COM 597: Ethics of Digital Media (Rufo)

Former Tags: Summer 2014, MCDM, Law and Ethics

Course Description:

Digital and social media raise new and profound ethical questions even as they provide novel and innovative answers to longstanding ethical challenges. At the same time, more informed consumers and profoundly impactful technologies are changing how businesses succeed, in large part because consumers, employees, and vendors now have the power and the knowledge to make decisions to align themselves with companies that share their values. From the bus protests in San Francisco to revelations of NSA collaboration by many tech companies, from conflict-free metals in Intel chips to the collapse of net neutrality, the importance of ethics in the digital industry landscape has never been more important when understanding business decisions, nor when making consumer decisions, because these days you vote for the future of the Internet with your dollars or your data.
This course tackles the ethical challenges of digital media from both sides of the spectrum, trying to highlight the good and the bad, the promise and the problem, of digital and social media. Topics will include microfinancing, crowdsourcing, personal branding, cyber-bullying, collaborative consumption, privacy, security, the nature of content, the nature of ownership, marketing, community, doxxing, representation, participation, and more. Many of these issues have a legal component, to be sure, but legal compliance and ethical behavior are rarely ever the same circles in the Venn diagram of human behavior. By making explicit our ethical perspectives, we can both identify more productive ways of thinking and exploring what digital can do, and about how we wish to position ourselves as both consumers and creators, users and media professionals. The class will entail reading, viewing, discussion, and a final project that can take multiple forms: written paper, media content, web project, etc.
If there are any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Ken Rufo @

Student Testimonial:

“Ken Rufo takes the complicated idea of ethics and provides practical and relevant context that can be applied directly to fields of communications and business. Citing current real-world examples, Rufo challenges students to question conventional ideas in an attempt to understand where the idea of ethics has been and where it is headed. For our final project we were asked to address an ethical issue of our choosing. My group decided to take an in-depth look at the ethical context of sport from the standpoint of technology, looking at the idea of how advancements from steroids to Google Glass impact the authenticity of competition. It was a challenge to take the concepts learned in class and apply them to a subject of interest. Given the freedom to explore the various ethical implications was fascinating and caused me to question some of my preconceived notions. I have taken several classes from Rufo and I have enjoyed each one. He keeps his students engaged with relevant examples delivered in an entertaining fashion and challenges people to come armed with ideas. I would recommend any class taught by Rufo.”