“[E]very computer desktop, and now every pocket, is a worldwide printing press, broadcasting station, place of assembly, and organizing tool…”
– Howard Rheingold, educator, author, 2008 Macarthur Scholar

More than half of blog readers say blogs influence public opinion (68%), mainstream media (56%) and public policy (54%).”
– 2005 Ipsos Survey

On the 5th of November 2007 — Guy Fawkes Day (remember, remember the fifth of November) — Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) raised more than $4.2 million for his run for White House.

“Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president. Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the nominee.”
– Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of The Huffington Post.

Course Description and Objectives

As digital information and communication networks have spread across the country and around the world, scholars and others have touted the possibility of a fundamental change in the dynamics of power and influence in politics, economics, and society. How much of this is wishful thinking – technological optimism – or are there fundamental changes coming about as a result of digital technologies?

This course examines how these open, distributed, decentralized digital networks are affecting the dynamics of power in politics and society, including political journalism, in the United States. This seminar-style course will focus on the November 2010 presidential election as well as recent digital issue campaigns. Readings will draw from political science, sociology and communication.

Topics will include e-government and online government services; Internet-based campaigning, fundraising and activism; government efforts to control access to information; and issues of transparency.


See Google Docs Gradesheet

Course Structure and Requirements

We will explore the theories and practice of the digital democracy by reading books, book chapters and articles as well as discussing the readings with leading practitioners. Because you come with a wealth of experience, learning from one other is an important part of the process. This is a seminar structure, so active student involvement is key to learning. Students will participate in both synchronous and asynchronous interaction.

Our first two meetings will be the most traditional, with foundational lectures. In the first meeting, we will set up student blogs and help students become familiar with eReserve. We will also discuss possible projects. Many of the remaining sessions will incorporate a lecture from an author or industry figure familiar with that week’s topic. Afterwards, there will be continued in-class discussion of issues raised by the readings/lecture.

Internet access, basic computer literacy and a willingness to experiment with new technologies are required.

Learning Outcomes
After completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify three ways digital technologies are changing how government agencies communicate with the public
  • Analyze how digital technologies are being used by candidates to raise money, create awareness and facilitate groups
  • Analyze how digital technologies are being used by non-profit agencies and advocacy organizations to further their missions

Student Responsibilities

  • Be prepared for class; have reading and assignments done on time
  • Participate in active learning inside and outside of class (in other words, both on-line and face-to-face). That means asking questions, helping classmates answer questions, and working with one another to solve problems.
  • Be in class. It’s the only time we’ll have to work face-to-face
  • Ask questions!

Alignment With MCDM Core Values and Competencies:

Identify and analyze the latest developments in digital media technology. After questioning invited guest speakers and reading course materials, students can explain how democratic institutions are capitalizing on digital communication technologies
Understand how to use digital media to create and convey a message. Students produce their discussion leader materials and reading reflections on their blogs, a public space, thereby contributing to the public conversation about the themes of the course
Pursue new business and management models based on the application of digital media. After reflecting upon the course material and questioning invited guest speakers, students can explain how digital technologies are exerting pressure on  democratic institutions as well as empowering alternative forms of civic engagement

Teaching Strategies
Teaching methods for this course include lectures, demonstrations, student collaboration, guest lecturers, reading, and writing assignments. The class functions more like a seminar than a traditional lecture-driven course.

Classes may feature a guest lecturer who is a leading professional or scholar in digital media. Class discussions are a key element of the course, and students are encouraged to ask questions, offer their own observations, and share their own experiences with technologies.

The instructor will coordinate class material, keep in close touch with each student in order to assess and meet individual needs, and evaluate all course assignments. Communication outside of class will be via a class mailing list; students must either check their UW email regularly or have that address forwarded. All material is available on the class web site:

Instructor’s Educational Philosophy
My goal is to provide a stimulating environment for learning. Course material includes both theory and application, with an emphasis on application to real world problems and situations. Written and oral reports are required because these skills are needed in the work environment in general, and in web development, management, and consulting in particular. Students are required to comment and collaborate as these are practical skills; the means used demonstrates theories and technologies explored in class.

Communication with the Instructor
If you are unable to meet with me during office hours, I am happy to meet with you after office hours to accommodate your schedule. I also strongly encourage you to send questions, comments, concerns to me via email. I check my campus email less frequently on F-Su; please do not expect an answer to email sent F-Su until Monday. Please use clear subject lines (add “urgent” if the message is time-sensitive). Double your chances of a quick response by also sending the note to my gmail account: kegill at If you have not heard from me within 48 hours, please resend to both email accounts.


Required Books:

  • New Media Campaigns and the Managed Citizen, by Phillip N. Howard (available for Kindle; Amazon also has digital edition that can be added to purchase of new book; lots of used copies also available)
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, by Joe Trippi (2nd edition, published 30 September 2008)
Recommended Books (there will be readings from most of these)
  • Blown To Bits: Your Life, Liberty and Happiness after the Digital Explosion, by Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen and Harry Lewis (also available through Safari Bookshelf)
  • The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications, by Paul Starr
  • Governing With The News: The News Media As A Political Institution, by Timothy E. Cook
  • Political Behavior of the American Electorate, William H. Flanigan and Nancy H. Zingale
  • The Political Brain, by Drew Westen
  • un-Spun: finding facts in a world of disinformation, by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson
  • Web Campaigning, by Kristen Foot and Steve Schneider
Examples of Readings. Students will make selections from recommended readings to lead discussions; book chapters are available in eReserve. See the schedule for the weekly reading assignment.
  • Chadwick, A. Access, Inclusion and The Digital Divide, Chapter 4 in Internet Politics (2006)
  • Cook, T. The Political News Media, Chapter 5 in Governing With The News: The News Media As A Political Institution (2005)
  • Eveland, W.P. and Dylko, I. Reading Political Blogs During The 2004 Election Campaign, Chapter 6 in Blogging, Citizenship and The Future of Media (2007) edited by Tremayne, M.
  • Foot, K. and Schneider, S.M. Explaining the Adoption of Web Campaigning Practices, Chapter 7 in Web Campaigning (2006)
  • Foot, K. and Schneider, S.M. Web Campaigning: Introduction and Overview, Chapter 1 in Web Campaigning (2006)
  • Habermas, J. The Public Sphere, Chapter 23 in The Information Society Reader (2004) edited by Webster, F.
  • Klotz, R.J. Cybercampaigning, Chapter 5 in The Politics of Internet Communication (2004)
  • Klotz, R.J. E-Government, Chapter 7 in The Politics of Internet Communication (2004)
  • Klotz, R.J. Party and Group Advocacy on the Internet, Chapter 6 in The Politics of Internet Communication (2004)
  • Papacharissi, Z. The Virtual Sphere, The Internet As Public Sphere, Chapter 26 in The Information Society Reader (2004) edited by Webster, F.
  • Scott, D.T. Pundits In Muckrakers’ Clothing: Political Blogs and the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election, Chapter 3 in Blogging, Citizenship and The Future of Media (2007) edited by Tremayne, M.
  • Tremayne, M. Examining the Blog-Media Relationship, Introduction, Blogging Citizenship and the Future of Media (2007) edited by Tremayne, M.


Critical Analysis

(1) Leading Discussion
Students will lead a discussion once during the quarter; students will select an article of their choice, linking the topic to personal experience or current business practices as well the general class reading, comparing and contrasting viewpoints. A list of articles and book chapters is provided for each week’s topic; however, students are welcome to find articles related to their individual interests. In other words, the list provided is not exhaustive.

These discussion leadership opportunities will occur Weeks  5, 7, 8, and 9.

The discussion leader will provide a written analysis on the student blog prior to class, thus contributing to the public discussion of issues raised by this course. In an asynchronous communication — and to practice one of the technologies we are discussing — students are encouraged to comment on these posts.

Hint: plan your time well — make this one of the weeks for your readings essay!

(2) Weekly Readings
Students will reflect upon weekly readings at least three times during the quarter. These essays should be posted to the student blog before 6 pm the night of class. They should be substantive commentary that integrates readings and real life experience/observation/analysis. They should be distributed throughout the quarter — not three consecutive reflections at the beginning or three consecutive reflections at the end.

(3) End of Course Reflection
Finally, in 800-1,000 words, reflect upon your key learnings for the quarter, with appropriate references.

In our first evening together, we will discuss possible projects.

Ideally, we will perform objective analyses of the initiatives and referenda on the Washington ballot, providing a one-stop resource for arguments pro/con, organization endorsements, YouTube clips of ads, and so forth. The 2008 class initiated such an effort: Our collaboration document is at

In addition, we may partner with, which is providing a community forum for each of the initiatives. Specifically, they are looking for people willing to be moderators.

The focus on projects centering on the election means that the work is front-end loaded.


You may participate through your active presence in class, through discussion that arises in class, and through discussion that arises through class blog posts. There may be additional in-class assignments that will be posted to your blog; these are also considered participation.

Your final grade will be based on the total points received.

Reading Essays (3) 100 x 3 = 300
Discussion Leader (essay/in-class discussion) 200 x 1 = 200
Project 250
Final Reflection 150 x 1=150
Participation 100
Total Points 1000


  • >950 points = 4.0

  • 900-949 points = 3.9

  • 870-899 points = 3.7

  • 840-869 points = 3.5

  • 800-839 points = 3.2

  • 770-799 points = 2.8

Course Policies

By becoming a member of this class, you agree to abide by these policies and any other policies not explicitly stated here that are detailed in the UW Student Conduct Handbook.

Students are expected to attend all classes and are responsible for completing all course material on deadline. You should e-mail me if you miss class because of illness or emergency. This communication is part of your class participation. However, you should also check the class website (this blog) as well as your classmates to “see what you missed.” In-class assignments cannot be made up except by arrangement. Additionally, from the Faculty Code:

A student absent from any class activity through sickness or other cause judged by the instructor to be unavoidable shall be given an opportunity to perform work judged by the instructor to be the equivalent… Examples of unavoidable cause include death or serious illness in the immediate family, illness of the student, and, provided previous notification is given, observance of regularly scheduled religious obligations and might possibly include attendance at academic conferences or field trips, or participation in university-sponsored activities such as debating contests or athletic competition (Faculty code, Vol. 4, Part 3, Chap 12, sec 1B).

All work must be completed on time. Errors (facts, spelling and grammar) will result in a reduced grade. You are expected to produce original work and properly cite the thoughts and works of others. Plagiarism and cheating are serious offenses and are not tolerated by the University. For more information, please refer to the University’s Academic Honesty policy.

Classroom Environment
Students and faculty are responsible for creating a good learning environment. We will use computing technology in the classroom during labs; specific uses of computing technology will be announced in advance with detailed instructions. Students may use laptops or other portable devices for taking notes. However, these portable devices should not be used to engage in non-classroom activities, such as surfing the Net, checking e-mail, playing games or listening to music. These activities would certainly divert your attention away from class and could distract other students as well, thus corrupting the learning environment. I reserve the right to end your use of a portable device, ask you to move, or revoke the privilege of using wireless devices in the classroom. During class breaks, students may use portable computing devices or lab computers for personal use as long as they respect other class members. Material visible on the computing device should not be offensive or incendiary. Any music played during breaks should be at a level conducive to classroom civility.

Courteous Discourse
Whether in class or online, students are expected to conduct themselves with professional courtesy and decorum. Please make constructive comments; flames and insults are not acceptable. Disagree with the idea, not the person!

The instructor will not give incompletes except under exceptional circumstances.

To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disability Resources for Students, 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924/V, 206-5430-8925/TTY. If you have a letter from Disability Resources for Students indicating that you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss the accommodations that you might need for the class.

E-mail Communication
E-mail communications among members of this class should reflect respect for the rights and privileges of all members of the academic community. This includes not interfering with university functions or endangering the health, welfare, or safety of other persons. In addition to the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code, there are additional policies for this class:

  • E-mail communication from a student to the instructor will be acted upon, if possible, within 24 hours (M-Th). If an e-mail from a student does not receive a response within 48 hours, then the student should investigate other ways of contacting me (telephone, office hours, etc.). E-mail to the instructor must have clear, not cryptic, subject lines and should include the course number (COM546).
  • Students are responsible for checking their UW mail regularly; instructor and class mailing list mail is directed to the student UW address, as it is the official e-mail address for class enrollment.
  • E-mail communications should not include any CCing of anyone not directly involved in the specific educational experience at hand.
  • E-mail communications should not include any blind-CCing to third parties.

A Guide to Writing for COM597

Why I Give Writing Assignments
In this class, the writing assignments are designed to help you:

  • gain more knowledge about a particular field that interests you
  • synthesize different positions and evaluate which position has the greatest internal consistency
  • develop support for your own position
  • apply an intellectual framework to a new problem
  • use theoretical criteria discussed in class in an analytical framework
  • extrapolate from ideas developed in readings and in class to suggest what might
    happen in the future or how a past event might have changed had conditions differed

Research shows that writing improves thinking (analytical) skills. It forces us to practice a skill that may have gotten rusty, because most of the time, our thinking remains isolated in our own minds. Reflection, in these hectic, “down-sized” days, is a luxury that we often postpone, sometimes indefinitely. Thus the request to blog: to reflect, then to put our thoughts on digital paper. The act of writing helps us evaluate our beliefs and assumptions and also helps cement knowledge.

These reading reflections are essays. Please don’t just summarize the content of a reading. Instead, the essay should demonstrate that you have thought about the reading and your experiences. How did the reading relate to other readings in this or another course? How did the reading relate to your experience? Did you enjoy the reading? What were your insights, criticisms, comments, questions?

The additional component of peer comment lets us help one another clarify understanding – whether the comments are supportive or critical of our assumptions. In all cases, however, the comments should reflect respect for the other person and for those ideas that differ from our own.


Critical Analyses – Evaluation


Exceptional work.
Student employs a creative and comprehensive exploration of the reading; offers cogent arguments and well thought out explanations supported by evidence; synthesizes material; explains “why” as well as “how” and “what.” Very clear. Any citations have no significant errors.

Organization enhances the essay; the introduction invites the reader to begin. The essay is well-focused and has an interesting thesis; there is a smooth transition among all elements (sentences, paragraphs, ideas). The conclusion goes beyond restating the obvious. The writing style is engaging, and the essay has no significant grammatical or spelling errors.


Good work.
Student exploration of the reading and societal impacts is average; arguments and explanations are average with some evidence; moderate synthesis of material; explains “how” or “what” but “why” is not convincing. Any
citations have minor errors.

This essay has a useful introduction and a focused thesis. Its unified and coherent paragraphs support the thesis; transitions are smooth. The conclusion is competent. The writing style is clear and the essay has no significant grammatical or spelling errors.

30 Below average work.
Student exploration of the essay and societal impacts is below average; arguments and explanations are unconvincing and unsupported by evidence; little synthesis of material; explains “how” or “what” but not “why.” Any citations have major errors, and are mostly popular in nature.

Overall organization in inconsistent. This essay has a general introduction and vague thesis; has incoherent paragraphs that bear little relevance to the thesis. It is missing transitions; choppy. The conclusion is inadequate. The writing style is unclear, and the essay has significant grammatical or spelling errors.


Poor work.
Student exploration of the reading and societal impacts is below average; arguments and explanations are unconvincing; no synthesis of material, merely summaries. No overall coherence. Citations have major errors and are either mostly popular in nature or non-existent.

The essay lacks coherence. It has no introduction or thesis, no transitions, no clear introduction-middle-conclusion. The writing style is unreadable, and the essay has significant grammatical or spelling errors.


Assignment not turned in.


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