Winter 2005
    Communication Studies 395-23/Sociology 376-23

    Internet and Society

    Instructor: Eszter Hargittai
    Teaching Assistant: Amanda Hinnant

    Quick links:

    Requirements and Expectations | Grades | Academic Integrity | Absences
    Office Hours | Contact Information | Updates | Course Schedule

    Course Description and Objectives

    What's it like to maintain a blog? How about if you are in Iran or China? Are there downsides to using Friendster, Orkut or Thefacebook? Why might you not want your parents or professors to use them? Are you breaking any laws if you use Kazaa or Grokster? Could you be breaking laws for sharing your research findings? How does Amazon know what books and music may appeal to you? How do you know whether you should trust the contents of an email message? What can SimCity teach you about public policy?

    In this course, we take 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. We consider the cultural, economic, political and social implications of such technologies. By the end of the class, you should be able to think critically and creatively about the social aspects of information technologies.

    Maximum class size: 40. Half of the slots are reserved for Sociology majors. Preference will be given to juniors and seniors.

    I do not post information about meeting times and location on this Web site. See CAESAR for those details.

    You will be graded on your ability to think critically about the material we cover in class and communicate your thoughts in writing (e.g. through your blog) and in class discussions. See details below.

    Requirements and Expectations


    Attendance is required.


    You should come to class having done the readings assigned for that period. We will conduct discussions during class meetings which require familiarity with the readings. You will get much less out of class meetings and blogging if you do not do all of the assigned readings on time. See the Course Schedule below for the weekly reading assignments.

    Class Discussions

    You are required to participate regularly in class discussions. Your contributions should be thoughtful, on topic, and respectful of others.


    Maintaining a blog

    You are required to maintain a blog. You have to post to it on a weekly basis. Posts are required any time before Sunday 5pm of each week. You will receive additional information about the logistics of all this in the first class meeting and we will address some of the technicalities in the second and third class meetings that will be held in a special computer classroom in the Library.

    Reading and commenting on classmates' blogs

    You are required to post comments on other people's blogs. You are required to post at least one substantive comment each week. (You will receive more information about this in class.)


    Due to the writing requirement throughout the quarter, there will be no midterm in this course.

    Research paper

    You are required to write a 8-12 page research paper due by 5pm on Wednesday, March 9th, 2005. The paper will present the analysis of an Internet-related phenomenon (a service, a law, an institution, a company, etc.), its evolution, and how the concepts we discuss in class are reflected in its evolution. You will receive more information about the paper's topic in class.

    A one-paragraph summary (300-500 words) of your proposed paper is due in class at 10am on February 7, 2005. If you wish, you may submit a draft of your final paper for comment in the beginning of class on Monday, February 28, 2005. (Make sure not to miss class due to these deadlines. You will get a reduced grade for the paper summary and will not receive feedback on your draft if you do not attend class on these days.)

    Final exam

    There will be an in-class final exam at 9am on Tuesday, March 15, 2005. You will receive more information about the exam in class during the second half of the quarter.


    Evaluation will be based on your blog portfolio (25%), your class participation (20%), your research paper (30%) and your performance on the final exam (25%).

    Blog portfolio

    Your blog portfolio makes up 25 percent of your final grade. You will submit a blog portfolio by 10am Monday March 7th, 2005. Your blog portfolio will include:
    - 5 blog posts
    - a list of all blogs on which you posted comments throughout the quarter

    Five blog posts: Print-outs of five blog entries from your blog from throughout the quarter. It is up to you to choose the entries you think are of the highest quality.
    Five comments: Print-outs of five comments you made on other people's blogs. It is up to you to choose comments that you think best engaged in discussions with others in the class. List of blogs on which you commented: A list of all blogs and post titles by classmates on which you posted comments throughout the quarter.

    Class participation

    Your class participation makes up 20 percent of your final grade. It is made up of (1) your input during class discussions and (2) your regular blog contributions. (If you do not meet the weekly requirements for posting entries and comments on your and others' blogs it is your class participation grade that will suffer.)

    You are required to attend class and actively participate in class discussions. Be sure to do the readings ahead of class meetings to be able to contribute to the conversations.
    You are required to post an entry on your blog each week (due by 11pm on Sunday of each week) and to post a comment on a classmate's blog each week (due by 5pm on Tuesday of each week). You are also required to read your peers' blogs regularly and, when appropriate, incorporate online contributions into class discussions.

    Research paper

    The summary/outline of your paper makes up five percent of your final grade. The final paper will make up 25 percent of your final grade.

    Final exam

    The final exam will make up 25 percent of your final grade.

    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. Possible sanctions, as per the university guidelines, include reduced or failing grade, a defined period of probation or suspension, exclusion from the university and notation on the official record. You must not, in any way, misrepresent your work or be party to another student's failure to maintain academic integrity. DO NOT cheat, plagiarize or disregard the University Principles Regarding Academic Integrity in any way, it is NOT worth it!


    Emergencies do happen. If this is the case, you will get credit for a missed class session by posting a blog entry about the class readings assigned for the class you missed. This blog post must be at least 350 words long. Such blog posts will not count toward your weekly blog contributions nor may they be used as part of your final blog portfolio. Make-up blog posts 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 the instructor to figure out an alternative.)

    Office Hours

    Office hours are posted on the hard copy of this syllabus and on the Course Management Web site. If those times are in conflict with your schedule then you need to let the instructor know in the beginning of the quarter to signal ahead of time that we may have to make alternative arrangements.

    Contact Information

    Email is by far the most preferred way for communication about class-related issues. Be sure to use the following email address for most efficient response time: is05-at-hargittai-dot-com. Please also include a meaningful subject line.


    Be sure to check the class blog regularly for updates: Also be sure to check your Northwestern email account for communication related to class. (If you would rather receive such communication at another email address, please let the instructor know.)

    Course Schedule

      Availability of readings is indicated in brackets after the bibliographic entry:
      • online - openly accessible on the Web, syllabus contains link
      • library online - NU library has a subscription to this publication, you can access it through the library page
      • courseware - the course's NU Courseware page contains a copy of the reading
      • packet - the course packet includes a copy of the reading

    1/3 Introductions

      No readings due for this class meeting

    1/5 Blog Logistics - This class will meet in the Library Mac/PC Classroom (see your hard copy syllabus for specifics)

    • Syllabus, "Maintaining a Blog" handout, "Privacy" handout [courseware]
    • Preece, Jenny. 2004. "Etiquette Online: From Nice to Necessary." Communication of the ACM. 47(4):56-61 [library online, courseware]
    • Rimer, Sarah. 2004. "Revealing the Soul of a Soulless Lawyer." The New York Times. December 26. [courseware]
    • Rosen, Jeffrey. 2004. "Your Blog or Mine?" The New York Times Magazine. December 19. [courseware]
    • Schwartz, John. 2004. "Blogs Provide Raw Details from Scene of Disaster." The New York Times. December 28. [courseware]

    1/10 Blogs - This class will meet in the Library Mac/PC Classroom (see your hard copy syllabus for specifics)

    1/12 Communities Online Due: Blogroll and changes to your blog's layout.

    • Lessig, Lawrence. 1999. Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. New York: Basic Books. Chapter 2. pp. 9-23. [packet]
    • Sunstein, Cass R. 2004. "Democracy and Filtering." Communications of the ACM. 47(12):57-59. [courseware, library online]
    • Wellman, Barry and Gulia, Milena. 1999. "Net Surfers Don't Ride Alone: Virtual Communities As Communities." In Wellman, B. (Ed.) Networks in the Global Village. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. pp.331-367. [online]

    1/17 Martin Luther King Day

      No class meeting, you are encouraged to take part in campus activities to honor Martin Luther King Day

      Due at 5pm: MLK Day-related Web-site link Locate and post a blog entry discussing a Web site that in some way commemorates this day or addresses an issue related to this holiday. In your entry, say something about why you found the site worthy of mention and describe how you found it. (You may not simply copy a site to which someone else in the class linked as part of this assignment.)

    1/19 Catch-up

      Review of technical aspects of blogs, blog posts and readings up until this point

    1/24 Information and Communication Technologies in Historical Perspective

    • Castells, Manuel. 2001. The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business, and Society. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. Chapter 1. pp. 9-35: "Lessons from the History of the Internet." [packet]
    • Ganley, Gladys D. 1991. "Power to the People via Personal Electronic Media." Washington Quarterly. pp.5-14. [packet]
    • Hargittai, Eszter. 2000. "Radio's Lessons for the Internet." Communications of the ACM. 41(3):50-57. [library online, online, courseware]
    • Starr, Paul. 2004. The Creation of the Media - Political Origins of Modern Communications. Basic Books. Introduction. Pp.1-19. [packet]

    1/26 The Politics of Code

    • Introna, Lucas & Nissenbaum, Helen. 2000. "Shaping the Web: Why the Politics of Search Engines Matters." The Information Society 16(3):1-17. [online, library online]
    • Lessig, Lawrence. 1999. Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. New York, NY: Basic Books Chapters 1, 3, 5; pp. 3-8, pp. 24-29, pp. 43-62. [packet]
    • Lyon, David. 2002. Surveillance in Cyberspace: The Internet, Personal Data, and Social Control. Queen's Quarterly. 109 (3):345-357. [courseware]

    1/31 Digital Inequality

    • DiMaggio, Paul and Coral Celeste. 2004. "Technological Careers: Adoption, Deepening and Dropping Out in a Panel of Internet Users." Paper presented at the Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meetings, New York City [courseware]
    • Norris, Pippa. 2000. Digital Divide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 3: Wired World. [online, courseware]
    • Warschauer, Mark. 2003. Technology and Social Inclusion: Rethinking the Digital Divide. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Introduction & Chapter 1, pp. 1-9, pp. 11-30. [packet]

    2/2 Skill

      Blog assignment. Scenario: Your wallet was stolen. What do you do? Find a Web site that describes what steps you should take in such a situation. Document your process of arriving at the Web site. Describe it on your blog and include the resulting Web site.

    • Center for Democracy and Technology. 2003. "Why Am I Getting All This Spam? Unsolicited Commercial E-mail Research Six Month Report." March. [online]
    • Mossberger, Karen, Caroline J. Tolbert, Mary Stansbury. 2003. Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. Chapter 3. pp.38-59. [packet]

    2/7 The Information Economy

    • Anderson, Chris. 2004. "The Long Tail." Wired. 12(10) October [online]
    • DiMaggio, Paul and Joseph N. Cohen. 2004. "Information Inequality and Network Externalities: A Comparative Study of the Diffusion of Television and the Internet." In Victor Nee and Richard Swedberg, Eds. The Economic Sociology of Capitalism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press [courseware]
    • Greenstein, Shane. 2004. "Virulant Word of Mouse." In Diamonds are Forever, Computers are Not. London: Imperial College Press. pp.22-28. [packet]

    2/9 Networks Online

    2/14 Digital Technologies and Cultural Consumption

    2/16 The Internet and Political Institutions

    • Drezner, Daniel W. and Henry Farrell. 2004. Web of Influence." Foreign Policy. November/December. [online, courseware]
    • Howard, Philip N. 2003. "Digitizing the Social Contract: Producing American Political Culture in the Age of New Media." The Communication Review. 6:213-245. [online, courseware]

    2/21 Political Institutions (Cont)

      Blog assignment: Find and discuss the Web site of a political institution (be creative, do not choose a site many of your peers may already know about and do NOT choose a site to which you have already linked previously)

      Make sure to catch up with all of the readings up until now

    2/23 E-Government

    • Ceaparu, Irina and Ben Shneiderman. 2002. Improving Web-Based Civic Information Access: A Case Study of the 50 U.S. States. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS 2002). [courseware]
    • Norris, Pippa. 2000. Digital Divide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 6: e-Governance. [online, courseware]

    2/28 Children and the Internet

    3/2 Privacy in the Age of Electronic Media

      Bring questions about material covered throughout the quarter.

    • Albrecht, Katherine. 2002. Supermarket Cards: The Tips of the Retail Surveillance Iceberg. Denver University Law Review. 79(4):534-539 & 558-565. [courseware]
    • Aravosis, John. 1999. "Privacy: The Impact on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community". In Access Denied 2.0. pp.30-35 [courseware] & McVeigh, Timothy. 1999. "How Invasion of Privacy Can Affect the Community: A Personal Testimony." In Access Denied 2.0. pp.36-40. [courseware]

    3/7 No class meeting, reading period begins in WCAS

    3/9 No class meeting, optional: review session

    • Final papers are due by 5pm in my office (Frances Searle 2-158)
      AND in the Dropbox on Blackboard.

    3/15 Final exam at 9am

Last updated: January, 2005
Contact: web04 at eszter dot com Version 3.3 (online since July 24, 1995)