COMM 225: Digital Media I (Service Learning)

Morgan Schwartz

office: Nugent 560, Room A
tel: 1-212-774-4865
email: mschwartz AT mmm DOT edu


Section 01 Tuesday, 2:30 - 5:20 pm

Classroom: Nugent 556


Course Description

Digital and interactive media permeate virtually every aspect of our society from information delivery and product marketing to education and entertainment. In this course you will learn practical and critical skills necessary to become a technically proficient and thinking digital media maker. Literacy in any medium is the ability both to access (read) materials created by others and to generate (write) materials for others. In this course you will learn to "speak" the language of digital media and to become conversant with the computer as an expressive medium. Through hands-on training, you will be introduced to creative approaches to media production and to a range of software. The format of this class is designed to bridge practice and theory. Topics will include digital imaging, typography, animation, video, sound and web design. We will concern ourselves with "how" and "why" the digital world is constructed the way it is. Students will be challenged to deconstruct this world and to develop an ability to analyze and critique the cultural implications of digital media in our lives. Prior computer experience is not required, but students are expected to take the initiative to become comfortable operating a Macintosh computer.

Learning Goals

  • You will be able to understand the function and relationships of computer hardware and operating systems, input and output peripherals and the Internet.
  • You will be able to use Macintosh-platform digital media software including Adobe Photoshop (for image manipulation), and Macromedia Dreamweaver (for web design).
  • You will be able to present and articulate your creative ideas to others.
  • You will be able to give and receive constructive critical feedback in a group setting.
  • You will read, write, and think about the roles computers and media play in your life, in your creativity and in society in general.

Textbooks and Materials

USB Flash Drive (256MB or bigger) - OR - portable Hard Drive

required texts:
all required readings will be available online or handed out in class

optional technical texts:
Adobe Photoshop CS2 for the Web Hands-On Training by Tanya Staples
Photoshop CS2: Visual QuickStart Guide by Elaine Weinmann, Peter Lourekas
HTML, XHTML, and CSS: Visual QuickStart Guide (6th Ed) by Elizabeth Castro
Macromedia Dreamweaver 8 Hands-On Training by Daniel Short & Garo Green
Macromedia Dreamweaver 8: Visual QuickStart Guide by Tom Negrino & Dori Smith

optional history/theory texts:
The Reconfigured Eye by William J. Mitchell
Multimedia - From Wagner to Virtual Reality edited by Randall Packer & Ken Jordan
The New Media Reader edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Nick Montfort

Service Learning

This course has a service learning component.

Important Dates:
Please mark these dates on your calendars. These sessions are required to meet the service learning component of the course. Please contact me ASAP if you have unbreakable conflicts.

March 15th 11:30 am - 1:30 pm at EHTP
March 29th 11:30 am - 1:30 pm at MMC
April 5th 11:30 am - 1:30 am at MMC
April 12th 11:30 am - 1:30 am at MMC

May 6th 5 pm - Service Learning Exhibition and Celebration at MMC

Grade Weights

Participation: 20%

A large amount of class time will be dedicated to group critiques, team projects and class discussion. I encourage you to take an active role in contributing to make our class a fun and dynamic place to be.

Weekly Assignments: 50%

This is where its at - you can't learn HTML by osmosis or wait until the end of the semester to cram for an exam. Multimedia production involves a complex spectrum of techniques and software. If you do the assignments each week you will do well. If not, you will fall behind rapidly. Weekly exercises are due at the beginning of class the week after they are assigned unless noted otherwise.

Rant or Rave: 5%

This 2-3 page paper will be assigned later in the semester. You will select a website, CD-ROM, multimedia technology or media phenomenon that interests you and make an analysis or critique. Your paper should address the following:
* describe the product/service - what does it do and for what purpose?
* who is the intended audience? who is the actual audience?
* what media elements are used and how do they contribute to or detract from the product/service's effectiveness
* place this product/service in the context of other media - does it extend a previous technology, what future impact will it have on society?
* offer your evaluation (critical or positive)

Final Project: 25%

This project will be self-initiated and should integrate many of the skills you will learn this semester. When the time comes I will suggest possible topics and approaches. You will have the option of working individually or collaborating with other students.


  • Warning - this course demands substantial work outside of class time to complete the projects. Unless you already own an Apple computer with the relevant software, you should plan on coming into the Digital Media lab for an additional 3 hours every week.
    Attendance is essential to succeed in this class. The skills and techniques taught are cumulative - they build upon previous ones. Missing just one week can make it very difficult to catch up. You will also note that class participation makes up a sizable percentage of your final grade - if you are absent you cannot participate and your grade will suffer.
  • Save different versions of your projects and save often. Make back-ups of your files.
  • Work in the lab with a friend - when learning new technology, 2 brains are usually better than one. You are welcome to work on your assignments at home but many students use the Multimedia Lab in room 556. Lab hours will be posted after the first week of classes. Students may not use the lab when another class is in session. If the lab is locked during regular lab hours you may get a key from the Security Desk.


Water/liquids are a excellent conductors. You can be shocked if you are touching water that touches electricity. Be careful with drinks around the computers!

Carpal Tunnel
Computer keyboarding, typing and use of the mouse are among many common activities that have been identified as contributing to repetitive stress induced carpal tunnel syndrome.

Attendance Policy

Attendance will be taken in each class. You are allowed one unexcused (no questions asked) absence, after which your final grade will drop substantially with each absence. In the event that an extraordinary circumstance will require you to miss a class, please let me know ahead of time, by calling me, or by email.


Students with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations or academic adjustments for this course must either enroll in the Program for Academic Access or register with the Office of Student Support Services. For any accommodation, the instructor must be presented with either a letter from the Assistant Director of the Program for Academic Access or an Accommodations Card from the Office of Student Support Services during the first week of classes.

Academic Honesty Policy

MMC fosters an academic community where students and faculty work together to create a learning experience that imparts knowledge and forms character. To achieve this, the College requires all members of the community to adhere to the policy of Academic Honesty that can be found in the Student Handbook, the College Catalogue and on the College website.

EHTP info

EHTP website:


2050 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10029


6 Train to 103rd Street
Walk east on 103rd toward 3rd Avenue
Turn left on 3rd Avenue
Turn right onto E 105th Street
Turn left on 2nd Avenue

We need to be at EHTP by 11:30 am on Saturday March 8. It would be ideal to be there 10 minutes early so that we can gather our thoughts.

For anyone who wants to travel with me, we will meet at the MMC lobby. I will leave promptly at 10:30 am.

Please come prepared with your digital cameras and lesson plans and/or handouts.


JAN 29: 01 - introduction

  • digital media - what is it?
  • computer basics - hardware, software, peripherals, i/o
  • mac operating system - how to find your way around [desktop, files, commands, tips]
  • how to find digital materials - google, MMC resources, library of congress,

FEB 05: 02 - photoshop is a hammer [ - digital imaging - ]

  • basic concepts - digital vs. analog, pixels, resolution
  • scanning demo
  • Photoshop basics: selection strategies - shape, edge, color, brightness, etc
  • image manipulation - curves, levels, brightness, contrast
  • tools - smudge, clone, etc

- "Overture" from Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality by Randall Packer & Ken Jordan
- "Chapter 1 & 4" from The Reconfigured Eye by William J. Mitchell

- download 10-20 online (digital) images for self-portrait project
- collect 1 physical (analog) image of your favorite celebrity that is scratched/damaged [you can provide the scratches]

FEB 12: 03 - photoshop is also a kitchen [ - digital imaging - ]

  • layers, filters, adjustment layers
  • discuss strategies of collage and composition
  • in class exercise - play photoshop ping-pong

- "Chapter 8: Computer Collage" from The Reconfigured Eye by William J. Mitchell

"cosmetic surgery" : scan, repair and enhance a scratched/damaged image of a celebrity - be prepared to show all 3 stages

FEB 19: 04 - text as sound [ - typography - ]

  • basic concepts - types [serif, sans-serif, mono], screen issues
  • typographic design issues - flow, spacing, color, contrast, weight → readability
  • in class exercise - sound interpretations

- "Chapter 9:" from The Reconfigured Eye by William J. Mitchell

"self-portrait" : create a collaged representation of yourself using the images you collected in week 1 and/or scanned images/objects

FEB 26: 05 - web web web [ - HTML - ]

  • Hey, what is the World Wide Web and how does it actually work?
  • hand coding HTML - basic tags, basic text formatting
  • 'view source' in class exercise - code sharing: Frankensite.

- "The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin" from The New Media Reader by William S. Burroughs
- "The Future of the Novel" from Multimedia: From Wagner to VR by William S. Burroughs

"Propaganda" : Manipulate an image to change its meaning. You should do this by incorporating text and/or adding/removing visual information. Your aim is to influence the opinions of people, rather than impartially providing information.

MAR 04: 06 - web web web web web web [ - HTML - ]

  • incorporating images and links [still hand coding]

- "Chapter 10: Identity Crisis" from Life on the Screen by Sherry Turkle

"cut-up" : Use what you know of HTML to format the text of a poem or song lyric into an interesting web page layout

MAR 25: 07 - image optimization and animation [ - digital imaging - ]

  • concepts - image types [JPG, GIF, PNG], transparency, browser safe, anti-aliasing
  • optimizing images for use on the web [ImageReady]
  • creating animated GIFs [ImageReady]

- "Chapter 2: The Vocabulary of Comics" from Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

"false identity" : Develop a false or fictional identity for an online dating service. Your web page should use only "shared" images and incorporate links to external sites.

APR 01: 08 - web authoring [ - HTML - ]

  • basic tour of Dreamweaver
  • how to set up and organize a project
  • text formatting, images, links the Dreamweaver way
  • some basic approaches to layout - tables

"exquisite corps" class project - create 3 animated GIFs: head, torso & legs

APR 08: 09 - web authoring part 2 [ - HTML - ]

  • layout continued
  • navigation, architecture, sitemaps
  • imagemaps

"mini-portfolio" - create a simple webpage with links to the previous weeks assignments

APR 15: 10 - turn up the volume [ - SOUND - ]

  • basic concepts - sampling rate, frequency, file formats
  • how to capture/record/digitize/download audio & sounds [Audio Hijack Pro]
  • basic sound editing, loops, and FX [Garage Band]

"Sitemap" - Develop a sitemap and 1 page written proposal for your final project

APR 22: 11 - lights, camera ... [ - VIDEO - ]

  • basic concepts - frame rate, aspect ratio, CODECs, file formats
  • how to capture/record/digitize/download video
  • basic editing, effects, transitions, audio [iMovie]

- "Rant or Rave" - see 'Assignments' section of the syllabus [due in 2 weeks]

APR 29: 12 - open lab [ - WORK - ]

  • work on your final project in class

MAY 06: 13 - Final Class

  • in class critique of final projects
  • wrap-up and what comes next! Flash teaser [brief tour]

MAY 13: 14 - Final Class

Class notes and projects

Class notes, links, resources and projects.

Cosmetic Surgery


Collect 1 physical (analog) image of your favorite celebrity that is scratched/damaged [you can provide the scratches].

For this project you will need to turn in three .psd files:

  1. Scan your image using one of the scanners in the Digital Media Lab. Crop/resize this image so that it is 800x600 at 72dpi. [cosmetic-scan.psd]
  2. To the best of your abilities, repair the scanned image using Photoshop. [cosmetic-repair.psd]
  3. Give your celebrity some cosmetic surgery ‚Äì explore tools, brushes, filters to transform the original image. [cosmetic-improve.psd]

Self-Portrait Collage


Using a minimum of 10 different images, create a composition that explores collage to make a representation of your self identity. The image should be 800x600 pixels.

False Identity


Develop a false or fictional identity. Create a website (3 page minimum) for this identity that acts as a dating profile (who are you, what are you looking for in an ideal mate, what are your interests). Your web site should use only "shared" or found images and should incorporate links to external sites.


In Sherry Turkle's chapter "Identity Crisis" she discusses how the ability for people to easily create multiple online personae challenges our notion of fixed identities. In the past, a strong identity was associated with stability and clear boundaries. But Turkle argues that in today's world, this concept is being replaced by a notion that celebrates flexibility and mutability. She suggests that the "home page" is a compelling manifestation of "new notions of identity as multiple yet coherent". When working on this assignment, consider your own online identity. What are the freedoms and risks associated with your online life? Are there things that are safer and easier to explore online rather than in RL [real life]?


Sherry Turkle

Basic HTML tags

Web Color Codes:

Web sites:

Exquisite Corps


For this assignment you should create 3 separate animated GIF files that when stacked on top of each other create the complete body of a person - or - creature - or - animal - or - thing - or - robot. The 3 images should portray the head, torso and legs of your "being". Each file should have dimensions 300 pixels wide by 200 pixels tall. Save each body part both as a .psd file and "Save optimized as" a .gif file. You should turn in:

head.psd, head.gif
body.psd, body.gif
legs.psd, legs.gif

Animations attract attention and can enliven a web page design. Animation techniques can include motion, zooming, fading [in or out], spinning, color changes, selective revealing and more.

Exquisite corpse is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. It is a technique invented by Surrealists in 1925, and is based on an old parlor game called Consequences in which players wrote in turn on a sheet of paper, folded it to conceal part of the writing, and then passed it to the next player for a further contribution. Later, perhaps inspired by children's books in which the pages were cut into thirds, the top third pages showing the head of a person or animal, the middle third the torso, and the bottom third the legs, the game was adapted to drawing and collage.


Do a Google search for "animated gif" to find many archives of free images.
under issues select "Font Cockpit" and "Fun Fun Fun"



Using Dreamweaver, create a personal portfolio website for the projects you've completed so far in class. You can design the website anyway you like, but it should include the following elements:

  • A homepage with some basic information about you and what this website is for, this file should be called "index.html".
  • Six additional pages, 1 for each of the previous projects - include a title and brief description about your project [cosmetic surgery, self-portrait, propaganda, cut-up, false identity, and exquisite corps] *note - for cut-up and false identity you can simply link to the pages you've already made
  • Navigation - every page should have links to every other page

!! Important !! - Don't remove any files from your original projects folders - instead, duplicate any files that you need for your portfolio. (ie you should still have your original files in your folders for project 1, project 2, etc.)

References: - a great directory of innovative web design for inspiration