About the class


In its early days the Internet was seen as a repository of data, a “giant library” to be consulted by information seekers, or a “shop window” where individuals and organizations could put themselves on display for passive “browsing.” The online world has since undergone a massive transformation, metamorphosing into an interactive environment where people engage in dynamic, ongoing conversations and actively produce as well as consume content in every imaginable form. Meanwhile, traditional media are also experiencing profound upheaval, as they seek to reinvent themselves and their role in culture and society. Effective consumption, production, and participation in today’s tumultuous media environment requires not only familiarity with the various social tools available, but also understanding and critical reflection on the roles these tools play in shaping public discourse. The purpose of this course is to equip students with the knowledge, critical thinking ability, and practical skills they will need to meet the personal, professional, and civic challenges posed by social media, today and in the future.


This course will introduce students to the contexts and forms of social media. What are social media, who uses them, who gains from them, and how are they transforming the media landscape and the way we inhabit the world? Students will become familiar with a range of social media tools, analyze and discuss their uses and implications, and develop what media scholar Trebor Scholz calls “participation literacy.” They will have the opportunity to explore both theory and practice of social media through writing assignments, applied tasks, and a course project.

Required readings

Readings for this course will include books, online sources, and articles. Most of the latter will be posted here or on Blackboard, although students will also be expected to follow the #MCO494 hashtag on Twitter for new items that might be topical and relevant from week to week. Students will be expected to read the following books as assigned:

  • The Cluetrain Manifesto: 10th Anniversary Edition, by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger, Jake McKee (Basic Books, 2009) (CT)
  • Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, by Henry Jenkins (NYU Press, 2008) (CC)
  • The Future of the Internet–and How to Stop It, by Jonathan Zittrain (Yale University Press, 2009) (TFI)

Some readings are marked as “recommended”: these will enhance understanding of the concepts addressed, but will not be included in quizzes or be necessary to complete assignments. However, all recommended readings are required for students taking the course for graduate credit.

Readings form the core of the course material, and you will be expected to have completed the assigned readings before class each week. Lectures and class discussions are not intended to summarize the readings, but to build on and enhance them. Just because material is not directly addressed in class doesn’t mean that it’s not an important part of the course. Quizzes and assignments may cover material that is not directly mentioned in course lectures, as well as lecture content that is not included in the readings. If you have any questions about the readings, you can ask them in class, during office hours, over email, or via Twitter using the #MCO494 hashtag.