Seminar in Digital Communication

Seminar in Digital Communication: COMM 648
syllabus | schedule of events | notes on our Twitter use
Fall term 2011, Queens University of Charlotte
Dr. John A. McArthur


“COMM 648: Students will explore the communicative aspects of digital technology as they relate to and intertwine with oral, aural, and visual communication. Special emphasis will be placed on theories of information and experience design and the implications of these theories for effective practice in strategic communication.”

This seminar’s aims include:

  1. equipping students toward a lifelong practice of “absorbing a virtual firehose of streaming information” (Solis, 2009, p.29).;
  2. engaging student-professionals and academicians as creator-consumers of digital information;
  3. developing practices of adaptation, creativity, and innovation in a changing strategic communication landscape; and,
  4. framing our study in the context of academic writing/composing/curating for contribution to the study and profession of communication.

As part of the strategic communication emphasis in the Master of Arts in Organizational and Strategic Communication, this seminar will focus on the consideration of the interactions between media, technology, and society. Specifically, our work will be grounded in theories of information design and user-experience design to allow us to consider the means whereby digital media creates opportunities for conversation, engagement, and experimentation.


  • Digital Media Consumption & Creation
    Seminar participants should be active consumers of digital media. In this seminar, this means finding, reading, and participating in timely conversations. Each participant will establish and maintain a Twitter page that creates opportunities for contribution to ongoing discussions as a digital thinker rather than as an idle consumer (Why Twitter?). Participant pages should be focused on strategic communication, organizational communication, or another area of the field of particular interest to the participant. Deliverables: Twitter page.
  • Digital Media Experimentation
    Seminar participants will engage oral, aural, visual, and digital media to experiment with multiple modalities of information design. Three presentations of this work will occur at intervals throughout the seminar. Deliverables: Digital Events I, II, III
  • Contribution to the field
    Each seminar participant will devise a book chapter written in APA format as a contribution to an e-book titled, “Community 2.0: At the Intersection of Digital Media and Information Design.” Deliverables: Book chapter. Ideas for potential chapters might include things that connect a particular information design issue to a community’s ability/opportunity to be informed and engaged:
    • Wayfinding displays as markers of informed communities
    • Twitter as a tool for staying politically active
    • The power of blogs for local community engagement
    • Privacy controls on social networking sites
    • Web searching: telling the popular from the credible.
    • Using markers (QR codes, etc) to create a culture of information.
  • Reflection and Analysis
    Our readings and face-to-face conversations provide opportunities for substantial reflection on the topic of this seminar and the integration of media, technology, and society.  Deliverables: Readings and substantive face-to-face participation.


  1. Twitter: 10%
    Successful Twitter posts allow for opportunities to make connections with other people; engage in conversations; link traffic to your site or other external content; curate content for your followers; and demonstrate digital writing and language skills. See guidelines for effective Twitter participation here.
  2. Digital/experiential event I, II, III: 30%
    These aural, visual, or digital events should apply user-experience design concepts to invite, engage, and conclude an experience for the user. Possible presentation options include podcast, photo essay, video, text-based presentation, “viral” style video, mashup, etc. Time alloted: based upon genre. See guidelines for digital/experiential events here.
  3. Book Chapter: 50%
    The book chapter will be submitted in stages. Stage 1: Proposal. Stage 2: introduction with proposed references. Stage 3: Completed Chapter. Stage 4: Revised Chapter.
  4. Readings & substantive face-to-face participation: 10%
    The readings and seminar meeting times create a unifying structure for this seminar, for which participation on the part of every participant is paramount.

Notes about work produced in this seminar:

  • At the Master’s level, all student writing should be clear, logically organized, concise, and error-free. Whereas the role of the professor is to provide counsel for you on the organization and thought processes of early drafts of your writing, the onus of responsibility falls to the student for soliciting support in proofreading and editing. Students who require writing support should avail themselves of the resources available in both the Library and the Center for Student Success on the lower level of the Dana Building.
  • Appropriate citation and attribution is necessary for all writing (in all media) in this course. Images, texts, video clips, tweets, and all other replicated work should be attributed in a manner appropriate to the presentation medium. Failure to appropriately cite sources is considered academic dishonesty.

See the schedule of topics for our seminar


Seminar Readings:

  • Solis, B. (2010). Engage! The complete guide for brands and businesses to build, cultivate, and measure success in the new web. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Shedroff, N. (2001). Experience Design 1. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing.

Supplemental Readings ( you will need to read at least three if not more of the following):

Digital Literacy

  • Gee, J.P. (2007). What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy (2nd ed.). New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Gillmor, D. (2010). Mediactive.
  • Kovach, B. & Rosenstiel, T. (2010). Blur: How to know what’s true in the age of information overload. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Papacharissi, Z. (2011). A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites. New York: Taylor & Francis.
  • Rheingold, H. (2000). The Virtual Community (Revised Edition). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart Mobs: The next social revolution. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books.

Information Design

  • Bolter, J. D., & Gromala, D. (2003). Windows and Mirrors: Interaction design, digital art, and the myth of transparency. Boston, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Coates, D. (2003). Watches Tell More Than Time: Product design, information, and the quest for elegance. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Kress, G., & van Leeuwen, T. (2001). Multimodal Discourse: The modes and media of contemporary communication. London: Hodder-Arnold.
  • Maeda, J. (2006). The Laws of Simplicity: Design, technology, business, life. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Norman, D. (2004). Emotional Design: Why we love (or hate) everyday things. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Digital Strategic Communication

  • Byron, D.L., & Broback, S. (2006). Publish and Prosper: Blogging for your business. Berkeley, CA: New Riders Press.
  • Flynn, N. (2006). Blog Rules: A business guide to managing policy, public relations, and legal issues. New York: American Management Association.
  • Funk, T. (2008). Web 2.0 and Beyond. Westport, CT: Praeger.
  • Jarvis, J. (2009). What would Google do? New York: Collins Business.
  • Kelleher, T. (2007). Public Relations Online. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Scoble, R., & Israel, S. (2006). Naked Conversations: How blogs are changing the way businesses talk with customers. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Solis, B., & Breakenridge D. (2009). Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How social media is reinventing the aging business of PR. Upper Saddle Ridge, NJ: FT Press.

Course Policies

Late/Missed Work Policy: Always make arrangements with me as soon as you know about an upcoming absence. Arrangements for making up missed work must be made in advance, and I encourage you to discuss with me any concerns you have regarding deadlines in advance. Assignments submitted late will be severely penalized by 10% of the original point allocation per calendar day late. Thus, assignments submitted after 10 days late will earn no points. The dates on our schedule are the official due dates. All readings and materials are due during class time on the date specified. Dates are subject to change, and any changes will be made in writing.

Attendance Policy: Attendance is expected in this course. If you will be missing class for any reason, let me know as soon as possible. If you miss class, you are responsible for contacting a classmate to find out what work was missed.  Excessive absences (3 or more) will result in automatic failure of the course.

Queens University of Charlotte Graduate School Information: Participation in this seminar is governed by the graduate academic policies found in the Student Catalog; the policies of the School of Communication Graduate Student Qualifications Committee; and the Queens University of Charlotte Honor Code. Failure to uphold any of these policies by any participant will be dealt with swiftly and severely, in accordance with the regulations of each policy.

Disability Accommodations: If you are a student with a verified disability and you require accommodations, please provide me with the necessary memorandum that was given to you by Student Disability Services. Contact: The Coordinator of Disability Services: Sandy Rogelberg, 704-337-2508.

Honor Code: The Honor Code, which permeates all phases of university life, is based on three fundamental principles. It assumes that Queens students: a) are truthful at all times, b) respect the property of others (this includes written works, thus, plagiarism is a Honor Code violation), and c) are honest in tests, examinations, term papers, and all other academic assignments. It is a violation of the Honor Code for a student to be untruthful concerning the reason for a class absence. If you believe that you have witnessed a violation of the Queens Honor Code, I encourage you to speak with me confidentially. All members of the Queens community adhere to the Honor Code, these expectations are outlined in the Honor Code Booklet,

Queens University of Charlotte Honor Code

As a member of the Queens University of Charlotte community, I will endeavor to create a spirit of integrity and honor for its own sake at Queens University of Charlotte.

Academic Pledge: I pledge truthfulness and absolute honesty in the performance of all academic work.

Community Pledge: I pledge to be truthful at all times, to treat others with respect, to respect the property of others,and to adhere to University policies.

Accepting both the privileges and responsibilities of living by this code of honor, I resolve to uphold this code and not to tolerate any violations of its spirit or principles.

E-mail: Students’ Queens University of Charlotte e-mail (Qmail) is an official form of communication for this course, and will be used to disseminate materials and provide updates in group and individual form. Please check your email regularly.

University Closings / Cancelled Classes: In the rare occasion when it is necessary to close the university announcements will be made on TV and radio, and will be posted on the Queens web site, The best way for the Queens community to receive fast and accurate information about closings is to sign up for QALERT at Remember, you must register as a new user each academic year, even if you’ve signed up in the past. NOTE: If classes are meeting but you feel that you cannot find a safe way to get to class, you should notify me as soon as possible.

Intellectual Property Policy: Queens University of Charlotte faculty and students adhere to the Queens’ Intellectual Property Policy and U.S. Copyright Law. See Faculty Handbook,, and the Queens University of Charlotte website at

A Notation
This content may be modified on a regular basis to facilitate effectiveness in the seminar experience. Seminar participants are advised to check this page often for revisions.