightful way. You will use the WordPress platform. Your group will work together to populate your website with interesting content, linking your website to relevant online resources like YouTube videos, podcasts, and Wikipedia pages, market your website through social media, and curate comments and discussion on your web site. You will document your content strategy and assess your site through usability testing. By using the analytics and tracking tools on your site, you will track the popularity and reach of your web site over time. Your grade for the blog relies on your personal contribution, group collaboration and overall cohesiveness.


At the end of your class, you will take the subject of your blog and change it into a different medium. Some possibilities: a video, a podcast, animation, digital book, map with sound and video content, mobile app prototype, or some combination of all of the above. You will meet with your TA and professor, and with the Design Lab for help carrying out your ideas. Finally, you will present the final projects during the exam period on December 18 (with pizza and snacks). More information will follow in the second half of the semester.

(100 points total)
Grading scale, not curved:

  • A   92-100
  • AB 89-91.99
  • B   82-88.99
  • BC 79-81.99
  • C   72-78.99
  • D   65-71.99
  • F   anything below 65.99

I am happy to discuss legitimate grievances about grades in writing. Please note, however, that I do not round up grades. A 91.99 is not an A, it is an AB; an 88.99 is not an AB, it is a B. If you are concerned about earning the highest letter grade you can, be diligent in your written responses, take part in class and section discussions, take advantage of extra credit, write good blog posts, comment on the blogs of your classmates, show up for your blog team members, and so on—the ball is in your court and the little things add up.

Have your readings done by Monday and bring to class your 500-word reading response. Remember: late papers are not accepted.

WEEK 01 – starting Wednesday, September 4, 2013

INTRODUCTION (please read these articles in time for discussion section on Friday)

No reading response due this week

  1. Langdon Winner, “Who will we be in cyberspace?” The Information Society 12 (1996).
  1. Nathan Jurgenson, “The IRL Fetish” (Read this online to follow the links.)
  2. “The Web means the end of forgetting” (please read this piece online.)

WEEK 02 – starting Monday, September 9, 2013


  1. Lee Rainie & Barry Wellman, “The Social Network Revolution” and “A Day in Connected Life” interlude in Networked: The New Social Operating System (2012).
  2. Henry Jenkins, “Introduction: Worship at the Altar of Convergence Culture,” Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York: New York University Press, 2006)

WEEK 03 – starting Monday, September 16, 2013


  1. Ira Basen, “Age of the algorithm,” Maisonneuve (May 09, 2011).
  2. Eli Pariser, “The You Loop,” in The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You (2011).

WEEK 04 – starting Monday, September 23, 2013


  1. Paul Levinson, “Blogging,” in New New Media (2009).
  2. Alice Marwick, “’They’re really profound women, they’re entrepreneurs’: Conceptions of Authenticity in Fashion Blogging,” International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, (2013)

WEEK 05 – starting Monday, September 30, 2013


  1. Clay Shirky, “Personal motivation meets collaborative production,” in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (2008).
  1. Sabine Niederer and José van Dijck, “Wisdom of the crowd or technicity of content? Wikipedia as a sociotechnical system,” New Media & Society 12 (2010).

WEEK 06 – starting Monday, October 7, 2013


  1. Claudia Mitchell, John Pascarella, Naydeen de Lange, & Jean Stuart, “We wanted other people to learn from us: Girls blogging in rural South Africa in the age of AIDS,” in Girl Wide Web 2.0, 2010.
  2. Terri Senft and Safiya Umoja Noble, “Race and Social Media,” in Handbook of Social Media, (London: Routledge, forthcoming).

WEEK 07 – starting Monday, October 14, 2013


  1. Evgeny Morozov, “Introduction” & “The Google Doctrine,” The Net Delusion (New York: Public Affairs, 2011).
  2. Cory Doctorow, “We need a serious critique of net activism,” The Guardian, January 25, 2011.

WEEK 08 – starting Monday, October 21, 2013

FIRST EXAM on Wednesday October 23

Review in class on Monday

No section meeting Friday

WEEK 09 – starting Monday, October 28, 2013


    Dan Barry, David Barstow, Jonathan D. Glater, Adam Liptak and Jacques Steinberg, “Correcting the Record; Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception,” The New York Times, May 11, 2003.
    Michael Moynihan, “Jonah Lehrer’s Deceptions. The celebrated journalist fabricated Bob Dylan quotes in his new book Imagine: How Creativity Works,” Tablet Magazine, July 30, 2012.

Charles Seife, “Jonah Lehrer’s Journalistic Misdeeds at,” Slate, August 31, 2012.

WEEK 10 – starting Monday, November 4, 2013


  1. Andrew Blum, excerpts, in Tubes (2012).
  2. James Glanz, ”Data Centers Waste Vast Amounts of Energy, Belying Industry Image: Power, Pollution and the Internet,” September 22, 2012.

WEEK 11 – starting Monday, November 11, 2013


Guest: Prof. Jeremy Morris, Communication Arts department

  1. Jeremy Morris, “’The Person Behind the Music We Adore’: Artists, Profiles, and the Circulation of Music,” Wi Journal of Mobile Media, 2012.
  2. Raiford Guins, “Hip-Hop 2.0,” in Learning Race and Ethnicity: Youth and Digital Media, edited by Anna Everett (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008. 63–80).

WEEK 12 – starting Monday, November 18, 2013


  1. Kio Stark, “Introduction,” selections, Don’t Go Back To School! (2013).
  2. A. J. Jacobs, “Two Cheers for Web U!” New York Times, April 20, 2013,
  3. Tamar Lewin, “Online Classes Fuel a Campus Debate,” New York Times, June 19, 2013,
  4. Ian Bogost, MOOCs and the Future of Humanities, parts 1 & 2, 2013. &

WEEK 13 – starting Monday, November 25, 2013—THANKSGIVING WEEK


Guest via Skype: Kenyatta Cheese, founder, Know Your Meme

  1. Richard Grusin, “You Tube at the End of New Media,” The You Tube Reader, eds. Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau (Stockholm, Sweden: National Library of Sweden, 2009): 60-67.

WEEK 14 – starting Monday, December 2, 2013

Guest: Professor Bob Drechsel, School of Journalism & Mass Communication

  1. Lawrence Lessig, “For the love of culture,” The New Republic (January 26, 2010).
  2. Rebecca MacKinnon, “Rise of the Digital Commons,” in Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom (New York: Basic Books, 2012). (To be provided.)

WEEK 15 – starting Monday, December 9, 2013

FINAL EXAM on Wednesday, December 11

Review in class on Monday

No section meeting Friday

WEEK 16 – On Monday, December 18, 2013: Final presentations, to take place during the scheduled final exam period


2 thoughts on “Syllabus

  1. Pingback: Syllabus updates | Media Fluency for the Digital Age

  2. Pingback: Reminders…some for the next week; some for the semester | Media Fluency for the Digital Age

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