So one of my summer projects has been writing class syllabi, which are basically the academic equivalent of mix tapes: Historiogroove: Foucault-Ginsburg-White-Certeau. They are embarrassingly fun to work on, and a dangerous time-suck. Turns out I can futz for hours trying to figure out whether Wendy Chun or Lisa Gitelman resonate better off of Freidrich Kittler, if there's such a thing as too much Johnathan Sterne, whether Jodi Dean needs a rebuttal, or if I have any pace at all in my life for Lacan.

After the jump I've pasted my first one, for a class I'm teaching in the fall, "The Cultures of New Media." In the next few days I'll post hypothetical syllabi I'm writing based on my reading areas for my qualifying exams -- these are both good exercises and teaching materials I can show when I go on the job market. Comments welcome, as always...


COM 339 Communication, Technology, & Culture highly recommended.

D. Travers Scott
Office Hours: Tu/Th 10-12, and by appointment, ASC G6 (Garden Level of West Wing).

All class questions should be posted on the class discussion board on Blackboard. This is our primary mode of communication outside of class. If you have a personal question, email me. I will endeavor to respond to email within 24 hours, Monday-Friday. There is no guarantee of response to questions about an assignment less than 24 hours before it is due.

This course explores emergent communication technologies as socially embedded components of culture. We will begin by interrogating the terms “culture,” “new,” and “media” for insights into the wide range of meanings, associations, and contradictions they hold. Within this framework, we will address technological news, debates, and developments, but also pop culture representations of technological nightmares and fantasies, myths and ideologies of newness and futurism, and technologies as metaphors for or projections of other social issues. Throughout the course, we will survey a variety communication technologies currently considered “new,” as well as other communication technologies at their moments of newness. We will explore different new-media cultures, communities, and groups, and discuss their varied practices, frameworks, identities, and conflicts. The ultimate goal of the class is not only to gain familiarity with forms and developments in contemporary new media, but also historically informed skills for critically analyzing technological hype, marketing, prediction, and other discourse.

• Vincent Mosco. (2004). The Digital Sublime: Myth, Power & Cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
• Course Reader: Blackboard

• MLA, APA or Chicago style guide
• Optional readings: Blackboard

REQUIREMENTS: You must complete all course requirements to pass the class.
• Short Assignments (5) 15%
• Midterm Exam 20%
• Paper 30%
• Final Exam 25%
• In-Class Participation 10%

A+ 97-100 A 93-96 A- 90-92 B+ 87-89 B 83-86 B- 80-82 C+ 77-79 C 73-76 C- 70-72 D+ 67-69 D 63-66 D- 60-62 F 0-59

In-class technologies. Personal computers and wireless internet are key parts of today’s technological culture, but they can also distract you from the material and dampen participation. Browsing the web, checking email, and text or instant messaging (via laptop or PDA) will have an adverse effect on your participation grade. Continued abuse will result in the ban of all devices during lecture.

Attendance. You are allowed 3 absences, no questions asked. After that, each absence may reduce your final course grade by 1/2 of a letter grade. Five or more absences risks failure in the class. Arriving late or leaving early counts as 1/3 of an absence. I don’t differentiate between excused and unexcused absences, so it’s a good idea to save your 3 absences for actual illnesses, out-of-town events, or family emergencies.

Deadlines/Exams. All assignments must be turned in at the beginning of class on the due date. If you are absent the day an assignment is due, you will receive a 10% deduction in assignment grade for each day that the assignment is not turned in. In rare cases, and for legitimate personal or medical reasons, I will grant extensions. All extensions must be requested 24 hours PRIOR to the due date. Makeup exams will only be given in the event of a documented family or medical emergency on the day of the exam.

Grades. Questions about grades should be addressed in a timely manner. There is a 24-hour wait / cool-down period after receiving a grade, but then you should address concerns within the next 10 days. After this time period, grades are considered final. All grade challenges must be submitted in writing. Challenging a grade is equivalent to requesting a re-grade. The revised grade may be higher or lower than the original grade.

Academic Integrity. All assignments must be the original work of the student and not used for any other course. Violation of this policy is an Academic Integrity violation. The Annenberg School for Communication is committed to upholding the University’s Academic Integrity Code as detailed in the SCampus guide. It is the policy of the School of Communication to report all violations of the code. Any serious violations or pattern of violations of the Academic Integrity Code will result in the student’s expulsion from the Communication major or minor. The University presumes that you are familiar with its standards and policies. Should you be found to have committed a violation, ignorance of these standards and policies will not be accepted as an excuse. For further clarification, please refer to “University Student Conduct Code” and “Appendix A: Academic Dishonesty Sanction Guidelines” in the SCampus guide.

ADA Compliance: Any student requesting academic accommodation based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to your instructor (or TA) as early in the semester as possible. Directions are available at http://sait.usc.edu/academicsupport/centerprograms/dsp/home_index.html. COURSE PREVIEW. All assignments will be turned in through Blackboard.

Short Assignments: These are informal thoughts, reactions, responses, and reflections NOT reviews or summaries. These will be in written AND digital formats, based on readings AND cultural events. These count 15% of your final grade. You need to complete five. You must respond to two required class readings, two cultural events, and one reading or event of your choosing. Two of your responses must be written, two must be digital, one is your choice written or digital. ALL will be shared with the class via Blackboard.
Two Cultural Events: More will be posted on Blackboard and announced throughout the semester. See instructor to approve other events.
- Museum of Jurassic Technology, 9341 Venice
- The Velaslavasay Panorama 1122 W 24th
- The Fly U.S. premier at L.A. Opera (see Opera U for $20 student tickets)
Two Readings - Any required reading, including Mosco chapters.
Two Written responses must be minimum two double-spaced pages Times 12 point.
Two Digital responses must be NEW and significantly engage the source material. These could be creating a video, website, audio project, mashup, remix, blog, group, avatar, Korsakow video, Sophia multimedia project, YouTube playlist, Flickr photoset, slideshow, game, social network, etc.

Midterm: Take-home essay format, handed out at the end of class. It will cover all material discussed thus far in the class, including the day it is handed out. It will count 20% of your final grade. It is due by the start of the following class.

Final Paper: Two parts: A prospectus or rough outline (1-2 pages) and the final paper (10 pages). It will count 30% of your final grade.

Final Exam: The final is cumulative, in-class, and similar in format to the midterm. It is worth 25% of your final grade.

Participation: You MUST complete all readings. It is in your best interest to volunteer opinions and discussion. I will call on everyone at one time or another. Your participation grade is based on demonstrated engagement with the course materials, instructor, and classmates. The “A” participant contributes regularly to discussions and demonstrates a willingness to question his or her instructor and fellow students in a respectful manner. The “B” participant contributes regularly, but tends to disrupt, dominate, or monopolize the discussion instead of making space for other students to speak. The “C” participant rarely contributes and/or misses many classes.



Tu Aug. 26: Welcome and Introduction

Th. Aug 28: What’s Culture?
Raymond Williams, “Culture” from Keywords
Slack & Wise, “Introduction” from Culture & Technology: A Primer
David Silver “Internet / Cyberculture / Digital Culture / New Media / Fill-in-the-blank Studies”

Tu. Sept. 2: Community
Mary Madden and Susannah Fox, “Riding the Waves of ‘Web 2.0’: More than a Buzzword, but Still not Easily Defined”
Andrew Feenberg & Maria Bakardjieva, “Virtual Community: No ‘Killer Implication’”
Sue Thomas, “The End of Cyberspace and Other Surprises”
Mosco Ch. 1. “The Secret of Life”

Th. Sept. 4: Generational
Sonia Livingstone, “Taking risky opportunities in youthful content creation: teenagers’ use of social networking sites for intimacy, privacy and self-expression”
Eszter Hargittai, “A Framework for Studying Differences in People’s Digital Media Uses”

Tu. Sept. 9: Ethnic / National -- SHORT ASSIGNMENT 1 DUE
Michelle Hilmes, “Radiating Culture” from Radio Voices
Ramesh Srinivasan, “Indigenous, Ethnic and Cultural Articulations of New Media”

Th. Sept. 11: Groups, Practices
Jonathan Sterne, “The mp3 as Cultural Artifact”
Mary Madden, “Music + Me Makes 2.0: Socially-Driven Music Sharing and the Adoption of Participatory Media Applications”
Cole et al., “Highlights: The 2008 Digital Future Project – Year Seven”

Tu. Sept. 16: Politics & Power
Howard Rheingold, “Smart Mobs: The Power of Mobile Many,” from Smart Mobs
Vincente L. Rafael, “The Cell Phone and the Crowd: Messianic Politics in the Contemporary Philippines”
Kahn & Kellner, “New media and internet activism: from the ‘Battle of Seattle’ to blogging”

Th. Sept. 18: Politics & Power, cont.
Jodi Dean “Communicative Capitalism: Circulation and the Foreclosure of Politics”
Mosco Ch. 4, “Loose Ends: The Death of Distance, the End of Politics”

Tu. Sept. 23: Network
Castells “Virtual Community or Network Society?” from The Internet Galaxy
Zizi Papacharissi, “The Virtual Geographies of Social Networks: A comparative analysis of Facebook, LinkedIn and ASmallWorld.”


Th. Sept. 25: What’s New?
Gitelman & Pingree, “Introduction: What’s New About New Media?” from New Media 1740-1910
Wendy Chun, “Introduction: Did Somebody Say New Media”? from New Media, Old Media

Tu. Sept. 30: Histories of Newness -- SHORT ASSIGNMENT 2 DUE
Mosco Ch 5, “When Old Myths Were New: The Never-Ending Story”
Julia Knight, “DVD, Video and Reaching Audiences: Experiments in Moving-Image Distribution”
Asa Briggs, “The Pleasure Telephone: A Chapter in the Prehistory of Media”

Th. Oct. 2: Histories of Newness, cont.
Tom Standage, “Afterword,” from The Victorian Internet
Wijnand Ijsselsteijn, “Presence in the Past: What can We Learn from Media History?”
Chuck Palahniuk, from Invisible Monsters

Tu. Oct. 7: Futures of Newness
David Nye, “Technological Prediction: A Promethean Problem”
Mosco Ch. 2 “Myth & Cyberspace”
Wendy Chun, “Orienting the Future” from Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics

Th. Oct. 9: Futures of Newness, cont. -- MIDTERM HANDED OUT END OF CLASS
Kelly A. Gates, “Biometrics and Post-9/11 Technostalgia”
Jonathan Sterne, “Out With the Trash: On the Future of New Media”

Tu. Oct. 14: Work of Newness -- MIDTERM DUE
John Carey & John Quick “The Mythos of the Electronic Revolution”
Rosalind Williams, “Afterword: An Historian’s View on the Network Society” from The Network Society: A Cross-Cultural Perspective, Manuel Castells, Ed.
Mosco Ch. 3, “Cyberspace and the End of History”

Th. Oct. 16: Work of Newness, cont.
John Carey, “The Ideology of the Telegraph”
Sarah Banet Weiser, “Surfin’ the Net: Children, Parental Obsolescence, and Citizenship”


Tu. Oct. 21: What’s Media? -- SHORT ASSIGNMENT 3 DUE
Bolter & Grusin, “Introduction: The Double Logic of Remediation,” “Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation” from Remediation: Understanding New Media

Th. Oct. 23: News & Information
Mary Ann Doane, “Information, Crisis, Catastrophe” (2005 revision)
Sandra Braman, “The Meta-technologies of Information” from Biotechnology and Communication

Tu. Oct. 28: Communication Technologies
Daniel Czitrom, “Metahistory, Mythology, and the Media: The American Thought of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan,” from Media and the American Mind from Morse to McLuhan
Nicole Starosielski, “Reskinning the Digital Surface: Borders and Immobility at the Interface”

Th. Oct. 30: Mediated Bodies
Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto”
Tara McPherson, “Reload: Liveness, Mobility and the Web”
Alexander G. Weheliye, “‘Feenin’: Posthuman Voices in Contemporary Black Popular Music”


Mosco Ch. 6, “From Ground Zero to Cyberspace and Back Again”
David Silver and Alice Marwick, “Internet Studies in Times of Terror”


Th. Nov. 6: Aesthetic, Aural, Narrative
F. T. Marinetti, “The Futurist Manifesto”
Lev Manovich, “What is New Media?” from The Language of New Media
Herman Gray, “Music, Identity and New Technology,” from Cultural Moves: African Americans and the Politics of Representation
Joseph Lanza, “Ghosts in the Elevator,” from Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-listening, and other Moodsong

Tu. Nov. 11: Racial -- PROSPECTUS DUE
Anna Everett, ““The Revolution Will Be Digitized: Afrocentricity and the Digital Public Sphere”
Han N. Lee, “Queering Race in Cyberspace”
Lisa Nakamura, “Cybertyping & the Work of Race in the Age of Digital Reproduction”

Th. Nov. 13: Visibility, Exhibitionism, Surveillance
Ludlow & Wallace, “Introduction,” “The Death of Urizenus” from The Second Life Herald: The Virtual Tabloid that Witnessed the Dawn of the Metaverse
Mark Andrejevic, “The Work of Watching One Another: Lateral Surveillance, Risk, and Governance”

Tu. Nov. 18; Gendered & Sexual
Caitlin Sullivan & Kate Bornstein, from Nearly Roadkill: An Infobahn Erotic Adventure
Sandip Roy, “From Khush List to Gay Bombay: Virtual Webs of Real People,” from Mobile Cultures: New Media in Queer Asia
Peter A. Chow-White, “Race, Gender and Sex on the Net: Semantic Networks of Selling and Storytelling Sex Tourism”

Th. Nov. 20: Social, Scientific
DiMaggio, Hargittai, Neuman & Robinson, “Social Implications of the Internet”
Kwan Min Lee and Wei Peng, “What Do We Know About Social and Psychological Effects of Computer Games? A Comprehensive Review of the Current Literature”

Tu. Nov. 25: Pathological -- SHORT ASSIGNMENT 5 DUE
Toby Miller, “Gaming for Beginners”
Edward W. Lawless, “X-Radiation From Color TVs,” from Technology and Social Shock
Adam Burgess, “Mobile Discontents and the Origins of Microwave Fears,” from Cellular Phones, Public Fears, and a Culture of Precaution
Andrew Keen, “Truth and Lies,” from The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing our Culture


Tu. Dec. 2: Legislative & Economic
John McMurria, “A Taste of Class: Pay-TV and the Commodification of Television in Postwar America”
Fran├žois Bar and Jonathan Taplin, “Cable’s Digital Future”
F. Bermejo, “Audience Manufacture in Historical Perspective: From Broadcasting to Google”

Th. Dec. 4: Commercial -- FINAL PAPERS DUE
Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger, “The Cluetrain Manifesto”
Manuel Castells, “E-business and the New Economy,” from The Internet Galaxy
Vittorio Di Martino, from Promoting Decent Work: The High Road to Teleworking
Rosalind Williams, from Retooling: A Historian Confronts Technological Change



  1. greetings--don't know if you're reading these, so i'll send an email too. how did this class work out for you? and did you manage to get the students to read all the material?
    i teach in media, society and the arts at purchase college in new york and kind of do a combination of anthro, new media, and cultural studies.


  2. Hi Shaka-

    As for my class last fall, it was a blast but that syllabus was overambitious. I demoted I think 4 readings to optional and adapted exams and lectures along the way to deal with students' not reading. After midterm I lectured less about the readings yet continually reminded them they'd be responsible for readings in assignments, paper and final. Assignments and papers were quite good but the final -- mult choice and short answers dealing explicitly with readings - they not surprisingly didn't do as well on.

    More short reading responses and/or pop quizzes might've been useful.

    The students got the main ideas of the class -- critically interrogating / complicating concepts of newness, media, and culture; seeing how much more it can be as a subject of study than computers/internet, seeing interplay of old and new, questioning determinism, hyperbole, etc.

    Where I let them down was not picking an underlying theory or concept to ground all that: historiography, identity, DIY, media ecology, panics, determinism, subculture, aesthetic-vs-social analyses, Progressive theories of tech democratization, sound studies ... Not sure what, but the class lacked a central core. I wanted to do a broad survey but I think it needed a more central point of reference --- using a model that each week then illustrated, challenged, built upon, etc.

    That being said, the class was a blast. I can't really complain about a semester where I get to work in furries, White City, and Sun Ra.

    Good luck with your class!