Course Outline at a Glance

Week 1: Orientation (September 3)

A general introduction to the course and its expectations, and an introduction to the idea of “personal cyberinfrastructure.” There are no tutorial sessions in the first week.

Week 2: Public Spheres and Your Personal Cyberinfrastructure (September 10)

What is personal cyberinfrastructure, and why should you care? What is your current cyberinfrastructure, how do you use it, and how does it use you? What do we take for granted in how the Internet works? What can we imagine differently?

Week 3: The Online Self (September 17)

Who are you? How would we know? What is your “voice”? Do you recognize it? Would others recognize it? What does the “publication of self” mean? When we put things out into the world, when we write in public, who is it for? Are you a different “self” in different contexts, environments, platforms?

Week 4: Designing Yourself (September 24)

What shapes your experience of a text? The words themselves are only a part. The context, format, provenance, and design are also key. How has the publisher shaped how you encounter it, both as a first impression and as a deeper engagement? We discuss design theory, publication design, and interaction design as well as some basic development methods.

Week 5: Publics/Digital Publics (October 1)

What is a public? Where do we get our ideas about what publics can or should be? How do you find, engage and grow your public? Expanding on Matt’s experience, we will look at how your online self can build out your own public.

Week 6: Confirmation Bias  (October 8)

The rise of digital media has arguably meant a democratization to allow more voices to be heard. It has also created opportunities for abuse and digital assassination. In the past year we have witnessed a sharp rise in “false news”, echo chambers, and the number of people who now get their “news” from social media platforms such as Facebook. This week we look more closely at the ramifications. In the second half of class, we will begin the discussion on monetizing your content.

Week 7: Publishers/Authors/Texts + Copyright (October 15)

What is text? A thing you read, right? What is an author? Is text what an author writes? Dig into these questions, and it gets complicated. Furthermore, who owns it? Who owns the press, the means of production? How has the digital shifted our understanding of intellectual property in favour of openness? How does Copyright play out in a culture of sharing, remixing, and repurposing? What is a publisher? How has digital media changed these structures? How do publishers create a unique presence in an increasingly crowded world of published content?

Week 8: Marketing, Audience, & Analytics  (October 22)

The Internet can be seen as a mass of overlapping audiences or niches; that’s different from the older “mass media” model of the broadcast paradigm. Online communication seems to be more collaborative and participatory than print media ever was. Is there a difference between audiences and markets? What about a difference between who you think your audience is and who your audience actually is? We will discuss tracking of your audience, monetization of your content, and your own participation in tracked and monetized platforms.

Week 9: The Global Picture (October 29)

What is the size of the world? What is the nature of audiences today? We look at some global-scale numbers and trends, via Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends slide deck. We also explore some of ways in which the Internet makes the world a smaller place, and some of the ways in which distances remain. We will also talk about some aspects of the web (walled gardens, dark and deep web, etc.) with which you might not be familiar – and why.

Week 10: Multiple Channels, Multiple Media (November 5)

How do people read online? How do different channels reinforce each other? A key strategy for reaching audiences today is to “be in all places.” But is this effective? You’ll be introduced to the ideas of transmedia, intermediality, intertextuality, and the relationship between your web presence and the broader world of participatory media.

Week 11: Editing & Genres (November 12)

What does an editor do? How is that different from a writer? The editorial role developed enormously through the twentieth century, but has become less clear in the age of massively multiplayer online publishing. The functions, virtues, and value of the editor have not gone away, however. An introduction to genres and their place within Bourdieu’s field, with a focus on how understanding of genre will help you to better understand your audience.

Week 12: Moderating your Commentariat (November 19)

We’ve all heard the joke “never read the comments,” but where did the commonplace understanding of comments sections as terrible come from? And if they’re terrible, why do so many sites have comments sections anyway? We’ll discuss online abuse and harassment, the relationship between comment guidelines and online community formation, and strategies for moderating your own comments sections.

Week 13:  The Online Self Redux  + Potluck (November 26)

This course has been about the publication of self; but what about our private, domestic, inner selves? Where do they exist in a pervasively networked world? Are these facets of human experience threatened? And how exactly does that play out along the lines of gender, class, race? Does privacy even matter anymore? Anonymity?