Fall 2005
    Communication Studies 388/Sociology 376-23

    Internet and Society

    Instructor: Eszter Hargittai

    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: 26. 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. Class participation is an important component of your grade and so regular attendance is crucial for passing course.


    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 9pm 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 class meeting, which will be held in a special computer classroom in the Library.

    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.)

    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.

    Final exam

    There will be an in-class final exam at 9am on Tuesday, December 6, 2005. You will receive more information about the exam in class during the second half of the quarter.


    Evaluation will be based on your regular blog contributions (20%), your blog portfolio (20%), your class participation (25%), and your performance on the final exam (35%).

    Regular blog contributions

    You are required to post an entry on your blog each week (due by 9pm on the Sunday of each week) and to post a comment on a classmate's blog each week (due by 9pm on Tuesday of each week) unless otherwise specified in the detailed course schedule below. You are also required to read your peers' blogs regularly and, when appropriate, incorporate online contributions into class discussions.

    A late blog entry and a late comment will be accepted once each during the quarter, no questions asked, as long as the contribution is made by the time of the next class meeting.
    Other than this, please note that all work must be turned in on time, no late work will be accepted. Do not even think of asking for an extension in the following cases: 1) You have a lot of tests or papers in other classes that week; 2) You will be away on the day the assignment is due, 3) A last-minute emergency (unless the request comes through the Dean's office). Assignments are given well in advance so you should prepare according to your schedule.

    Blog portfolio

    Your blog portfolio makes up 20 percent of your final grade. You will submit a blog portfolio by 9am Tueday December 6th, 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 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 25 percent of your final grade. It is made up of your input during class discussions. 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. Your goal should be to contribute to discussion at every class meeting.

    Final exam

    The final exam will make up 35 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!

    Office Hours

    Office hours are by appointment.

    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.

    Reading Availability

      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
      • handout - you will be given a copy of the reading in class

    Course Schedule

    9/21 Introductions

      No readings due for this class meeting

    9/26 Blog Logistics - This class will meet in the Library Mac/PC Classroom (see your hard copy syllabus for specifics)

      Assignment: Observe your communication patterns and information technology uses for a 24-hour period. Take detailed notes. You will have to post an entry on your blog for an upcoming assignment based on these notes so hold onto them.


      • "Maintaining a Blog" handout
      • "Privacy" handout - Read and bring signed copy to class
      • Preece, Jenny. 2004. "Etiquette Online: From Nice to Necessary." Communication of the ACM. 47(4):56-61 [library online, courseware]
      • Rosen, Jeffrey. 2004. "Your Blog or Mine?" The New York Times Magazine. December 19. [courseware]

    9/28 Blogs

      Assignment: Post a blog entry about your communication and information technology use patterns. Due: Sunday 9pm.


      • Gilbert, Alorie. 2005. Bloggers Record Katrina Destruction [online, courseware]
      • Herring, Susan, Kirk Job-Sluder, Rebecca Scheckler, and Sasha Barab. 2002. "Searching for Safety Online: Managing 'Trolling' in a Feminist Forum." The Information Society. 18(5):371-385. [library online, online, courseware]
      • Shirky, Clay. 2003. "Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality." Networks, Economics and Culture Mailing List.[online, courseware]

    10/3 Communities Online

      1. Post links on your blogroll and make changes to your blog's layout. Due: Sunday 9pm.
      2. Post a blog entry discussing at least two of the following readings: Gilbert, Herring et al, Shirky, Lessig, Wellman & Gulia Due: Sunday 9pm.


      • Lessig, Lawrence. 1999. Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. New York: Basic Books. Chapter 2. pp. 9-23. [handout]
      • 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]

    10/5 Information and Communication Technologies in Historical Perspective

      Assignment: Comment on someone else's blog. Due: Thursday 9pm.

      Readings: Ganley, Gladys D. 1991. "Power to the People via Personal Electronic Media." Washington Quarterly. pp.5-14. [handout]

    • Hargittai, Eszter. 2000. "Radio's Lessons for the Internet." Communications of the ACM. 41(3):50-57. [library online, courseware]
    • Starr, Paul. 2004. The Creation of the Media - Political Origins of Modern Communications. Basic Books. Introduction. Pp.1-19. [handout]

10/10 Political Communication Online

    Assignment: Post a blog entry discussing at least two of the following readings: Ganley, Hargittai, Starr, Drezner & Farrell, Sunstein Due: Sunday 9pm


    • Drezner, Daniel W. and Henry Farrell. 2004. Web of Influence. Foreign Policy. November/December. [online, courseware]
    • Sunstein, Cass R. 2004. "Democracy and Filtering." Communications of the ACM 47(12):57-59. [courseware, library online]

10/12 The Politics of Code

    Assignment: Comment on someone else's blog. Due: Tuesday 9pm.


    • Introna, Lucas & Nissenbaum, Helen. 2000. "Shaping the Web: Why the Politics of Search Engines Matters." The Information Society 16(3):1-17. [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. [handout]

10/17 Digital Inequality

    Assignment: Post a blog entry discussing at least two of the following readings: Introna & Nissenbaum, Lessig, DiMaggio & Coral, Norris, Warschauer. Due: Sunday 9pm


    • 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. [handout]

10/19 Skill

    Assignment: Post a comment on someone else's blog. Due: Tuesday 9pm


    • 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. Virtual Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. Chapter 3. pp.38-59. [handout]

10/24 Catching Up

    Assignment: Post a blog entry discussing at least one of the following readings: CDT, Mossberger et al. OR discuss an experience you had with Firefox or some other class-related topic. Due: Sunday 9pm

10/26 The Information Economy

    Assignment: Post a comment on someone else's blog. Due: Tuesday 9pm


    • 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. [handout]

10/31 Networks Online

    Assignment: Post a blog entry discussing at least two of the following readings: DiMaggio & Cohen, Greenstein, boyd, Resnick & Zeckhauser. Due: Sunday 9pm


    • boyd, danah. 2003. "Friendster and Publicly Articulated Social Networking." Conference on Human Factors and Computing Systems (CHI 2004). Vienna: ACM, April24-29. [online, courseware]
    • Resnick, Paul and Richard Zeckhauser. 2002.. "Trust Among Strangers in Internet Transactions: Empirical Analysis of eBay's Reputation System." The Economics of the Internet and E-Commerce. Michael R. Baye, editor. Volume 11 of Advances in Applied Microeconomics. Amsterdam, Elsevier Science. [online]

11/2 Digital Technologies and Cultural Consumption

    Assignment: Comment on someone else's blog. Due: Tuesday 9pm


    • Healy, Kieran. 2002. "Digital Technology and Cultural Goods" Journal of Political Philosophy. 10(4): 478-500. [online, courseware]
    • Lessig, Lawrence. 2004. Free Culture. New York: The Penguin Press. Pp.17-52. [courseware]

11/7 The Internet and Political Institutions

    Assignment: Post a blog entry discussing at least two of the following readings: Healy, Lessig, Howard, West. Due: Sunday 9pm


    • 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]
    • West, Darrell. 2005. Digital Government. Chapter 5 "The Case of Online Tax Filing" pp. 82-100. [handout]

11/9 Surveillance and Privacy - Guest Speaker: Jason Gallo

    Assignment: Try to find out as much as possible online about today's guest speaker: Jason Gallo. Write a blog post describing some of the online sources you consulted during your search. Describe what sites and methods you used in your quest. (E.g. Did you use a search engine? If yes, what terms, etc.)


    • Lyon, David. 2002. Surveillance in Cyberspace: The Internet, Personal Data, and Social Control, Queen's Quarterly, 109 (3):345-357. [courseware]
    • 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]

11/14 No class meeting

    Assignment: Will be announced on 11/7

11/16 Intellectual Property in the Information Age

    Assignment: Comment on someone else's blog. Due: Tuesday 9pm


    • Felten, Edward W. 2004. Rip, Mix, Burn, $ue: Technology, Politics and the Fight to Control Digital Media. 2004. Princeton University President's Lecture Series. October 12.
    • National Research Council, The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual Property in the Information Age. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000. Chapter 6: Conclusions and Recommendations [online]

11/21 Children and the Internet

    Assignment: Post an entry discussing at least two of the following readings: Felten, NRC, Sandvig, Starr. Due: Sunday 9pm


    • Sandvig, Christian. 2003. "Public Internet Access for Young Children in the Inner City: Evidence to Inform Access Subsidy and Content Regulation." The Information Society 19(2): 171-183. [online, library online]
    • Starr, Paul. 1997. "Seductions of Sim: Policy as a Simulation Game." The American Prospect. 5(17) March 21. [online]

11/23 Review

    Bring questions about material covered throughout the quarter.

12/6 Final exam at 9am

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