Computers in Communication


Boston University College of Communication, Fall 2000
Professor James G. Lengel
Office: COM 203D, eMail:, Telephone: 617 353-3487

Course Description
This course introduces the personal computer as a tool for human communication. It shows how computers are used to design, produce, and deliver communication in publishing, advertising, entertainment, and education. Students learn to use basic computer tools to build works of communication in a variety of media, including text, images, numbers, sound, and video. A more detailed description of the topics of the course is included below, and at

Computers in Communication is a hands-on course of study. Each Wednesday morning class meeting includes work with a Macintosh G4 multimedia computer by each student. Class begins promptly at 9:00 AM and ends at noon, with a short break at the halfway point.

Most projects will require additional work in the Multimedia Lab beyond course hours. The lab is open for student use for about 30 hours each week. The schedule of open hours for student project work is available online at An experienced Multimedia Teaching Assistant is available at all times in the lab to help you with your projects.

The three requirements of this course are full participation, weekly readings, and weekly assignments. Students attend and participate in every class meeting unless excused in advance. The assignment for each week, which in most cases is a project that you complete on the computer, must be completed by the following Monday. Specific
instructions for completing each assignment are provided during class.

Required texts:

The Mac is Not a Typewriter, by Robin Williams, published by Peachpit Press. This book is style manual for creating professional-level written documents on the computer. Its tips and techniques will help you to produce documents that are attractive, easy to read, and in keeping with modern publishing standards. ISBN 0-938151-31-2

Microsoft Office 98 for the Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide, by Dan Henderson, published by Peachpit Press. This book will get you started with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, which serve as our chief software tools for the first half of the course. It covers word processing, desktop publishing, spreadsheets, and presentation software. ISBN 0201353512.

Photoshop 5 for Windows and Macintosh (Visual QuickStart Guide Series)
by Elaine Weinmann & Peter Lourekas, published by Peachpit Press. This book will get you started with PhotoShop, the software we use throughout the course to develop and work with visual images. ISBN: 0201353520

Optional texts: though not required, students may find some of the books listed below to be helpful in their work in this course.

The Little Mac Book, by Robin Williams, published by Peachpit Press. This book provides a beginner’s introduction to the basic operation of the computer and its operating system. The instructions in this book take you keystroke-by-mouseclick through the basics of the Apple Macintosh computers that we use every day in the course. ISBN 0201354330.

The Non-Designer’s Design Book, by Robin Williams, published by Peachpit Press. This book introduces key design and typographic principles that will be useful throughout the course, as we aim to make all of our works visually appealing and easy to understand. ISBN 1-56609-159-4.

The Non-Designer's Web Book : An Easy Guide to Creating, Designing, and Posting Your Own Web Site, by Robin Williams, John Tollett (Contributor), published by Peachpit Press. Similar to the book described above, but for web pages. ISBN: 020168859X

Project storage:
You are responsible to save and store all of your work in this course, on your own Zip disks and videotape. You cannot store your files on the hard disk of the computer, because other students share this same workstation. You will need to purchase at least two Zip disks, and one Hi-8 videotape, and bring them with you to class.

Course Topics

We tackle a new topic each week. Each topic in most cases begins with a talk and demonstration, followed by discussion and hands-on work. Each topic includes a substantial hands-on homework assignment that is completed in in the Multimedia Lab during student work hours. The assignment is due by the following Monday at noon.

1. Introduction to the Course, September 6.
The ideas Communication technologies in history.
The expectations Purpose, topics and requirements.
The computers What they can do, how they work.
Basic software tools. Introduction to Word.

Optional Readings:
The Little Mac Book, Chapters 1-10.

Assignment: Create a multimedia document that communicates who you are, and why.

2. The Idea, September 13.
Acquiring Information Online data, internet, networks, servers.
Searching the Web Using Web directories and search engines.
Designing a project Choosing a theme from your studies.
Print communication Composing an effective client proposal.

Optional Readings:
The Little Mac Book, Chapters 11-19.
The Mac is Not a Typewriter,
Chapters 1-13.

Assignment: Compose, edit, and publish a comprehensive proposal to design communications for your client.

3. The Word,
September 20.
Typography Faces, fonts, forms, readability, impact
Document Styles Page design, report planning.
Layout & Design Desktop publishing tools.

Office 98 for Macintosh, section on Word.
The Little Mac Book, Chapters 20-33.
The Non-Designer’s Design Book, Chapters 1-9.

Assignment: Compose and publish a report, brochure, or newsletter for your client.

4. The Number, September 27.
Organizing quantitative info Spreadsheet planning and layout.
Analyzing data Math and statistics spreadsheet tools.
Graphing Chart and graphing tools in Excel.

Office 98 for Macintosh, section on Excel.

Assignment: Complete a spreadsheet for your client, with mathematical formulae and graphs. Acquire images for next week’s class.

5. The Image, week of October 4.
Acquiring digital images Drawing, scanning, and digital photography.
Editing digital images PhotoShop techniques, compression.

PhotoShop for Macintosh, Chapters 1-6.

Assignment: prepare a collection of at least ten images from several different sources, that help communicate your client’s ideas. Bring these images to next week’s class.

6. The Image (continued), October 11.
Manipulating images More Photoshop techniques.
Sizing images. Changing resolution and file format.
Presenting images Developing a slide show with PowerPoint.

Office 98 for Macintosh, section on PowerPoint

Assignment: Create a slide show of images relevant to the communication needs of your client.
Acquire music CD’s for next class.

7. The Sound, October 18.
Acquiring voice, music, sound Recording, copying, saving, formatting.
Editing sound files Using SoundEdit tools
Embedding and presenting Putting sounds into other programs.


Assignment: Create a 30-second radio spot relevant to the needs of your client. Acquire video for next class.

8. The Video, October 25.
Acquiring video material Planning, composing and shooting video.
Editing and assembling video Using digital video-editing tools.

Assignment: Shoot several digital video clips relevant to your client’s ideas, from live sources. Bring these to class on a Zip disk next week.

9. The Video (continued), November 1.
Editing digital video. More digital video editing techniques.
Digital video effects. Titles, transitions, audio effects.
Presenting and embedding Putting video clips into presentations.

Assignment: Create and publish a 30-second video for your client. Due next Monday, March 27.

10. Interactivity,
November 8.
User Control Using PowerPoint tools for user interaction.
Navigation Tools to navigate through information.
Importing multimedia elementsUsing PowerPoint software.
Building interactivity Jumps and animation.

The Non-Designer’s Design Book, Chapters 10-12.
Not a Typewriter, Chapters 14-19.

Assignment: Develop an interactive multimedia presentation for your client.

11. Internet Publishing, November 15.
Web Design Designing for the internet.
Hypertext Build a web site.

Assignment: Develop an interactive multimedia web site for your client.

12. Project Workshop, November 29.
Coaching Hands-on assistance last two projects.
Special Topics Hints and tips for interactivity and design.

Readings: None.

Assignment: By December 6, your interactive project must ready in beta form to show to fellow class members. All projects are due by December 15.

14. Project Presentations, December 6.
Present your interactive project or web site projects to classmates for review.

Regarding plagiarism:
Plagiarism is the act of representing someone else's creative and/or academic work as your own, in full or in part. It can be an act of commission, in which one intentionally appropriates the words, pictures or ideas of another, or it can be an act of omission, in which one fails to acknowledge/document/give credit to the source, creator and/or the copyright owner of those works, pictures or ideas. Any fabrication of materials, quotes or sources, other than that created in a work of fiction, is also plagiarism. Plagiarism is the most serious academic offense that you can commit and can result in probation, suspension or expulsion.