Social Media Theory and Practice

Course Blog for MSTPC698 – Spring 2010 at NJIT

Some General Instructional Objectives:

21st century advances in Web programming and electronic network technology have helped bring about some of the most significant developments in digital media since the emergence of graphic user interfaces in the early 1990s. In fact, programmers, designers and users alike have considered such transitions important enough to dub their collective emergence as Web 2.0 or the Web’s “second incarnation.” This course will provide a critical survey of some of the more recent, major developments in social media networking in order to gauge their transformative effect on electronic culture, marketing and interpersonal communication. With the advent of virtual communities, smart mobs, and life- streaming, traditional questions concerning collective social behaviour and community politics have taken on renewed import as more and more people forsake conventional communication contexts to participate and engage in online production.

Social Media occupies an interesting set of discursive junctures both within and outside the academy. In the academy, the growing array of programmable or digital communication technologies now in development seems best understood in terms of earlier broadcasting and publishing paradigms. Hence communication fields are particularly attracted to social media as advanced branches of either the film/television industries or print production. Yet, the central role that network and telephony technology plays in such developments tends to attract both scholarly and commercial interest in their use as information frameworks. Courses in social media subsequently end up having to address under one heading two very different objects of study. This course is no different.

At a general level, this course seeks to introduce and adapt students to a variety of social media environments in order to develop new strategies for both reading and writing within today’s multi-cultural, screen-oriented, networked culture. Course work will centre upon the active online participation of students and both a collective and individual willingness to engage in an array of different media practices, including web forums, blogs, wikis, chat, Twitter and virtual worlds. The theoretical foundations of the course derive from primary scholarship on the relationship between mediated communication and human community. As a practicum, however, the course will enable participants to gain hands-on experience with techniques in chatting, blogging, tagging, wiki writing, tweeting and social media presentation. Such skills will culminate in a final online assignment due towards the end of the term, where students will be given the opportunity to strategize, plan, design and produce social media projects of their own.

Current Course Road Map: Keeping the above objectives in mind, the course’s structural and thematic integrity would seem to depend on at least three general aims:

  • Understanding the complex and various social roles that communication technology currently plays in our actual lives.
  • Technical or Applied practice of current media sharing/distribution applications.
  • Building specific public and professional strategies that are able to support and improve the use of media technologies to expand and augment further our capacity to interact with each other in the service of wider socio-economic achievements and the growth of human knowledge.

To these related ends, I’ve put together this general “road map” of topics and themes:

Part 1 

Weeks 1 to 6

Introduction to Social Media / Social Media as Public and Private Space

The first weeks of the course will serve as a general introduction to the technological, cultural and industrial history of developments in electronic telecommunication software collectively referred to as Social Media or Social Network Media.  Our readings and discussions will focus primarily on the concept of media as both a public and private space, investigating how the combination of advanced media interfaces with digital telecommunication networks can affect social environments associated with work, leisure, politics and even the individual.

Coursework will require students to read articles available for download at the beginning of each week from the Moodle site. A set of relevant questions and issues for forum discussion will be set up at that time. Wiki and Glossary contributions may also follow from the articles, later forming the basis for online presentations assigned towards the end of term.

Part 2

Weeks 7-9

By week seven, we should have a basic understanding of the many important cultural roles social media currently plays on both a public and private level of engagement. A more in depth look at media sharing technologies will subsequently follow, including the opportunity to set up and employ at least two forms of online production in this area. 

Part 3

Weeks 10-13

Over the spring break, we will begin organising individual social media projects, taking into consideration both the issues of our critical discussions and the multimedia work we’ve so far produced for online publication and sharing. The projects will provide a social media framework for various modes of synchronous and asynchronous information distribution.A new set of discussion topics will also be set up, assessing social media through three forms of discourse: industrial/commercial, academic and political.

Part 4

Weeks 14-15

The final two weeks of the course will focus on preparing online summary reports and peer evaluations of our social media work.




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