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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Patrick W Howard
COM 407
Seattle Campus

Communication Technology and Politics

Employs some core concepts of political communication and theories of democracy to examine the emerging role of information and communication technologies in candidate and issue campaigning; online voting; protest and advocacy movements; law-making and electronic governance in the United States and internationally. Offered: jointly with POL S 451.

Class description

Description: How is technology put to us in modern democratic politics? Pundits and presidential candidates have declared the advent of ‘politics online.’ From Bob Dole’s clumsy announcement of a campaign website address in 1996, to the coordination of protests by e-mail, and the data-mining efforts of elite lobbyists, new media technologies have become crucial components of modern campaigning. We will use some of the core concepts of deliberative democracy theory to examine the emerging role of new media technologies such as online voting, activist discussion groups, personal web-campaigns, and electronic government. More important, we will review these theories while observing the role of new media technology in the 2002 election season. This course will be run as a workshop in which students are encouraged to share their critical insights on political communication so as to help all of us understand specific theoretical problems in the production and consumption of political culture. This class has several specific goals: • to understand the role of new media in local, state, national and international political communication; • to draw lessons from specific Internet communication strategies during the 2002 election season in the United States; • to apply these lessons in a personal project, either by designing a political website, by collecting and critiquing digital political media, or by writing a research paper assessing the candidate or issue campaign websites of their choice. Although this course has no formal prerequisites, students with at least one other course in the social sciences will be best prepared for the pace and expectations of this course.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Text: The following texts are required for the course. Additional readings may be assigned for particular classes. Kevin A. Hill and John E. Hughes, Cyberpolitics (Rowman and Littlefield, 1998). Photocopy package available at Ram’s on the University Avenue in first week of term.

Class assignments and grading

Assignment: This class will be a workshop in which the instructor, students, and guest lecturers can present ideas about the conduct of politics online. We will often talk about current events in class, so you should start listening for news items related to course topics. Each class will probably start off with people sharing relevant clippings or news stories read (New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Economist Magazine recommended) or heard (NPR or BBC recommended) during the week. Students will be responsible for leading discussion during the second meeting each week, and will finish the course with a good reference packet of notes, reviews, and other handouts. E-mail will be used to conduct class business and carry on debates outside of class time. Since irregular attendance will disrupt our learning community, unexplained absences will affect your grade.

Grading: Students will be evaluated by their degree of participation in class discussions (10%), short assignments such as position papers on the readings, website critiques, a short take-home test, and the preparation of questions for discussion (30%), and a personal research project which may take the form of a research paper, a political website, or an online collection and analysis project (60%). Guidelines for the three different kinds of projects are available, as is the grading key I will use, an example of a political website, and an example of a portfolio collection. I will not mark for grammar but if it impedes my ability to understand your arguments your grade will suffer, so it is a good idea to have at least one other person proofread your writing. Use William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White, The Elements of Style (New York: Macmillan, 1979) for writing style questions. The University of Washington has a number of resources to help with writing style, and they are described online at http://depts.washington.edu/uwrite/. Howard Becker’s Writing for Social Sciences also has advice on developing good writing habits. Citations should be formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style. Please refer to the University of Washington’s “Principles Regarding Academic Integrity” for the definitions and consequences of plagiarism.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Suman C. Chhabra
Date: 07/08/2004