Teaching

My teaching explores information technology and human labor through the core curricula of my two main departments.  I have frequently taught a 350-student Introduction to mass communication course for SJMC and a 150-student hybrid online and in-person course on The information society for SLIS (ideal for those interested in the new Digital Studies undergraduate certificate).  Both of these fulfill the university’s Comm-B writing and speaking requirement while introducing students to new media technologies like podcasts, weblogs and wikis.  I’ve also taught nearly a dozen different seminars on various topics here at UW-Madison, from The history of American librarianship and Video games and mass communication to Unconvering information labor and Interdisciplinarity in the modern research university.  In 2007 I won a university teaching award for my varied and innovative work in the classroom, and I have since been accepted as a fellow in the UW-Madison Teaching Academy.

Downey-Ive

Greg Downey doing his best Jony Ive impression in a segment from the Educational Innovation video series by UW-Madison Learning Support Services.

I was the founding faculty Director for the INTER-LS 260 Internship in the Liberal Arts & Sciences project, and have taught that course many times.  If you have an outside internship, for-profit or non-profit, paid or unpaid, full-time or part-time, please consider pairing it with this one-credit online course.

These days, given my current administrative role as an associate dean, my main instructional obligation is as the faculty Director for the INTER-LS 210 course Taking Initiative: The L&S Second-Year Career Course.  I teach this course each semester, and summers too.  (You can learn more about it below.)

Teaching evaluations.  Please note that I have made all of my student course evaluations for the last five years available to any UW student, faculty, or staff member (use your normal UW NetID and password as the login).

cv imageFor a complete listing of my teaching accomplishments, please see my cv.  For specifics on some of my courses, see below.

 

 

 

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career-cartoon-smallINTER-LS 210 Taking Initiative: The L&S Second-Year Career Course.  Lecture/discussion; 1 credit. This course introduces students not only to the instrumental skills of the job search (preparing a resume, writing a cover letter, and developing an online persona, for example), but also to the conceptual knowledge background of high-skill labor markets, the critical reflection practices of discovering one’s strengths and goals, the information evaluation processes of researching occupations and majors, and the expert resources available across the UW-Madison campus — all of which are necessary to help students to turn a simple “job hunt” into a comprehensive “academic and career development plan.”

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J 176 Media Fluency for the Digital AgeUndergrad topics survey; 3 credits.  We see a crucial need around the university for a first-year lecture course on the vast changes in the technology, practice, and business of mass communication that have accompanied the diffusion of digital devices, the development of the World Wide Web, and the rapid extension of education, commerce, politics, and social life to the online realm. Such a course could feed directly into J201 Introduction to Mass Communication (intended to orient students to the full range of media industries and careers). It would also complement, but not duplicate, more advanced offerings in other departments such as LIS 201 The Information Society or Comm Arts 346 Critical Internet Studies.  We have created a 3-credit lecture course, J101 Media Fluency for the Digital Age, taught to first-year students from across the university. J101 is delivered as a “hybrid” online/offline course to facilitate student scheduling. Each week the course combines a traditional in-person lecture, a focused in-person discussion/lab section, and an innovative online activity, for a flexible but rigorous “high-impact” experience. And as J101 involves close engagement with digital tools, both in discussion/lab and online, it fits well with the Digital Studies Certificate Program.  Media Fluency for the Digital Age takes seriously the political, social, economic, and cultural ramifications of mediated communication in the online world. It addresses the shift from an old paradigm of mass communication, mass audience, and expert communicator to a new paradigm of distributed communication, fragmented audience, and “crowdsourced” communicator. And it serves an acute student need for both critical media awareness (on the consumption side) and competent media ability (on the production side). This course will be of value to every undergraduate student at UW, regardless major, college, or career path.

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J 201 Introduction to mass communication.  Undergrad Comm-B survey;  4 credits.  The goal of J201 is to help you become a critical media consumer and producer.  We investigate not only how our mass media system works, but what we want our mass media to do for us (and what we hope it doesn’t do to us). This involves understanding the structural qualities of our mass media system – political, economic, and social — by following the money, tracing the power, seeing the disparities in different forms of communication. It also involves understanding both the effects of media on individual thought and behavior and the power of individuals to influence what appears in the media (through viewership, purchasing, democratic actions, or personal media production). We pay close attention to the present-day challenges and criticisms that the media industry faces, in order to imagine alternative ways of constructing the media industry. Through both lecture and discussion, both readings and films, and both offline and online experiences, this course will guide students in interrogating our media-saturated society. As a Comm-B course open to all majors, students will both experiment with new personal publishing tools like weblogs and wikis, and hone more traditional skills of academic argument and presentation.

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J 676 Video games and mass communication.  Graduate / undergraduate seminar; 3 credits.  Far from the days of “Pac Man Fever,” video, computer, and internet games are now a significant mass communication industry — a $6 billion/year market involving the largest of computer and media companies, from Microsoft to Sony. Today’s games are enmeshed in controversial claims over their contributions to violence and stereotyping, lawlessness and addiction. But they are just as often hailed as tools for education and moral choices, community-building and artistic production. And even consumers who never play a video game are subject to a gaming aesthetic that permeates not only television advertising and cinematic entertainment, but even the nightly news of war and politics.  In this course, students critically examine the history, theory, and political economy of video, computer, and internet gaming in mass communication. The course involves both traditional lecture and discussion, reading and writing, as well as plenty of hands-on experimentation and even a little game playing itself. Students will be expected to read about six articles per week, write four short papers over the course of the term, contribute regularly to a class weblog, and perform four hands-on game-related assignments.

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J 697 Mass communication internship.  Undergrad media internship; 1 credit.  Internships taken for college credit must be supervised by a faculty member, and I am one of several School of Journalism and Mass Communication faculty members who generally agree to supervise internships for eligible students.

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J 880 Human geography and mass communication Grad seminar; 3 credits.  This class is a reading seminar covering geographical theories, methods, and concepts which might productively be applied to mass communication research questions, and exploring existing mass communication research which has (explicitly or implicitly) drawn on geographic insights.  In the cases that we cover in class, we will pay close attention to how various “new” communication technologies were understood by users in their original context, how technologies of “virtual space” hide the place-bound material and labor components necessary for their functioning, and how different technologies work to “produce” and “compress” both time and space in a society characterized by uneven (and often arguably unjust) geographic development.

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J 901 Teaching mass communication and information studies.  Graduate colloquium; 1 credit. J 901 in the Spring is a weekly, one-credit graduate colloquium series, sponsored by the UW-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication, focusing on issues of classroom teaching for communication-related courses. All graduate students interested in becoming better teachers, regardless of department or college, are invited to enroll. Every Friday at noon we’ll hear a guest lecture on a different topic, from instructional technology to classroom pedagogy. Optional readings, resources, and discussion opportunities tied to each week’s subject and speaker will be made available online.

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LIS 201 The Information Society.  Undergraduate Comm-B intro course; 4 credits.  Today, in an environment of web-enhanced workplaces, schools, and shopping malls, we routinely speak of living in an “information society”. But what does this term mean and where did it come from?  How has information — in oral, print, broadcast, and now digital/networked forms — been tied to notions of democracy, capitalism, social justice, and “progress” in American history?  And if we really are living in a “information economy,” “postindustrial economy,” or “networked economy” today, what does such a world mean for our understandings of our fragmented selves, our cultural affiliations, and our social responsibilities to each other?  Through both lecture and discussion, both readings and films, and both offline and online experiences, this course will guide students in interrogating the information society.  As a Comm-B course open to all majors, students will both experiment with new personal publishing tools like weblogs and wikis, and hone more traditional skills of academic argument and presentation.

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LIS 569 History of American librarianship.  Graduate / undergraduate seminar; 3 credits. This course is intended to introduce students to the historical development of American librarianship, with special reference to the relationship of library institutions to their contemporary social, economic, cultural and political environments. Key topics and themes include: (1) Intertwined development of different types of American library organizations, such as public libraries, school libraries or media centers, academic libraries, archives, and special or corporate libraries; (2) Differing attention of libraries and librarians to various American social groups over time, as defined by age/maturity, gender/sexuality, race/ethnicity, occupation/employment, class/wealth, or education/training; (3) Development of librarianship as a profession, including social, functional, technological, and gender divisions of labor; (4) Evolution of technologies and techniques for information management within libraries and outside of libraries, from cataloging systems and publishing processes to desktop computers and internetworked telecommunications; and (5) Relationship of librarianship to other social, cultural, and political-economic processes, especially in the areas of intellectual freedom, social control and censorship, cultural pluralism, democratic principles, lifelong education, and the “free marketplace of ideas.”

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LIS 640 Mapping community information agenciesService-learning; 3 credits.  Why should information studies professionals care about maps? Maps are everywhere in the media. From weather maps to voting maps to maps of toxic waste dumps and terrorist attacks, the way we understand and represent our community, our region, and our nation is tied to the way we draw maps. But more than that, information agencies of all types and sizes depend on maps for their functioning: demographic maps of their service areas and audiences, infrastructure maps of their facilities and technologies, and political-economic maps of the complex regulatory and funding world they operate in.  In this course we’ll explore ways of effectively finding, analyzing, and producing maps, with an eye to their uses in community information agencies new and old. Students will gain hands-on experience with a computer mapping program called a “Geographical Information System” (GIS), and will learn why geography matters in a globalizing world.

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LIS 640 Digital divides and differences.  Graduate / undergraduate seminar; 3 credits.  In this course we will explore issues relating to “digital divides” in the US and around the world in terms of awareness of, ownership of, access to, use of, and purpose in using various information and communication technologies across socially-constructed boundaries of age, class, gender, race/culture/ethnicity, political geography, urban/rural geography, language, and occupation.  Topics will include: theories of uneven geographies; historical examples of information divides; current empirical data on various digital (and socio-economic) divides; arguments over the increased use of new media technologies in work, education, and entertainment; visions of information utopias and dystopias; and the ongoing “analog divide” in terms of access to older, more basic forms of information technology.

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LIS 810 Uncovering information labor.  Graduate seminar; 3 credits.  The theme of “information labor” unites several areas of research within science and technology studies: the study of information / communication technologies in social context, the investigation of the artifacts and infrastructures of scientific and technical work practices, and the global transformation of the spatio-temporal conditions for knowledge production, organization, distribution, and consumption.  By focusing on the ways that human labor is “hidden” behind (or embodied within) technological appliances, networks, and interfaces, this seminar will confront the question of human agency and human value in producing and reproducing technological infrastructures of all sorts — the built environment of physical and virtual space where more and more social processes, involving more and more social actors, are (at least in part) taking place every day.  These questions are of interest not only to the field of STS, but to other disciplines such as library and information studies, mass communication research, and geography.

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LIS 875 The future of print.  Graduate seminar; 3 credits.  It’s been only five years since the first Amazon Kindle was sold, ten years since Google News went online, twenty years since the public was introduced to the World Wide Web, and over a century since the development of microfilm.  What unites each of these historical moments was the premature public announcement of the “death of print” in the face of supposedly inevitable and revolutionary technological and economic change.  Yet print remains not only a crucial part of the material information environment of all societies around the globe, but also a persistent organizing metaphor for how we understand and circulate text, numbers, and images through both broadcast and networked media.  This new (and experimental) seminar will explore the perpetually-renewed “future of print” from various historical and geographical vantage points — including our own.