Class participation
Speaking assignments
Writing assignments
Online assignments
Multimedia assignments

Class participation

All students are expected to participate in the in-person, out-of-class, and online portions of this course.

Lecture attendance

Students are expected to attend lecture each week (however, with over 150 students, we do not take attendance in lecture). Please be respectful during lecture; if you intend to sit with your laptop open and ponder your Facebook newsfeed, or bid on eBay auctions, or finish the daily Jumble, we would much prefer it if you skip lecture; such activities are extremely distracting to your neighbors. Lecture slides will be posted for review on the Friday after each lecture. All of the possible terms drawn from the reader articles for each week's quiz will be revealed at the end of each week's lecture, so it pays to stay until the end. However, there are no additional scenes involving classic comic book characters like Howard the Duck after the credits roll.

Discussion attendance

Students are expected to attend discussion section each week. Any absences due to illness may be considered "excused" if they are cleared with your TA no later than 24 hours after the missed section. Absences for any other reason, including but not limited to travel back home, family and friend weddings, interdimensional travel, or surprise lottery winnings, will be considered "unexcused".

Online participation

As described below, participating in online conversations through your discussion section weblog and discussion section wiki is a key part of this course. Anything you post to the discussion section weblog is potentially visible to the whole world; anything you post to the discussion section wiki is only visible to your classmates and the instructors. However, in both cases, take care to converse in a civil and respectful manner, just as you would in a face-to-face encounter.

Article readings

Each week you will be asked to read two or three articles from your printed course reader. (This articles can also be found online if you forget to bring your reader home for the weekend.) Articles range in length from 10 pages to 50 pages.

You will use these articles as the study guides for your quizzes, as the topics of your speech assignments, and as resources for your writing assignments. Information from the articles will also appear on exams. Please bring your course reader, or the articles in electronic form, to each discussion section.

For these articles, is a good idea to "read actively": underline key arguments and terms as you go, make notes in the margins about things you agree with or disagree with or don't understand, and write down a sentence or two about the main thesis of each article after you read it.

These articles were not chosen to be "unbiased" texts or to be the final word on the information society. Rather, they were picked with three goals in mind: they are readable and interesting while still scholarly; they are relevant to current events; and, often, they are polemical in that they argue for a particular interpretation of the world which you may choose to agree with or to disagree with.

Speaking assignments

Practicing oral communication skills is an important part of a Comm-B course. In LIS 201 you will perform two in-class presentations: one prepared four-minute speech, and one extemporaneous (unrehearsed) two-minute response to another student's speech. Each of these will be based on your readings for that week.

Prepared speech

The prepared speech is a four-minute summary and critique of one of the articles your class is discussing from the course reader that week. Your TA will assign you a week and a particular reading for your prepared speech.

You should devote the first part of your presentation (2 minutes) to identifying the main arguments of the reading, outlining the author's claims, reasons, and evidence. You do not have to go into great detail (since all students will have read the article) but you do have to provide an accurate summary.

The rest of your presentation (2 minutes) should deal with your reaction to the reading. You need to make your own claim and your reason for that claim, providing evidence to support it. Like a good paper, your talk needs a short introduction and a satisfying conclusion.

Do not read your presentation! You may speak from simple notes that keep you on track, but allow the words to emerge spontaneously and conversationally. A good strategy is to practice your presentation in front of a mirror, a voice recorder, or a friend.

While you are making your presentation, your TA will designate a fellow student to record you on a little digital video camera. Later, your TA will post this video on the discussion section wiki page for the reading you reviewed. You are required to view your performance and perform a self-critique: email your TA with one way that you could improve your delivery next time.

Extemporaneous speech

The extemporaneous speech is a two-minute reaction to another student's prepared speech. Your TA will assign you a week and a particular reading for your extemporaneous speech; however, you will not be told when your extemporaneous speech is scheduled. If you have an unexcused absence on the day that your prepared or extemporaneous speech is due, you forfeit the points for that assignment.

Your two-minute reaction should both acknowledge what your fellow student said about the article (1 minute) and then critique what that student said, offering your own ideas (1 minute).

Remember, though, that "critique" doesn't necessarily mean "criticize." Explain whether you agree or disagree with the student's assessment of the article, and why. Or you may suggest a different way of understanding or interpreting the article, contrasting it with what the first student said.

This is not an easy assignment -- you only have two minutes. Try to be constructive, civil, and, above all, concise.

Evaluation criteria for speeches

All TAs use the same oral presentation grading sheet and grade your speeches according to both content and delivery.


  • Do you accurately capture what the author (or previous speaker) was saying?
  • Is your own claim clear?
  • Is your evidence for your claim convincing?


  • Have you kept to the time specified?
  • Are you loud enough to be heard?
  • Does your inflection and emphasis help convey your meaning (as in normal conversation)?
  • Are you, like, avoiding the use of slang and, basically, all those crutch phrases like "like" and "basically"?
  • Do you seem to be enjoying yourself (even if you aren't)?

Writing assignments

You will write two 1000-word (roughly four-page) papers for this class. For each one, you will first write a polished draft and post it to your personal discussion section wiki page. Then you will receive TA and peer feedback (while providing peer feedback yourself on other student papers). After this feedback, you will write a final draft and hand it in to your TA in printed form. Your grade depends on your performance through this whole writing process, not just on the final paper that is produced.

Even though these papers are short, they should still each have the three basic components of an academic essay:

  • An introduction which clearly states a thesis (and please underline that thesis).
  • A body which develops the thesis, with one argument per paragraph.
  • A conclusion which not only restates the thesis, but leaves the reader with something more.

For each paper assignment, you will be able to draw on the scholarly articles in your printed course reader (although you may have to "read ahead" in the reader a bit, depending on the paper topic you choose).

Paper #1: Critiquing the information society

During the first part of this course, we explore the promise and peril of a society tied to information and communication infrastructures in broad terms. Students learn about four different "frameworks" for looking at the information society: a culture of print, a control revolution, a postindustrial economy, or a global network. In this paper, you pick one of those frameworks and evaluate it in terms of a specific example.

First, choose one specific information technology from your childhood as your example -- a print product your family subscribed to, an electronic device you owned, a broadcast channel you watched, a computer game you played, or even a billboard near your grade school -- anything at all as long as it is not a web site (we will explore the web in our next paper). Be creative in your choice of example. Think about when this technology emerged, and why. Think about who uses this technology now, and for what purposes.  Pick something that you have unique experience with so you can write about it with some authority and interest.

Second, decide which of our four information society frameworks -- the "print," "control," "postindustrial," or "network" society -- is best suited to analyze that technology. Consult the articles from your reader and your lecture notes to match a framework to your technology. This will not necessarily be an obvious choice; for example, an information technology might be printed on paper, but you might argue that it is best understood through the "global network" framework for some reason. The framework of the "control revolution" can be applied to lots of different technologies even if they didn't originate around the turn of the century; the framework of "postindustrial society" tends to be tied to digital computational technologies, but it also involves a particular relationship between work and leisure.

Finally, come up with an argument for your paper. For example, you might argue something about your chosen information technology example, using insights drawn from your chosen information society framework. Or, for a greater challenge, you might argue something about your chosen information society framework, using insights drawn from your chosen information technology example. Either way, make sure your paper has one clear argument (or thesis), supported by two or three clear reasons and bits of evidence. Obviously, somewhere in your paper you clearly describe both the technology you are exploring and the information society framework you are using. And make sure to imagine and address at least one counter-claim, together with its reasons and evidence, which might undermine your thesis.

So, for example, you might look at the production of a paperback travel guide, like the Lonely Planet guide to Brazil, that you might have used during a high school field trip.* Would it be print culture that fits it best, because it's on paper? Or would it be a global network, because we are traveling more to new countries than ever before? What does the framework global network tell you about the existence a travel guide? Another example -- how are time zones a product of a control society? 

Please note that this paper cannot rest simply on your opinions. Your paper must use at least two scholarly articles to support your argument. These scholarly articles may come from your reader, or from the "optional readings" listed on the syllabus, or you may search for them using library resources. (Wikipedia entries do not qualify as scholarly articles.)  Don't simply rely on doing a shallow Google search the night before the assignment is due; you will probably not find quality, scholarly articles this way.

*Thanks to former TA Dana Gerber for this example.

Paper #2: Connecting technology to social goals

In the second part of this course, we discuss the way online culture connects to various social processes: recreation and work, searching and reading, sustainability and warfare. For this paper, pick any web site you like that has debuted over the last two years and use at least two scholarly articles to analyze that web site, including its owner, its purpose, its audience, and its relation to social goals -- be they democratic, economic, educational, environmental, military, or cultural. 

The web is a very dynamic place; it should not be hard to find a site that is only a year or two old.  But this will mean that you will likely not be able to find direct scholarly articles about your site.  Instead, you must figure out what kind of site you are working with and look for scholarly articles that help you analyze that type of site.  Is it an e-commerce site?  A social networking site?  A video sharing site?  A site dealing with "fandom" or some other virtual community? You can find good scholarly articles on each of these different categories of web sites. 

We are intentionally giving you more freedom and less guidance on this paper. You must come up with an interesting argument (or thesis) about your chosen web site yourself. However, you may want to consider the following two key questions: What formerly offline social processes does your chosen web site attempt to adapt or encompass? What are the greatest benefits and the greatest risks to society as such social activity moves online?

Guidelines for all rough drafts

A rough draft is a complete draft; fragments or outlines will not be accepted. Failure to turn in your rough draft on time will affect your final paper grade. Here are some guidelines for preparing your rough drafts:

  • Underline your thesis statement.
  • Clearly separate your paragraphs through indentation (but not by leaving an extra line between paragraphs).
  • Include a short bullet-point outline with your draft. (You may want to reverse-outline your paper -- outline it after you have written it to make sure it makes sense.)
  • Properly cite your sources within the text of the paper, using these guidelines.
  • Include a properly formatted list of references at the end, using these guidelines.
  • Proofread your draft! Read it aloud to yourself to see if it makes sense.
  • Post your rough draft to the discussion section wiki on your personal wiki page. You may want to create a separate sub-page for each draft, so that your peer reviewers can easily comment on it. Just copy the text from your word processor directly into this wiki page.

Guidelines for final drafts

No rough draft is perfect. Final drafts should always show significant revision, change, and improvement from rough drafts. TAs will not point out every single thing on a rough draft that needs to be fixed for a final draft -- that is your responsibility! Final drafts are not posted to the wiki, but are handed in in printed form. A 1,000 word paper, when printed using the parameters below, should be no less than three-and-a-half pages long, and no more than four-and-a-half pages long. Here are some guidelines for your final drafts:

  • Underline your thesis statement.
  • Use one-inch margins on all sides.
  • Double-space all text.
  • Indent all paragraphs; do not use extra blank lines between paragraphs.
  • Use 12-point Times, Times Roman, or Times New Roman font.
  • Number your pages.
  • Put your name and your TA's name on the first page.
  • Turn in a one-page outline with each draft.
  • Turn in a one-page list of references with each draft (we suggest APA style).
  • Staple all pages (no paperclips or corner folds).
  • Proofread your final paper!

Instantly boost your writing grade! 

  • Proofread. 
  • "Simplify, simplify, simplify!" Use clear, direct, and concise wording. 
  • Do not be redundant. Do not say things twice in a different way just to add words. 
  • Present your arguments in the paper in the same order that you lay them out in the thesis. (Your outline can help you here.) 
  • Check out these "nine rules for good writing" and test yourself on these writing exercises
  • Did we mention proofreading? 

Never, never, never do!

  • When referring to a work of nonfiction, never use the word "novel" -- this implies a work of fiction and will cause your TA to wince uncontrollably. 
  • Never begin your conclusion with "In conclusion" or "To conclude" or "By way of concluding, ready or not, here I go" ... 
  • Never use slang in your writing, daddy-o; that is meg bad. 
  • Never try to entertain your reader with asides, puns, and witty comments (unless you are writing a course web site). 

Citing outside sources

In each paper you are expected to use scholarly articles (from your reader, from the optional readings on this web site, or from your own literature search) to support your arguments. You need to cite these outside articles whenever you use an idea, quote, or fact from these sources. We recommend APA style when citing sources in LIS 201 papers:

  • In the text of the paper, use the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number, like this: (Gitlin, 2002, p. 10) 
  • In the list of references at the end, organize alphabetically by author last name, like this: Gitlin, T. (2002). Media unlimited: How the torrent of images and sounds overwhelms our lives. New York: Henry Holt and Co. 

If it is not your idea, cite it. Failure to properly cite outside sources is plagiarism and academic dishonesty and may be grounds for failing both the assignment and the course.

And please remember, wikipedia entries and random blog posts do not count as "scholarly articles" (though they may point you to more authoritative and useful resources).

Evaluation criteria for all papers

All TAs use the same written grading sheet covering the following criteria:

  1. Following instructions. Does your paper follow the instructions of the assignment? Was it turned in on time? Does it conform to our formatting guidelines? Did you turn in an adequate rough draft? Does your final draft represent significant progress?
  2. Grammar and style. Do you avoid grammatical, spelling, and usage errors? Do you have any run-on sentences or non-sentences? Are your sentences clear and concise? Are references in correct APA style? Is your tone appropriate for an academic paper?
  3. Thesis and structure. Does your introduction contain a clear thesis (underlined)? Does your conclusion end with a compelling idea? Do arguments and examples build logically in between, following your outline?
  4. Use of sources. Does your paper demonstrate that you understand the examples and arguments from the articles you use? Does your thesis deal with the central arguments rather than peripheral issues? Do your sources add conceptual depth to your paper?
  5. Arguments and evidence. Do you support your thesis with compelling evidence and arguments? Do you counter at least one possible argument against your answer?
  6. Creativity and difficulty. Finally, remember that we appreciate papers which find exemplary outside sources, represent an unusual challenge, take on a unique case, or come up with a creative point of view. 

Finding scholarly articles

In order to find an authoritative outside source, you should use the resources available at our campus libraries. For example, you can search for academic journal research articles in the ProQuest Research Library or in UW-Madison QuickSearch for Articles. Your TA may suggest other research techniques in class. And the library hosts a series of online tutorials called "CLUE" which can introduce you to ways of finding books and journal articles here on campus.

Getting help from the Writing Center

Our campus is lucky to have a top-notch and easily-accessible Writing Center which is free for all students to use. The Writing Center is located on the 6th floor of Helen C. White Hall (the same building as the College Library). You should all feel free to get assistance from the Writing Center staff on any of your three papers. Visit them online too.

Peer reviews

Your TA will divide each section into groups of three to six students for peer reviews. You will review the rough drafts of the other students in your peer review group, and they will each review your rough drafts.

Peer reviews are to be posted on the discussion section wiki on the same page the rough draft of each student you are reviewing. Each review should include both things the author did well and things the author still needs to work on. Which does the student need to work on more, writing style and grammar or argument and evidence?

Each peer review should be at least 250 words.

These peer reviews will not be anonymous, so you should take care to offer constructive criticism (the same kind of criticism you would like to see someone offer on your paper).

One more note about academic integrity

This bears repeating: Academic integrity requires that the course work a student presents to an instructor honestly and accurately indicates the student's own academic efforts. If you are unsure about what qualifies as academic dishonesty, consult the Academic Integrity Guide for Students.

Two points in particular to keep in mind:

  • copying, patch-writing, or paraphrasing material from books, articles, or web pages without proper quotation and citation is plagiarism 
  • copying, patch-writing, or paraphrasing material from fellow students, even material posted online, is plagiarism 
  • turning in a paper written by another student as your own work, even if it contains modifications from the original, is plagiarism

Many students have taken LIS 201 over the past few years and there are certainly many examples of student papers floating around campus.  We too have files of previous student papers, and we consult them when evaluating yours.  Do not be tempted to shortcut your way around the paper writing and revision process by copying another student's work.

Any plagiarism may be sufficient grounds for failing a student in the entire course and informing the Dean of Students Office.

Online Assignments

Nearly every weekend you will have an independent online homework and writing assignment. Usually these will involve visiting several web sites that you've probably never encountered before, doing some directed browsing, searching, reading, viewing, and exploring, and then writing up what you have learned as a brief blog post on your discussion section weblog. You will also be expected to comment on at least one other student's blog post each week. Your TA will read these posts each week -- and probably comment on some of them as well -- to make sure that you are keeping up with this work. At times you will also discuss these online assignments in section.

Your first two online assignments are special tutorials to help you learn both the blogging system and the wiki system that we will work with in the course.

Each weekend online assignment needs to be finished before the following week's lecture. You are not permitted to put off your online assignments and finish them all at once as the end of the semester approaches; any assignment which is not completed on time will be counted as a "zero."

Article blogging

Once during the semester, you will write a 500-word research report on one of the articles from your reader, posting it to your discussion section weblog before you meet in section to discuss the article that week. Check your section wiki to figure out which week you will be writing your article research report.

An article report should briefly summarize the main argument of the article, and then pose a question or comment in response.  You will need to do a bit of extra investigation to write your blogged research report. Your report might include, but is not limited to:

  • a brief description of the main topic of the article (what's it about?) and the main thesis of the article (what does it claim?)
  • background information on when and where the article was published, and for what intended audience (professionals or general readers?)
  • background information on the author of the article, and this person's authority or expertise (do they work at a university? a private firm? do they hold a government position?)
  • an assessment of how the article was received by its audience (eg. any book reviews if the article was taken from a book, any audience discussion if the article appeared online)
  • a brief list of other articles or books on the same topic by different authors who may have reached different conclusions

Remember that anything you post on your discussion section weblog is visible to the whole wide world, through the magic of the Web. We've even had situations where the original author of an article will reply to a student's report on that article. Write in a way that is serious and civil.

Multimedia Assignments

Midway through the course, you will choose an outside book to read on your own -- some fiction or non-fiction book related to the information society. By the end of the semester, you will produce a multimedia review of that book, consisting of a web-based report (really a custom-created blog including text, images, video, and/or links) and a five-minute multimedia slideshow or video presentation of one of the book's key arguments (using the popular "Ignite" format).

Choosing your book

The weekend after your first midterm, your online assignment is to scour several web-based databases to choose a good book to read for this assignment.  (See the syllabus for more detail.)  Each student in your discussion section must choose a different book to read, so if you fear someone else will pick the same book as you, finish this assignment early!  And remember, you must choose a book published within the last two years, so your universe of selections is not that large!

Reviewing your book

You will write a 1500-word, analytical, multimedia book review of the information society book that you chose to read, incorporating ideas, evidence and arguments from at least three articles from your course reader or the optional readings on this web site. You will enhance this review with images, links, and typography, and create your own Blogger weblog to showcase your review.

An analytical book review is not simply a description of the author's writing style and whether or not you found the book interesting. Instead, you must succinctly and accurately describe the main thesis of the book, and tell us whether the author has effectively used evidence and argument to convince you of that thesis.

Your assessment of the author's evidence and argument cannot rest simply on your own opinions. You must incorporate outside ideas, evidence and arguments from at least three articles from your course reader or the optional readings on this web site -- much like you did in your two formal writing assignments.

Your review should be supplemented by the following multimedia elements:

  • Photos of the book cover and the author. 
  • A link to the author's web site (if any) and wikipedia page (if any). 
  • Links to all the online reviews of the book that you can find, with one-or-two-sentence quoted excerpts that indicate whether the review was positive or negative. 
  • A link to at least one place where we may find the book (an online bookstore or a library catalog). 

Unlike a plain 1500-word essay, your multimedia book review should exhibit a bit of care in terms of design. See if you can use the font, color, size, and other elements available through the Blogger editor to add some visual interest to your review. Divide up your review blog into "pages" if that makes sense.  Choose a template that fits the tone of the book.  Imagine that it is a page in your online "portfoloio" that you might like to show to a future prospective employer. However, don't make the blog overly gaudy or busy; you want your review to be attractive and readable, not distracting. And remember, the best design can't compensate for thin analysis or poor writing. Get your prose in shape first, and then worry about the presentation.

Your 1500-word analytical multimedia book review must be posted online as a separate blog by 5pm on the last Friday of finals week. Make sure to save a nice copy of your book review for your own records.

Presenting your book

After your first midterm exam, you will receive software training so that you can produce a brief narrated slideshow presenting one key argument from your book to the rest of your class. Your TA will screen all of these slide shows in discussion section, and one presentation from each section will be chosen to be shown to the whole class in lecture.

There are many ways to use slideshow programs like Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote effectively. There are even more ways to use them ineffectively. You will use a very scripted and effective format for that slideshow, called "Ignite."

In an Ignite presentation, you have a pre-set amount of time to work through a pre-set number of slides, each of which advances automatically. So if you get five minutes for your presentation, you get 20 slides, which cross the screen at a rate of one every 15 seconds.

Usually in an Ignite presentation, people try to choose slides with interesting images or charts on them, and talk their way through explaining each one in turn. This avoids the common slideshow pitfall of simply creating slides full of words and then reading the words out loud.

Most modern slide programs have a feature allowing you to record an audio narration to a slideshow. Such programs can often be set to auto-advance the slides after a predetermined number of seconds. (Or you may use a friend's help to click the "next slide" button at the appropriate time.) Don't worry if at the end you're a little under or over five minutes.

After you have recorded your slideshow, upload it to your discussion section wiki and place a link to it on your personal wiki page. Then spend some time watching the shows of your classmates to decide which one you like the best!