Case Study Guidelines


Roughly every other Friday a small group of students will lead the rest of the class through a role-playing case study focused on some slice of digital culture. The group will prepare scenarios inspired by a real life examples and assign roles for students. The precise topic of a group’s case study is up to that group, although the case study should resonate with the broader topic of that week or section of the course. In addition to putting together the case study as a group, each individual in the group will write their own analysis of the case study and how it played out in class. Your case study report is worth 20% of your final grade.

The general procedure for the Case Study is the following:

  1. Students form groups by committing to dates on Doodle or Moodle.
  2. Groups meet to come up with a case study topic. This may involve some initial research to determine what angles have the most promise.
  3. On their own, students conduct research about the topic. Find news articles, reports, interviews, and other material that explores the topic from multiple perspectives.
  4. The group comes up with a case study format and assembles the necessary resources.
  5. On the day of the case study, the group manages class for the day. The case study report is due prior to class.
  6. Within 5 days of the case study date, each student submits an addendum to their report that analyzes how the case study played out in class. Think of this as a postmortem of the case study.
Criteria for the Case Study
  • The topic must be related to that section of the course. A few topics are off limits: cryptocurrency, blockchain, and the singularity. Why? Because none of them have much of a chance of affecting your daily life or that of the generation following you.
  • The topic should be inspired by actual events, though scenarios can be exaggerated, satirical, or fictionalized.
  • The case study must involve multiple, competing perspectives. These perspectives should be embodied in the different roles you create for the class. Be sure to consider the philosophical and ethical dilemmas your topic raises.
  • The in-class portion should be tightly organized and managed. This includes your preparation, the readiness of any required materials, the timing, and overall facilitation of the case study.
  • The case study format should be creative and conducive to discussion and deliberation. No quiz shows or games. I will literally die if your case study takes the format of Jeopardy. The best scenarios simulate high stakes situations, such as jury rooms, demonstrations, operating rooms, border control, etc.
Individual Report

Every student will submit an individual case study report to Moodle prior to the class that the case study runs. There are several components to the report:

  1. An annotated bibliography of 5 news articles, reports, interviews, or other authoritative material that inspired the case study. Each item in the bibliography should consist of a proper citation in APA, Chicago, or MLA style, followed by a 100-200 word paragraph that summarizes the source, includes your own response to the source, and poses some questions that come to mind about the source. At least 3 of these sources should be unique to you and not used by other members of your group.
  2. Your own introduction to the topic. Consider how your group settled on this topic and how it relates to the themes of the course. What makes the topic so compelling? (250-500 words)
  3. An analysis of key conflicts and dilemmas surrounding the topic. Put most broadly, what’s at stake, and for whom? DIG 101 is rooted in the humanities, which means we’re less concerned with specific policies, laws, or regulations, and more concerned with the wider cultural impact and meaning of technology. Don’t think about your topic as a policymaker or tech startup might. Think about it from the perspective of an innocent bystander, or even from the perspective of a casualty of technology. To give you traction, I strongly suggest reading Michael Sacasas’s “Do Artifacts Have Ethics?”—in which Sacasas raises 41 questions we ought to ask about technology. (1000-1500 words)

You’ll submit the case study report as a Google Doc. Be sure to share it with my Davidson email account and also submit a working link to Moodle.


Following the enactment of the case study in class, you’ll write a postmortem analysis of the case study. Consider what worked and what didn’t. In what ways were you pleased with what the class did with their roles? In what ways were you disappointed? What moments stood out to you? What do you wish your group had emphasized better? What issues did the class miss? What legitimate issues did they bring up that you hadn’t thought of? (500 words)

You’ll submit the addendum as a separate Google Doc. Be sure to share it with my Davidson email account and also submit a working link to Moodle.


Three components determine your overall grade for the case study:

  1. The case study report (70%)
  2. The in-class portion of the case study (15%)
  3. The postmortem addendum (15%)
  • Friday, September 28 on some aspect of social media
  • Friday, October 5 on some aspect of on data or algorithms
  • Friday, October 12 on some aspect of algorithms or machine learning
  • Friday, October 19 on some aspect of AI
  • Friday, October 26 on some aspect of Internet conspiracies
  • Friday, November 9 on some aspect of life online
  • Friday, November 16 on some aspect of life online
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