COM 472 | Digital Storytelling | Spring 2018 | Aimée Knight, PhD

Merion 174 | Section 1:M, W, F, 12:20 – 1:10 | Section 2 M, W, F 2:30 -3:20| Office hours 1:10 – 2: 30 M, W | Bronstein Annex 203 |

Course Description

Data-driven storytelling is a powerful and innovative extension of traditional methods of research and dissemination toward new audiences and ends. In this course upper-level course we will explore a variety of digital field methods in order to collect, interpret, and creatively share our data. Over the course of the semester, students will work with a variety of open source platforms and tools for translating data into visual and interactive forms, while discussing principles of narrative, audience, and design.

Goals and Objectives

Effective Communication: This course enables students to gain experience in critiquing and creating multimedia stories and videos, including the development of skills in writing, editing, photography, video, sound, and design.

Human Centered Design: Students will give extensive attention to each stage of the design process as they critique and create multimedia projects. Students will learn how to successfully ideate, create content and execute creative design solutions.

Critical Awareness: Students will learn how to investigate and tell digital stories through multiple lenses (historical, social, cultural, aesthetic, technological).

Required Texts:

Hannington, B., Martin, B. (2017). 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas and Design Effective Solutions. ISBN:1631593749

Lupton, E. (2017). Design is Storytelling. ISBN:194230319X

Additional Readings

Excerpt: Barbash, I., & Castaing-Taylor, L. (1997). Cross-cultural filmmaking: a handbook for making documentary and ethnographic films and videos. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Excerpt: Boellstorff, T. (Ed.). (2012). Ethnography and virtual worlds: a handbook of method. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Excerpt: Chen, Y. (2016). Practising rhythmanalysis: theories and methodologies. London ; New York: Rowman & Littlefield International, Ltd.

Excerpt: Cheney-Lippold, J. (2017). We are data: algorithms and the making of our digital selves. New York: New York University Press.

Excerpt: Collier, J., & Collier, M. (1986). Visual anthropology: photography as a research method (Rev. and expanded ed). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Excerpt: Culhane, D., & Elliott, D. (Eds.). (2017). A different kind of ethnography: imaginative practices and creative methodologies. North York, Ontario, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Excerpt: Emerson, R. M., Fretz, R. I., & Shaw, L. L. (2011). Writing ethnographic fieldnotes (2nd ed). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Excerpt: Hidalgo, A. (2017). Cámara retórica: A feminist filmmaking methodology. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press. Retrieved from

Excerpt: Kim, J. Y., Allen, J. P., & Lee, E. (2008). Alternate reality gaming. Communications of the ACM, 51(2), 36–42.

Excerpt: Lane, C., & Carlyle, A. (2014). In the field: The art of field recording (Reprinted with corrections). Axminster: Uniformbooks.

Excerpt: Lefebvre, H. (2013). Rhythmanalysis: space, time, and everyday life. New York: Bloomsbury.

Excerpt: Marres, N. (2017). Digital sociology: the reinvention of social research. Malden, MA: Polity.

Excerpt: McKinnon, S. L., Asen, R., Chávez, K. R., & Howard, R. G. (Eds.). (2016). Text + field: innovations in rhetorical method. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Excerpt: Middleton, M., Hess, A. (2017). Participatory Critical Rhetoric:  theoretical and methodological. Lexington Books.

Excerpt: Pink, S. (2013). Doing visual ethnography (3rd edition). Los Angeles: SAGE.

Excerpt: Pink, S. (2015). Doing sensory ethnography (Second edition). London ; Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

Excerpt: Pink, S., Ard`evol, E., & Lanzeni, D. (Eds.). (2016). Digital materialities: design and anthropology (First published). London Oxford New York, NY New Delhi Sydney: Bloomsbury Academic.

Excerpt: Pink, S., Horst, H. A., Postill, J., Hjorth, L., Lewis, T., & Tacchi, J. (Eds.). (2016). Digital ethnography: principles and practice. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Excerpt: Refiguring techniques in digital-visual research. (2017). New York, NY: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Excerpt: Ritchin, F. (2010). After photography (First paperback ed). New York, NY: Norton.

Excerpt: Ritchin, F. (2013). Bending the frame: photojournalism, documentary, and the citizen (First edition). New York, N.Y: Aperture Foundation, Inc.

Excerpt: Rogers, R. (2015). Digital methods. Cambridge (Massachusetts) [etc.: The MIT Press.

Excerpt: Vannini, P. (Ed.). (2015). Non-representational methodologies: re-envisioning research. New York: Routledge.

Course Materials

  •  Adobe Creative Cloud Our classroom computers have this installed already, but you may also subscribe to CC month-to-month.). In this course, we will primarily be using Photoshop. The library computers also have Adobe software. . In a pinch, you can use this open source method editor or this one for some of the more simple design activities.
  • Headphones Bring headphones class, as we will sometimes be watching videos and self-directed tutorials.

Course Assignments and Evaluation

20%      9 2-page Integration Papers

15%      10 Design Activities for Portfolio + reflections

15%      Discussion/Engaged speaking and listening

15%    5 Writing Workshop projects

10%      Midterm

15%      Final Project/Presentation

10%      Final Video Essay


Come to class fully prepared to engage in the exchange of ideas. It is your responsibility to bring the necessary materials to class each week. You will also need to access (and use) Canvas and email. Save and backup all work at all times. It is also a good idea to bring headphones to class, as we will sometimes be interacting with media-rich content.


Be here, on time. You are expected to attend class each week and be well prepared. We will often work on projects, watch videos, conduct group work, and other activities during class time. There is no substitute for your presence during class. Significant absences will hurt your grade because you will not be in class to participate and collaborate. I take attendance. You are allowed three absences. If you are absent more than three times you will lose 10% of your final grade. If you miss 5 or more classes, you will not pass the course. Lateness or leaving early is considered unprofessional and will affect your daily participation grade by 10%.


*Fair warning: I always grade on a straight scale, with no rounding. 

A  4.0 Distinguished; exceptional performance in all aspects of the course

A- 3.7 Exceptional performance, but somewhat less than that rated as A

B+ 3.3 Very good; meritorious work; exceptional performance in several aspects of the course; notably above average expected of students

B 3.0 Good; sound performance in all aspects of a course; completely fulfilling and satisfying the requirements of the course

B- 2.7 Good; sound performance in all aspects of a course; completely fulfilling and satisfying the requirements of the course, but somewhat less than that rated as B

C 2.0 Passing; marginal work, acceptable, sound performance in some aspects of the course, but below the level of expected competence in other areas

F Failure; not evidencing significant grasp of subject matter or techniques; failure remains on record even if course is repeated and the original grade still affects the cumulative average.

Late Work

Late work is deducted 20% for each late day. If a project is posted after a deadline, it will be deducted 20%. For example, if the project is due at 10:00 AM and you post it at 10:01 AM, it will indeed be marked late. Please plan accordingly.

Office Hours and After Hours

I hope you will take advantage of my office hours. I am available to offer extended feedback on your projects (beyond the written feedback you formally receive). You don’t need to have a problem to come visit, but if you do find yourself having some difficulty or questions, then I certainly want to see you sooner rather than later. If you cannot make scheduled office hours, arrange to see me at another time.


Equipment to check out

The COM Studies department has most of the equipment what you will need to complete course assignments. Everyone in the department, including faculty, use the gear for their work, so it’s important that we all treat it kindly and return it on time. More details here.

Gender Pronouns

This course affirms people of all gender expressions and gender identities. Please let your instructor know the appropriate gender pronoun to use for you. Also, if you would like to be called a name other than what is on the class roster, please let me know. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me.

Writing Center

The Saint Joseph’s University Writing Center is free to all members of the SJU community. The undergraduate and graduate student writers who make up the staff can assist you in any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to organizing and developing your ideas, to citing sources to proofreading. They work with students from across the university on a variety of assignments and projects: lab reports, business policy papers, poems, essays, research papers, dissertations, resumes, and personal statements for graduate school applications, among many others. You name it; they’ve helped writers write it. Both appointments and drop-in sessions are available. The main Writing Center is located in 162 Merion Hall. The Center also has a satellite location in the Post Learning Commons (room 128). For more information, including hours of operation and instructions on how to make an appointment, please visit the SJU Writing Center website at

Academic Honesty

If you use ideas or information that are not common knowledge, you must cite a source. This rule applies to all the course activities and projects including reading responses, multimedia projects, and essays. How to cite a source will be discussed in class. St. Joseph’s University’s academic honesty policy can be found here.

The penalty for plagiarism is an automatic Fail for this class and a letter of notification to the Committee on Discipline. If you are suspected of plagiarism or an act of dishonesty, action will be taken. In all courses, each student has the responsibility to submit work that is uniquely his or her own. All of this work must be done in accordance with established principles of academic integrity. Specific violations of this responsibility include, but are not limited to, the following:

Cheating, copying, or the offering or receiving of unauthorized assistance or information in examinations, tests, quizzes, reports, assigned papers, or special assignments, as in computer programming, studio work, and the like.

The fabrication or falsification of data, results, or sources for papers or reports

Any action which destroys or alters the work of another student;

The multiple submission of the same paper or report for assignments in more than one course without the prior written permission of each instructor;

Plagiarism, the appropriation of information, ideas, or the language of other persons or writers and the submission of them as one’s own to satisfy the requirements of a course.

Plagiarism thus constitutes both theft and deceit. Compositions, term papers, or computer programs acquired, either in part or in whole, from commercial sources or from other students and submitted as one’s own original work shall be considered plagiarism. All students are directed to the standard manuals of style or reference guides for discussions of plagiarism and the means by which sources are legitimately acknowledged, cited, quoted, paraphrased, and footnoted—whether presented in an oral report or in writing.

Rules regarding the use of information in this course:

1) If you use the language of your source, you must quote it exactly, enclose it in quotation marks, and cite the source. If you use the language of your source, quote the wording exactly. This is called a direct quotation. A direct quotation is either enclosed in quotation marks or indented on the page. If you omit part of the wording, use an ellipsis (three periods, four if necessary for punctuation to indicate the omission).

2) A paraphrase employs source material by restating an idea in an entirely new form that is original in both sentence structure and word choice. Taking the basic structure from a source and substituting a few words is an unacceptable paraphrase and may be construed as plagiarism. Creating a new sentence by merging the wording of two or more sources is also plagiarism.

Services for students with disabilities

Reasonable academic accommodations may be provided to students who submit appropriate documentation of their disability.  Students are encouraged to contact Dr. Christine Mecke in the Office of Student Disability Services, Bellarmine, B-10, at; or at 610.660.1774 (voice), or 610.660.1620 (TTY), for assistance with this issue.  The university also provides an appeal/grievance procedure regarding requested or offered reasonable accommodations through Dr. Mecke’s office.

FERPA: Once eligibility is determined, the student must sign a release of Information form (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act – FERPA) in order for the University to release the Accommodation Plan to the student’s professors. This form must be signed annually in order for accommodations to continue.  If the FERPA form expires, the student will need to sign a new form before the Accommodation Plan is sent out to the student’s professors.  Therefore, it is recommended that the student contact the Office of Student Disability Services as early in the semester as possible in order to ensure continuity of their accommodations.

Reasonable Academic Accommodations:  If it is determined that the student does qualify for accommodations, a plan will be developed that addresses the student’s individual needs.  This Accommodation Plan, which specifies what academic adjustments have been granted to the student by the University, will be sent to the student’s professors.

In the event that a student does not qualify for services under Section 504 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, other support services open to all University students will be discussed with the student.

Grievance procedures for students with disabilities

Appeal Process: The Office of Student Disability Services will seek to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities. However, there may be times when a disagreement as to what is considered a reasonable accommodation will occur between the student and the University.  The student has a right to file a grievance for complaints regarding a requested or offered reasonable accommodation on the basis of a disability under Section 504 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and University policies.

If you have any questions regarding the appeals process, please contact Dr. Christine Mecke, Director of Student Disability Services – Bellarmine – Room G10 –