Communication Studies 454
Communication and Technology
Lessig insists that cyberspace (like any social world) is “built, not found.” Likewise, Steven Johnson asserts that cyberspace is “symbolic from the bottom up.” As communication scholars we understand the social construction of reality - that our institutions, norms and practices spring from and contribute to the social system in which we live. We know that the decisions we make are formed through the lens of ideology - what we believe to be true, what we take for granted, and what we envision for our future. These will be our premises as we examine the impact of new technologies on human communication.
Marshall McLuhan's suggestion that culture and technology are inextricably intertwined has significant implications for the current fascination with the "information age." Politicians, corporate media spokespersons, and scholars alike have joined in the chorus pronouncing the information age the final revolution in human social, political, and economic institutions. These days, we are bombarded with the discourse of "cyberspace," "virtual reality," the "information superhighway," "electronic communities," etc., but the media offer little in the way of a frame of reference from which to evaluate the various claims being made about these developments in communication technology.
In spite of all the "hype," or perhaps because of it, a field of truly critical scholarly perspectives on technological change has emerged in communication studies research. This course will introduce students to this scholarship, attempting to make sense of the technological revolution from a critical perspective that is both historically informed and technologically astute.
We will engage some of the following questions, among others:
services are available to students on campus.
Please Note: It is the student's responsibility to master the mysteries of email, newsgroups and posting to the web before assignments are due; the assignment must be successfully posted to receive credit. Therefore, students are strongly encouraged to consult the tips for posting online assignments and the internet style guide before assignments are due. For best results, please compose your essay offline and save it to disk before attempting to post it online. Also, use the "for practice only" section of the newsgroup to test before posting the assignment.The university offers students free accounts on the CSUN UNIX shell, which you will be able to use for email and for access to the internet. You have paid for these resources already in your tuition, so take advantage of what is offered. This service is most reliable when you work on campus from one of CSUN's computer labs. Please be aware that these free CSUN accounts are not always reliable when dialing up from home. I recommend that you have two means of access to the internet - your campus account and a commercial Internet Service Provider (ISP). Thus, if one server is busy you can do your work using the other.
You can sign up with a commercial ISP for about $15/month and enjoy reliable internet access even during CSUN computer "blackouts". CSUN maintains a list of recommended ISPs at the Learning Resource Center; you can visit that list at http://vcsun.org/~john/internetproviders.html. Computer accounts with large commercial online service providers such as AOL are strongly discouraged. While some students have relied on such services in previous semesters and somehow still managed to pass the course, nearly all of them would agree in hindsight that problems with AOL (or Earthlink or WebTV) greatly diminished their ability to participate competently in the course.
You must register on WebCT in order to access our course newsgroup and chat rooms. Instructions are available online. Remember your login and password, since these will be required to enter news and chat. The Learning Resource Center is running a number of workshops that will help acquaint newcomers with the wonders of cyberspace; you are strongly encouraged to attend these workshops in order to get up to speed. If you have your own computer and modem, these services will be available to you off campus as well, so much of your participation in this portion of the course can take place from the privacy of your own home.
The internet resources for the course include a newsgroup and chat rooms
on our WebCT
site, electronic mail, and a series
of pages on the World Wide Web. Some of the reading assignments
will come from links on the course schedule as
well. Students will participate in research and discussion through these
media, and will be evaluated on the quality of this participation. This
component of the course will essentially involve the construction of a
"virtual classroom" alongside our physical classroom.
assignments page for specifics on these and other assignments. Your research should address some topic of significance to communication in the information age, and ideally the topic will fit within the student's own areas of scholarly interest. I have posted some suggestions for topics; these are not exhaustive but meant to get you thinking.
Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way we Create and Communicate. NY: Basic Books, 1997.
Lawrence Lessig, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. NY: Basic Books, 1999.
Additional required and recommended readings are available as links in the course schedule.
Additionally, it is up to you to come to class prepared to participate as a citizen -- to listen attentively to others, to engage critically and creatively the perspectives of others, and to contribute meaningfully to discussions of the course materials. This means having all of the reading done when it is due, turning in assignments on time, and actively listening to and participating with your classmates and your instructor.
Finally, some of our class sessions will take place online, and the instructor is well aware that the technological means for connecting to the online world are slightly less stable than the Los Angeles freeways. There may be technological difficulties that prevent us from meeting in our virtual world. The professor will attempt to prepare contingency plans to cover most cyber-disasters, but students will not be penalized for the failure of computer systems beyond their control. That said, however, "I couldn't connect" is not a valid reason for missing online classes when all other students have connected. If you have frequent difficulties connecting to the Internet from home aside from CSUN computer facility outages, it is highly recommended that you plan to be at computers on campus for these meetings.
Academic honesty is expected and required. Academic dishonesty defrauds all those who depend on the integrity of University courses and is a serious offense covered by Section 41301, Title 5 of the California Administrative Code. This section of the Code is published in the University Catalog, Schedule of Classes, and the Student Handbook - and is mirrored here.
Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you are caught cheating or plagiarizing in any form, you will receive a failing grade for the course and will be reported to the university for appropriate action. I take this very seriously, and will prosecute to the fullest extent allowed. If you are uncertain what constitutes cheating, please consult the link above.