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MMEDIA 3B03 DigitalCultures

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Dale Shin


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 333

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: Mondays 10-11AM, Fridays 2:30-3:30PM, TSH 333

Course Objectives:

This course explores current contests over access to the production, distribution, and consumption of digital culture across a range of practices. Assignments will include digital production.

Digital media, networks, and technologies are radically reorganizing how we create, consume, and share culture. This course surveys the cultural impact of digital, communication, and information technologies on the production and exchange of culture and knowledge, as well as their implications for identity and community, political economy and commerce, public policy and governance. Students will consider not only the technical underpinnings and infrastructure of these emergent digital cultures, but also their political, legal, and economic dimensions – the distinctive cultural practices and social relations that are crystallizing around, and athwart, digital media, environments, and interfaces. Above all, the course will seek to understand how our society is responding to digital cultures and adapting them to its needs and interests, as well as the conflicts, resistances, and contradictions that are developing out of this crucible. Some themes to be considered include: intellectual property rights, piracy, FOSS, and the gift economy; online surveillance and privacy in digital cultural production; multimedia, transmedia, and cross-media proliferation and the new forms of authorship and storytelling.

Upon completion of the course, students will

  • specify the tensions, as well as traffic, between popular/non-academic and scholarly/academic conceptions of digital cultures, and think critically about some of the outstanding issues and problems currently dominating the disciplines of communication and multimedia studies in relation to digital cultures;
  • have critically examined specific products and practices from digital culture from their own lives – file-sharing, wikis, blogging, social media, and search engines, video, computer and mobile games, etc.;
  • understand the complex and contradictory role that power, political economy, and identity play in the production, distribution, and consumption of culture and knowledge through and across digital technologies, platforms, and networks today.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

All readings will be available on Avenue to Learn, through Google Books, or via the McMaster library catalogue. There are no texts that need to be purchased for this course.

Method of Assessment:

Attendance (10%)

Attendance will be taken at the beginning and end of most classes. Four unexplained absences in total (e.g., two before, two after class) throughout the term are allowed without penalty; each subsequent absence will result in a 1% penalty being deducted from the attendance component (10%) of a student’s overall grade in the course (e.g., seven absences in total will result in a 3% penalty, leaving them with a possible 7% of the 10% allocated for attendance in the course). Absences due to illness, bereavement, etc., supported by documentation, will not count against the participation grade.

Students may also complete various in-class exercises throughout the term – sometimes in lieu of attendance being taken – in order to take advantage of the active learning environment in which the class is being held.

Group exercise (15%)

Students will work in groups to deliver an oral presentation (15 mins. presentation, 3-5 mins. discussion, questions, and reactions from the class) on a topic or theme from the course. Instancing recent news articles, blogs, videos, podcasts, etc., the presentation should explain and illustrate some of the main ideas and themes from their assigned topic.

Further instructions will be provided in class.

In-class test (25%) – Feb 13

Students will write an in-class test during the term. The exam will be based on material (both readings and lectures) covered up to the date of the test.

Paper/project (20%) – Mar 30, 11:59pm

Students will submit either a paper (2000-2500 words), drawing upon course assigned materials and secondary sources to explore a particular concept, idea, or theme at length; or a multimedia project (e.g., a wiki, blog, video, etc.) that illustrates one or more of the concepts, ideas, or themes in this course to be distinctive of digital cultures, along with a report (1000-1500 words) that explains how the former exemplifies the latter, drawing upon course assigned materials (and secondary sources if necessary).

Students who choose to product a multimedia project must also submit a short proposal (250-500 words) in order to have their project approved by the instructor; while the proposal will not be graded, it will establish the technical dimensions and parameters of the project (e.g., length of time that the video will run and the nature of the labour involved). Proposals for multimedia projects must be submitted by Mar 16.

Further instructions will be provided in class.

Final exam (30%) – during the exam period, Apr 11-27

Students will write an exam during the exam period. The exam will be based on material (both readings and lectures) covered up to the final week of classes

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Assignments must be submitted by the exact date and time specified. Late submissions will be penalized 3% for each day – including Saturdays and Sundays – that they are overdue. Submissions that are more than seven days late will not be accepted and will instead receive a 0% grade. Students are responsible for retaining a back-up copy of their work; computer hardware or software malfunctions, network outages, data loss or corruption, and other common problems of a technical nature are not in and of themselves sufficient grounds for having the penalties for late submissions waived.

Requests for extensions by reason of extenuating circumstances will be considered by the instructor on a case-by-case basis, in the event of a force majeure, and only with the provision of supporting documentation (i.e., a completed McMaster Student Absence form). Extensions will only be offered in exceptional cases; students should not assume their provision.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Jan 5. Introduction
No readings assigned for this week

Jan 10-12. Silicon Valley, the Californian Ideology, and the Birth of Digital Culture

  1. Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, “The Californian Ideology,” Science as Culture 6, no. 1 (1996): 44-72
  2. Aimée Hope Morrison, “An Impossible Future: John Perry Barlow’s ‘Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,’” New Media & Society 11, nos. 1-2 (February-March 2009): 53-71

Jan 17-19. Of Users, Producers, and Consumers: Digital Culture, Convergence, and User-Generated Content

  1. Henry Jenkins, “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture,” in Media and Cultural Studies: KeyWorks, eds. Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Douglas Kellner (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 549-576
  2. Tizinia Terranova, “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital economy,” in Digital Labor: The Internet as Playground and Factory, ed. Trebor Sholz (London; New York: Routledge, 2013), 33-57

Jan 24-26. Organizing Digital Culture: Google, Relevance, and the Politics of Search

  1. Siva Vaidhyanathan, “Render unto Caesar: How Google Came to Rule the Web,” in The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 13-50

Jan 31-Feb 2. All Eyes on Me: Surveillance, Privacy, and Digital Culture

  1. danah boyd and Eszter Hargittai, “Facebook Privacy Settings: Who Cares?” First Monday 15, no. 8 (2010):
  2. Elizabeth A. Bradshaw, “This Is What a Police State Looks Like: Sousveillance, Direct Action, and the Anti-Corporate Globalization Movement,” Critical Criminology 21 (June 2013): 447-461

Screening: excerpts from Terms and Conditions May Apply (2012, dir. Cullen Hoback)

Feb 7-9. From Imagined to Virtual Communities: Digital Media, Friending, and Networked Publics

  1. Howard Rheingold, “A Virtual Community,” in Reading Digital Culture, ed. David Trend (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), 272-280
  2. Lisa Nakamura, “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 26, no. 2 (June 2009): 128-144
  3. danah boyd, “Introduction,” in It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (New Haven, Ct.: Yale University Press, 2014), 1-28

Screening: Second Skin (2008, dir. Juan Carlos Piñeiro Escoriaza)

Feb 14. In-class test
No readings assigned for this class

Feb 16. TBA

Feb 20-26. Midterm recess (no classes)

Feb 28-Mar 2. Crowdsourcing History: Peer Production, Open Source Knowledge, and the Return(?) of the Commons

  1. Christian Fuchs, “Wikipedia: A New Democratic Form of Collaborative Work and Production?” in Social Media: A Critical Introduction (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2014), 235-248
  2. Nicholas Carr, “Questioning Wikipedia,” in Critical Point of View: A Wikipedia Reader, ed. Geert Lovink and Nathaniel Tkacz (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2010), 309–324

Mar 7-9. “Journalism Is Fine Because Everyone Is a Journalist”: Social Media, News Blogs, and the Changing Face of Journalism

  1. Axel Bruns, “News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: Perpetual Collaboration in Evaluating the News,” in Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage (New York: Peter Lang, 2008), 69-99
  2. Robert McChesney, “Journalism Is Dead, Long Live Journalism?” in Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy (New York: The New Press, 2013), 172-215

Mar 10. Last day for canceling courses without failure by default

Mar 14-16. The Revolution Will (Not) Be Tweeted: The Promise and Limits of Digital Politics

  1. Manuel Castells, “Occupy Wall Street: Harvesting the Salt of the Earth,” in Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012), 156-198
  2. Evgeny Morozov, “Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism,” in The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom (New York: Public Affairs, 2011), 179-204

Mar 21-23. Copyrights or Wrongs?: Remixing, Digital Media, and Intellectual Property Regimes

  1. Lawrence Lessig, “Read/Write, Revived,” in Remix Culture: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (New York: Bloomberg, 2008), 51-83

Screening: excerpts from Everything Is a Remix (2011, dir. Brett Gaylor)

Mar 28-30. Sharing Is Caring?: The Sharing Economy and Collaborative Consumption

  1. Tom Slee, “On the Move with Uber,” in What’s Yours Is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy (London; New York: OR Books, 2015), ch. 4
  2. Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers, “The Rise of Collaborative Consumption,” in What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption (Harper Collins, 2010), 67-96

Apr 4-6. In which everything is wrapped up