New courses prepare UT-Austin students for digital age — and apocalypse

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Among the new courses offered this semester, many are related to technology and innovation in the digital world — and there’s even a new course about the end of the world.

Two new courses, currently wait-listed, are Music/Technology/Culture and Capstone Projects in Journalism. Two other new courses with open seats remaining as of press time, according to the course schedule, are Digital Ethics and Arguing End of the World.

Digital Ethics, CMS 332D, is a course exploring ethical issues in the use of digital and online media, and has the ethics and leadership flag.

“(The course) covers topics such as the ethics of hacking, fake news, anonymous operations, online privacy, blogging ethics, online shaming and activism, revenge pornography, the ethics of memes and trolling … and online free speech,” associate professor Scott Stroud said in an email. “Throughout all of these topics, I stress the point that issues are ethical issues when there is a real conflict between important values. These conflicts don’t allow for easy answers, but we can be more or less reflective about the issues involved and why we argue for what we believe is the right answer.”

Music/Technology/Culture, AET 308, is a course exploring the impact and social-cultural relationship of music technology — such as auto-tune or Western music techniques — that students are exposed to and the effects of those technologies. The course satisfies the visual and performing arts core requirement and will be virtually co-taught with a professor in Sweden.

Capstone Projects in Journalism, J 363F, allows journalism students to create special projects showcasing their interests on different journalistic platforms and even pitch some of their projects to be used by news outlets such as the Austin American-Statesman, KXAN, KVUE or the Dallas Morning News.

“I’ve been wanting to teach this course for a couple of years,” said Robert Quigley, innovation director and senior lecturer. “I’ve been doing test kitchens and now this is the real class. My goal is for students to have the ability to dream up an idea and shepherd it to fruition. Years down the road, I would like to see students solving problems for the media in the real world.”

Another new course being offered is Arguing End of the World, CMS 347E. 

“We want to understand why people are persuaded that the world is about to end,” said Barry Brummett, communication studies chair and professor. 

The course was offered last year as a variable topics course but received an official course number this semester.

Brummett said the course will explore different end-of-the-world scenarios, including those involving religious, economic or environmental reasons as well as those relating potential pandemics and even the zombie apocalypse. 

“I find it fascinating that some people will make major changes and commitments in their life, expecting the world is about to end,” Brummett said. “People make commitments preparing for the end.”

Brummett said he has long been interested in the topic of the end of the world and has taught a similar course at other schools.

“The world is eventually going to end for many different reasons,” Brummett said. “We want to know why.”