New Course: Social Media and Participatory Culture — Spring 2018

I’m excited to be teaching a new COM Options Course in Spring 2018, “Social Media and Participatory Culture.” It meets T/TH 2:00 – 3:15.


In Social Media and Participatory Culture, we will consider how people have used social media to subvert civil and corporate institutions and protest against perceived injustices. We will see how those same institutions have tried to leverage social media to engage in surveillance and manipulation. And we will see how people are using participatory culture to persist against those attempts.

We begin in the 1980s and 90s with fanzines and remix/mashup culture, specifically looking at, for example, the feminist punk zine, Riot grrrl, “which called for the liberation of young women . . . [and] to revivify feminism . . . [in] direct response to the dominance of straight while men in the punk scene” (Darms, 2013, p. 1). We then move through the supposedly idyllic first years of the web and Web 2.0 to look at how people were participating with the hope of building community. From there, we come to our present social media moment, dominated by Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, we will analyze protest hashtags and subnetworks, like Black Twitter, that call attention to and fight injustice. On Facebook, we will look at the proliferation of fake news, which is designed to confuse, deceive, and manipulate. We will consider the implications of our current moment where bots swarm social media feeds and our data can be used against us. In doing so, we will critically examine how social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, afford (and encourage) certain user behaviors through their interface architecture, algorithms, and advertising systems.

Though the course has a significant theoretical component, we will engage directly in participatory practices by creating our own subversive media objects (such as, zines, mashups, archives, and bots)—the whole time considering how those objects exist within a powerful media ecology that extends from our creative spaces to corporate servers to the halls of Congress.

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