Communication in a Digital Age

Joseph Reagle, Ph.D. <email address>

COMM 1255 SEC01 Office hours
TU/FR 1:35 pm - 3:15 pm
Ryder 435
FR 3:30 PM and by appointment
Comm Studies, 215 Holmes Hall
Tip: Enter at 41A Leon St.

Course objectives

Digital communication is central to contemporary life and is consequently often taken for granted. This course will remedy consequent misunderstanding and at its successful completion you will be able to explain the technical basis, communicative effects, and commercial aspects to digital communication. For instance, you will learn about attention and multi-tasking, the shape and strengths of one’s relationships; online ads, content, and privacy; and gender and power in online communication. Furthermore, you will have gained experience in digital communication competencies such as writing in a Web markup format, filtering email and managing ads and your own personal exposure online.

Successful completion of this course enables one to:

  1. recall, compare, and give examples of key issues and theories;
  2. ask complex questions and have a sense of how one might address those questions;
  3. exercise practical skills such as filtering email, writing markup, and assessing your digital footprint.
  4. compellingly write in both a short-form online venue and longer-form academic format;
  5. collaborate with one’s peers to improve academic performance.


Active learning and the Web

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius

This is an active learning course meaning that you will be engaged with activities such as class and group discussion, participating in and designing class exercises, collaborative note-taking, and peer assessment. An implication of this is, for example, if you do not volunteer at least one good comment or question during a class, I might “cold call” you myself.

I also make much use of the Web. For instance, this syllabus is a Web page and I expect you to follow links.

Academic policies

In short, come to class on time and with the readings and assignments completed; be respectful and willing to collaborate. There are no provisions for missed exams or late assignments. If I notice you texting, then you are doing it too much. If I think your use of a computer is distracting you and others, I will put you on the spot (e.g., ask you to immediately send me your notes). Such deviations from classroom professionalism and respect may result in dismissal from class and demerits against your grade. See full course policies for more detail.

In general, if you have an issue, such as needing an accommodation for a religious obligation or learning disability, speak with me before it affects your performance; afterward it is too late. Do not ask for favors; instead, offer proposals that show initiative and a willingness to work.

Academic Integrity: “The promotion of independent and original scholarship ensures that students derive the most from their educational experience and their pursuit of knowledge.” Violations include cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and participating in or encouraging dishonesty. I will and have reported violators to the Office of Student Conduct.


Writing assignment requirements (>= 500 words)

Written assignments must be double-spaced, 12 point font, 1-inch margins. One page should contain approximately 250 words. Pages must be numbered and stapled together. Citations must be in the APA style.

So as to avoid bias, I read assignments “blind” without knowing the author. Hence, your name (and final word count absent bibliography) should only appear on the back side of the final page. (That is, I should only know your name by turning the assignment over.) Consequently, include the assignment appendix as the final page.

All assignments must be reviewed by two peers and assessed according to the writing rubric. Make use of Hacker’s Pocket Manual and my writing tips handout. If you fail to give a peer a draft in time for review; or if they fail to give you a review, document it on the assignment appendix.

On the due date, print copies must be submitted in class and the electronic version must be submitted to BlackBoard Turnitin. The Turnitin version need not include the assignment appendix.

If you have permission to revise a written assignment for re-assessment, please see these revision instructions.

Grading Rubric

“A” students have all of the following attributes, they:

  1. show mastery in assignments. Their work demonstrates impressive understanding of readings, discussions, themes and ideas. It is fluid, clear, analytical, well-organized and grammatically polished. Reasoning and logic are well-grounded and examples precise.
  2. have virtually perfect attendance. Their commitment to the class resembles that of the teacher.
  3. are prepared for class. They always read assignments and participate fully. Their attention to detail is such that they occasionally catch the teacher in a mistake.
  4. show interest in the class. They look up or dig out what they don’t understand. They often ask interesting questions or make thoughtful comments.
  5. have retentive minds. They are able to connect past learning with the present.
  6. have a winning attitude. They have the determination, initiative and self-discipline to succeed.

Please see the complete rubric for more, including specific rubrics for writing and participation.


Being a good student is a learned skill and craft. “Best practices” are guides to help you learn those skills and include: The Craft of Reading; Making Sense of Concepts; Achieving Balance in Discussion; Some Thoughts on Presenting; Writing Class Essays; and Feedback on Writing: Rubric and Writing.

I provide partial slide handouts for some of my classes. These classes will often contain active class exercises.

This class has an email list associated with it to which we can all send and receive messages.

Northeastern resources


Most readings are freely available online or on Blackboard. However, you must acquire the following:

A reading calendar is available.

Note the chapter (ch=) or pages (pp=) to read.


Like other skills, bibliography is something you learn to do well. Technology can make it easier. NU makes RefWorks and EndNote available to students; you can also use the freely available browser-based Zotero. You can then import the bibTeX file of this class’s readings into those applications.