Ethics and Law in New Media/Course Guide

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NOTEː The course is INACTIVE since August 2014 - this page is left here for reference only.

A Brief intro[edit]

The ELNM course is developed and taught by Tallinn University (TLU) as a full-time e-course (some iterations have used one initial face-to-face meeting), i.e. all activities are carried out online (local students are of course permitted to contact the supervisor if they find it necessary). In the first year we used Moodle, but this changed successfully to Wikiversity the next year ( see a separate writing on the issue).

The ELNM covers a wide range of diverse issues which are grouped under two main themes mentioned in the title. However, there are a lot of links between topics under either theme (e.g. copyright, while being a legal issue, also raises a number of ethical questions). Topics include but are not limited to

  • network society
  • online privacy
  • censorship
  • networks in global politics
  • copyright, patents, licenses (in general, things that are often lumped together as "intellectual property")
  • online crime
  • social software and social networks
  • different models of social production
  • digital divide

Note: compared to some other courses with similar themes, the ELNM will have a stronger focus on the free culture - topics include also hacker ethic, free and open-source software, Creative Commons and many others.

The course runs on the autumn semester and gives 5 ECTS credits. The course is supervised by Kaido Kikkas (see his CV here)

Note: some topics will probably heat up a lot of discussion. Having a dissenting opinion (also with the supervisor) is fully acceptable as long as it is presented in a polite manner and supported by arguments (not just "it is so because I think so"). :-)

How do we work[edit]

The core of the course are the two weekly texts to be studied. Most texts contain a number of web links that are also recommended to visit. In addition, there are questions and tasks for each topic - the questions (titled "Food for Thought") are mostly for reflection and self-testing, while the tasks ("To Do") should be completed in writing. Everyone should blog them and let the supervisor track them over a newsfeed (RSS) - in principle, private submission over e-mail is also possible but blogging is a better way. There are also two sets of literature (mostly online) for each week - compulsory readings are to be read by everyone (the volume of the material will not be very large; it is listed under "To Do") while the larger-volume recommended reading will give those more interested in the topic a deeper insight into the subject.

There is a weekly forum discussion where everyone should contribute to the discussion about each of the the weekly subjects (both starting a new thread and adding to an existing one are fine). These may be specific ethical or legal questions, case studies etc. And finally, there is a weekly real-time chat session where we can come together and discuss things for about an hour.

While most activities are individual, there is a teamwork too - writing a wiki-based paper in teams of 4-5 people (see below). The details of forming the teams will be discussed as the course begins.

Necessary tools[edit]

First, everyone needs a blog for the course. Seasoned bloggers can use their existing one, setting up a specific subsection (i.e. a category or a tag). Fresh bloggers can create a new one - free blogging services are numerous, the most popular are perhaps Blogger and . The only requirement is support for RSS syndication - it would be next to impossible for supervisor to follow dozens of blogs just from the Web.

Second, every team needs a wiki (or a subsection). Again, it is OK to use an existing wiki. In case of no previous experience, Wikidot is possibly a good choice. Please list your team members at some visible place on the wiki to allow better overview.

Third, we need to register to the [Nabble forum]. Please register with your full name - in a larger course, it would be really hard to track all those creative aliases...

NB! If there are many people with no previous experience on blogging and/or wiki editing, we'll spend some time to introduce it and also provide some online materials to read.

A note on lecture notes and weekly tasks[edit]

The weekly lecture texts may change (or rather be added to) during the course, should some relevant events or news dictate it. It should not be a problem as the graduation from the course does not rely on these texts at all (opposed to the traditional way of doing exams) - they are just a major resource to help you complete your tasks. This also applies to the weekly tasks - these will be formulated quite shortly before any given week.

Another note on using Wikipedia[edit]

The texts contain a lot of links to Wikipedia. Two things should be considered for this matter:

  • Wikipedia (as all encyclopedias) are secondary sources by definition - the principle of 'no original research' is a cornerstone of Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia (as all encyclopedias) is not infallible. Wikipedia's discussion mechanism is a good tool to improve quality, but sometimes democracy means 'many idiots shouting in unison'...
  • While the articles are usually also worth reading, the real power of Wikipedia lies in its cross-references and especially the literary sources under each article. In most cases, the correct use of Wikipedia is 1. reading the article for an overview of the issue, 2. using the referred sources for deeper study and referral.

Therefore, when writing a paper, only primary sources should be used for reference - straight pointers to Wikipedia articles are generally considered unacceptable in academic settings.

What do we need[edit]

The hardware and software requirements are very modest. In essence, one needs just a computer, an Internet connection (probably the biggest requirement - a broadband connection is preferrable as a lot of work will be done online) and a reasonably modern web browser. If standalone documents are delivered (not likely), open formats like OpenDocument or HTML are preferred over proprietary ones like MS Office documents. Most writing will be done online using wikis or blogs.

What do we have to do[edit]

The main tasks to complete are the following:

1. Write a wiki-based team paper[edit]

The paper should be about 10 pages in total volume (roughly 2-3 pages per participant) and cover any subject within the general limits of the course. The title should be approved by the supervisor before starting to write (not meant as censorship but rather to prevent too wide or too narrow treatises) - so please inform about your team lineup, the location of the wiki and the title your work before starting. The paper will give up to 30 points to the authors (the supervisor reserves the right to distribute points unevenly if there is evidence of greatly different rates of contribution between team members).

The number of team members depends on the overall number of participants, but is generally 4-5 people - enough to facilitate some teamwork.

Teams should be formed in three weeks from the start. There is [a separate topic in the forum] where you can discuss possible lineups for teams, suggest topics for the paper and find people with similar interests (we can use some time of the weekly Skype chats for this purpose as well). When you have compiled your team, please post the lineup and the wiki location there too!

Note: although presented as a wiki, the paper should retain most qualities of academic writing - source list, references, writing style etc. Wiki talk pages and other means may be used for informal discussion of the paper.

2. Review another team's work[edit]

Now you'll get a chance to say it all... Write a blogged review of 1-2 pages on any other team's paper. Evaluate the content, argumentation as well as formal side (references etc). The review gives up to 5 points. Note: while the wiki is a team paper, the review is done individually (in essence, it's just a special blog post). WARNING: there is only a short timeframe (the last week, see the course calendar below) to do it, so plan this specific task well ahead.

3. Write the short pieces listed in the weekly tasks[edit]

These are typically reviews or opinions about different issues. These should be blogged and will result in up to 48 points (up to 4 for each week). Weekly tasks should be completed by Friday noon of the next week.

Sometimes, some people have asked for sending the weekly writings by e-mail rather than blogging. It is possible (although blogging is preferred, in hopes of creating some extra discussion) - please note the supervisor if you want to use this option.

4. Participate in the weekly discussions[edit]

Everyone should submit a discussion topic about the weekly themes to the course forum and/or take part of the discussion. You can receive up to 24 points here (two per week). The deadline is the same with the blog tasks - but perhaps a bit more relaxed (you can pick up some older discussions as well). Note that both creating new topics and participating in existing ones will count - so you do not need to start new ones (but you surely can if you have an interesting question to discuss).

5. Show up in the weekly Skype text chat - and say something interesting[edit]

While this is perhaps the least important component, it will reflect your participation as well as show your general presence in the course. This will give up to 12 points (one per week). Interesting things may include some relevant recent news from your country or institution (we are an international company, after all), an interesting web page you've found, thoughts about the book you just finished etc. However, the weekly topics (as listed on the main page) will have an important place in the chat sessions too.

The time for the chat will be SET NEXT TIME. Please use your full name during the chat. People joining later should contact the supervisor via Skype.

Some math[edit]

As you probably have noticed already, 30 + 5 + 48 + 24 + 12 = 119, while the course maximum is 100. This is a feature, not a bug. :-) The point: you will have some maneuvering room between different tasks.

Course Schedule[edit]

  • START̜ - here we go!
  • 3 WEEKS - wiki teams should be formed, the weekly regimen becomes stricter
  • MIDTERM - the mid-term gap week (the Friday-based counting still applies, but the one double-length week also contains the gap week)
  • A WEEK BEFORE - deadline for team papers
  • LAST WEEK - deadline for paper reviews
  • FINISH - that's it!

In addition, there are weekly deadlines (see above)


In order to graduate from the course, one should collect at least 51 points. The exact graduation scale is quite a typical one:

  • 91 or more - "A"
  • 81-90 - "B"
  • 71-80 - "C"
  • 61-70 - "D"
  • 51-60 - "E"
  • 50 or less - "F"

Note that there will be no formal examination - you will get a grade based on your points reserve.

NB! The only apparent downside of such a totally open course as ours is difficulty to provide feedback on grades (those are considered private information, while we don't even have any closed space here). The current solution is to publish a grade table for the time of each chat at the URL given in the chat.

IMPORTANT - those who participate via TLU (most of you) likely have to register to the exam at the TLU Studies Information System (ÕIS)ǃWithout the registration, TLU may not recognize your grade!

Introduce yourself[edit]

As we are working fully online and likely not everyone has been studying with others before, students are encouraged to write an introductory article in their blogs in order to provide more information about themselves. [An "introduction round table" in the forum] will also help to get to know each other better.


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