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COMM 1 / COMM 211 : Media Technologies, People, and Society - Syllabus
Fall 2004

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Communication 001/211 Syllabus
Stanford University

Communication 001/211

Media Technologies, People, and Society

Fall, 2004-2005

Monday and Wednesday, 11:00 A.M. - 12:15 P.M.

Section TBA

Location: 420-041

Professor Clifford Nass (Instructor)
300E McClatchy Hall
Telephone: 723-5499
Appointments: Joan Ferguson (; 650-725-9472)

Teaching Assistants

David Danielson:

So-Hye Lim:

Lise Marken:



Old and new media technologies are converging.  A new digital world combines traditional print, television, and film with computers, telephones, and communication networks to form a collection of products and services that significantly influence all aspects of personal and community life.  Communication 001/211 will look at the technologies and industries that make up the new world of "digital convergence."  We will examine their effects on psychological life, on industry, and on communities local and global through a variety of theories and paradigms.


1. In-class midterm (cannot be taken early)
2. Auditorium-based final (cannot be taken early)
3. Section attendance and participation
4a. Comm. 1: Research paper and paper proposal
4b. Comm. 211: Work as a research assistant or write a research paper
5. A maximum of five hours of experimental participant
6. Lecture attendance is not required, but it is essential for passing the course: The lectures introduce a great deal of material that is not covered in the readings.

Details of Requirements

Sections will meet weekly at various times. They will begin the third week of classes.  Section sign-up will be web-based via Coursework and will be performed at the start of the second week of classes.  Students will be graded on the basis of attendance, performance on section-based assignments, and quality of participation.  

Research Paper (Undergraduates and some Graduate students)
Undergraduates will write a five-page paper on a class topic.  A one-paragraph proposal of the topic is required and must be approved by your section leader.  Details of the paper will be circulated during the third week of the class.  

Graduate students selecting this option will write an eight-page paper on a topic (approved by an assigned TA) relevant to the course.  The paper must follow the “research option” as described in the research paper hand-out.

Research Assistant (Other Graduate students)
Graduate students who prefer to be a research assistant rather than write a paper will have the opportunity to do so.  

Experiment Participation
All students will be required to be participants in experiments conducted in the Communication Department.  Each student will be assigned to up to five hours of experiments (not five experiments).  The exact amount will be determined by fate; thus, the number will likely vary, sometimes considerably, from student to student.  Students who do not wish to participate as subjects in experiments have the option of either working as a research assistant on an experiment (if available) or writing a paper (in addition to the required paper).

Grading for Comm. 1

Aspect of Course Weight  

Midterm 30%

Paper/Research Assistant 20%

Sections/Research Participation 10%

Final Exam 40%

Total 100%

Required Books

Nass, C. (2004). Media technologies, people, and society: Reading packet.

Negroponte, N. (1995). Being digital. Knopf: New York.

Reeves, B. & Nass, C. (1996). The media equation: How people treat computers, television, and new media like real people and places. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Key Dates (Tentative)

Monday, September 27 First day of class
Monday, November 1, 11:00 AM Paper proposals due
Wednesday, November 3, 11:00 AM Midterm examination
Monday, November 29, 11:00 AM Papers due
Monday, December 6 (8:30-11:30 AM) Final examination

NOTE: Students may NOT move the date of the examination to facilitate their departure from Stanford.  Having plane tickets will NOT be an excuse for moving the date of the examination.

Detailed Readings and Lectures

1. Introduction to the Course (Monday, September 27)

No Readings

2. Overview of Digital Life (Wednesday, September 29)

Negroponte, N. 1995. Being digital. Knopf: New York.  

3. What is Communication? (Monday, October 4)

Watzlawick, P. (1976). How Real Is Real? New York: Vintage. Pp. 3-14; 24-26; 30-40; 48-51; 63-64.
Clark, H. (1996). Using language. New York: Cambridge University Press. Chap. 1.
Schelling, T. C. (1978). Micromotives and macrobehavior. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Pp. 11-17, 36-41, 110-112.

4. How to promote quality journalism in an age of market-driven news (Wednesday, October 6)

McManus, J. (1994). Market-driven journalism: Let the citizen beware? Newbury Park: Sage. Chapter 5 (posted in Coursework).

5. Virtual Community and the Problem of Free Labor (Monday, October 11)

Rheingold, H. (1996). A slice of my life in my virtual community. In P. Ludlow (Ed.), High noon on the electronic frontier: Conceptual issues in cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
humdog (1996). pandora’s vox: on community in cyberspace. In P. Ludlow (Ed.), High noon on the electronic frontier: Conceptual issues in cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Terranova, T. (2000). Producing culture for the digital economy. Social Text 63, 18(2), 33-58.

6. Basic Concepts in Understanding Media (Wednesday, October 13)

Nass, C.I., & Mason, L. (1990). On the study of technology and task: A variable-based approach. In J. Fulk & C. Steinfeld (Eds.), Organizations and communication technology (pp. 46-67). Newbury Park: Sage.
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man (Introduction, Chapter 1: 3-21). New York: McGraw-Hill (Signet Books).
Norman, D. A. (1988). The design of everyday things. New York: Doubleday. Chapter 1.

7. Multi-Player Online Games: A New Medium for Entertainment (and Serious Work?) (Monday, October 18)

Thompson, C. (August 22, 2004). The making of an X-box warrior. The New York Times Magazine, 33-37 (posted in Coursework).
Castronova, E. (2004). The price of bodies: A hedonic pricing model of avatar attributes in a synthetic world. Kyklos, 57(2), 173-196 (posted in Coursework).
Dibbell, J. (January, 2003). The unreal estate boom. Wired. (posted at

8. Accelerating the Achievement of Shared Global Prosperity: Modalities of Personal Engagements (Wednesday, October 20)

Readings to be announced and posted in Coursework

9. What are Media – Psychological Perspectives (Monday, October 25)

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man (Introduction, Chapter 1: 3-21). New York: McGraw-Hill (Signet Books).
Singer, J.L. (1980). The power and limitations of television: A cognitive-affective analysis. In P.H. Tannenbaum & R. Abeles (Eds.), The Entertainment Functions of Television (Chapter 3: pp. 31-65). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Malamuth, N. (1996). Sexually explicit media, gender differences, and evolutionary theory. Journal of Communication, 46, 8-31.

10. Voices in Your Hand (Wednesday, October 27)

Readings to be announced and posted in Coursework

11. Key Theories of Media (Monday, November 1)

Beniger, J.R. (1986). The Control Revolution (Chapter 1: 1-27). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Anderson, D.R., & Burns, J. (1991). Paying attention to television. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.), Responding to the Screen: Reception and Reaction Processes (Chapter 1: 3-26). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Thorson, E. (1989). Television commercials as mass media messages. In J.J. Bradac (Ed.), Message effects in communication science (Chapter 8: pp. 195-230). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Steuer, J. S. (1992). Defining virtual reality: Dimensions determining telepresence. Journal of Communication, 42(4), 73-93.

12. Midterm – Good Luck! (Wednesday, November 3)

No Required Readings

13. Experimenting with Deliberative Democracy (Monday, November 8)

Fishkin, J.S. (1997). The voice of the people: Public opinion and democracy (Chapter 3: pp. 64-96; also pp. 161-203). New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
Luskin, R.C., Fishkin, J.S., & Jowell, R. (2002). Considered opinions: Deliberative polling in Britain. B.J.Pol.S., 32, 455-487.

14. How to Understand the Presidential Elections (Wednesday, November 10)

Ansolabehere, S., Behr, R., & Iyengar, S. (1993). The media game: American politics in the television age. New York: Macmillan. Pp. 39-65, 75-101.

15. Media and Youth (Monday, November 15)

Roberts, D. F. (2003). From Plato’s republic to Hillary’s village: Children and the changing media environment. Pp. 255-276 in R. Weisberg, H. Walberg, M. O’Brien, & C. kuster (Eds.), Trends in the well-being of children and youth: Issues in children’s and families’ lives. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America Press.  

16. Communication between Citizens and Government: The Voices of Issue Publics in America (Wednesday, November 17)

Anand, S. & Krosnick, J.A. (2003). The impact of attitudes toward foreign policy goals on public preferences among presidential candidates: A study of issue publics and the attentive public in the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 33(1), 31-70.
Petty, R.E. & Krosnick, J.A. (Eds.) (1995). Attitude strength: Antecedents and consequences (Chapter 1: 1-24). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.

17. Interpersonal Communication in Immersive Virtual Reality (Monday, November 22)

Bailenson, J.N. (in press). Transformed social interaction: Decoupling representation from behavior and form in collaborative virtual environments. Presence.
Blascovich, J. et al. (2002). Immersive virtual environment technology as a methodological tool for social psychology. Psychological Inquiry, 13 (2), 103-124.
Foster, D. (1996). Infinite jest (pp. 144-151).

18. First Amendment Issues (Wednesday, November 24)

Haiman, F. S. 1981. Speech and law in a free society (Chapter 1: 3-15). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kairys, D. (1982). Freedom of speech. In D. Kairys (Ed.), The politics of law (Chapter 7: pp. 140-171). New York: Pantheon.

19. Social Responses to Communication Technology (Monday, November 29)

Reeves, B. & Nass, C. (1996). The media equation: How people treat computers, television, and new media like real people and places. New York: Cambridge University Press. Chapters 1-2, 4, 12-14, 22.
Nass, C. & Moon, Y. (2000). Machines and mindlessness: Social responses to computers. Journal of Social Issues, 56(1), 81-103.
Nass, C. & Brave, S. (2005). Wired for Speech: How voice activates and advances the human-computer relationship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Chapters 1 and 10.

20. Internet Policy (Wednesday, December 1)

Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1986). Living with television: The dynamics of the cultivation process. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.), Perspectives on media effects (Chapter 2: pp. 17-40). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Shapiro, C. & Varian, H.R. (1999). Information rules: A strategic guide to the network economy. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Pp. 1-18, 83-102.
Lessig, Lawrence. (2004). Free culture: How big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity. New York: Penguin Press.  Pp. xiii-xvi, 1-13.

FINAL EXAM: Monday, December 6, 8:30-11:30

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