Syllabus 2020

{Please note that this is a “live” syllabus. There will be rolling changes.}

January 27, 2020, V1.1

Foundations of Digital Media

DMED 500 for the Bachelor of Media Studies Program, Faculty of Arts, UBC


Course Information (Spring 2020)

Time and Location of Classes: Mondays 9:00 AM – 11:50 AM, Room 223 – Jack Bell Building (Social Work), 2080 West Mall 

Instructor: Jon Festinger, Q.C.

Professor of Professional Practice (SFU) & Faculty, The Centre for Digital Media, Vancouver Canada; Adjunct Professor, Allard School of Law, UBC, Vancouver Canada; Honorary Industry Professor, Centre for Commercial Law Studies, The School of Law at Queen Mary University of London, London U.K.

CDM Office: Unit 110, Centre for Digital Media

CDM Office Phone: 604-568-9192

Cell: 604-837-6426

Email: or

Twitter: @jonfestinger

Skype: jon.festinger

PSN: cdmjon

Office Hours: Generally after our class on Mondays or after my Allard class on Tuesdays at 12:30 PM. Am available by appointment or Skype. Please email anytime, even on short notice, to confirm.

Bio: or



This core course explores the history and future of digital media. Through normative, ethical and legal lenses we will explore various perspectives on the business, technology and social impacts of digital communication mediums. Through a series of modules, attention is focused on the history of the industry, the evolution of the experiences and technologies and the social, legal, ethical and business issues, which result. A key theme of the course is the development of a framework to critically analyze as well as participate in the future of digital media and technology, with special attention paid to the interplay between demand and innovation cycles.

We will then apply that framework to analyze issues as diverse as creative freedoms, intellectual “property” laws, net neutrality; big data & artificial intelligence, AR/VR,  personal privacy; government and corporate surveillance; cultural and industrial protectionism including ownership restrictions; wireless regulation and oversight; political and economic regulation and policing of the internet; journalism in the post-Snowden age; sex, violence and misogyny in both their digital media and industry contexts; as well as the future of freedoms of creative and political expression in all of these emergent media contexts.

The course provides an opportunity for integrative teaching as well as integrative learning. The course is divided into related modules concerning socio-technical, economic/business, legal and ethical issues of new media and interactive technologies, leading to explorations of how consumption habits, virality and user uptake drive the business models of the digital media industry.

There will be some recurring features of the course and others may evolve. News of the Week is an example. Student led seminars are another. Guest speakers may also be included from time to time.



After taking this course you should be able to confidently identify and explore the normative, ethical, and legal issues arising and evolving in the digital communications landscape, as well as understand the societal tensions and compromises that inevitably arise. This course is designed to be an aid and a toolbox to enable critical thinking about the rights and responsibilities of all the actors in the ongoing drama of our media landscape and the creative, political and human forces that shape it.



The world is ensuring that the nature, meaning and application of “digital media” itself is changing and morphing every day. The scope of disruption appears to be massive and the questions being put into play never ending. Most important for our purposes is that the sheer amount of change coupled with it’s extraordinary pace allows us the possibility of using real world events as a living lab for emerging issues impacting creativity and media generally. As such the pedagogy of this course is to facilitate engagement with real world issues, while identifying their historical context and antecedents.

The design of this course is predicated on the idea that what is being taught and the tools it is being taught with are in dialogue. In other words how a course is taught can be an example of what is being taught. Lectures, guided subject dialogues, student presentations, “news of the week”, guest speakers and even group exercises may all be used to promote engagement with the subject. The course is itself meant to be part of a creative dialectic.

One way of staying current on “News of the Week” is to peruse the front page of or

You are expected to arrive on time and be prepared to discuss the subjects at hand.



Students are expected to attend all classes. Attendance will regularly (but not necessarily always) be taken. Admission may be refused by the instructor for lateness, class misconduct, or failure to complete assigned work. Students are expected to attend a minimum of 90% of class time allocated to the course.



Academic standards and the reputation of students and the university are based on, among other things, academic integrity. Any forms of dishonesty, including cheating on exams, aiding and abetting cheating, and the use of work prepared by others and presented as your own, etc., are unacceptable activities and will normally result in a mark of zero in the particular assignment or in the case of an exam, a fail for the course.



The course website is at:




In preparation for the weekly discussions, the class will review the materials linked to in this syllabus and any discussion outlines prepared by their fellow students.



 Term paper accounts for 40% of the final grade.

  1. A minimum 2000 word paper is expected. The word requirement is inclusive of footnotes or endnotes but exclusive of the bibliography.
  2. The paper is due on the last day of the exam period (Wednesday April 29, 2020) at midnight.
  3. Papers must be e-mailed to the Instructor in Word format. Please email your paper to If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email within twenty-four hours, please email again to ensure receipt.

Class Participation accounts for 60% of the final grade

  • 25% of the mark will be based on group preparation of a Discussion Outline that must be created and handed out to the class—preferably by posting on the course website—at least a week before your particular discussion takes place, and leading the discussion for that week. The 25% is the product of 10% for the Discussion Outline and 15% for leading the class discussion of your topic.
  • 35% for student participation in class, course seminar discussions where you are not the presenter, “Journey” entries or other contributions through the website, and any other short in-class, quiz or take-home questions.

One Possible Methodology for Discussion Hour Presentation

  1. Identify what you consider to be an “ethical” issue in the digital realm.
  2. Explain why you see the issue as an “ethical” one.
  3. Then identify and describe any related legal and/or normative issues you see.
  4. Give your opinion as to whether the legal aspects you have identified in step 3 deals adequately in your opinion with the “ethical” issue you have identified in steps 1 & 2.
  5. Engage your classmates every step of the way.
  6. Do all this in under an hour

Steps in Personal “Journey” (Optional)

  1. Over the first couple of weeks in class, aided by “News of the Week” and your own curiosity, identify a question relevant to Foundations of Digital Media that you are curious about.
  2. Write a post (or email) of half a page (approximately 250 words) during the month of January 2019 identifying your question, why you are interested in it, the results of any initial research, and any theories you may have.
  3. Come to classes, review “News of the Week”, follow your curiosity wherever it may lead you, and look for as many different perspectives as you can find on your chosen question. Then write another half a page (approximately 250 words) post or email during  February 2019 about what you have learned about your question and any reflections you have on it, including legal, ethical or multi-disciplinary considerations you have identified.
  4. Continue coming to classes, keep reviewing “News of the Week” and then write a concluding half a page (approximately 250 words) post or email during March 2019 answering your chosen question as best you can, and including any reflections you feel appropriate.
  5. There is no prohibition of overlap between this exercise and your ultimate term paper, nor of course is there any requirement that they be related.


        9. SYLLABUS




Class 1: January 6, 2020

  • Overview of 1st class
  • Objectives & Pedagogy of the course
  • Evaluation
  • Role of “News of the Week”
  • Syllabus/topic input/comments/reactions
  • Discussion Hour Structure; Forming of Student Discussion Topic Groups, Distribution of Materials
  • Student Bio’s, interests, biases & objectives
  • Why are you taking this course?
  • What do you hope to get out of it?




Class 2: January 13, 2020

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “Normative & Legal Responses to Communications ‘Revolutions’”

Collaborative Event: Syllabus re-write exercise.



Class 3: January 20, 2020

News of the Week Discussions 

Jon’s Talk: “Digital Geography: Roles of Sovereignty, Culture & Community in the Digital Media & Communications Landscape”


Collaborative Event: Pick a challenge that humanity is facing 

Challenges facing humanity might include: environmental degradation, climate change, species extinction, racial inequality, gender inequality, income inequality, food security, freedom of speech (including artistic freedom), freedom of movement, and animal rights.

– Half of the class tries to identify as many ways in which information technology (digital media, communication and computing technology and networks) is making the situation worse

– The other half of your group should try to identify ways in which it is making things better (or could make things better)


Class 4: January 27, 2020

News of the Week Discussions 

Jon’s Talk: Digital Utopias & Commercial Realities: The Strange Case of Net Neutrality”


Collaborative Event: Creativity –  Author or Connector



Class 5: February 3, 2020 

News of the Week Discussions 

Jon’s Talk: “(Digital) Creative Freedoms”


Student Discussant: 


Class 6: February 10, 2020

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “Privacy & Surveillance”


Student Discussants: Kennedy Aragon-Scriven & Maxine Genovese


Class 7: March 2, 2020

News of the Week Discussions 

Jon’s Talk: “Celebrity and Digital Fame:Costs & Confusions”


Student Discussant: Joey Lim


Class 8: March 9, 2020

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “News & Information in the Post – Snowden/Trump/Truth – World ”


Student Discussant: Qian Bao & Jinqiao Wu




Class 9: March 16, 2020

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “Copyright Wars & Intellectual Property”


Student Discussant: Kassidie Cornell & Candice Lipski


Class 10: March 23, 2020

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: “Sex, Violence & Misogyny On-line: Gamergate Case Study“


Student Discussant: Adam McQueen

Collaborative Event: Designing a “Internet Act” for today: Setting policy priorities (brainstorming session) 


Class 11: March 30, 2020

News of the Week Discussions

Jon’s Talk: Course Summary


Class 12: April 6, 2020

News of the Week Discussions

Paper Discussions & Assistance



A. Tetradic exploration of an emerging or recent media form (Collaborative event)

First pick a media form.

  1. What does it enhance?
  2. What does it reverse?
  3. What does it obsolesce?
  4. What does it retrieve?

See the explanation and examples here:

B. Business value proposition

– What is your idea for a digital media enterprise?

– Come up with a 2 minute explanation and a 30 second pitch

C. Design the most privacy-invasive device or tool you can think of.

(based on on idea from Irina Raicu

Questions to help:

  1. Where does the device “live” or reside?
  2. What kind of information does it collect?
  3. From/about whom?
  4. What does it do with the collected data?
  5. Who has access to the data collected?
  6. Where is the data stored? Is it encrypted?
  7. How long is the data stored for?
  8. What purpose does the device aim (claim) to serve? Why?
  9. What result does the device actually achieve? Why?