Instructor: Eszter Hargittai
Office hours: by appointment
Contact: cst525-04 -at-
Class meeting times and location are available to Northwestern students via CAESAR.

Course Description and Objectives

The focus of this graduate seminar is a social-scientific look at communication and information technologies with particular emphasis on the Internet. The goal of the course is to understand how the development of communication and information technologies is embedded in a myriad of social institutions and social processes and to consider the social implications of such technologies.

Requirements and Expectations


Attendance is required.


Students should come to class having done the readings for the week. We will conduct discussions during class meetings which require familiarity with the readings.

The book sections, chapters and articles listed in the syllabus are available online or in the course packet if no online version is indicated on the syllabus. Please obtain a copy of Lessig's Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace as we read several chapters from that book. You will notice that we often read just one or two chapters from a book. The goal is to expose you to the work of many authors. I encourage you to read other chapters of books that are of particular interest to you and may relate to your research interests. This will be especially important if you choose a concentration in this area.


  • Oral presentations. (Exact number depends on class enrollment.)
    Students will take turns making oral presentations on the readings at the beginning of each class session.

  • Five memoranda.
    Students should choose five weeks when they will write reflection pieces on the week's readings. These may be any five weeks with one restriction: no one can write on both weeks 6 & 7 nor on both weeks 9 & 10. (Example: if you submit a memo on week 6 then you cannot submit a memo on week 7. Be sure to plan ahead for the quarter so you're not in a bind at the end with weeks 9 & 10.)
    Memos should be informal reflections on the week's readings. They should address more than one reading for the week, but do not have to address all of them. They can reference readings from other weeks as well. The content of the memos may - but do not have to - include answers to the following questions:
    - What is the central question of this piece?
    - What - if any - position does the author take in addressing the question?
    - If it is an empirical piece, does the research design make sense, did the author choose appropriate methodologies, how does the author interpret the data, and do the conclusions follow from the findings?
    - Can you think of better ways of addressing the central question(s)?
    - What additional questions does the piece raise?
    - How would you follow up on the claims made by the author or the particular findings of the piece?
    - How does the piece relate to your own interests?
    - What thoughts come to mind after having read the piece?

    In sum: Memos should not simply describe the content of the readings, rather, they should be a critical look at their contents. Use these memos to engage the week's materials, explore new ideas they suggest, and think about how they may contribute to your own intellectual projects.

    Please submit memos electronically to the instructor no later than 24 hours before the start of class.
    !! Memos must be submitted in text format. Attachments will not be opened and the student will not get credit for assignments submitted in any format other than simple text. (This is how I guard against viruses and assure that I can read your memos regardless of the platform I'm using to read them.) Send your memos to memo525-04 at


    Evaluation will be based on class participation (40%) and written assignments (60%).

    Academic Integrity

    You are responsible for reading and abiding by the University Principles Regarding Academic Integrity (available online: Make sure to document all of your work and acknowledge the ideas and work of others.


    Emergencies do happen. If this is the case, you will get credit for a missed class session by submitting a 2000-2500 word memorandum on the week's readings. This make-up memo will be due at the beginning of the class session after the one you missed. (If the emergency is such that you are unable to meet this deadline, contact me and we will figure out an alternative.)

    Please note that this memo will not count toward the assigned five memos. (If it is late in the semester and you are running out of weeks for which you can write memos, you will have to write an additional memo on an earlier week's materials.)

    Course Schedule

    1/8 Week 1. Introduction


  • Brown, John Seelye, Duguid, Paul. 2002 Edition. The Social Life of Information. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press
    :: Preface ::
  • Carey, James. 1989. Communication as Culture. Unwin Hyman.
    :: Introduction, Chapter 1 ::
  • Castells, Manuel. 1996. The Rise of the Network Society. Blackwell Publishers: Oxford.
    :: Chapter 1 ::
  • DiMaggio, Paul, Hargittai, Eszter, Neuman, W. Russell, Robinson, John. 2001. Social Implications of the Internet. [pdf via Annual Reviews] Annual Review of Sociology. 27:307-336.
  • Neuman, W. Russell. 1991. The Future of the Mass Audience. Cambridge, Mass: Cambridge University Press.
    :: Introduction, Chapter 1 ::

    1/15 Week 2. Communication Technology in Historical Perspective


  • Carey, James. 1989. Communication as Culture. Unwin Hyman.
    :: Chapter 8 ::
  • De Sola Pool, Ithiel. 1983. "Tracking the Flow of Information." [via JSTOR] Science. 221(4611):609-613. August 12.
  • Fischer, Claude. 1988. "Gender and the Residential Telephone, 1890-1940: Technologies of Sociability." [via JSTOR] Sociological Forum. 3(2):211-233. Spring.
  • Ganley, Gladys D. 1991. "Power to the People via Personal Electronic Media." Washington Quarterly. pp.5-14.
  • Hargittai, Eszter. 2000. "Radio's Lessons for the Internet." Communications of the ACM. 41(3):50-57.
  • Starr, Paul. 2004. The Creation of the Media - Political Origins of Modern Communications. Basic Books.
    :: Introduction ::
    Please note: This book has not come out yet, please do not circulate the chapter I will distribute in class. Copies will be in stores by early March.

    1/22 Week 3. The Politics of Code


  • Bar, François. 2001. "The Construction of Marketplace Architecture." [pdf] In BRIE-IGCC (Ed.). The BRIE-IGCC E-conomy Project Task Force on the Internet (pp. 27-49). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
  • Introna, Lucas & Nissenbaum, Helen. 2000. "Shaping the Web: Why the Politics of Search Engines Matters". [pdf] The Information Society 16(3):1-17.
  • Lessig, Lawrence. 1999. Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. New York, NY: Basic Books
    :: Chapters 1, 2, 3, 5 ::
  • Lessig, Lawrence. 2001. The Future of Ideas. New York, NY: Random House
    :: Chapter 10 ::
  • Sandvig, Christian. Forthcoming. "Shaping Infrastructure and Innovation on the Internet: The End-to-End Network that isn'to [pdf; link to draft version]. In D. Guston & D. Sarewitz (eds.), Shaping Science and Technology Policy: The Next Generation of Research. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

    1/29 Week 4. Digital Inequality


  • DiMaggio, Paul, Hargittai, Eszter, Celeste, Coral, Shafer, Steven. 2004. "From Unequal Access to Differentiated Use: A Literature Review and Agenda for Research on Digital Inequality." [pdf] In Social Inequality. Edited by Kathryn Neckerman. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Leigh, Andrew, Atkinson, Robert D. 2001. "Clear Thinking on the Digital Divide." [pdf] PPI Policy Report. June
  • Norris, Pippa. 2000. Digital Divide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    :: Chapter 3 [pdf] ::
  • Warschauer, Mark. 2003. Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    :: Introduction, Chapter 1 ::

    2/5 Week 5. The Internet and Political Institutions


  • Agre, Philip E. 2002. "Real-Time Politics: The Internet and the Political Process." The Information Society. 18(5):311-332. [available via library subscription]
  • Fountain, Jane. 2001. Building the Virtual State Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Press
    :: Chapters 1, 2 ::
  • Howard, Philip N. 2003. Digitizing the Social Contract: Producing American Political Culture in the Age of New Media." [pdf] The Communication Review. 6:213-245.
  • Norris, Pippa. 2000. Digital Divide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    :: Chapter 5 ::
  • Sunstein, Cass. 2001. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
    :: Chapters 1, 3 ::

    2/12 Week 6. Labor Markets in the New Economy


  • Castells, Manuel. 1996. The Rise of the Network Society. Blackwell Publishers: Oxford.
    :: pp. 251-264. ::
  • Freeman, Richard. 2002. The Labour Market in the New Information Economy. NBER Working Paper No. w9254
  • Henwood, Doug. 2003. After The New Economy. The New Press: New York.
    :: Chapter 2 (Work) ::

    The following three articles are an interesting example of an intellectual debate that unfolded over the years about the implications of computers for the wage structure. Please skim them over, read the abstracts and look at the body of the article a little. I realize that you may not understand all of the methods and results, but please look through them to get a general idea of the debate.
  • Krueger, Alan. 1993. "How Computers Have Changed the Wage Structure: Evidence from Microdata, 1984-1989." [pdf] The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 108(1):33-60. February.
  • DiNardo, John E., Pischke, Jorn-Steffen. 1997. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?" [pdf] The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 112(1):291-303. February.
  • Autor, David, Katz, Lawrence, and Alan Krueger. 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?" [pdf] The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 113(4): 1169-1213. November.

    2/19 Week 7. The Information Economy


  • Brousseau, Eric. 2003. "E-Commerce in France: Did Early Adoption Prevent Its Development?" The Information Society. 19(1):33-44. [available online via library subscription]
  • DiMaggio, Paul,; Cohen, Joseph. Forthcoming. "Information Inequality and Network Externalities: A Comparative Study of the Diffusion of Television and the Internet." (Eds.) Victor Nee and Richard Swedberg. The Economic Sociology of Capitalism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
  • Morton, Fiona Scott; Zettelmeyer, Florian; Silva-Risso, Jorge. 2001. Consumer Information and Price Discrimination: Does the Internet Affect Pricing of New Cars to Women and Minorities?" NBER Working Paper No. w8668. December.
  • Sawyer, Steve; Crowston, Kevin; Wigand, Rolf T.; Allbritton, Marcel. 2003. "The Social Embeddedness of Transactions: Evidence from the Residential Real-Estate Industry." The Information Society. 19(2):135-155. [available online via library subscription]

    2/26 Week 8. Digital Technology and Cultural Consumption


  • Healy, Kieran. 2002. "Digital Technology and Cultural Goods". [pdf] Journal of Political Philosophy. 10(4): 478-500.
  • Lessig, Lawrence. 2001. The Future of Ideas. New York, NY: Random House
    :: Chapter 11 ::
  • Napoli, Philip M. 1999. "Deconstructing the Diversity Principle." Journal of Communication. 49:7-34. [available online via library subscription]
  • Neuman, W. Russell. 1991. The Future of the Mass Audience. Cambridge, Mass: Cambridge University Press.
    :: Chapter 5. ::
  • Turow, Joseph. 1997. Breaking Up America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
    :: Chapters 1,6,8 ::

    3/4 Week 9. The Internet, Community and Civic Engagement


  • Wellman, Barry, Gulia, Milena. 1999. "Net Surfers Don't Ride Alone: Virtual Communities As Communities." [pdf] In Wellman, B. (Ed.) Networks in the Global Village. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. pp.331-367.
  • Kraut, Robert, Lundmark, Vicki, Patterson, Michael, Kiesler, Sara, Mukopadhyay, Tridas, Scherlis, William. 1998. Internet Paradox: A Social Technology That Reduces Social Involvement and Psychological Well-Being?. [pdf] American Psychologist. 53(9):1017-1031.
  • Kraut, R., Kiesler, S, Boneva, B, Cummings, J., Helgeson, V., Crawford, A. 2002. "Internet Paradox Revisited." Journal of Social Issues 58(1):49-57. [get via NU library subscription]
  • Katz, James E, Rice, Ronald E. 2002. Social Consequences of Internet Use. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
    :: Chapters 1 & 14 ::
  • Lessig, Lawrence. 1999. Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. Basic Books: New York, NY
    :: Chapter 6 ::

    3/11 Week 10. Identity & Computer-Mediated Communication


  • Herring, Susan. 2002. "Searching for Safety Online: Managing 'Trolling' in a Feminist Forum." The Information Society. 18(5):371-385. [available online via library subscription]
  • Lessig, Lawrence. 1999. Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. Basic Books: New York, NY
    :: Chapters 4 ::
  • Nakamura, Lisa. 2000. "'Where Do You Want To Go Today?' Cybernetic Tourism, the Internet, and Transnationality." in (Eds.) Beth E. Kolko, Lisa Nakamura, and Gilbert B. Rodman. Race in Cyberspace. New York, NY: Routledge
  • Preece, Jenny. 2000. Online Communities. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
    :: Introduction ::
  • Sproull, Lee; Kiesler, Sara. 1991. Connections. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
    :: Chapters 3, 4 ::

  • Last updated: November, 2003
    Contact: website ~ at ~ eszter ~ dot ~ com Version 3.0 (online since July 24, 1995)