Course Outline

Course Description

⇒ OMG. You receive a notification email from Twitter that your mother—yes your mother—has started to follow you.

⇒ Friend request: Your best friend from primary school has just sent you a Friend Request. He is married, with a kid. You couldn’t help it. You flicked through his photos.

⇒ Demonstrations are happening in an authoritarian country. To report this news, CNA has decided to use to messages posted on Twitter, Facebook and videos from YouTube.

The discipline of sociology has only just recently turned its attention to the developments such as these, thanks in large part to the work of Manuel Castells. The very nature of contemporary media and technological devices, their interoperability and sociality, would call for a sociological reckoning with “new media.” The vignettes above demonstrate the rather integral nature that new media technologies play in our social lives. It will be the aim of this course will be to take stock of new media technologies with a specific focus how they form specific “architectures” of interaction, knowledge sharing and identity formation, in addition to a variety of other things. Meanwhile, we will also keep in mind primary sociological themes as well, including “the social bond,” “collective consciousness,” “rationality,” and “alienation.”

The course will be broken into several segments, each of which is centered on a specific problematic or theme. We will begin with some historical perspectives on the role of technology in the formation of a distinctly modern worldview but also how important technology is in the understanding of ourselves as human. We then proceed to recent perspectives on how different new (digital) media technologies are in relation to their pre-digital (analog) forebears like radio and television. This will of course include readings that suggest that these new, digital, technologies have brought forth a different worldview, a “post-modern” one. We then proceed to some key works in Internet studies and new media studies. Here, we will try to take a comprehensive approach in how digital media, using the Internet as its main platform, has economic, political, social and cultural effects.

In sum, students will be introduced to modes of critical thinking and interpretation of a variety of media and technological devices for sociological analysis.

Course Objectives and Requirements

This course is meant to be an introduction to various ways in which media studies can inform sociological thinking. It is meant to provide students with a basic grounding in the language and concepts of new media studies and also provide a framework for a sociological understanding of media.


Students are expected to read the reading assignments and be ready to discuss them in class. There is a final exam and mid-term assignment (~5pp). In addition to these, there will be a class blog, to which each student is expected to contribute throughout the course of the semester. The blog posts can be anything from the Web (with proper attribution of course) and responses to the readings or topics raised from class discussions. It is meant to be, what media theorists describe as, “backchannel,” an unofficial (though I acknowledge it is not quite unofficial as I am requiring participation as part of the evaluation of your performance in this course) means of communicating that parallels “official” discussions that occur in class. You must post on the blog at least once a week. These posts will also be discussed in your tutorial groups.

Details on media analysis assignment

Final Exam – 50%
Mid-Semester Media Analysis Assignment – 30%
Blog Posts – 10%
Participation – 10%