Spring 2012 / MW 12:30-1:45pm / Kimmel Center 803

Laura Portwood-Stacer, PhD


Office: East Building (239 Greene St), 3rd Floor (rm. 308)

Office Hours: M/W 2:15-3:15pm, T/TH by appointment

Teaching Assistant: Tanya A. Cornejo


Course blog:

Course Twitter Hashtag: #csmt12

My Twitter handle: @lportwoodstacer

Tanya’s Twitter handle: @mstanyacornejo


Course Description

This course will examine “social media” from a cultural perspective, with a focus on how media technologies figure in practices of everyday life and in the construction of social relationships and identities. We will work from an expansive definition of what constitutes “social media,” considering social network sites, smartphone apps, and online games, among other technologies. Questions we will consider include: What tools can we use to study the place of social media in culture? How can social media enable the formation of community? How is identity performed in/with social media? How are constructions of youth, gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality mediated through social media technologies? Can social media technologies be a vehicle for political activism? What are the commercial uses of social media? What are the ethical issues associated with social media technologies? Is it possible to refuse social media? The course itself will involve communication in social media channels in addition to the traditional seminar format, thus we will be actively participating in the phenomena under study as we go.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify and critique instances of technological determinism in popular discourse on social media technologies
  • Critically evaluate methodologies employed by studies of social media use
  • Describe social media practices among various social groups, differentiated by age, gender, race, and sexual identity, among others
  • Understand performances of identity in social media
  • Critically evaluate the potential for social media technologies to facilitate the formation of identities, communities, activist movements, and consumer markets
  • Articulate some of the ethical problems posed by emerging social media technologies
  • Apply each of the above skills and concepts to their own real-life observations of social media use


Most of the readings will be posted as PDFs or links on the course Blackboard site. You should also purchase the following book:

Baym, N. (2010). Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Requirements (and weight in course grade)

Blog Posts (16%)

Blog Responses (12%)

Class twitter feed participation (7%)

Midterm Exam (15%)

Final Exam (20%)

In-class quizzes/activities (10%)

Book Review (10%)

Attendance/Participation (10%)

Blog Posts: There are four required blog posts, which will require you to make connections between course readings/theories and your own observations/experiences of social media. Your posts should be designed to provoke responses and discussion among your classmates.

Blog Responses: After each round of blog submissions, you should read/skim over your classmates’ posts and respond to at least one of them. Your response should be substantive and thought-provoking. For instance, you may want to pose a question back to the original poster. Extra credit may be awarded for particularly generative posts/responses.

Class twitter feed participation: We will hold an ongoing conversation about our observations of social media in contemporary culture in the form of a class Twitter feed. You may either use your current Twitter username or create one specifically for this course. Tweets should be personal thoughts/insights/questions, responses to readings or lectures, and/or links to relevant material on the web, and should include the course hashtag (#csmt12). You must post at least 2 course-relevant tweets per week.


Midterm Exam: The midterm will be an in-class exam based on lectures and assigned readings from the first half of the course.

Final Exam: The final exam will be a take-home essay exam. It will be focused on lectures and assigned readings from the second half of the course, but will also require you to make connections across material from the entire term.

In-class Quizzes/Activities: From time to time we will have unannounced quizzes and activities based on the readings and lectures. Your scores on these will be averaged at the end of the semester. There will be no make-ups offered on these – you must be in class to complete them and receive credit.

Book Review: During the second half of the class you will be required to read a trade press book of your choice related to social media and marketing/business. The book review assignment will ask you to evaluate the book in light of and with reference to other course material you have read. A prompt will be distributed in class two weeks in advance of the due date.

Attendance/Participation: You are allowed 4 absences, no questions asked. After that, any absences will result in a one-percent reduction in your course grade per absence. All students are expected to actively participate in class sessions. This means coming to class prepared by having done all the readings, bringing assigned readings to class, paying attention during all lectures and screenings, asking thoughtful questions, and sharing personal insights when appropriate. Your participation grade is assessed above and beyond your attendance; just showing up to class will not earn you any participation points. Spending class time on your laptop or cell phone engaged in non-class activities will negatively affect your participation grade. You may think we don’t notice, but we do.


Course Policies

See above for grading policies related to attendance and participation.

Lateness: Lateness with assignments is generally unacceptable, as it places extra burden on us to keep track of your assignments above and beyond what we do for the other students in the class. It is also unfair to the other students, who are each making their own sacrifices and commitments in order to complete work on time. If you have a true hardship in completing an assignment on time, you must seek written approval from Prof. Portwood-Stacer, in advance of the due date, to extend the due date for a reduced grade. If you fail to turn in an assignment on the due date, and have not received approval from me, you will receive a zero on the assignment.

Email: We will make every attempt to answer emails promptly. Please allow 24 hours for us to get back to you. If you include “CSMT” in the subject line of your email that will alert me that you have a class-related issue. I encourage you to consult this syllabus and any documents distributed in class before posing redundant questions (particularly if you have been absent from class). You are much more likely to receive a response from faculty and staff when your correspondence is professional and courteous. I prefer to be addressed as Prof. or Dr. Portwood-Stacer (Prof. P-S is fine)!


I take academic integrity extremely seriously. When you turn in work that is not your own, you communicate to me that you are not serious about this course and I will adjust your grade to reflect that. If I suspect that you have submitted dishonest work, you will receive a zero for the assignment. You may also fail the course and the case may be forwarded to department and university administrators. If you have any doubts as to whether work you plan to submit violates the standards of academic integrity, please ask me in advance. It is better to have an honest question cleared up before the fact than to risk failure and disciplinary action.

All students must be familiar with the NYU Steinhardt School definition of plagiarism and the policy on academic integrity. The NYU Steinhardt Statement on Academic Integrity is available at:

The Steinhardt School defines plagiarism as follows:

Plagiarism, one of the gravest forms of academic dishonesty in university life, whether

intended or not, is academic fraud. In a community of scholars, whose members are

teaching, learning and discovering knowledge, plagiarism cannot be tolerated.

Plagiarism is failure to properly assign authorship to a paper, a document, an oral

presentation, a musical score and/or other materials, which are not your original work.

You plagiarize when, without proper attribution, you do any of the following:

Copy verbatim from a book, an article or other media;

Download documents from the Internet;

Purchase documents;

Report from other’s oral work;

Paraphrase or restate someone else’s facts, analysis and/or conclusions;

Copy directly from a classmate or allow a classmate to copy from you.


A = Excellent

This work demonstrates comprehensive and solid understanding of course material and presents thoughtful interpretations, well-focused and original insights, and well-reasoned analysis. “A’ work includes skillful use of source materials and illuminating examples and illustrations. “A” work is fluent, thorough and shows some creative flair.

B = Good

This work demonstrates a complete and accurate understanding of course material, presenting a reasonable degree of insight and broad level of analysis. Work reflects competence, but stays at a general or predictable level of understanding. Source material, along with examples and illustrations, are used appropriately. “B” work is reasonable, clear, appropriate and complete.

C = Adequate/Fair

This work demonstrates a basic understanding of course material but remains incomplete, superficial or expresses some important errors or weaknesses. Source material may be used inadequately or somewhat inappropriately. The work may lack concrete, specific examples and illustrations and may be hard to follow or vague.

D = Unsatisfactory

This work demonstrates a serious lack of understanding and fails to demonstrate the most rudimentary elements of the course assignment. Sources may be used inappropriately or not at all. The work may be inarticulate or extremely difficult to read.

A = 94-100     A- = 90-93      B+ = 87-89     B = 84-86        B- = 80-83      C+ = 77-79

C = 74-76        C- = 70-73      D+ = 67-69     D = 64-66       F = 63 and below

Accommodations for students with disabilities: Students with physical or learning disabilities are required to register with the Moses Center for Students with Disabilities, 726 Broadway, 2nd Floor, (212-998-4980) and are required to present a letter from the Center to the instructor at the start of the semester in order to be considered for appropriate accommodation.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Introductions

1/23:    No readings – introductions

1/25:    Baym, Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Chapter 1

Watch “An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube” (on Youtube)


Week 2: Defining Social Media

1/30:    Baym, Chapter 2

Donath, “Sociable Media”

2/1:      Boyd & Ellison, “Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship”

Beer, “Social network(ing) sites… revisiting the story so far: A response to danah boyd and Nicole Ellison”

Blog Post 1 due at 8pm on 2/3


Week 3: Studying Social Media

2/6:      Baym, Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Chapter 3

Slater, “Social Relationships and Identity Online and Offline”

2/8:      Nardi, excerpts from My Life as a Night Elf Priest

Boyd, Golder, & Lotan, “Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter”

Hargittai, “Whose Space? Differences Among Users and Non-Users of Social Network Sites”

Blog Response 1 due at 8 pm on 2/10


Week 4: Forming Relationships and Community through Social Media

2/13:    Baym, Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Chapters 4-7

2/15:    Boyd, “Friends, Friendsters, and Myspace Top 8”

Donath & boyd, “Public Displays of Connection”

Blog Post 2 due at 8pm on 2/17


Week 5: Forming Relationships and Community, continued

2/20:    No Class

2/22:    Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, “The benefits of Facebook ‘friends’”

Haythornthwaite, “Social Networks and Internet Connectivity Effects”

Blog Response 2 due at 8pm on 2/24


Week 6: Performing Identity through Social Media

2/27:    Jones, et al., “Whose Space is MySpace?”

Liu, “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances”

Marwick I’m More Than Just a Friendster Profile: Identity, Authenticity, and Power in Social Networking Services”

3/1:      Marwick & boyd, “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience”

Weber & Mitchell “Imaging, keyboarding, and posting identities: Young people and new media technologies”


Week 7: Midterm Week

3/5:      Midterm Review

3/7:      Midterm


Spring Recess 3/12-3/17


Week 8: Youth

3/19:    boyd “Why youth (heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics

in teenage social life”

boyd & Marwick, “Social Steganography: Privacy in Networked Publics”

Willett, “As Soon as You Get on Bebo You Just Go Mad”: Young Consumers and the Discursive Construction of Teenagers Online

Hasinoff, “Sexting as Media Production”

Mitchell, et al., “Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting”

3/21:  No readings.

Blog Post 3 due at 8pm on 3/23

Week 9: Race, Ethnicity, Class

3/26:    Boyd, “White Flight in Networked Publics? How Race and Class Shaped American Teen Engagement with MySpace and Facebook”

Hargittai, “Open Doors, Closed Spaces? Differentiated Adoption of Social Network Sites by User Background”

Thomas, “KPK, Inc.: Race, Nation, and Emergent Culture in Online Games”

Everett, “Have We Become Postracial Yet? Race and Media Technology in the Age of President Obama”

3/28:   No readings.

Blog Response 3 due at 8pm on 3/30


Week 10: Gender and Sexuality

4/2:      Dobson, “The ‘Grotesque Body’ in Young Women’s Self Presentations on MySpace”

Banet-Weiser, “Branding the post-feminist self: Girls’ video production and Youtube”

Gross, “Somewhere There’s a Place for Us: Sexual Minorities and the Internet”

Gray, “Online Profiles: Remediating the Coming-Out Story”

4/4:    No readings.


Week 11: Politics and Activism

4/9:    Vichot & Li, “A Brief Outline of Kony 2012 and Initial Reactions to the Campaign

Jenkins, “Contextualizing #Kony2012: Invisible Children, Spreadible Media, and Transmedia Activism

4/11: Boyd, “Can Social Network Sites Enable Political Action?”

Morozov, “Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism”

Groups must agree on Marketing book by class time on 4/11


Week 12: Politics and Activism, continued

4/16:   “Writing, New Media, & Feminist Activism” (you can either listen to the podcast orwatch the video)

Murthy, “Twitter: Microphone for the Masses?”


Gladwell, “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted”

Mirani, “Sorry, Malcolm Gladwell, the Revolution May Well Be Tweeted”

Jurgenson, “Welcome to the Augmented Revolution”

4/18:    Kozinets, “E-Tribalized Marketing?”

Blog Response 4 due at 8pm on 4/20


Week 13: Learning About and Reaching Consumers

4/23:    Clemons, “The complex problem of monetizing virtual electronic social networks”

Mangold & Faulds, “Social media: The new hybrid element of the promotion mix”

4/25:    Prepare to discuss the book you are reviewing (you should have it read by today)

Bring book review notes with you to class

Blog 4 (book review draft) due at 8pm on 4/27


Week 14: Ethical issues: Privacy, Labor, Identity Regulation

4/30:    Boyd & Hargittai, “Facebook Privacy Settings: Who Cares?”

Petersen, “Loser Generated Content: From Participation to Exploitation”

Andrejevic, “Surveillance and Alienation in the Online Economy”

Book Review due at 12 noon

5/2:      Gandy, “Matrix Multiplication and the Digital Divide”

Cheney-Lippold, “A New Algorithmic Identity”

Dibbell, “A Rape in Cyberspace”

Week 15: Refusing Social Media

5/7:      Marwick, “’If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Use It. It’s That Simple’ ORLY?”

Bigge, “The Cost of (Anti-)Social Networks: Identity, Agency, and Neo-Luddites”

5/9:      Final Exam due at 12 noon

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1 Comment

  1. Facilitating Exam Preparation with Twitter | PROF. P-S

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