FILM 208: Digital Media and Culture

Emory University, Fall 2019

Class: Tuesday/Thursday 10-11:15 am, Math & Science Center W307C

Screening/Lab: Tuesday 4-6 pm, White Hall 102

Instructor: Dr. Tanine Allison, Film and Media Studies


Office: 109B Rich Building (inside the Film and Media Studies department office)

Office Hours: Tuesdays 2:30 – 3:30 pm, and by appointment. I also have meetings via phone and Zoom (video conference). Email me to set up a time.

I will respond to student emails within 24 hours (or a little less frequently over the weekend).


Course Objectives

  • Analyze how the history and design of our digital world have shaped contemporary communication and culture
  • Evaluate how digital technologies have influenced modern entertainment and information industries, such as television, social media, journalism, and video games
  • Create your own online space and digital projects
  • Produce original research on a topic related to digital media and culture

Course Description

This class will look at the ways computers and digital technologies have changed how we think, communicate, express ourselves, learn, and interact with the world. We will cover such topics as the relationship between computers and culture, the way the Internet changed the dissemination of knowledge, the rise of media convergence and conglomeration, the cultural impact of social networking, the way digital technology changes how we tell stories and make meaning, and contemporary changes in digital entertainment industries, such as television, movies, and video games.


FILM 270 (Introduction to Film) OR FILM 204 (Introduction to Media Studies)


Required Reading

  • Book: Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, by Janet Murray, UPDATED EDITION (MIT Press, 2016)
  • Essays: Links will be provided to online articles and PDFs on Canvas

Required Viewing/Media

Weekly viewing/media assignments (such as films, television shows, etc.) will usually be completed in our weekly screening/lab time. Some media assignments will need to be completed outside of class on the student’s own time and may involve a small fee for access (such as a movie rental or game download).

Objectionable Material

The films, video games, and other media we will look at and play for this class may contain material you find objectionable.  Some of these media will include violence and sexual material.  It is important for us to look at this material critically and analytically to get a full understanding of media, particularly online media.  If you do not feel comfortable with particular material, or have specific triggers, please talk to me ahead of time so that I can assess whether a different assignment is appropriate. Otherwise, content warnings will not always occur.

Technology Requirements

  • Canvas—Course information, assignments, and readings/links (other than the required books) will be available here.
  •—You will create your own website as a platform for your completed assignments, research, and creative projects.
  • Twitter—You will need a Twitter account in order to live-tweet a TV show together with the class. Tag anything related to this class with #dmcult.
  • Other digital media of your choice to produce a creative project.

Personal Website

This course requires students to create and post their coursework to an individual site. As a participant you will author and administer a personal website, create multimodal texts, and complete course work with a variety of digital tools.

  • No prior experience with web design or digital authoring is required for successful completion of course work.
  • Student work will be published to the web and available to reading publics beyond the class and university. Pseudonyms are okay as long as you let me know who you are.
  • Once you have completed the course, the site you built is yours to continue to develop into a personal digital infrastructure that may include, but is not limited to, course projects, a professional portfolio, resume/CV documents, social media feeds, and blogs.
  • This class will mostly be using FREE websites. You are not required to have a paid domain name or web authoring service subscription, but resources are available if you would prefer to pay for these.


Class/Screening Attendance and Participation (15% of final grade)

Attendance and participation at both lectures and screenings/labs are mandatory. You are allowed 4 absences (either excused or unexcused) without penalty; more than 4 absences (for any reason) will negatively affect this portion of your grade. Excessive absences may result in failure for the course. Lateness to class (especially chronic lateness) can also result in a poor participation grade.

Online Participation/Discussion Board (20% of final grade)

Online participation will be centered on Canvas and will consist of at least 2 different kinds of participation.

  1. You are required to contribute to discussion boardsrelating to our readings and screenings. Your initial posts are typically due on the Wednesdays (by 11:59 pm) before we will discuss assigned readings in class. This post should be substantive and thoughtful, include at least one quotation from the reading, and consist of at least one paragraph. The goal of these discussion boards is to have you begin processing the class material before we discuss it in our live sessions. You will also need to go back to the discussion board on Thursday (by 11:59 pm) and complete a second post responding to a fellow student’s contribution.
  2. You will provide peer feedbackin the form of regular responses to the work of fellow classmates (typically due Mondays at 11:59 pm). You need to post feedback for at least 2 of your classmates’ assignments. Your online participation grade may also reflect completion of self-assessments and other short activities.

Website (5% of final grade)

The website will be graded on effort, experimentation, continued maintenance, functionality, and creativity. This grade also reflects completion of two thoughtful self-assessments and improvement over the course of the semester.

Video Presentation (10% of course grade)

Select a digital object (such as a website, app, or piece of technology—examples might include Amazon, Google, Uber, Instagram, an iPhone, etc.) and analyze how it uses the four affordances of the digital medium (as defined by Janet Murray). How do these affordances specifically work together in this object? How do these affordances lead to a particular user experience and contribute to this object’s cultural status or meaning? Make a video of yourself presenting this information to the class and upload the video to Canvas. This could take the form of a conventional video of yourself interacting with the object or a screencast of your computer showing the website or going through a series of slides with a voiceover. Other creative possibilities (such as making an animated presentation with a technology like Powtoons) would also be welcome, but don’t go overboard. The analysis is more important than the quality of the final product.

Research and Projects on a Topic of Your Choosing

You will choose a topic related to digital media and culture that you will research and work on throughout the course. The project will include a number of smaller assignments, both research-based and creative. Deadlines are provided for all of the pieces, including rough drafts. You are expected to work on the project on your own beyond just the stated deadlines. These assignments will be posted on your WordPress website.

Prior topics have included Korean eating shows, the social media practices of professional sports leagues, the representation of women in digital ads or social media, and recent changes in various industries (censorship via demonetization of YouTube, the growth of indie video games, the rise of esports, trends in Netflix original content, etc.).

Your topic must be related to digital media, not just media in general. For example, a project on reality TV would not work, but a project about how reality TV stars use social media would be a good topic.

  • Personal Essay (10% of course grade)—Essay of 1000+ words explaining your research topic and your personal relationship to it.
  • Annotated Bibliography (10% of course grade)—5-10 high-quality sources (including at least 2 scholarly sources) with 150+ word summaries.
  • Research Essay (15% of course grade)—Essay of 1500+ words discussing and analyzing the research you found about your topic. Includes a rough draft.
  • Creative Project (15% of course grade)—A digital project that takes any format and expresses elements of your research in a creative way. Prior projects include infographics, a series of memes, digitally edited photographs, videos, a prototype for an app, a podcast, etc. Includes a rough draft, artist’s statement/explanation, and informal presentation.

Extra Credit

You can attend up to three film- or media- related events for extra credit. You must write up a response blog post (about 250 words) about the event within a week of its occurrence and post it to your website. (Label it as Extra Credit #1, etc.) Any event sponsored by the Film and Media Studies department counts, such as the Cinematheque series; other events should be approved by the instructor ahead of time. You will not need to sign in at the event. A description of the event that makes it clear that you were there is acceptable. The blog post should also discuss what you learned, your personal and intellectual response to the event, and how the event relates to course material, as applicable.

Each extra credit assignment will make up for a missing week of discussion board contributions or an additional absence (beyond those already allotted). If these do not apply to you, your participation grade will be boosted by an equivalent amount.

Grading Scale

Here is how I classify each letter grade when I calculate the final grade for the course. I also round up anything .5 or higher.

A = 94 or higher

A- = 90-93

B+ = 87-89

B = 84-86

B- = 80-83

C+ = 77-79

C = 74-76

C- = 70-73

D+ = 67-69

D = 64-66

D- = 60-63

F = 59 or lower


Lateness Policy

This class has a 15-MINUTE RULE.  If you are more than 15 minutes late to class or screening FOR ANY REASON, you will not be able to join the class.  You will be asked to leave and it will count as an absence.  (Likewise, if the instructor does not show up in the first 15 minutes, class will be canceled.)  Lateness to class (especially chronic lateness) can also result in a poor participation grade.

Late Assignment Policy

Extensions for assignments must be approved at least 24 hours before the due date. If you did not receive permission for an extension, late assignments will be accepted up to ten days after the due date, with a penalty of five percentage points off per day. After ten days, the student will receive a zero on the assignment. This policy does not apply to discussion board contributions, peer reviews, or other short assignments that are time-sensitive.

Plagiarism / Academic Honesty Policy

You are expected to follow the Emory College of Arts and Sciences Honor Code. The honor code is in effect throughout this semester, and relates to all aspects of the work you do in this course.  By taking this course, you affirm that it is a violation of the code to cheat on exams, to plagiarize, or to deviate from the teacher’s instructions about collaboration, on all work that is submitted for grades.  You agree that the teacher is entitled to move you to another seat during examinations, without explanation.  You also affirm that if you witness others violating the code you have a duty to report them to the honor council. Any violations of the Honor Code will be reported to the Emory Honor Council for adjudication.

All assignments turned in for this class must be the student’s own writing or creative work. Any quotations must be properly attributed to the original source with proper citations.  Please consult your instructor if you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism or how to properly cite material.

Computers and Media in the Classrooms

Laptops, phones, tablets, and other devices will NOT be allowed at most screenings.

Laptops and other devices are allowed in the classroom ONLY for the following reasons:

  1. Accessing electronic copies of the readings
  2. Taking notes
  3. Finding relevant information to be shared in class
  4. Live-tweeting (when authorized), #dmcult
  5. Authorized class activities

I reserve the right to ask particular individuals or the class as a whole to turn off all screens and electronic devices.

Please use the following digital etiquette:

  1. Make eye contact with others when they are speaking.
  2. Don’t hide behind your laptop screen.
  3. Turn the sound off of your device.
  4. Put devices away when students are presenting or we have special guests.
  5. Do not distract others with your media.
  6. Put devices away when we are watching video clips together as a group.

Students with Disabilities or Other Accommodations

Emory University is committed to advancing an accessible and “barrier-free” environment for students, faculty, staff, patients, guests and visitors by ensuring that the principles of access, equity, inclusion and learning are realized in and by the Emory community.

If you need accommodations related to your disability or medical condition, please contact the Emory Office of Accessibility Services. If you already have OAS documentation of your accommodations, please provide me with these via email. I would be happy to discuss the accommodations you need in this class specifically.

Peer Tutoring Writing Support

Tutors in the Emory Writing Center and the ESL Program are available to support Emory College students as they work on any type of writing assignment, at any stage of the composing process. Tutors can assist with a range of projects, from traditional papers and presentations to websites and other multimedia projects. Writing Center and ESL tutors take a similar approach as they work with students on concerns including idea development, structure, use of sources, grammar, and word choice. They do not proofread for students. Instead, they discuss strategies and resources students can use as they write, revise, and edit their own work. Students who are non-native speakers of English are welcome to visit either the Writing Center tutors or the ESL tutors. All other students in the college should see Writing Center tutors. Learn more and make an appointment by visiting the websites of the ESL Program and the Writing Center. Please review tutoring policies before your visit.

Emory Writing Center staff are trained in digital composition and WordPress projects.


Weekly Expectations and Guidelines

Sundays: Major assignments are usually due on Sundays by 11:59 pm. In most cases, you will publish the assignment to your website and then post a link to your assignment in a discussion board.

Mondays: On the weeks when major assignments are due, write peer feedback for at least 2 of your fellow classmates’ assignments using the discussion board for that assignment.

Tuesdays: Class in the morning and screening/lab in the afternoon.

Wednesdays: Complete your contribution to the Discussion Board relating to Thursday’s readings (due by 11:59 pm).

Thursdays: Class in the morning will usually introduce a new topic and cover the week’s readings. Come to class ready to discuss your Discussion Board post and other ideas relating to the readings and screening. Go back to the Discussion Board and post a response to another student’s contribution by 11:59 pm.

Fridays/Saturdays: Work on weekly and ongoing major assignments. Continue to revise and update your WordPress site.

Some weeks will deviate from this general schedule. Check the syllabus and Canvas for deadlines.