ICS 234C: Computing and Cyberspace

Winter 2004

Tu Th, 5:00-6:20pm, CS 253


The goal of this class is to explore aspects of emerging and contemporary cultural practices based around "cyberspace" broadly construed -- the Internet, digital culture, digital wireless technologies, etc.

In particular, we will focus on blogging in its various forms. Blogging itself is a pretty broad topic. Blogs can be public or personal, individual or corporate, wired or wireless, textual or imagine-based; they can contain original content or filter other information, they can be general or specified, long-term or short-term, etc. In fact, the question of whether "blogging" holds together as a category is one that we're probably going to have to deal with, as well as whether it should be defined in terms of technologies or of practices.

We're going to take a multidisciplinary approach. Technology and practice co-evolve; I don't want to privelege one over the other here. So, understand then opportunities and limts of technology is critical to understanding practice, and vice versa. None the less, I want to keep focused on the big picture -- what's going on with these new forms of practice, how do they relate to our ideas of community, what kinds of models and assumptions are built into the technology, and what kinds of changes to the technologies allow?

Blogging is a relatively recent phenomenon; so far, it has received little academic attention (or at least, there are very few serious publications.) So, we'll need to look a good deal at the background; at other forms of computer-mediated communication, and the issues of identity, community, presentation, etc. that they involve.


The majority of the quarter is going to be spent in project work. My plan is that the class will meet at the scheduled times for the first four or five weeks, to develop a shared understanding of the broad topics. After that, we'll meet less often, or in smaller groups, as the projects develop.


70% of your class grade will come from the final paper that arises from your project work. Unless otherwise arranged, this paper should be around 5000-6000 words, on a topic that we have agreed by around week four or so. Drafts are due in week 7; I'll give you back comments, but won't be grading them, so don't worry if they're rough; use this as an opportunity for mid-course corrections. The final papers for grading are due at the end of week 10.

20% of your grade will come from paper summaries. Each week that the class meets, you should produce one- to two-page (roughly 500-1000 words) summaries of two papers discussed that week (only one paper in weeks when we only have one discussion session, such as the first week.) The goal of your summary is (1) to summarise the content of the paper (around 70%) and (2) to critically discuss it, place it into the context of the other readings, and evaluate its argument. Summaries from each week are due on the Thursday of the following week. Note that I've changed this; see the class blog for the new procedures, as discussed in class.

10% of your grade will be based on your participation in class discussions.



Blogs and Blogging

Rhetoric of Cyberspace

New Media Practices

Identity and Presentation

Genre Analysis in Computer-Mediated Communication

Virtual Communities