Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Final exam location

The final exam will NOT be held in our regular lecture room.  Instead, the final exam will be held in Humanities 1641.  This room DOES have all the necessary A/V requirements for presenting your final projects from a laptop, an iPad, or whatever.  So, to recap:

J 176 Final Exam
Tuesday May 15, 2012
Humanities 1641

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

J176 Artifact/Presentation Guidelines

J176 GROUP ARTIFACT/PRESENTATION GUIDELINES (Available as a Google Document here)


  • Media fluency definition. Define media fluency somewhere in the artifact/presentation
  • Media fluency content. Tie-in your artifact/presentation content to your defintion of media fluency.
  • Sources and article integration. Reference at least 4 articles from the course reader in your artifact/presentation. If you are able to reference and skillfully incorporate more than 4 articles, such effort will be rewarded. Properly cite any outside sources used.


  • Topic. Originality and approach to the theme or topic of your artifact/presentation.
  • Focus and Cohesion. Does the overall artifact/presentation have a clear focus? Do individual parts keep their focus? How do the “pieces” (each group member’s work) relate to the whole (the group artifact/presentation)?


  • Comments. Report on how eliciting and moderating comments turned out.
  • Facebook page. Report on how creating and integrating your Facebook page worked out.
  • Twitter feed. Report on how your Twitter feed worked out.
  • Marketing. Report on your thought-leader marketing and whether it led to greater blog activity.
  • Site statistics and analytics. Include a brief summary and analysis of your site statistics and analytics.


  • Group collaboration. Report on how your group divided labor. You may wish to Include a record of work, with each each group member noting their contributions.
  • Report on process. Include a reflection on the process of producing the blog in your artifact/presentation. For example, after reviewing the syallbus for each week, what tasks were more difficult or easier than you expected? What parts of the various tools were easier or more difficult to learn than you expected? What other parts of the process were noteworthy?


  • Design and graphics. Add some illustrations, graphics, patterns, charts, cartoons -- any kind of visual interest to your artifact/presentation. Original graphics and original photography are a great way to make your artifact/presentation stand out. You may want to design a unique logo for your group.
  • Clarity and uniformity. The design elements and formatting of your artifact/presentation should have some consistency.
  • Originality. If your artifact/presentation demonstrates artistic or intellectual merit or creativity beyond what was required for the assignment, such effort will be rewarded.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Discussion of our films today?

Anyone interested in offering some reactions to, or thoughts about, the two films we screened in lecture today?  I'm especially curious to know whether or not you thought they worked well together.

Are you smarter than a 5th grader?

Think you can do better on social media than a 10-year-old?  Better consider the web site of "Super-Awesome" Sylvia first.  And even though it's advertising-free, she's using it to fund her (future) college education (with the help and approval of her parents).

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Unscientific media fluency class survey: Would you take a winter break course?

It sounds like UW-Madison is moving to institute a winter term of classes during the month-long break between fall and spring semesters.  I'm curious about how many of you would be interested in staying in Madison over the break and paying for an extra 3-credit course (probably taught in intensive three-week fashion where you're basically in class from 9am-noon every weekday, cramming a week of instruction into each morning).  Further, I'm curious if you would do this for a particular class that I developed a while back but haven't been able to teach in years: Video Games and Mass Communication.  Any interest?  (Even if you're not interested in particular -- and don't worry, I don't blame you if you're not -- given your thorough "media fluency" understanding by now, do you think this course would have relevance or appeal to your peers here at UW?)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Data on privacy for Facebook apps

Relevant to our lecture from today: A third-party vendor, PrivacyChoice LLC, has released a tool that rates Facebook apps with a score from 0-100 depending on how well they allow a user to understand and protect privacy.  The tool is rather complicated but their Frequently Asked Questions page helps to demystify it.  How does your favorite Facebook app rate?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Using social media to discuss a social media course

So I have a little blog of my own, called The Note on My Door, where I occasionally post professorly-type essays intended for students, faculty, and staff around UW-Madison to read.  Last month, after your J 176 assignment where you had to find an article on the Internet that was not online, I was so intrigued by the responses that I posted a little note on the experience.  

So far it's been viewed over 4,000 times.

Through comments and emails, this little post has led to contacts from educators and librarians from all over the world -- including a nice request from the folks at ProQuest to be able to adapt the assignment for their own education and training efforts.  

What do you think about having your classroom experience showcased for the whole world?  Is this something that would have been possible ten years ago?  Five?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Notes for this week's discussion

Facebook self-survey. Facebook self-survey. Survey the size and scope of your Facebook network — how many friends, how many close friends, how many degrees of separation between your friends. Then survey the homogeneity of your Facebook network — how many friends at same school, same town, same high school, same politics, same religion, same major, same age. Write a one-page, single-spaced self-critique of your Facebook network and turn it in to your TA. For one-half point extra credit, post it as a "Note" on Facebook for your friends to comment on.

*There are options to search friends by: current city, hometown, school, workplace, [tagged] interest, and friends of friends. For some of the above questions, you will need to manually look for the answers. An app like Friends & Profile Statistics can help, or to assess trends and influence, you might try the full site for the Swaylo app. (Free free to share tips for your peers as comments here.) However, it's not the numbers we are interested in, but what those numbers mean. We want you to think critically and interpret the significance of your findings.

Thought-leader marketing. Identify some key people around campus (fellow students, teachers, researchers, advisers, administrators) and try to get them to engage with your blog. You might invite someone to do a guest post, or ask them if you can repost something from their web writings. Or invite someone to comment on a discussion you are having on the blog. Or just ask their opinion and see if it leads to any greater blog activity.

Make some format choices about your final presentation and digital artifact. In discussion we will ask your group to share what you plan to do for your 1) artifact, 2) presentation, and 3) thought-leader marketing.

Monday, April 9, 2012

How to ask a question

Welcome back from break, everybody.  To get us thinking about media again, I wanted to post an excerpt of a nice little essay I discovered over the weekend in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Written by Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, it suggests some simple techniques for "How to ask a question" — a crucial part of civil dialogue and knowledge production that we all too often ignore:
You have not been invited to give a speech. Before you stand up, boil your thoughts down to a single point. Then ask yourself if this point is something you want to assert or something you want to find out. There are exceptions, but if your point falls into the category of assertion, you should probably remain seated. “Mr. Nixon, you are unworthy of being president,” is not a question. “Mr. Nixon, what else would you have done as president if Watergate hadn’t gotten in the way?” is a question.
Weigh the usual interrogatory words in English: who, what, where, why, when. If you can begin your sentence with one of these you are more than half-way to a good question.  “Who gave you that scar, Mr. Potter?”  “What is a black hole, Mr. Hawking?”  “Where is the Celestial City, Mr. Bunyan?”  “Why are you wearing that letter, Ms. Prynne?”  “When will our troops come home, Mr. Lincoln?”
You will discover that, if you think in terms of these simple interrogatories, you will be able to skip right over the prologue. The right question evokes its own context. If, having formulated a question, you still think you need to set the stage for it, try again.
Don’t engage in meta-speech. “I was wondering, Ms. Steinem, if I might ask you a question that I am really curious about.” Go directly to the question. “Ms. Steinem, who is the man you admire the most?”
Look at the person you are addressing. Speak your question directly; don’t read it. Wait for the answer before you sit down. Don’t try to ask a follow-up question. If the speaker evaded your question the first time, he will evade it again. If the audience applauds your question, you are grandstanding and have failed an important test of civility.
More tips and discussion at the original article.  I wonder, how often in your UW courses do you feel that you really get the chance in lecture or discussion to ask a substantive question?  I fear that we instructors might subtly (or not so subtly) discourage you from doing so.  If that is the case — be bold.  Ask good questions.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some New York Times articles that demonstrate a need for "Media Fluency" knowledge

Over the last two days, as I've been pondering what kind of exam essay questions to pose to you next week, I saw a couple of articles in the New York Times "Technology" section that I thought offered good examples of the kinds of issues that you should be able to analyze more effectively now that you've been through two-thirds of a "media fluency for the digital age" course.

The first article describes how the latest generation of stand-up comedians is beginning to use the Web in order to directly reach customers, rather than relying on other media outlets:
Stand-up comedians of a certain era knew they had arrived when Johnny Carson invited them to a desk-side seat on “The Tonight Show.” A generation later, the gold standard was getting a solo comedy special on HBO. But in the Internet era, the yardstick for success has been redefined.
A handful of top-tier performers have begun producing stand-up specials on their own, posting them online and selling them directly through their personal Web sites, eliminating the editorial control of broadcasters and the perceived taint of corporate endorsements.
While this straight-to-the-Internet strategy is far from ubiquitous in stand-up, it is already having a profound impact on the comedy landscape, enabling online content providers and individual artists to take more turf from television networks and empowering comedians to be as candid (and as explicit) as they want in their material.

The second article describes some of the pitfalls of linking your organization -- in this case, the government of the city of New York -- too tightly to social media:
On Twitter, he is @MikeBloomberg, a popular online avatar with more than 230,000 followers. His official Foursquare account leaves tips about Shake Shack and Kennedy International Airport. And his Facebook page energetically promotes the programs and values of New York City Hall.
But the actual Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg? When it comes to social media, he has a few concerns.
In a speech on Wednesday in Singapore, where he received a prize for urban sustainability, Mr. Bloomberg spoke about the difficulties of leading a city into the future amid a political culture that is often focused on the short term.
The mayor noted that technology, despite its benefits, can add new pitfalls to an already grueling process. “Social media is going to make it even more difficult to make long-term investments” in cities, Mr. Bloomberg said.
“We are basically having a referendum on every single thing that we do every day,” he said. “And it’s very hard for people to stand up to that and say, ‘No, no, this is what we’re going to do,’ when there’s constant criticism, and an election process that you have to look forward to and face periodically.”
You might be inspired to read through both articles in full.  What tools and ideas from your reader might help you to analyze either of these two cases?

Monday, March 19, 2012

State of the News Media 2012

A big event in the world of journalism & mass communication is the annual "State of the News Media" report issued by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.  Of particular interest for our course is the section on digital media:
Two numbers symbolize the intensifying challenge and opportunity the digital world poses for the news industry:  In 2011, social media giant Facebook grew to 133 million active users from 117 million in the U.S.1 And in the final months of the year, tablet ownership in the U.S. nearly doubled, to 18% of Americans.
Each is a threat and a promise. Facebook and other social media are additional distributors of content, but they are also are rivals for advertising revenues. The new tablets, smartphones and other mobile technologies represent new ways to reach audiences, but they are also a new wave of new technology that news companies need to react to. Even as traditional media institutions continue to struggle to find a sustainable model after more than a decade of declining advertising revenues and digital upheaval, the new wave threatens to shift the media landscape out from under them once more.
Check out the whole report if you like; there's lots to talk about on your blogs.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Who owns online course materials?

In my discussion section this week, I asked my students who they thought should own online course materials of the sort that are found on iTunes University.  We pondered a number of different answers and the contradictions between different views of intellectual property, ownership, and commons.  These are not just philosophical discussions; an article in Inside Higher Ed today talks of a case hinging on just this question:
Jeff MacSwan and Kellie Rolstad, a husband-and-wife team at Arizona State University, heard rumors last year that courses they designed for an online program were being used without their permission.
So in the summer of 2011, MacSwan registered as a student in an English as a Second Language program for which the couple, both tenured professors, had developed courses. In his telling, he logged on to discover that the courses he and his wife, an associate professor of linguistics, had created were being used without attribution or authorization.
A lawsuit is now likely as MacSwan and Rolstad claim damages for alleged violation of copyright laws and university rules.
The couple left Arizona State and are now employed as tenured professors in the College of Education at the University of Maryland at College Park. Their lawyer sent a notice of claim, a legal notice that precedes a lawsuit, to the Arizona Board of Regents and the state’s attorney general in December, calling for $3 million in damages.
You can read the rest of the story, reported by Kaustuv Basu, here.   How do you think this case should be decided?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Group Facebook Pages

Email me your group's page so we can share. If you have suggestions for other groups on how to link your blog and Facebook page or how to set up the page, feel free to share them as comments.

Former Googler on "Why I left Google"

A former Google employee, now at Microsoft:
The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus.
Read the whole letter here.   I think his post is more interesting for what it says about the overall state of new media and the web right now than for what it says about Google's current innovation strategy.  What do you think?

Friday, March 9, 2012

The contradiction between mission and revenue in new media

A good example of the contradiction between staying true to your mission (especially a public-service mission) and being able to bring in revenue to support that mission (and pay professionals for serious work) in new media: a founder of Facebook with capital to spare has purchased a majority stake in a venerable political magazine, the New Republic.
The newest owner of The New Republic magazine is Chris Hughes, a new-media guru who co-founded Facebook and helped to run the online organizing machine for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
Mr. Hughes’s purchase of a majority stake in the magazine will be announced on Friday, once again remaking the masthead of the nearly century-old magazine that helped define modern American liberalism.  
His focus, he said in an interview in advance of the announcement, will be on distributing the magazine’s long-form journalism through tablet computers like the iPad. 
Asked how he would turn a profit for the money-losing magazine, Mr. Hughes said, “Profit per se is not my motive. The reason I’m getting involved here is that I believe in the type of vigorous contextual journalism that we — we in general as a society — need.”
He added that he hoped the magazine could be profitable. “But I’m investing and taking control of The New Republic because of my belief in its mission, not to make it the next Facebook,” he said.
You can read the whole article at the New York Times here.  There are positive and negative consequences to having media properties owned by single individuals or families, rather than by larger conglomerates with private or public shareholders.  Can you think of any?

(P.S. Notice that one of your readings for next week comes from ... The New Republic.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

This online media campaign seeks not just revenue, but action

Today in the New York Times an article about the Obama/Biden presidential campaign echoes many of the themes we've been talking about in our media fluency course.  Read the first two paragraphs:
With a “chief scientist” specializing in consumer behavior, an “analytics department” monitoring voter trends, and a squad of dozens huddled at computer screens editing video or writing code, the sprawling office complex inside One Prudential Plaza looks like a corporate research and development lab — Ping-Pong table and all. 
But it is home to the largely secret engine of President Obama’s re-election campaign, where scores of political strategists, data analysts, corporate marketers and Web producers are sifting through information gleaned from Facebook, voter logs and hundreds of thousands of telephone or in-person conversations to reassemble and re-energize the scattered coalition of supporters who swept Mr. Obama into the White House four years ago. 
The rest of the article is accessible here.   Beyond helping to raise money for one party or the other, or helping to build support for one candidate or another, what consequences do you think such online strategies might have for our political process over the long term?  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Onion nails it

As usual, The Onion hones in on the topic of this week's lecture, discussion, and readings dealing with "online revenue" with a simple, sarcastic blurb:
SAN FRANCISCO—According to industry sources, this news article is generating a veritable bonanza of highly lucrative advertising revenue by mere virtue of the fact that it mentions Apple's new iPad. "Current estimates show that the particular article I am being quoted in at this very moment began to accumulate thousands of dollars in ad-based profits as soon as the words 'new iPad' appeared in the headline," said market analyst Jonathan Bowers, who single-handedly and out of thin air created cold hard cash for a media organization simply by adding that the new Apple iPad will feature a high-definition screen and an improved processor. "Furthermore, any subsequent mention of the new iPad in this article—as well as any mention of the fact that preorders for the device start today—is resulting in increased reader traffic and, thus, increased revenues for your company's ad-based business model." At press time, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad.

Free social media seminar at WID

Gilson Bootstrapping graphic
Register for this free event!

Can You Hear Me Now? 
Social Media, Marketing and Effective Use of Web Tools
Wednesday, March 21, 2012 
5-6 p.m. presentation followed by reception
H.F. DeLuca Forum, Town Center at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery
330 N. Orchard St., Madison, WI 53715
The Internet and social media like Facebook and Twitter are profoundly impacting how established companies and startups get noticed and market themselves.
Tim Gill, traffic manager at, will discuss the key tools, techniques and trends that have the greatest impact in this area and how they can be used by, a subsidiary of founded and operated in Madison, has grown to become one of the leading online women's contemporary fashion retailers.
Register for this free event!

Please register by March 16.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What about online newspapers?

Today we talked about some strategies for reaping revenue with online content production — the Google AdWords/AdSense combination, the AOL Way, the Amazon "long tail," and the Angie's List crowdsourcing + subscription model — but we left out a big category of online content production, that of newspapers, magazines, and other news/information outlets.  Today an article in the Wall Street Journal discusses the option of creating "paywalls" for encouraging internet visitors to subscribe for their digital web-surfing:
As more newspapers close the door on free access to their websites, some publishers are still waiting for paying customers to pour in.
The numbers of readers signing up so far suggest that at many papers, "paywalls" aren't about to reverse publishers' deteriorating finances. Yet the results aren't discouraging industry executives, who say their efforts are succeeding in shoring up the core print business after years of declines.
This is a serious challenge for most online news sources that used to be print-based, as the article describes:
Over the past decade or so, with newspapers' content available free online, their finances have been devastated. Newspapers saw weekday circulation drop by nearly 10 million from 1999 to 2009, about 17% of the total, according to the Editor & Publisher International Yearbook. Print advertising revenue was cut almost in half in that period, according to the Newspaper Association of America.
Check out the rest of the article for more.  Under what circumstances would you be willing to pay for online news and information?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Using Google Analytics with Tumblr

One of your classmates found some step-by-step instructions for linking Google Analytics to Tumblr weblogs.  Anybody find any more good analytics resources out there?  Have any questions you want to pose to your peers (or to your instructors) about getting analytics working on your blogs?  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Using Web of Science Assignment

For this weeks online assignment, you'll need to access Web of Science (also called Web of Knowledge) from the library homepage. Starting from, search for it under the Databases tab or see if it's listed under the Top 10 databases. Explore the search options, quick reference guides, and FAQs to become familiar with how to use it.

In addition to answering the questions below in your one-page write up, you may also write about your experience using this database. What is or isn't Web of Knowledge useful for?

Using Web of Science.  The Google algorithm — that links between web resources are an indicator of value — is based on an old idea from the Science Citation Index of the mid 20th century.  Today the Science Citation Index is online as "Web of Science."  Find your professors from this semester and last semester in Web of Science and trace their publications.  Who cites them?  What is their "influence" as measured by the web of citations?  Who was your most influential professor?  Your least?  Does this citation assessment match up with your assessment of them from your classroom experience?

New assignment (BOO)

OK everyone.  This week, sign up with an RSS feed reader service (like Google Reader) or get your own RSS feed reader software, and plug in the addresses of all nine of our student group blogs.  That way you can easily follow everything that is happening in our whole course!  (P.S. Plug in the address of our main blog,, as well, to follow this course web site!)

Did you know that UW has a Google of its own?

When you do a search from the front page of the UW-Madison web site — or from the dedicated UW search page — you're actually using a Google Custom Search.  (Try searching yourself and see if anything different comes up from when you did a global Google search for your identity.)

You might want to set up Google Custom Search for your group weblog as well (though if you're using Blogger, which is owned by Google, you already have search enabled by default).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Did you know that UW has a Wikipedia of its own?

Our amateur information resource here at UW-Madison is called Wiscpedia.  (I had never heard of it until randomly stumbling upon it this morning.)  It's rather thin on content right now.  Perhaps J 176 students can engage with it as part of their blog project?

Monday, February 20, 2012

An example of a Wikipedia fail?

Great little essay this week in the Chronicle of Higher Education about a professor named Timothy Messer-Kruse who uncovered new information about the Haymarket riot and trial in Chicago in the late 19th century, and proudly tried to add this new information to Wikipedia, only to be thwarted:
Within minutes my changes were reversed. The explanation: "You must provide reliable sources for your assertions to make changes along these lines to the article."
That was curious, as I had cited the documents that proved my point, including verbatim testimony from the trial published online by the Library of Congress. I also noted one of my own peer-reviewed articles. One of the people who had assumed the role of keeper of this bit of history for Wikipedia quoted the Web site's "undue weight" policy, which states that "articles should not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views." He then scolded me. "You should not delete information supported by the majority of sources to replace it with a minority view."
The "undue weight" policy posed a problem. Scholars have been publishing the same ideas about the Haymarket case for more than a century. The last published bibliography of titles on the subject has 1,530 entries.
"Explain to me, then, how a 'minority' source with facts on its side would ever appear against a wrong 'majority' one?" I asked the Wiki-gatekeeper. He responded, "You're more than welcome to discuss reliable sources here, that's what the talk page is for. However, you might want to have a quick look at Wikipedia's civility policy."
It gets more absurd from there.  Read the whole story if you like, and tell me what you think.  (P.S. If you're curious, I stumbled across this article through one of my own media diet spices, the text-heavy design abomination but culture-laden Arts & Letters Daily.)

Project Information Literacy

Curious about that research report I discussed with you today in lecture?  It's available at the Project Information Literacy web site from the University of Washington.  There are a lot of resources free for downloading which might provide good raw material for review and commentary on your weblogs.  (One of my own favorites comes from one of the key participants of that old online space The Well that I talked about during our zines and weblog weeks: Howard Rheingold, "Crap Detection 101")

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wikipedia Use in Educational Settings

Some paraphrased common threads from the assignments this week: 
  • In high school, the use of Wikipedia to look up information or do research papers was frowned upon.
  • We were taught to stay away from Wikipedia because it was an unreliable source.
  • In a school setting, there are many worries about the site.
  • Teachers and professors never allow students to use Wikipedia as a credible source.
For next week, you'll read an article by Rosenzweig which addresses the ways students interact with the site. He writes, 
Wikipedia's ease of use and its tendency to show up at the top of Google rankings in turn reinforce students' propensity to latch on to the first source they encounter rather than to weigh multiple sources of information. Teachers have little more to fear from students' starting with Wikipedia than from their starting with most other basic reference sources. They have a lot to fear if students stop there (p. 26).
Is there any place for Wikipedia in student research? Under what conditions or for what purposes might it be useful in educational settings?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Interesting post from a UW graduate student on social media

One of our graduate students in Journalism & Mass Communication, Dave Wilcox, has been authoring a really interesting blog called "Kerfuffle" for a number of years now.  His latest post is right in line with the issues we've been discussing in class these last two weeks: "Just how much of my user-created content does the world want, anyway?"  He first laments the imbalance between the quantity and quality of his posts:
I am posting stuff all over the place all the time.  It gets posted on sites and platforms and apps that didn't exist when I began Kerfuffle (at least in their current forms).  I'm dropping stuff on Facebook every day, and on Twitter even more frequently than that.  Many of those posts are link-driven, but usually with some kind of added intellectual contribution.  Well, perhaps the contribution isn't all that chocked full of intellect.  But it is a contribution none the less.  Add to those the activity I frequently post on sites sites that are more visual, such as my Tumblr page (called Wait, What?) and Instagram feed. 
Then he notes that his social media posting has shifted from being computer-based to mobile-phone-based:
Sure, the laptop isn't usually too far away and wifi is all but ubiquitous these days.  But the phone is so damn easy and, well, now.  That explains why the first two screens on my phone contain a combined five social networking apps.
IMG_0604IMG_0605Further into the screens are more apps that feed these platforms with even more content.  Music apps likeSpotifyShazam and SoundHound; rating apps like YelpWhere, andurbanspoon; and travel apps likeExpedia anTravelocity all are willing to push content if I enable them.  Same for YouTube, of course. Hell, I have  whole screen of nothing but Google apps, another with all the social networks that I rarely use like FourSquare and LinkedIn, and still another with a bunch of Twitter clients I don't even use.
So what compels him to spend so much time with social media?
It's kind of funny to me that I use all these, and yet I freely admit that most of the content would hardly be missed by anyone at all.  So what does that mean?  I have to try this shit out, since I am studying social media as part of my research at UW, right?  At least that's what I tell myself (and others).  But how does that explain my driving need to live-tweet any Badger hockey game I attend?  I have no idea.  I guess I do it because (a) I'm a techno-geek, (b) I'm a media nerd and (c) because its fun.  Oh, right, and (d), of course: research.  Yes.  Research
Check out his post and let him know what you think.   Do you think that after this class you'll have caught the same social media bug as Dave?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Today's TED video, plus a few more

You can find today's video from lecture, plus many more on the same topic, at the TED site.  Here are some useful ones:

Again, view these with a critical eye — ask yourself what they are arguing, what assumptions they are making, and what cases those arguments and assumptions do and do not apply to.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Spaces for J176 Collaborative Work

Some ideas for places to work in your groups

2120 Vilas Lab
Monday: 10:30am-12:30pm by appointment with
Friday: 9am-3:30pm by appointment with
Evenings and weekends by advance appointment

Journalism Reading Room: Hours are Mon 10am-9pm, Tues/Wed 10am-10pm, Thurs 10am-4pm, Fri 12pm-4pm
Reserve the JRR Alcove:
Computer lab with group terminals: College Library, room 2250
Laptop and other equipment checkout
Plus virtual spaces!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to get more hits on your site with less content

Today the editor of Salon, Kerry Lauerman, describes a counterintuitive strategy that his group stumbled upon:
There's a terrible stereotype about Web editors, that we just care about traffic. Page views, unique visitors, clicks, hits, eyeballs, drivebys, furtive peeks, longing glances and everything in between.
And it's true! 
Except I'm here to tell you that there's no easy trick, no gimmick, to draw people to read your Website. Trust me, we've tried. 
So what finally worked in the end?  
We've tried to work longer on stories for greater impact, and publish fewer quick-takes that we know you can consume elsewhere. We're actually publishing, on average, roughly one-third fewer posts on Salon than we were a year ago (from 848 to 572 in December; 943 to 602 in January). So: 33 percent fewer posts; 40 percent greater traffic.
It sounds  simple, maybe obvious, but: We've gone back to our primary mission and have been focusing on originality. And it's working. 
Check out the full post here and tell me what you think.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Upcoming event of interest

My name is Emily Heilman and I am involved in the student organization, PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America). Every year we host a conference relating to the field of public relations. This year's theme is "Social Media: An Accessible World #connected" and we have five incredible speakers booked to teach our students how to use the social media outlet effectively in the professional world. 
Our speakers include:
  • Al Krueger - Hanson Dodge Creative
  • Tom Kuplic - Lindsay, Stone & Briggs
  • Matt Andrews - Thirsty Boy
  • Jeff Carrigan - Big Shoes Network
  • Katy Morgan-Davies - Google (Google+)
March 10th at the Lowell Center on Langdon St. - 12:30-5 p.m.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Blogging systems hire journalists

A New York Times article today by Brian Stelter describes how major "user-generated content" social networking services like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook (basically different forms of blogging services, as far as I'm concerned) have begun to hire their own writers and journalists to highlight and promote the different kinds of information their users create.  From the article:
The popular social blogging site Tumblr is hiring writers and editors to cover the world of Tumblr.
Writers and editors will cover the content of Tumblr blogs and their creators, with the idea of keeping users on the site longer.
Chris Mohney, a senior vice president for content at BlackBook Media, will be the site’s editor in chief. Jessica Bennett, a senior writer and editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast, will be the executive editor and, she said, a kind of Tumblr correspondent.
“Basically, if Tumblr were a city of 42 million,” Ms. Bennett said, referring to the number of Tumblr blogs that exist, “I’m trying to figure out how we cover the ideas, themes and people who live in it.”
Their work — both documenting the Tumblr service and marketing it to users — will appear on the Web site’s staff blog and on a separate part of that has not been set up yet, a Tumblr spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The moves by Tumblr are one way to tap into all of the free content that users upload to social networking Web sites. Twitter, trying another way, recently created a section of its site that lists stories that are popular among its users, with links to articles and related Twitter messages. And Facebook recently hired Daniel Fletcher, a 2009 graduate of Northwestern University’s journalism school, to be its managing editor.
Of course, this is something that mainstream news sources — as well as other user-generated blogs — have been doing for a long time: mining the blogosphere for interesting insights, provocations, and gossip and appropriating them for their own analytical and promotional purposes.  I suppose having the blog providers themselves do this as well shouldn't be surprising, right?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why this class is not just for future Journalism & Mass Communication majors

The tools and concepts of "media fluency" are not just for prospective majors in Journalism & Mass Communication, or Communication Arts, or English.  They're critically important to environmental, economic, and political issues of all sorts, as described in a brief New York Times blog post by Nick Bilton today:
When I set out to report at the World Economic Forum, I imagined it might be difficult to find technology-related stories. It turns out, I was a tad wrong. I would have had more luck finding a snowless Alpine mountain in the winter than finding people discussing a topic that did not involve technology.
After a year that has included the social media-fueled protests of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, global Internet privacy legislation and billions of dollars in technology stock offerings, tech and social media have not only entered the building, they are the walls holding it up.
Even the 102-page program guide for the World Economic Forum, where business, political and intellectual leaders gather each year to talk and frolic, has more references to technology and social media than any of the nerdiest Silicon Valley blogs I read daily.
 Do any of you discuss new media in non-media courses here at UW-Madison?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Choosing your reading for this week

A couple of students have asked me, "If we haven't yet been assigned a letter in our group, how do we know which reading to write our one-page response paper on for this week?"  Good question.  Just pick one.  (Maybe that's an easier way of organizing this anyway -- everyone always does both the readings, but pick one of them to write on, and we'll see how it organically unfolds?  I'll ask you about this alternative method, which would be easier on the recordkeeping, on Monday.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Syllabus fully updated

Just in time for discussion sections today: I've added all the individual and collaborative assignments to the Syllabus page, so you can have a detailed view of what's due when.  You'll notice a slew of other pages listed on the right-hand side of the blog as well, with other course resources for you.  

Remember, each Sunday I'll update the This week in J 176 page to remind you what's due in section that week, and what your blog group should be focusing on next.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Example of a one-page article summary/critique

You don't need to write any one-page article summary/critique papers this week (we'll start that with next week's readings), but I figured I'd better give you an example of what I'm asking for.

One of your reader articles this week is by philosopher of technology Langdon Winner.  I've written up my own one-page summary/critique paper on Winner's piece, as well as an example of my own highlighted notes on the article itself, and placed them both in a new Handouts folder on the right.  There are also a few general writing-skills handouts in there.  Enjoy!

Former Harvard University president on media fluency

One of the "most emailed" articles in the New York Times this morning is an opinion piece by former Harvard University president Lawrence H. Summers in which he asks, "Suppose the educational system is drastically altered to reflect the structure of society and what we now understand about how people learn. How will what universities teach be different?"  Several of his answers seem to connect to our media fluency course:
Education will be more about how to process and use information and less about imparting it. This is a consequence of both the proliferation of knowledge — and how much of it any student can truly absorb — and changes in technology.  
An inevitable consequence of the knowledge explosion is that tasks will be carried out with far more collaboration.
New technologies will profoundly alter the way knowledge is conveyed.
 If you're interested, check out the whole piece and tell us what you think below.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Some notes on that slide I skipped over today

Today in lecture I quickly skipped over a slide discussing the eight characteristics of new media as analyzed by MIT professor Henry Jenkins:

Here are some notes from that lecture to describe these eight new media characteristics:

1. Innovative.  “the introduction of new media technologies sparks social and aesthetic experimentation.”
2. Convergent.  “convergence is being shaped top-down by the decisions being made by massive media conglomerates who have controlling interest across all possible media systems and who enjoy the power to insure that their content circulates globally.”  And “convergence is being shaped bottom-up by the participatory impulses of consumers, who want the ability to control and shape the flow of media in their lives; they want the media they want when they want it and where they want it.”
3. Everyday.  “Media technologies are fully integrated into our everyday social interactions.”  And “we can now take our media with us wherever we go.”
4. Appropriative.  “We can now quote and recontextualize recorded sounds and images (both still and moving) almost as easily as we can quote and recontextualize words.”
5. Networked.  “Young people become adept at calculating the advantages and disadvantages of deploying different communications systems for different purposes -- trying to decide how to communicate their ideas only to those people they want to see them while maintaining privacy from unwanted observation.”
6. Global.  “Some have argued that this expanded communication will bring about greater understanding; others see the return to fundamentalism as a reaction against the threat posed by these global exchanges.”
7. Generational.  “young people adopted cultural styles and values radically different and often fundamentally at odds with their parent's generation. Recent research suggests that young people and adults live in fundamentally different media environments, using communications technologies in different ways and forming contradictory interpretations of their experiences.”
8. Unequal.  “In so far as participation within them represents a new source of power, wealth, and knowledge, it also represents a new site of privilege and inequality. Participating may be elective for those who have the resources needed to belong in the first place but no such option can be exercised by those who are being left behind.”
[All quotes from Jenkins H 2006 » Eight traits of the new media landscape]

What do you think?  Do you agree with this characterization of new media?

Syllabus page created

In Blogger, like in most contemporary blogging utilities, besides posting news to the main page of your blog, you can also create stand-alone pages.  This morning I've created a "Syllabus" page which currently only contains the weekly readings, but will soon contain all of the assignments as well.  (No matter where you are in the blog, you can always access the syllabus through the link on the right.)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

First lecture tomorrow!

[Here's an updated version of the email I sent to the whole class on Sunday before the semestser began.]

Hi folks. Welcome to this brand-new course in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication, "Media Fluency for the Digital Age." (This first time around, in Spring 2012, we're teaching the course under our J 176 "topics" number, but we hope to make it a permanent course under the J 101 number in the future.) For those of you interested in the new Digital Studies Certificate Program, this course is intended to serve as a gateway to that credential.

I'm your professor, Greg Downey. I'm a faculty member in both the School of Journalism & Mass Communication (where I currently serve as the Director) and the School of Library & Information Studies. In the past I've taught other introductory lecture courses like "Introduction to Mass Communication" and "The Information Society." This new course takes elements from both of those, but focuses much more closely on the new media tools and industries that increasingly demand your "fluency" in our digital, networked age.

We have one TA for this course, a senior Ph.D. student in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication named Davita Veselenak. She's got a load of teaching experience already, and I am delighted that she is going to be helping me design and deliver this new course. (Those of you in sections 302 and 303 will have her as your TA, and those of you in section 301 will have to make do with me.)

Our first lecture is tomorrow, Monday, January 23, in 4028 Vilas at 8:50am. You'll find out all the details of the class then. I'll also be building a course web site, sort of in realtime, at (there's not much there now, but I'll fill it up tomorrow). The only required reading for the course is a $35 xeroxed reader available now at ASM Student Print, just next door to Vilas Hall in the student services tower on the third floor. (Probably a good idea to pick it up after lecture tomorrow, because there are a few readings I will want you to do for section this week.)

This will be a fun semester, and I think we'll all learn a lot. See you tomorrow,


Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Welcome to the course website for J 176, "Media Fluency for the Digital Age," a production of the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I'm your instructor, Professor Greg Downey, and I'll be fleshing out this blog very soon.  Even if you're not registered for the course, feel free to follow along with our progress through this important topic.