The Internet and Society

Course Details

Course Number
MCOM 2523
Section Number
MCOM 2523
Fall 2010
Classroom Number
Days & Times

Dr. Mitzi Lewis (view Profile)

Course Attachments


A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues

Course Objectives

The Internet is profoundly effecting how we live our lives. It has changed the way we work, play, and interact with other people. In this course, we will examine the personal, academic, media, and business uses of the Internet. We will also look at the mutual interaction of computers and other new technologies, the Internet, society, and the struggles for control/ownership of the World Wide Web and its content. There are (at least) two sides to almost all of the questions we will consider in this course. We will spend much of our class time discussing the issues and exploring different points of view.

No previous technical knowledge is presumed other than your personal experience with computers, the Internet, and mobile phones.

After successfully completing this course, you should be able to:

  • understand some social, legal, philosophical, political, constitutional and economical issues related to the Internet and the historical background of these issues
  • discuss the benefits offered by the Internet in many different areas as well as the risks and problems associated with it
  • explore the arguments on all sides of a controversial issue, and argue convincingly for the position you select
  • have an increased awareness of current social and legal developments related to the Internet
  • understand how the Internet gives rise to social issues and ethical dilemmas
  • evaluate accuracy of information on the Internet
  • explain the uses and gratifications theory
  • apply the uses and gratifications theory to evaluation of people's behaviors when using the Internet
  • identify communication tools available on the Internet
  • utilize communication tools available on the Internet
  • compare communication tools available on the Internet
  • create, craft, and enhance your personal brand/digital identify on the Internet

The knowledge, attitudes, and skills you gain by successfully completing this course can help you in almost any career. However, they have particular relevance in the rapidly-changing field of mass communication. Becoming a life-long learner and analyzing information you receive will be essential to your success as a professional and can also greatly impact your personal life and your life as a citizen of the world. We will utilize the World Wide Web as a learning tool; thus, you will gain experience in furthering your knowledge by using a resource that will be available to you long after you complete this course.

Course Expectations

Textbook and Supplies

  • Baase, Sara (2008). A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing and the Internet (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
  • E-mail account
  • Internet access - we will watch videos almost every week, so the speed of your connection will need to accommodate this
  • Persistence, Patience, Optimism, and an Active Mind: Computers are fairly elaborate machines, which means that there are many ways in which they can break down – so be prepared for many strange and wondrous things. We will be discussing basic trouble-shooting techniques in class as issues arise. In many cases, however, you will need to be your own technological problem-solver – identifying problems and figuring out ways they can temporarily or permanently be solved. Techno-whining will not be tolerated.


Graded Course Components

You will be graded on your ability to think critically about the material we cover in class and communicate your thoughts in writing (e.g., through your blog) and in online class discussions. There will not be any mid-term or final exams. I will post grades on Blackboard, which you can check throughout the semester.

Online class discussion assignments (15 weeks; 10 points/week;  150 points total) 30%
Blog portfolio (100 points total) 30%
Term paper (topic, paper, comments; 100 points total) 25%
Goal statement 5%

Submission Format Policy

Note: You may not submit a paper for a grade in this class that already has been (or will be) submitted for a grade in another course, unless you obtain the explicit written permission of me and the other instructor involved in advance.

Late Paper Policy

In the professional world, if you can’t show up on time and make your deadlines, you won’t keep your job. Assignments must be completed on time in the format specified. The only accepted excuses for late work or missed exams are documented medical emergencies or requests from an academic dean. No exceptions. Plan ahead.

Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is the use of someone else's thoughts, words, ideas, or lines of argument in your own work without appropriate documentation (a parenthetical citation at the end and a listing in "Works Cited")-whether you use that material in a quote, paraphrase, or summary. It is a theft of intellectual property and will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.

Student Honor Creed

As an MSU Student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else do so."

As students at MSU, we recognize that any great society must be composed of empowered, responsible citizens. We also recognize universities play an important role in helping mold these responsible citizens. We believe students themselves play an important part in developing responsible citizenship by maintaining a community where integrity and honorable character are the norm, not the exception.

Thus, We, the Students of Midwestern State University, resolve to uphold the honor of the University by affirming our commitment to complete academic honesty. We resolve not only to be honest but also to hold our peers accountable for complete honesty in all university matters.

We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any unauthorized material in examinations, or to present, as one's own, work or ideas which are not entirely one's own. We recognize that any instructor has the right to expect that all student work is honest, original work. We accept and acknowledge that responsibility for lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty fundamentally rests within each individual student.

We expect of ourselves academic integrity, personal professionalism, and ethical character. We appreciate steps taken by University officials to protect the honor of the University against any who would disgrace the MSU student body by violating the spirit of this creed.

Written and adopted by the 2002-2003 MSU Student Senate.

Students with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, (940) 397-4140.

Safe Zones Statement

The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being - regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor's expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment.

Contacting your Instructor

All instructors in the Department have voicemail in their offices and MWSU e-mail addresses. Make sure you add your instructor's phone number and e-mail address to both email and cell phone lists of contacts.

Attendance Requirements

Other Policies

Academic Dishonesty

  • Students are expected to adhere to the Standards of Conduct as published in the Student Handbook. Students should refer to the current MSU student handbook and activities calendar for University policies and Student Honor Creed on academic dishonesty, class attendance, student’s rights, and activities.
    • The main statement from the MSU Student Honor Creed should be a guiding principal for you: “As an MSU student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else to do so.”
    • I reserve the right to drop any student with an F if he/she engages in any form of academic dishonesty.  I further reserve the right to recommend other sanctions as may be appropriate.  Students are also encouraged to consult the following sources for additional discussion of students’ rights and responsibilities regarding cheating, attendance and general conduct:
    • In addition, the university requires faculty to provide this statement to all students: “By enrolling in this course, the student expressly grants MSU a “limited right” in all intellectual property created by the student for the purpose of this course.  The “limited right” shall include but shall not be limited to the right to reproduce the student’s work product in order to verify originality and authenticity, and educational purposes.”
  • On the Internet, plagiarism is especially easy. DO NOT give in to the temptation to copy-and-paste other people’s work! Your work must be your own. If you plagiarize as a professional and get found out, you will damage if not destroy your own reputation and do great harm to the reputation of any organization you work for. In this class, plagiarism will have dire consequences.



Federal privacy law prohibits me from releasing information about students to certain parties outside of the university without the signed consent of the student.  Thus, in almost all cases I will not discuss your academic progress or other matters with your parents.  Please do not have them call me.  Regardless of these important legal considerations, it is my general policy to communicate with the students, not their parents, even when a student has signed a consent form.  College students are adults and are expected to behave accordingly.


Special Accommodations

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information that needs sharing, or if you need special accommodations in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible.


Thanks to Eszter Hargittai and Howard Rheingold who generously allowed me to use and adapt portions of their work, to Naoma Clark who allowed me to adapt her classroom policies, to Jim Sernoe who allowed me to adapt portions of his work for policies and final paper requirements, and to Kimberly Sultze of Saint Michael’s College for sharing her intellectual requirements.

Writing Proficiency Requirement

All students seeking a Bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University must satisfy a writing proficiency requirement once they've 1) passed the 6 hours of Communication Core and and 2) earned 60 hours. You may meet this requirement by passing either the Writing Proficiency Exam or English 2113. Please keep in mind that, once you've earned over 90 hours, you lose the opportunity to take the $25 exam and have no option but to enroll in the three-credit hour course. If you have any questions about the exam, visit the Writing Proficiency Office website at, or call 397-4131.

Campus Carry

Senate Bill 11 passed by the 84th Texas Legislature allows licensed handgun holders to carry concealed handguns on campus, effective August 1, 2016. Areas excluded from concealed carry are appropriately marked, in accordance with state law. For more information regarding campus carry, please refer to the University’s webpage at

If you have questions or concerns, please contact MSU Chief of Police Patrick Coggins at