SOC 167 is an elective undergraduate course in UC-Berkeley's Sociology Department, providing a wide overview to how classic concepts in the social sciences play out in social media and virtual communities. I was the instructor of record, responsible for designing the course syllabus, designing all assignments and exams, giving all lectures, and supervising one teaching assistant who helped with grading.
Syllabus for Sociology 167: Sociology of Social Media and Virtual Communities
UC-Berkeley, Summer 2014 Session I
Instructor: R. Stuart Geiger
Classroom: Wheeler 213
Office hours: 2-4pm Wednesdays, South Hall first floor atrium
Course reader: all readings available for download online via bCourses
GSI: Steven Lauterwasser (no office hours)
Final exam: In class, July 2nd
Social media and virtual communities raise a number of important and relevant questions for contemporary societies. In this course, we will be exploring the role of media technologies and institutions in society as well as the role of media in the constitution of community across time and space. However, this course does not assume that social media and virtual communities are necessarily a contemporary, Internet-based phenomenon: from cave paintings to Snapchat and from the Royal Society to Wikipedia, all media are in some way social and all communities are in some way virtual. Furthermore, as Marshall McLuhan noted, 'new' media are rarely ever purely new; rather, they often serve as a new container for old media forms and practices. We will pay close attention to new and old media technologies, institutions, practices, norms, identities, social groups, discourses, ideologies, and publics.
Each new or old medium we will study is interesting and relevant in its own right, but we will also be using them as cases to help us explore a wide variety of issues about how societies operate. Is there something fundamentally and uniquely different about the role the Internet plays in contemporary societies? How did the postal service, the newspaper, and the telephone – which connected and continue to connect communities, countries, and continents – transform and disrupt social life then and now? What can we learn about the promises and perils of today's popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and reddit, which are being similarly praised and blamed for their impact on our societies today? What can we learn about identity, family, gender, religion, inequality, knowledge, work, power, agency, institutions, or other classic issues in sociology through studying new and old media forms?
In this course, you will not just study social media and virtual communities by reading academic texts about them. We will be actively using social media and participating in virtual communities in class and outside of class, and then reflecting on our experiences together. This participation will require using a computer with Internet access, and while you do not *need* to bring a laptop to class, it will be helpful. You will also need to purchase materials including paper, envelopes, postcards, and stamps, costing no more than $15 total. You do not need to have any previous experience with social media and virtual communities as they are typically defined (i.e. Internet-based social media sites).
As this is a summer session, we have to fit a full semester into just 6 weeks, so the average workload is much higher than a normal semester course. This is a four-unit course, and this course's workload assumes that for every hour of lecture, you will need to spend 1-2 hours outside of class reading, reflecting, using social media, and completing assignments. As this course meets for four hours at a time, each class will be split into four sections with a 10-minute break after the first and third hours, and a 20 minute break after the second hour. There will be a participation component for at least one of the four hours of every class, to break up the lectures.
If you need any particular accommodations to participate in this class, please contact me directly or through the DSP program (dsp.berkeley.edu), and we will work out the necessary arrangements. Please notify me in writing by the second week about any extracurricular conflicts (such as religious observances, graduate or medical school interviews, or team activities).
In-class attendance and participation in activities: 15%
Attendance is mandatory for the entire 4 hours of class, twice a week. We have 45 hours of class throughout the semester, and you are allowed to miss 4 hours of class without this automatically affecting your participation grade. Since we will be doing many activities in class, missing these activities will also make it difficult to complete other assignments and exams.
Written reflections on social media use: 10% each * 4 (drop lowest reflection) = 30%
These reflections are 450-550 words each (the word limit is strict!) and are based on connecting your use of social media in class to the readings and theories from class. Due dates are listed in the syllabus. Specific prompts and direction will be given in class and on the bCourses website 1 week before each reflection is due.
In-class pop quizzes, based on the readings: 5% each * 5 (drop lowest quiz) = 20%
These will be mainly multiple choice or very short answer (a few phrases) and will test whether you have come to class having read the material. They will not require that you will have fully understood the theoretical lessons. If you miss class or come late, you will get a zero – there are no makeups. You will not know which days you will be quizzed.
Final exam: 35%
The final exam will be held the last day of class (July 2nd). It will be a mix of multiple choice, short answer, and one essay question. Questions will be drawn from the readings, the lectures, and reflections on your own social media use throughout this class.
** Grading scale:**
The grading scale is as follows:
A+ (97+] A (93-97) A- (90-93) B+ (87-90) B (83-87) B- (80-83)
C+ (77-80) C (73-77) C- (70-73) D+ (67-70) D (63-67) D- (60-63)
I will use the Assignments tool on the course's bcourses website to communicate the scores on your assignments to you. This will provide a record of your progress throughout the term.
I do not accept incompletes or late assignments unless discussed with me before the deadline, or in cases of medical or family emergencies. I drop the lowest grade for both written assignments and pop quizzes to give everyone a free "no questions asked" accommodation – please use these carefully.
Academic integrity, plagiarism, cheating, and the honor code
Collaboration and Independence: Reviewing lecture and reading materials and studying for exams can be enjoyable and enriching things to do together with one's fellow students. We recommend this. However, homework and writing assignments should be completed independently and should be the result of one's own independent work.
Cheating: Quizzes and exams are closed book, closed note, closed device. Anyone caught cheating on a quiz or exam will receive a failing grade and will be reported to the University Office of Student Conduct. In order to guarantee that you are not suspected of cheating, please keep your eyes on your own materials and do not chat or text during the quizzes and exams.
Plagiarism/Self-plagiarism: You must be original in composing the writing assignments in this class. To copy text or ideas from another source (including your own previously, or concurrently, submitted course work) without appropriate reference is plagiarism and will result in a failing grade for your assignment and usually further disciplinary action. For additional information on plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and how to avoid it, see, for example: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/instruct/guides/citations.html#Plagiarism
Schedule of Lectures, Readings, and Assignments
May 28th: Introduction to the class
Turkle, Sherry. 2012. "The Flight from Conversation." The New York Times. April 21.
Jurgenson, Nathan. 2012. "The IRL Fetish." The New Inquiry. June 28.
June 2nd: Media and Societal Change
Williams, Raymond. 1975. Television: Technology and Cultural Form. p. 9-31, 119-134
Shapin, Steven. 2007. " What Else Is New?" The New Yorker, May 14.
The Buggles. 1979. "Video Killed the Radio Star."
- Tkacz, Nathaniel. 2013. "Open Sesame." Aeon. January 28.
- Building a collaborative Spotify playlist for songs about social media and virtual communities.
June 4th: Community Mediations / Mediated Communities (part 1)
- Shapin, Steven. 1984. " Pump and Circumstance: Robert Boyle's Literary Technology ." Social Studies of Science 14(4), p. 481-520
- Postcrossing: an online community based on sending postcards to others. Bring 5 postcards, a pen/pencil, and five international postcard stamps (5 global forever stamps, or 5 * $1.15 in stamps)
June 6th: Social media reflection 1 due at 5pm
June 9th: Community Mediations / Mediated Communities (part 2)
Anderson, Benedict. 1984. Imagined Communities, p. 48-59.
boyd, danah. 2010. "Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications." In Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (ed. Zizi Papacharissi), pp. 39-58.
Lessig, Lawrence. 2006. Code 2.0, p. 83-110.
- Turner, Fred. 2005. " Where the Counterculture Met the New Economy: The WELL and the Origins of Virtual Community." Technology and Culture. 46. p. 485-512.
June 11th: Identity
Fischer, Claude. 1988. "'Touch Someone': The Telephone Industry Discovers Sociability." Technology and Culture, 29(1), pp. 32-61.
Brubaker, Jed and Gillian Hayes. 2013. "SELECT * FROM USER: Infrastructure and Socio-Technical Representation." In Proceedings of CSCW 2013. p. 369-378.
- Wallace, David Foster. 1996. "On Videophony."Infinite Jest. p. 144-151.
June 13th: Social media reflection 2 due at 5pm
June 16th: Inequality
Bennet, Lance and Segerberg, Alexandra. 2012. " The Logic of Connective Action: Digital Media and the Personalization of Contentious Politics." Information, Communication & Society. 15/5.
Schradie, Jen. 2011. " The digital production gap: The digital divide and Web 2.0 collide." Poetics 39(2):145–68.
- Thompson, E.P. 1967. "Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism."Past & Present38 (Dec): 56-97.
- Exploring Pew Research Center surveys on technology use, then designing our own survey.
June 18th: Life
Alice Marwick & danah boyd. 2014. The Drama! Teen Conflict, Gossip, and Bullying in Networked Publics. Journal of Youth Studies.
Brubaker, Jed, Gillian Hayes, and Paul Dourish. 2013. "Beyond the Grave: Facebook as a Sitefor the Expansion of Death and Mourning."The Information Society 29. p. 152–163
- Bell, Genevieve. 2006. "No More SMS from Jesus: Ubicomp, Religion and Techno-spiritual Practices" Proceedings of Ubicomp 2006. p. 141-158.
June 20th: Social media reflection 2 due at 5pm
June 23rd: Practice and Record
Goodwin, Charles. 1994. "Professional Vision" American Anthropologist 96(3). p. 606-633.
Geiger, R.Stuart and Ribes, David. 2010. "The Work of Sustaining Order in Wikipedia: The Banning of a Vandal."Proceedings of CSCW 2010. p. 117-126.
- Berg, Marc. 1996. "Practices of reading and writing: the constitutive role of the patient record in medical work." Sociology of Health and Illness 18(4). p. 499-524.
Galaxyzoo: participating in a citizen science project, helping scientists analyze data
June 25rd: Place
Vertesi, Janet. 2008. "Mind the Gap: The London Underground Map and Users' Representations of Urban Space." Social Studies of Science 38(1). p. 7-33.
Kittler, Friedrich and Matthew Griffin. "The City is a Medium." New Literary History 27(4). p. 717-729
Cash, Johnny. 1968. "Send a Picture of Mother"
- Burrell, Jenna. "Youth and the Indeterminate Space of the Internet Cafe" In Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana. p 29-53.
- Media in the city walking tour
June 27th: Social media reflection 3 due at 5pm
June 30th:** Trace and Code**
Madrigal, Alexis. 2014. "How Netflix Reverse-Engineered Hollywood."The Atlantic.
Garber, Megan. 2014. "Our Numbered Days: The Evolution of the Area Code."The Atlantic.
- Review session for final exam
Deleuze, Gilles. 1992. "Postscript on the Societies of Control." October 59. p. 3-7.
Gerlitz, Carolin and Anne Helmond. 2013. "The Like Economy: Social Buttons and the Data-Intensive Web." New Media & Society 15(8). p. 1348-1365.
Geiger, R.Stuart. " The Lives of Bots." Wikipedia: A Critical Point of View. p.78-93.
July 2nd: In-class final exam