Course Description

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Online Communities 2,


Fall 2014

MWF  140-230p  Corboy 422

Dr. Meghan Dougherty

mdougherty at

SOC 223D

Office Hours MW 2:30-3:30p

Course Description

Technology can shape our experiences of language, reality, time, memory, and knowledge. The diffusion of innovative tools can alter the experience of daily life dramatically. We can all appreciate a sense of technology’s power as a central agent of change. The collective memory of Western culture is stocked with stories of communication revolution. Whether we tell stories about the printing press and Gutenberg’s Bible spreading literacy, or the computer described in a 1993 documentary series as “The Machine that Changed the World” our stories feature before-and-after narratives that set technology and invention at center stage.     

In this course we will investigate the ways in which new communication technologies challenge our inherited ideas about what it means to think, act, and relate to others. We will draw on examples from all eras of communication history to explore how new technologies are introduced, the consequences of adopting new technologies, the biases built into new technologies, the deterministic nature of technology, the social construction of technology, and our relationship with ourselves through technology.

Though we’ll draw on all eras of communication history for examples, we’ll focus on digital communication and new media technologies. In many ways, the descriptors ‘new’ and ‘digital’ can be both misleading and inadequate.  Which media have at some time or another not been new, and what media cannot now be recreated digitally? We will explore the implications of considering this medium as ‘new’. We will explore virtual spaces and the relations that develop there, artificial intelligence and artificial life, the role of technology and its impact on culture.

Students will leave this course having learned and applied several critical analytical perspectives, questioned society’s relationship with technology, and gained an understanding of how to be savvy consumers and producers of media.

By the end of this semester, you will be able to:

(1) Describe and analyze the ways we tell stories about digital communication technology;

(2) Explain and critique how we are shaping and are shaped by digital communication technology;

(3) Discuss how these new digital technologies are impacting our identities, our communities and our environment;

(4) Reflect on the role technology plays in your own sense of identity and community;

(5) Create artifacts that demonstrate your role as a responsible, and ethical producer/consumer of media.


Some of the technical skills you will need to complete assignments in this course will be covered during class time. No technical expertise is assumed and no prerequisites are required. You are expected to ask questions and seek out information needed to fulfill the course requirements on your own. Learning to seek out technical skills to solve new media problems is a key element in this class (and a valuable skills outside the classroom). Depending on how you build your own responses to assignments, you may need to seek out more complicated technical skills.


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