<SPC 260 Introduction to New Media>

Spring 2019. T-TH 10:00- 11:50 a.m.  Goldspohn RM. 31.

Instructor: Dr. Steve Macek                          Office Hours: Monday 10 to 11:50 a.m.;

Tuesday 2 -4 p.m., Wednesday 10 to 11:50     a.m. and by appointment     

Campus Phone: 630-637-5369                     

Home Phone: 630-718-0836                         

E-mail: shmacek@noctrl.edu                       

Webpage: http://shmacek.faculty.noctrl.edu

Office: Pfeiffer Hall, Room 38

<Course Description>

For the past twenty years or so, we have been living through a revolution in communication, a revolution driven by the spread of cheap personal computers and the digitization of all previous forms of media.  In the late 1980s it was estimated that only 10 percent of the nation’s population had ever gone on online. Today, more than 90 percent of U.S. citizens have Internet access.  In 1993, the World Wide Web boasted only 130 web sites; by 2013, the number of sites on the web had grown to more than 700 million. By 2001, AOL’s instant messaging software was carrying more than 800 million messages a day (more than the volume of mail carried daily by the entire U.S. Postal service). Millions of people pour out their souls and their minds on personal “blogs” and on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook every day and millions more read their ramblings.  Listening to music and radio, playing games and watching TV/movies/video via the web has become increasingly popular, so much so that existing media content providers are having to adapt their businesses to the new medium despite not yet knowing how to profit from it. Virtually every aspect of life in the advanced industrialized world—education, scientific research, healthcare, commerce, entertainment, journalism, sports, politics, social movements, personal relationships—has been altered by the growing popularity of the Internet.  

This course offers you a critical introduction to our evolving “wired” culture and to the technologies and economic and political infrastructure that make it possible. In this class, you’ll learn about the historical development of the Internet and other forms of new media and examine the repercussions of the digital revolution for our communities, our identities, our politics, and our daily lives. You’ll also learn how to create a web page and how to blog. Through a variety of online and offline projects, you will not only develop a critical, sociologically and historically informed perspective on the digital communication revolution and the Internet, but you’ll also develop some of the skills you’ll need to be an informed participant in the new media culture.

Danah Boyd, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens Yale University Press, 2014.

Howard Jenkins. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide NYU Press, 2008

In addition, you’ll be expected to read a number of online articles and reports the links for which can be found either on Blackboard or on the webpage for this course at:


<Procedures, Requirements and Expectations> 

Course Format. This course combines lecture, discussion and some work in computer labs. I will give a few prepared lectures but much of our class time will be devoted to group discussion of course readings and particular texts, sites and applications. Please note that my lectures usually supplement, rather than summarize, the readings. Sometimes I will go over the key points of the assigned readings; sometime I won’t even mention them. In either case, much of the information presented in the lectures will be new. So, if you miss class, please be sure to get the notes from a classmate. I will set aside time for structured group discussion almost every class meeting.

For class discussion to flow well, you'll have to do the required reading, complete any required discussion-generating writing assignments and make an effort to participate. In class discussions, it will be my job to pose overarching questions, facilitate and keep the conversation flowing.

A number of times over the course of the term we will be meeting in the computer labs and our lab meetings will involve some group work as well as occasional personalized instruction.

Blog Entries.  Part of your grade for this class will be based on your SPC 260-related blogging. You will be required to blog regularly and to read and comment on the blogs of at least some of your classmates.  I expect you to write at a minimum of 350 words each week, either as an entry on your own page or as a comment on someone else’s blog. Some weeks I will post “blog prompts” on the course blog that I expect you to respond to in some way. Other weeks, it will be up to you to generate topics of discussion.  You are required to have made at least ten posts in your own course blog and at least four comments on your classmate’s blogs by the end of the term. Periodically, I will ask you to print off and turn in your entries and will return them to you with my general comments. At the end of the term you will turn in all of your entries and receive a global score for your blog. The total “portfolio” of your blogging for the term will determine 20 % of your grade.

Home Page. In this course, you will be required to build a home page that you will store on the NCC W drive. It will contain some information about you and your interests as well as links to your other online writing projects, to your blog and to the course blog. If you already have a homepage on the W drive, you can adapt that one to this purpose.

Web-based Writing Assignments.  In addition to your blog and homepage, I’ll also ask you to complete two research-based online writing assignments: an “ethnography” of an online community and a final website devoted to a new media topic of your choosing. Writing assignments will be distributed in class and posted on the course blog at least one week before the assignment is due. Post assignments on the web by 10 a.m. on the due date, e-mail me the URL and include a link to it on your homepage.  You will also be asked to briefly discuss your final web projects with the class in a “web project charrette” during the last two days of class and the final exam period: you’ll say a few things about your research and the design of your site and answer questions from the class.  Each of the writing assignments will be worth 20% of your grade.

Tests. In addition to the writing assignments listed above, there will two tests, which will be given online via Blackboard. The first will be a “midterm” covering the content for the first five weeks of the course. The second  will be given during finals week and will cover the content for the last five weeks of the class.  Both tests will include multiple choice, true/false and short answer questions. Each test will be worth 15% of your final grade.

Class Participation and Attendance. It will be extremely difficult for you to do well in this course if you don't come to class. I expect you to attend class regularly, to participate in group activities, to be on time and to stay for the entire session. I also expect you to complete the short, non-graded discussion-generating writing assignments I give you. Your record of attendance, work on non-graded writing assignments and contributions to class discussion will determine 10% of your final grade. To receive a high score for your participation, you should not only do the reading for class but also come to class prepared to say something. It might help if you came equipped with a list of questions or a passage from the readings you'd like to discuss.

Grades.  Your grade for the course will be based on your blog, the online writing projects, the midterm, the final, your contributions to the course wiki and your attendance and class participation. To make it easier for me to calculate final grades, each assignment or grade component will receive both a letter grade and a corresponding point score. On my grading scale, an A is 93% to 100% of the possible points, 90 to 92% is an A-, 87% to 89% is a B+, 83% to 86% is a B, 80% to 82% is a B-, 77% to 79% is a C +, 73% to 76% is a C, 70% to 72% is a C-, 67% to 69% is a D+, 60% to 68% is a D and anything less than 59% is an F.

Below is a breakdown of the points for each assignment or final grade component:

Blog entries=                                                                             200 points

Online ethnography @ 200 points=                                           200 points

Final web project@ 200 points=                                                200 points

2 tests@ 150 points=                                                                 300 points

Class attendance and participation                                            100 points


Total:                                                                                                                1000 points

To figure out how you are doing in the course at any time during the term, simply divide the points you've earned so far by the number of points you could've earned.

Late Work. The due dates for each of the writing assignments are clearly listed on the schedule below. Grades on late work will be lowered one letter grade for each week the assignment is overdue. I cannot accept work turned in after the date of the final.


<Course Schedule>

Below is a projected schedule of the readings and assignments for the course. We may fall behind schedule from time to time and if we do I’ll make an effort to get us back on track. I encourage you to keep up with the reading even if we are behind schedule and to read ahead if your workload permits. 

<Week 1>

Tuesday, March 26.  Introductions: Overview of the course

Thursday, March 28. Setting up the course blog; Basic HTML: The Nuts and Bolts of the Web; Creating Web Pages with Kompozer. Set up Home Pages (meet in computer lab to be determined).


GCFLearnFree Blog Basics (especially 1 “Introduction to Blogs,” 3 “Developing your blog”  and 4 “Choosing a blog service”)

Sitewizard’s How to Design and Publish Your Website with Kompozer. 


How to Create a Blog on Blogger

Try your hand at:

W3School’s HTML Tutorial (skip the sections on “HTML Frames” and “HTML Forms”; you can stop at “HTML Fonts”)


<Week 2>

Tuesday, April 2.  The Wired World We Live In…//The Era of Convergence; The History of the Internet

Reading: Introduction in Jenkins.

Center for the Digital Future, 2018 Digital Future Project: Surveying the Digital Future, 16th Year (2018). Read “Surveying the Digital Future—Year Sixteen” (pp 1-5), “America on the Internet” (pp. 5-9), “Communication Patterns” (pp. 81-121), “Power and Political Influence” (pp. 122-141) and browse the rest of the report.

The Internet Society’s Short History of the Internet


Hobbes’ Internet Timeline

Thursday, April 4.  Internet History (Continued); Google’s Rise to Power.


Siva Vaidhyanathan, “Render Unto Caesar: How Google Came to Rule the Web” and “The Googlization of Us: Universal Surveillance and Infrastructural Imperialism” from The Googlization of Everything. (On Blackboard)


<Week 3>

Tuesday, April 9. Google continued/ Utopian/Dystopian Views of Cyberspace.


John Barlow, Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace.

Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

Mark Bauerlin, “Online Literacy is a Lesser Kind”

Clay Shirky, “Does the Internet Make You Smarter?”


Thursday, April 11. Introduction to Virtual Communities

Reading: Chapters 1 and 5 in Jenkins.

David Bell, “Chapter 5: Community and Cyberculture” in An Introduction to Cyberculture Routledge, 2001. (On Blackboard)

***Turn in first set of blogs***


<Week 4>

Tuesday, April 16. Virtual Communities Continued/Social Media; Introduction to Ethnography of Virtual Communities

Danah Boyd, “Friends, Friendsters and Top 8: Writing Community into Being on Social Network Sites”

 Danah Boyd and Nicole B. Eliison, “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship”

Hugo Liu, “Social Network Profiles as Taste Performances “





Thursday, April 18. Ethnographies of Virtual Community (Continued); Online Identity (meet in computer lab).


David Bell, “Researching Cybercultures” in An Introduction to Cyberculture Routledge, 2001. (On Blackboard)

Julian Dribble, “A Rape in Cyberspace”

Sherry Turkle, “Who am We?”

In-Class Exercise: Visit Lamdamoo

***Online Ethnography Assignment Distributed***


<Week 5>

Tuesday, April 23. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

Reading: Introduction and Chapters 1-5 in Boyd.

Watch: Sherry Turkle, “TED Talk: Connected, but alone?”


Thursday, April 25.  It’s Complicated

Reading: Chapters 4-8 in Boyd


****Friday, April 26. Online Test #1 Due @ 4:30 pm.****



<Week 6>

Tuesday, April 30. Wired Politics

Reading: Chapter 6 and Afterword in Jenkins

Cass Sunstein, “The Daily We: Is the Internet a Wonderful Development for Democracy?“


Thursday, May 2. Wired Politics Continued. Will the Revolution Be Blogged/Tweeted and YouTubed?

Reading: Clay Shirky, “The Political Power of Social Media” (On blackboard)

Maclom Gladwell, “Small Change: Why the Revolution will not be Tweeted”, The New Yorker, October 4, 2010.

Melissa Wall and Sahar El Zahed, “’I’ll Be Waiting for You Guys’: A YouTube Call to Action in the Egyptian Revolution.”

danah boyd, “The Power of Youth: How Invisible Children Orchestrated Kony 2012”

Ethan Zuckerman, “Unpacking Kony 2012” 


<Week 7> 

Tuesday, May 7. Final Web Projects Workshop// Working With Templates (meet in computer lab)

***Online Ethnography Due***

***Final Web Project Distributed***

Thursday, May 9. The Impact of the Digital Revolution on “Old Media” Industries; The Long Tail; The Case of the Music Industry


Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail”

Michael Pfahl, “Giving Away Music to Make Money”

Emilia Barna, “’The Perfect Guide in a Crowded Musical Landscape’: Online music platforms and curatorship”

Maria Eriksson et. al, “How Does Spotify Package Music?” Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music (MIT Press, 2018) (On Blackboard)

 ***Turn in second set of blogs***



<Week 8>

Tuesday, May 14. The Impact of the Digital Revolution on “Old Media” Industries: Synergistic Storytelling

Reading:  Chapter 3 in Jenkins.


Thursday, May 16. The Impact of the Digital Revolution on “Old Media” Industries: Grassroots Creativity

Reading: Chapter 4 in Jenkins


<Week 9>

Tuesday, May 21. The Impact of the Digital Revolution on “Old Media” Industries: Journalism & The News Industry

Barbara Iverson, “The Fifth Estate: Citizen News”

John Nichols and Robert McChesney, “The Life and Death of Great American Newspapers”

Raffi Khatchadourian, “Julian Assange, A Man Without a Country https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/08/21/julian-assange-a-man-without-a-country

Glenn Greenwald, “WikiLeaks Reveals More Than Just Government Secrets,” Salon (November 30, 2010)



Chicago Indymedia


Chicago Talks

Gapers Block

Chicago News Report

Huffington Post Chicago

     Special Interest News Sites:








Thursday, May 23. Final Web Projects Workshop (meet in computer lab)


<Week 10>

Tuesday, May 28. The Problem of Fake News & Online Propaganda.

Reading: Anthony Nadler, Matthew Crain and Joan Donovan, Weaponizing the Digital Influence Machine: The Political Perils of Online Ad Tech  (Data&Society, 2018)

Adrian Chen, “The Agency”, New York Times Magazine 2016

Andrew Higgins, Mike McIntire and Garbiel J.x. Dance, “Inside a Fake News Sausage Factory”, The New York Times Nov 25, 2016.


Thursday, May 30. Final Web Project Charrettes.

***All final web projects due***.


***Friday, June 1. Online Test #2 Due @ 4:30 pm***


<Finals Week>

Wednesday, June 8 (1-3 p.m.).  Remaining Final Web Project Charrettes.  Final blog portfolio due.








<Guidelines and Standards for Online Written Work>

          • All web-based writing must be posted online and a hard copy of the resulting page must be printed out, stapled together and turned in to me. It must be responsive to all aspects of the assignment, including length, and should use a recognized system of documentation and style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).

           Written work (including web copy) should be relatively free of mechanical and grammatical error.

          • Document every reference, obviously including any and all references to websites. Refer to a writer’s manual for if you need guidance about how to do this.

           Support claims not common knowledge with evidence and conclusions with argument. Take time to plan your papers and devote some time to rewriting them. Always keep a second copy of your work (and a back-up of your website).

           Assume your reader has not taken this course. Define all terms whose definitions are controversial or obscure. Take time to explain the theories you are using. Include as much detail as you need to support your argument. Illustrations (diagrams, storyboards, photographs, photos of still frames, etc.) are always welcome.

           Avoid cliches.

           Grades: Failure to follow any of the above guidelines will result in a lower grade. Otherwise, here are my standards:

          An "A" project demonstrates that the writer has not only mastered the concepts of the course, but has applied them in an original, imaginative and incisive manner. The project shows a command of the language that allows the writer to express ideas and observations clearly, effectively, in detail and with virtually no mechanical errors. It includes adequate documentation. "A"s are reserved for exceptional work.

          A "B" project demonstrates that the writer has understood the concepts of the course and has applied them with some originality. The project shows the writer can organize a coherent essay with few errors. The project for the most part includes adequate documentation.

          A "C" project demonstrates that the writer has understood most of the concepts of the course but needs to pay more attention to reading or writing. Documentation is erratic.

          A "D" project demonstrates that the writer has only a minimal understanding of the concepts of the course. Significant gaps in the writer's comprehension indicate the need for more study. The project shows the writer's basic compositional skills are below satisfactory. Documentation is unsatisfactory.

          A "F" project demonstrates that the writer has little, if any, understanding of the concepts of the course. Because of the writer's lack of skill or concern, the work includes gross errors as well as a lack of content. Documentation is negligible. The project may also fail to address parts of the assignment.

          A web project may combine characteristics of different levels of work. In that case, the grade will depend on the paper's overall demonstration of knowledge of the material and of college writing skills.

          Please see me if you have questions about my standards or about any of your grades for the course.