Course Description: Digital Cultures and Social Media

Although I still need to work out the full reading schedule, I wrote up a brief description of my spring graduate seminar. The generic course name is English 654: Advanced Studies in Rhetoric, Writing, Technology, and Culture. My subtitle is Digital Cultures and Social Media.

I have to say thanks to colleagues who have been very open about publishing their syllabi online. I know that doing so has come a questionable activity–both professionally and legally–but given this area of study, I treat that activity seriously. Therefore I thank Howard Rheingold for sharing his Virtual Communities syllabus and course materials so that all of us can share in his (and his students’) expertise. His course has an anchor in sociology, however, so mine will vary considerably from his. Instead, we will focus on what Henry Jenkins calls “applied humanism,” a term used to describe the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, where I was a postdoctoral fellow the past two years.

And so, here is what the course is about. I decided not to go the traditional route of listing a string of authors’ names (especially since I’m a long way off from finalizing that list) and instead landed on a series of keywords. Since the course is trans-disciplinary, these keywords are probably more helpful to potential students than authors’ names are, anyway. I hope that’s helpful.

How does meaning-making happen in and around the contexts of contemporary social media? In what ways are affinities for these media enabling us to think differently about what it means to read, write, and participate? While much has been made about both media consumption and production, we have yet to understand what it means to participate in situated digital cultures.

This course is a fair split between both thinking about and using social and digital media. Students will be expected to keep up with a theory-rich reading schedule as well as rapidly-moving immersion in several media tools. So while this is a theory-based seminar, students must be prepared to work toward fluency in, for example, microblogging, commenting, tagging, and remixing. The goal is not just production but participation within a variety of contexts. In other words, it is not enough to know how to edit an entry on Wikipedia; we need to learn about and understand the Wikipedia community and what our edits mean within that context.

Although most readings will be freely available online, there are four print texts required for the course: Stephen Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good for You; Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture; Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel’s Digital Literacies; and Annette Markham and Nancy Baym’s Internet Inquiry. We will also engage with theoretical texts and empirical studies from scholars in communications, journalism, media studies, engineering, law, psychology, sociology, and the learning sciences. Please email the instructor for a link to the full list of authors.

Keywords for this course: wiki; blog; twitter; flickr; file-sharing; creative commons; free culture; fans; participatory culture; SMS; tagging; virtual worlds; videogames; grassroots media; play; identity; networks; smart mobs; LOLcats; xkcd; 4chan; Facebook; MySpace;; memes; YouTube.

4 responses to “Course Description: Digital Cultures and Social Media

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  2. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Internet explorer. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The design and style look great though! Hope you get the problem solved soon. Thanks

  3. Filtering the frinedly skiesSo maybe you’re tired of that one frined that posts nothing but song lyrics. Maybe it’s the one who is constantly posting political rants. Or perhaps the one who apparently does nothing but play Facebook games all day. Whatever. The point is, you’re sick of it and you want to know what to do about it.Take controlFacebook offers some degree of control as to what you see in your feed from your frineds and page likes. First of all, there’s the blunt instruments obviously, you can unfrined someone, but that’s a bit extreme and antisocial if they still post some things you want to hear about. The other blunt instrument would be the Hide option, as seen here:Why anyone would want to hide our sister site is beyond me, but this hides all updates from this frined or page from showing up in your feed, but you can still see what they have posted by going to their page. A bit imprecise, but simple and it works. Of course, you can undo this at any time.For a bit more control, go to the frined or page in question’s profile page, hover your mouse over the button that says Friends or Subscribed, and click Settings. When you’ve done that, you will see a menu that will allow you to pick what kind of updates you wish to see from this frined uncheck the ones you don’t want to see.Unfortunately, while this offers you control over what type of update you get from frineds, it doesn’t let you filter status updates by content whether it’s about what they had for dinner last night, or that [insert politician here] is the worst thing since the bubonic plague. Fortunately, there’s an option for that.Baby, pleaseBabies and kids are an ever-present topic on Facebook, and it seems there are some people out there that are just tired of hearing about the 347th cute thing Junior did this morning. Well, some computer savvy people who feel that way created the . Install the extension which works with both Chrome and Firefox and add a couple keywords to help it out, and it will happily replace all baby picture and posts with photos of cats (or whatever you want, though cats are the default).The awesome thing about is that since it works on a keyword basis, you can add any keywords you want to its filter list politics, food, type stories, whatever. While not a Facebook-supported filter, it might be worth a shot at blocking some junk without having to block the person.Mister FixerIn addition to, is another keyword-based filtering system, among other features for Facebook. Social Fixer works on Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera 11+, and Grease Monkey a few more choices than offers. Its keyword filtering also offers a bit more flexibility and control but it won’t replace the political posts with pictures of cats. Well, for some of you that’s probably okay too.GD Star Ratingloading…

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