Digital Media and Society

Computer games now rival or outstrip movies in terms of both revenue and reach; online sources have long since surpassed physical newspapers as sources of news, and estimates put email volume at 20+ times greater than postal mail (even after eliminating spam). Digital technologies, then, are a key part of the media landscape. This class will take a media-theoretic perspective on digital life and communication; that is, we will approach the questions of the meaning, use, and phenomena of digital media using tools drawn from the study of other media as social and cultural forms. We will address a range of topics including: mass communication and popular culture; tactical media, social media, and political participation; locative media; participatory culture, reuse and remix; and regulation and governance.

Note: This class was previously called "Computers and Cyberspace"; it has recently been renamed as "Digital Media and Society" to better reflect the evolution in its content. This change won't hit the catalog until next year, though.


We will meet on Tuesday and Thursday, 11:00am-12:30pm, in ICS 243.

Tuesday sessions will be primarily instructor-led lectures; Thursday sessions will be primarily student-led discussions (see below).


The format of the class is very interactive, and much of our understandings of the material will evolve in conversation and dialogue. The discussion sessions, then, are extremely important. We’ll have a discussion every week, usually in a separate designated slot.

When we have a discussion scheduled (either in its own slot or in a combined lecture/discussion slot), I will assign two of you as discussion leaders. The discussion leaders have a dual role in discussions. As provocateurs, you should come armed with a set of questions for discussion. Good questions are open-ended, capture themes that cross multiple readings, and provoke analytic thinking. (By corollary, questions that are relatively closed, that focus just on one reading or another, and that focus entirely either on fact or opinion are less good.)

Everyone, whether discussion leader or not, should bring to each discussion section ONE paper copy of a reading response (2-3 pages of thoughts provoked by the readings, again with a focus on analysis rather than summary), and TWO paper copies of a few questions for discussion (one for you, and one for me).

It should go without saying that being well-versed in the readings is essential for participating in discussions (or any class session). The discussion is not intended as simply an opportunity for you to air your opinions, an occasion on which to engage in a beauty contest amongst the papers, or a forum for recounting interesting experiences you’ve had with digital media (although of course all of these are likely to come up from time to time.) Rather, we’re looking to develop, collectively, an analytic stance on the topics of the class and on the materials through which we understand them. Focus on theoretical commitments and assumptions, on historical relationships, and on links between sites, people, and ideas. Ask yourself what the authors of the papers would have to say to each other.

Finally, it is common for our discussion to touch on topics that are sensitive or emotive. Please treat everyone's contributions with due consideration and respect, just as you would hope that they would do to you.


70% of your grade for this class will be based on a term paper. You will select your own term paper topic connected to the course material, subject to my approval. Term papers are due at the end of the quarter, but a topic will be due around week 4, and an initial draft or sketch of the paper around week 7, so you should start to think about potential topics as soon as the class begins (or, if you like, sooner).

30% of your grade will come from your participation in classroom discussions. This means that, while the term paper is the majority of your grade, you can’t get an A (or even a B+) with a poor participation score.

Academic Honesty

Please make sure that you are familiar with UCI’s policy on academic honesty. Since the class is evaluated primarily through a term paper, you should particularly make sure that you understand plagiarism and how to avoid it.

If you are struggling in the class, if you find the style of work unfamiliar, the schedule unworkable or the material difficult, then please talk with me about it.


Please note that this is a draft and still in progress, as you'll see; I'm continuing to put readings online so don't worry about things that aren't here yet.

The readings are stored on UCI's Webfiles service. To gain access, you will first need an activated UCINet ID, and then to register for a Webfiles account.

1/10 Media and culture

One paper that came up in discussion is Davis' That's Interesting!

1/12 Media and culture, continued (disc.)
1/17 Remediation and intermedia

Lecture audio

1/19 Discussion

Leaders: Andy and Sterling

1/24 Remix, commons production, and media rights

Lecture audio

1/26 Discussion

Leaders: Nitin and Colin

1/31 Infrastructure and architecture

Lecture audio

2/2 Discussion

Leaders: Jed and Soyoung

2/7 Politics, discourse, and tactical media

Lecture audio

2/9 Discussion

Leaders: Yiran and Michael.

One paper that came up a good deal in discussion this week and previously is Michael Warner's 2002 paper, Publics and Counterpublics (Public Culture, 14(1), 49-90.)

2/14 No class -- Paul away (CSCW conference)
2/16 Media production and informational labor (Lecture/discussion)

Discussion leaders: Steve and Sterling

2/21 Social media and online games (Lecture/discussion)

Discussion leaders: Colin and Andy

2/23 No class -- Paul away (NSF)
2/28 Race, gender, and ethnicity online

Lecture audio

3/1 Discussion

Leaders: Yiran and Jed

3/6 Spatialities and locative media

Lecture audio

3/8 Discussion

Leaders: Nitin and Steve

3/13 Studying new media and digital culture (Lecture/discussion)

Discussion leaders: Soyoung and Michael

3/15 No class -- Paul away (Mobilities conference)
3/19 Monday of exam week: Term papers due