Syllabus – Fall 2013

J611: Mass Media and Society; 4 credits

Fall 2013

A Hybrid (online + on-campus “live” class sessions) Course

On-campus workshop location:

White Stag Building, Turnbull Classroom, Room 346

University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications
Multimedia Journalism and Strategic Communications Masters Program
George S. Turnbull Center, Portland, Oregon
70 NW Couch Street
Portland, Oregon  97209

Instructor:    Helen De Michiel


Instructor contact:   The best way to contact me is via email and I will try to respond to you as soon as possible during weekdays (M – F).  Other  “real time” communication (skype call or google hangout) can be scheduled.

I HIGHLY recommend that you download and print a copy of this summary syllabus for your reference. It contains vital information about this course, including my grading policy and an assignment schedule. The information below is not the complete syllabus. The complete work plan is located in the weekly course assignments area.  You can print or create a PDF for download of this syllabus page using the Print Friendly button/widget at the bottom of each page.


As part of this class, you will be asked to blog. Your blogs will be available on the web to the public and the fact that you are registered for this class may be revealed. If you have any concerns, please contact me directly.

For J611 we are not required to hand out FERPA compliance documents.  It is understood that we are all participating in this course online.


When a media, art or design project touches people it can be a powerful tool for personal and social transformation. And now, while media technologies take root across all our personal and social environments – both virtual and physical – they are transforming how we frame, use and think about culture and social change.  As new digital technologies liberate us to reinvent sustained and imaginative engagement with audiences, participants and allies, creativity and experimentation are now being applied at every phase of what is a complex, three-dimensional system of interlocked parts moving across distribution and networking platforms. This is the new transmedia space – dynamic, fluid and open.

In this emerging communications ecology, a diverse array of media texts are migrating to the Web and converging with interactive and mobile platforms, games and other digital experiments. Questions of how we make cultural artifacts to have abiding and transformative meaning, and thicken authentic and meaningful public discourse in the real places and communities where we live and work becomes more urgent than ever.

This hybrid online + live workshop course explores recent and emerging transmedia models of cultural practice that are connecting to social change, public engagement and community building strategies.  From inception to dissemination, journalists, artists, filmmakers, curators, programmers and new media designers are working with organizations and coalitions in an interdependent dialogue process that is changing the way citizens engage with the great issues of our world – from local to global — and make sense of them in order to act upon them.

By surveying the histories, current debates, issues and a range of case studies, we will closely analyze how new digital storytelling modes and interactive relationships among  creative industries, communities and organizations are being invented and leveraged to broaden and deepen social impact in the landscape of 21st century digital publics.


In order to increase your capacity to understand, analyze, evaluate and fluently adapt your studies and professional practice to evolving transmedia spaces:

You will discuss and deepen your knowledge of:

  • Conceptual and practical frameworks used in creation of participatory media practices — highlighted through cases studies and review/discussion of a variety of approaches and perspectives.
  • Approaches to public engagement and community building by incorporating the power of participation and networks, both online and offline .

You will gain practice in:

  • Writing about and explaining the current major debates in this emerging field.
  • Analyzing and interpreting new media strategies being developed and used by a range of media makers, artists and organizations.
  • Curating, producing, and launching a group-based term online project creating and remixing multimedia texts and artifacts; and framing this series and/or new media site within a coherent, thematic context.
  • Conduct a 4-week online outreach/engagement/dialogue campaign around the project.

You will be introduced to:

  • Cultural and advocacy impact projects now pioneering the use of the Web and transmedia platforms for social change, public engagement and community building strategies.
  • Database documentary, tactical media, virtual worlds and interdisciplinary collaborations that are redefining how users are interfacing and changing digital culture and the public media ecology.


Charlie Gere (2008).  Digital Culture.  London: Reaktion Books.

Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green (2013).   Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture.  New York University Press.

Gottschall, Jonathan (2013). The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human.  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Supplementary readings (as links or PDFs) will be posted in the course assignment area, in each weekly unit’s page.

Your role in the digital economy and in this course

In this hybrid online course you are a central participant, user, curator and engaged interlocutor.  You are the future of participatory media and social practice.

In this constantly shape-shifting terrain, students are key stakeholders in these emerging digital and creative economies that we are exploring.  The divides between art and commerce, profit and nonprofit, storytelling and audience interactivity are disintegrating, with a quickening fluidity among projects, people and events – both virtual and located in real communities. You will have opportunities to develop ideas and critical skills that will enable you to strategize new media forms in your own professional practice.

Your work in this course is to understand the cultural issues and debates now emerging in the transmedia space, and to serve as a stakeholder and interlocutor. I ask you to participate heavily and deeply through writing and responding online and in your essays, engaging with guests via Skype video chat, and immersing in the participatory media space by producing, for the final project, a curated remix program and implementing an outreach strategy.

In your role as an interlocutor, you are not passive – rather, you participate in appreciative inquiry through your assignments, online discussions, in Skype sessions and case studies.  This is an intergenerational dialogue, and it is providing research into your own future. I invite you to drive the discussion flows.

Across the creative landscape, we are at a crossroads.  The terrain is changing moment by moment with realignments in organizational culture, resources, funding, outreach, goals and outcomes.  And we are here to understand and chart this new space – as technologies and values change and reconfigure in new patterns.

As we move through our readings, writing assignments, online discussions, skype guest speaker sessions, and the three in-person/on-campus workshops, please remember to transform yourself from your role as a student-observer into your role as an engaged interlocutor.

Course requirements

1.     Class participation:

  • Mandatory in-person attendance and participation in (3) Saturday on-campus class sessions from 10am – 3pm:  October 5; November 2; and December 7.

I expect you to come to these special classes, just like you expect me to be there as well (and I will be coming up from the Bay Area).  If you cannot participate, or have a university-excused absence, please let me know in advance.

  • Attendance for virtual class will be monitored through weekly discussion postings and e-mail.

2.     Completion of weekly readings, viewing activities and assignments

3.     Contribution to class discussions online and participatory on-campus class sessions

4.     Completion of midterm paper and term project by due dates (including all interim benchmark deadlines)

I will provide a grading rubric for both the midterm paper and term project in order to detail the evaluation process.

Assignment overview

Your time required for this class will depend upon your ability to read and interpret, to reflect on and write about what you are discovering, and your efficiency and organization with your schedule.

You should expect to check into the course site on a daily basis: to immerse yourself in and take notes on the media and websites we are discussing; to look at additions to the on-going dialogues; or to review the week’s assignments and any supplementary online readings. Remember, the course site is available 24 hours a day.

The following is a list of assignments and brief overview:

Personal Introduction          4 points

In week 1, your first writing assignment will introduce us all to you, and jumpstart the public dialogue among the group.  It is all about engagement!

Weekly writing assignments on readings    (7 weeks: none on Week 5 or Week 10)         21 points

  • PRIVATE POST-ESSAY: You are required to submit a weekly writing assignment on the readings assigned for the course. These essays should conduct a conceptual exegesis of the arguments, explanations, evidence and analysis in the books.  (500 words minimum, 1x week, private to me; 3 points)

Public discussion and commentary   (10 weeks)        20 points

This area is the nerve center for our course — where you are able to shape the discussion and make the material come alive for one another. The more frequently you post and engage with commentary, the better.  These are the baseline requirements:

  • PUBLIC DISCUSSION POST: connecting the participatory media project examples to our readings  (200 words minimum, 1x per week/min., public discussion; 1 point)
  • PUBLIC COMMENT POST: to your colleagues’ postings (200 words minimum, 1x per week/min., public discussion; 1 point)

The weekly private post-essay is due to me by midnight on Sundays. The  public discussion posting and commentary should be posted by 5pm on Fridays. I encourage you to create your own daily posting and commenting schedule to inspire and facilitate discussion opportunities for everyone. The one post/comment is minimum.  I expect alively discussion that can include more than one post or comment as long as it thoughtfully adds to the week’s discussion thread.

Mid Term essay exam         25 points

  • 10 – 12+ page essay   (prompt questions will be given)

Term Project                          25 points

  •  Group-curated online media program (using UO Blog or optional other platforms) and outreach strategy/public engagement implementation

Individual Final Project Report/Reflection Summary  (end of Term)         5 points

  • 400 – 750 words maximum

Grades/points should be posted within a week or two of when they are received. IMPORTANT: Late assignments will be penalized 5 points the first day and 2 points thereafter. If you need an extension for any reason, you must clear this with me before the assignment is due. No exceptions.

Course format

We will be using this Word Press site as our home base to exchange public and private posts. During the quarter you will need to have access to a computer with high speed internet access (either your own or UO’s campus computer labs).

I will post your weekly points/scores on the course BLACKBOARD site in the My Grades section.

A. On-campus workshops

As noted above,  the class will meet in-person on three Saturdays at The White Stag Bldg. The dates are:

October 5 (week 1)

November 2  (week 5)

December 7  (week 10)

During these workshop sessions we will be screening media, reviewing websites, and interviewing guest speakers via Skype Video Chat.  There will be time scheduled for presentations/discussion of the readings, the midterm, and preparation for the term project.

B. Daily and weekly study and writing assignments

This course involves reading, viewing, writing, and curating/creating the term web project.  It will  require up to 6 hours per week.  These elements are included in the syllabus, and I may add in short additional articles as they relate to the work we are examining.  Please see each weekly unit page for details.

I require that you meet specific due dates for writing assignments each week. In preparation for the week ahead, you should review all course materials for that week – readings, media and websites – and schedule your time accordingly.

You can refer to the course calendar for your writing due dates and “to-do” tasks for the week.  I recommend getting in the habit of checking the calendar and list first thing in the week before you get started.

C. Posting Procedures

PUBLIC: Enter the Word Press Dashboard > go to Posts (in left side column) >  go to Add New Post >  paste in your title and text >  go to Publish (in right hand column) >  go to Visibility and check publiccategorize/tag your post >  click publish.

PRIVATE: Enter Dashboard > go to Posts (in left side column) >  go to Add New Post >  paste in your title and text >  go to Publish (in right hand column) >  go to Visibility and click edit >  click privatecategorize/tag your post >  click publish. The private post-essays will only be seen by me and you individually.  I will write my comments in the body of the text, at the end.

Course schedule

Week 1:   Architectures of Participation:  From Community Visions to Transmedia
and Workshop #1

Week 2:   Global users generating media for social change

Week 3:  Contexts for the Digital Story

Week 4:  Tactical Media Critiques the System

Week 5:   Mid Term Projects and Workshop #2

Week 6:    Participatory Media weaving in and around real places

Week 7:   Transmedia collaborations with communities

Week 8:   From Simple to Complex — Participatory media meeting the database

Week 9:   New Media collectives and interdisciplinary teams opening cross-currents

Week 10:  Final Project Presentations and Workshop #3

Grading scale

A 91-100

B 81-90

C 71-80

D 61-70

F 60 and below

(Note: No + or – are given for any grades)

Pass/No Pass Grading

The Pass/No Pass Grading policy is established based on information provided by the Office of the Registrar.


Pass                   71% – 100%

No Pass            70% and below

Online Decorum

Since a significant amount of the course takes place in a virtual space, I ask that we follow some common sense rules of online decorum. (1) Your public posts or comments deal with scholarly and artistic engagement, and should refrain from personal remarks.  (2) Your assignments are graded and should follow all the best practices of academic writing: no slang, incomplete sentences, and be proofread for spelling and good grammar.  (3) When writing an email to me or your colleagues, please place a subject header in your email.  (4) It is common courtesy to address the person you are writing (Dear Professor De Michiel) and sign your note (Mary Smith) in communicating via email. Signing your note helps me respond to your comments or questions more effectively and quickly, and helps me learn who you are.

Academic Misconduct

The University Student Conduct Code (available at defines academic misconduct. Students are prohibited from committing or attempting to commit any act that constitutes academic misconduct. By way of example, students should not give or receive (or attempt to give or receive) unauthorized help on assignments or examinations without express permission from the instructor. Students should properly acknowledge and document all sources of information (e.g. quotations, paraphrases, ideas) and use only the sources and resources authorized by the instructor. If there is any question about whether an act constitutes academic misconduct, it is the students’ obligation to clarify the question with the instructor before committing or attempting to commit the act. Additional information about a common form of academic misconduct, plagiarism, is available at

Inclusion Statement

The School of Architecture and Allied Arts is a community that values inclusion. We are a committed to equal opportunities for all faculty, staff and students to develop individually, professionally, and academically regardless of ethnicity, heritage, gender, sexual orientation, ability, socio-economic standing, cultural beliefs and traditions. We are dedicated to an environment that is inclusive and fosters awareness, understanding, and respect for diversity. If you feel excluded or threatened, please contact your instructor and/or department head. The University Bias Response Team is also a resource that can assist you. Find more information at their website at or by phoning 541-346-2037.



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