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COM 242: New Communication Technologies & Moral Panic

About This Guide

Three images of men with telephones at various stages in history

Welcome to the COM 242 New Communication Technologies & Moral Panic Research Guide!

The purpose of this guide is to provide information and resources on researching for the assignments in the COM 242 course.

For questions on the guide, please contact librarian, Abby Schleifer at For questions about researching for this assignment, contact Abby Schleifer or cehck out the Getting Help tab on the left for information on contacting a librarian. 

About The Assignment

Visit your syllabus and course information for the specific assignment information. Below are basic research requirements to guide your searching.

Target with arrow in the bullseye spot  Goals of assignment:

  • To allow you to use your knowledge of past communications revolutions and controversies in order to engage critically with contemporary discourses about digital media and its effects.

Lightbulb with exclamation point in the cetner   Topics:

  • Choose one “old” communication technology (e.g. the telegraph, the telephone, the phonograph, radio, film, comics or television) and compare how the concerns about this technology are similar to or different from present day concerns about some aspect or form of “new” media (e.g. smartphones, social media, digital games, video streaming services). Specifically, your paper should focus on the dominant discourses that shape our understanding of technology.
  • How are the specific headlines, stories, and images once used to frame these “old” technologies similar to and/or different from the headlines, stories, and images used to frame digital media? Are there common social and cultural issues (e.g. class, gender, youth, violence) underlying these concerns about communication technologies and their effects?

Computer screen with paper and folder popping out   Sources to use:

  • For the purpose of this assignment, news articles are considered a primary source (the goal of the assignment is to collect materials that show us how people reacted to old technologies when they were new).
    • Cite at least three (3) primary sources demonstrating concerns about the new technology. 
    • Use at least two primary sources that we have not encountered in class to demonstrate some of the concerns about the old technology.
    • You are expected to supplement these primary texts with secondary sources, such as books, journal articles and materials from class that help to place these primary sources in context.
    • For example, students are encouraged to find newspaper articles from the late 1800s that demonstrate fears about the impact of the telegraph or telephone.
  • Examples of primary sources you may wish to draw upon include (but are not limited to):
    • News articles, magazine articles, radio programs produced at the time when these old technologies were new
    • Government Reports and Congressional Hearings
    • Books written at the time when old technologies were new
    • Speeches and Oral Histories
    • Internet Discussion Boards (will apply only to the new technology)

(Icons from Freepik & geotatah on