MDST110 Electronic Coursebook for Students
Information Technology and Digital Media Studies
Prof. David Golumbia
University of Virginia
Fall 2004
MDST110 main pageMDST110 syllabus

Final Exam Questions

Exam Goals and Format

The blue book exam is composed of two essay questions. Your goal is also to write two thoughtful, clear essays that represent your own original thoughts about the issues raised by the class. It may be helpful to plan to write essays that satisfy each of the following criteria, each of which will be weighted equally in grading the exam (the same criteria will apply to the final exam for this course):

Exam Questions

On the day of the midterm, you will be presented with three of these questions. You will choose two of the three presented questions and write essays on them of approximately one blue book or less in length. In each case, knowledge of one or more of the required readings will be helpful in answering the question, and reference to the text in your exam is expected. Since the exam is taken without notes, it is expected that these references will be in summary form rather than exact quotations. Nevertheless, you should carefully indicate which text you are referencing in your answer.

Some of these questions require knowledge of secondary or recommended texts as well as required texts. It is possible to answer each question by referring only to required texts, but the recommended text may make possible a more complete answer. In some cases, you are asked to reflect on real-world and computer examples; you are free to do primary research (for example, playing a computer game or visiting a website) that plays a role in your answer, and you should indicate any references to this research in your exam. You can also use examples derived from reading for the course, providing again that you indicate the source of your examples.

  1. Compare and contrast the functions and roles of real-world and online communities using two contrasting examples. Name a community or social group in the offline world that you have studied or know about from your own experience. You can take the meaning of "community or social group" to be very broad. Describe some of the characteristics that you think are important to the community. Now name a digital community or group you have studied or participated in directly. You can choose to examine a single community or group that has both offline and digital aspects, or you can examine two entirely different groups. Compare the real-world and digital communities in a way that highlights what you find to be the most important similarities and differences between the two communities. What conclusions might you draw about digital social networks?

  2. Should companies have the legal right to force consumers to receive spam? (This is the legal position taken by many companies that use spam for marketing.) Explore both sides of this question and, using examples, develop a proposal about how much spam delivery, if any, should be part of a company's rights. Be careful to explain what you mean by spam and what sorts of commercial communications would and would not be spam under your proposal. Feel free to develop speculative proposals about how digital communication might be handled to handle consumer and/or corporate needs for communication.

  3. Give two different examples of people creating representations of themselves using computers. This might include web pages people use to represent themselves; characters in video or computer games; and so on. What parts of personal life are emphasized and/or de-emphasized in these digital representations? What conclusions can you draw about the nature of representations of the self in digital media? Choose your examples to allow thorough analysis of issues relating to the self.

  4. Describe a popular analog medium that has changed significantly due to the advent of computing. Describe the medium in some detail as it was before computing, and then describe it in detail as it has changed due to computers. What are some of the most important characteristics of the medium? How have these been changed by digital tools and distribution? Illustrate your points with examples. What conclusions can you draw about digital transformations of analog media?

  5. Discuss the impact of gender on computers and computing history, and in particular the ways in which computers do or do not reinforce existing real-world gender problems. Illustrate your analysis with examples from computer history and contemporary information technology. Note that you are expected to integrate material from the whole semester in this question.


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