Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Welcome to COMM 321: Communication in the Virtual Group

Hey folks, welcome to the blog for USC Annenberg's Comm 321 class: Communication in the Virtual Group. We'll be using this blog to comment on the readings and class discussions throughout the semester. To kick things off, here's a copy of the syllabus:

Marissa Gluck
Office: TBA
2:30-3:30 Thurs and by appointment

I prefer not to post my email or phone number online, but will provide this to you in class.

Course Description:
A globe-spanning web of computer networks offers millions of users the opportunity to exchange electronic mail, transfer files, search databases and retrieve information from remote libraries, take part in real-time conferences, run software on distant computers, buy products in online marketplaces, view images from galleries and museums, and participate in discussion groups on topics from autism education to yacht design. The growth of the Internet has been explosive in recent years. The number of users on these networks has been growing at a staggering pace.

The convergence of computer and communication technologies is becoming a social convergence as well. The global reach of the Internet not only facilitates communication among members of existing distributed groups and teams, but perhaps more importantly it provides a medium for the formation and cultivation of new relationships through virtually instantaneous access to thousands of potential contacts with compatible interests and spheres of expertise.

COMM 321 is designed to acquaint undergraduate students in ASC with the fundamentals of developing and distributing content for this rapidly growing medium, primarily as participants in social networking, blogs, and online video-sharing sites. Students will also consider the uses and gratifications of the Web, how such issues as commercialization, privacy, and the digital divide influence Web content, and how the Web contributes to the formation and maintenance of interpersonal relationships.

The course will meet in ASC230. All units in the Lab are connected to USCnet, providing full access to the scf, library resources, and the Internet. Students who have not yet activated their email accounts should go here ( to do so. To learn about the steps required to set up a web page at USC, go here ( These procedures will be reviewed in class to make sure that everyone has a working email account and basic web page.

Components of the Course Grade:

  1. In-class participation: 25%
  2. Online participation in a virtual community: 25%
  3. Mid-term Paper: 25%
  4. Final Term Paper: 25%

Academic Integrity Policy
School of Communication is committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and ethical support. It endorses and acts on the school policies and procedures detailed in the SCampus section titled: "University Student Conduct Code." See especially Appendix A: "Academic Dishonesty Sanction Guidelines." The policies, procedures, and guidelines will be assiduously upheld. They protect your rights, as well as those of the faculty. It is particularly important that you are aware of and avoid plagiarism, cheating on exams, fabricating data for a project, submitting the same paper to more than one professor, or submitting a paper authored by anyone but yourself. In the 321 class plagiarism is also defined as submitting a web site copied from someone else. If you have questions about any of these matters, confer with the instructor.

Academic Accommodation based on Disability
Any student requesting academic accommodation based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to the instructor as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open
8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The phone number for DSP is (213) 740-0776."

Outline of the 15 course meetings

Week 1: Introduction
Jan 11, 2007
1. A Short History of the Internet by Bruce Sterling
2. Finding One's Own Space in Cyberspace by Amy Bruckman

Week 2: Virtual Communities: Introduction
Jan 18, 2007

  • This week we will broadly review how to define community, examine the unique attributes of virtual communities, and review some of the social experiments taking place online.

1. Communities in Cyberspace by Peter Kollock and Marc Smith

2. A Slice of Life in my Virtual Community by Howard Rheingold
3. Virtual Communities: Abort, Retry, Failure? By Jan Fernback & Brad Thompson

Week 3: Virtual Communities: Rules and Regulation
Jan 25, 2007

  • This week we will examine how virtual communities work and evolve, and what are their limitations.
1. The Economies of Online Cooperation: Gifts and Public Goods in Cyberspace by Peter Kollock
2. TBA

Week 4: Virtual Identity: Race, Class and Gender
Feb 1, 2007

  • This week we will examine how users formulate and experiment with identity and self-perception online, and some of the pitfalls virtual communities encounter.

1. Gender Swapping on the Internet by Amy Bruckman
2. Self Without Body: Textual Self-Representation in an Electronic Community by Mark Giese
3. How Women and Men Use the Internet: Women are catching up to men in most measures of online life by Deborah Fallows (download pdf)

Week 5: Breaking the Fourth Wall: When Real and Virtual Communities Collide
Feb 8, 2007

  • This week we will examine how virtual and physical communities intersect, and how users deal with loss and grief on the Internet.

1. Getting real: Virtual communities that break the fourth wall by Derek M. Powazek
2. Searching for Barry Goldstein: Virtual Community -- Real Loss by Leonard Grossman
3. Community Participation and Internet Use after September 11: Complementarity in Channel Consumption
4. The Internet’s Growing Role in Life’s Major Moments by John Horrigan, Lee Rainie (download pdf)

Week 6: The Digital Divide
Feb 15, 2007

  • This week we will take a look at how social, educational, racial and cultural inequalities manifest themselves online. We will also focus on what, if anything, can be done to address these inequalities, on both a local and global scale.

1. Digital Divisions: There are clear differences among those with broadband connections, dial-up connections, and no connections at all to the internet by Susannah Fox (download pdf)
2. The Breakthrough of That Dance Video, the Future of YouTube and the Wisdom of Google by Virginia Heffernan

Week 7: The New Social Networks
Feb 22, 2007

  • This week we will address the growth of social networks, what constitutes a successful network, and why some fail where others have succeeded.
  • Midterm paper due

1. Friendster lost steam. Is MySpace just a fad? By Danah Boyd
2. Addendum: Friendster lost steam. Is MySpace just a fad? By Danah Boyd
3. Copy and Paste Literacy: Literacy Practices in the Production of a Myspace Profile by Dan Perkel

Week 8: The Privacy Paradox
March 1, 2007

  • This week we will take a look at some of the burgeoning privacy issues engendered by the rise of social networks, and the intersection of the private and public spheres.

1. A Privacy Paradox: Social Networking in the
United States by Susan B. Barnes
2. Imagined Communities: Awareness, Information Sharing and Privacy on the Facebook by Alessandro Acquisti and Ralph Gross

Week 9: Networks, power and politics
March 8, 2007

  • This week we will inspect how the Internet influences political processes, how powerful is the blogosphere in affecting political change and how can we measure its strength?

1. The new blogocracy by Danah Boyd
2. The Power and Politics of Blogs by Daniel Drezner
3. Social Media and the Networked Public Sphere by Ulises Ali Mejias
4. How can we measure the influence of the Blogosphere? by Kathy E. Gill

Week 10: Open Source and Web 2.0
March 22, 2007

  • This week we will attempt to define innovation online. Is it simply technological invention or is it dependent upon the collective knowledge and contributions of networks? How does copyright encourage or stifle innovation?

1. The Architecture of Innovation
2. What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software by Tim O’Reilly

Week 11: Copyright, Piracy and Distribution
March 29, 2007

  • This week we will address the issue of piracy and copyright in entertainment industry. How does the industry protect itself? What can be done to curtail piracy? How do consumers resist and react to the industries’ attempts to enforce copyright protections?

1. Courtney Love does the math by Courtney Love
2. Innovating Copyright by Larry Lessig
3. Second Life Will Save Copyright by Jennifer Granick,72143-0.html

Week 12: Remixing, Mashups and Participatory Culture
April 5, 2007

  • This week we will take a look at mashups and remixed cultural artifacts and examine their function as forms of aesthetic dissent. We will use mashups and remixes to understand how the traditional producer-consumer power dynamic is currently being subverted and used by consumers to react against tightening control over intellectual property.

1. Mash it up! Hearing a new musical form as an aesthetic resistance movement by
Aram Sinnreich
2. TBA

Week 13: Video Games
April 12, 2007

  • This week we will look at one of the fastest growing sectors of the entertainment industry: video games. In this class we will examine the role of video games not just as an economic commodity, but also as a cultural commodity with a unique social dynamic that is changing the way we tell stories, they way we interact with each other, and the ways in which we understand the world.

1. The Day the Grid Disappeared by Mark Wallace
2. TBA

Week 14: Advertising and Marketing, E-commerce
April 19, 2007

  • This week we will address two of the primary revenue models for the Internet: advertising and e-commerce. We will discuss how online advertising differs, if at all, from traditional advertising models, what are some of the advantages and disadvantages to advertising online, and what the future of online advertising holds. This week we will also examine ecommerce. We will attempt to understand how virtual communities intersect with online commerce, how they can help or hurt a brand, and some of the most prevalent commerce models.

1. TBA
2. TBA

Week 15: Conclusion and Review
April 26, 2007

  • Today, we will spend some time reviewing the semester’s lectures and reading assignments, in preparation for the final paper.
  • No readings

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