Media and the Information Society Syllabus

Media and the Information Society

NOTE: This course was inherited from Dr Luke Goode, however, it was modified in order to keep it up to date. I have co-taught this course twice with Jonathan Albright



This course is designed to show the macro-level shifts that have occurred alongside the introduction of the information society. As information and information technologies have begun to fulfil a vital role within society as a whole, the ways in which people engage with business, culture, news and each other have shifted.

Media and the Information Society takes a macro-level perspective on these shifts, looking at how industries and communities are shifting with and in response to these changes. Students are encouraged to critically consider their own engagement with social media, news and culture, but to maintain a broader perspective regarding the larger industries.

Learning Objectives

This course aims to help students assess current societal and industrial shifts related to new media and the information society, and understand the broader theoretical frameworks to which they apply. By studying “bleeding edge” content, along with its historical context, students are encouraged to identify real-world examples of theoretical concepts, as well as understanding how existing theoretical and philosophical concepts might be applied to modern examples.


Assessment for this course is dependent on the level at which it is taught. Previous assessments have included essays responding to prompt questions, literature reviews, assessing the qualitative differences in news storytelling across different sources, and research essays into a related interest area of the student’s choosing. Previous iterations of this course have included an exam, comprising an essay and paragraph-length short answers, but I am ambivalent as to the utility of this format, and would consider changing it to encourage more in-depth research work.

Example assessment breakdown for a 3rd year class

10% Tutorial participation – required preparation of a worksheet based on readings, and participation in class discussion

20% Literature Review – required students to select a subject area of interest, and describe the field of academic literature (2000 words).

30% Research Essay – required the student to develop their own research question, and complete a 3000 word essay on the area. Students were allowed to, but not required to, include their Literature Review as an appendix if they wished to continue in the same subject area and not repeat material.

40% Exam – closed book, required the student to demonstrate an overall understand of the key concepts of the course and its readings, using paragraph-length short answers to demonstrate a breath of understanding, and a roughly 1000 word essay to demonstrate depth.


This course has been designed for a 12 week New Zealand University semester, but would easily be modified for a 10 week quarter, or a 15 week semester.

The course also allows for the introduction of key ideas from Media Studies which may not have been introduced in other courses, such as technological determinism, the public sphere, and citizen journalism, as well as notions of privacy and surveillance.

The readings are all taken from recent publications, reflecting the constantly changing nature of both the course and the subject matter. I find that the course shifts slightly each year, to keep up with the shifts in the industries, and in the academic discourse which surrounds them.

Lectures usually include a significant quantity of audio-visual material, showing students real-world examples of the lecture content, and encouraging them to think critically about their own engagements with society and these industries.


Week 1: Introduction: understanding the ‘information society’

a. Allen, Stuart. ‘Digital divisions: online reporting and the network society’. Global politics in the information age. Ed. Mark J Lacy & Peter Wilkin. Manchester; New York: Manchester University Press, 2005. pp62–79. Print.

b. Mosco, Vincent. ‘When Old Myths Were New: The Ever-Ending Story’. The digital sublime : myth, power, and cyberspace. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004. pp117–140. Print.

Week 2: Digital natives – human v1.5?

a. Palfrey, John G, and Urs Gasser. ‘Identities’. Born digital : understanding the first generation of digital natives. New York: Basic Books, 2008. pp17–37. Print.

b. Tapscott, Don. ‘The Net Generation As Consumers’. Grown up digital : how the net generation is changing your world. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. pp185–217. Print.

Week 3: The ‘Daily Me’ and DIY democracy

a. Gillmor, Dan. ‘From Tom Paine to Blogs and Beyond’. We the media : grassroots journalism by the people, for the people. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly, 2004. pp1–22. Print.

b. Sunstein, Cass R. ‘Polarization and Cybercascades’. 2.0. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. pp46–96. Print.

Week 4: Crowd wisdom, groupthink or mob tyranny?

a. Rheingold, Howard. ‘Smart Mobs: The Power of the Mobile Many’. Smart mobs: the next social revolution. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Pub., 2003. pp157–182. Print.

b. Shirky, Clay. ‘Faster and Faster’. Here comes everybody : the power of organizing without organizations. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. pp161–187. Print.

Week 5: Media Culture 1 – Smarter or dumber?

a. Bauerlein, Mark. ‘Screen Time’. The dumbest generation : how the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardizes our future (or, don’t trust anyone under 30). New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2008. pp71–111. Print.

b. Johnson, Steven. ‘The Internet’. Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005. pp116–24. Print.


Week 6: Media Culture 2 – Rip, Mix, Burn

a. Jenkins, Henry. ‘Photoshop for Democracy’. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press, 2006. pp217–50. Print.

b. Lessig, Lawrence. ‘Cultures Compared’. Remix : making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. pp84–114. Print.

Week 7: Media Culture 3 – Storytelling/Narrative in the Digital Age

a Jenkins, Henry. ‘Searching for the Origami Unicorn: The Matrix and Transmedia Storytelling’. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press, 2006. pp93–130. Print.

b. Scott, Suzanne. ‘Authorized Resistance: Is Fan Production Frakked?’ Cylons in America : critical studies in Battlestar Galactica. Ed. Tiffany Potter & C. W Marshall. New York: Continuum, 2008. pp210–223. Print.

Week 8: Media economies in the information age

a. Anderson, Chris. ‘Niche Culture: What’s It Like To Live In A Long Tail World’. The long tail: why the future of business is selling less of more. New York: Hyperion, 2008. pp177–91. Print.

b. Benkler, Yochai. ‘Cultural Freedom: A Culture Both Plastic and Critical’. The wealth of networks : how social production transforms markets and freedom. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. pp273–300. Print.

Week 9: Revenge of the Luddites – the case for resistance

a. Keen, Andrew. ‘Web 2.0: The Second Generation of the Internet has arrived and it’s worse than you think’. The digital divide: arguments for and against Facebook, Google, texting, and the age of social networking. Ed. Mark Bauerlein. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2011. pp242–249. Print.

b. Siegel, Lee. ‘Being There’. Against the machine : being human in the age of the electronic mob. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2008. pp138–56. Print.

Week 10: Mapping the future

a. Friedman, David D. ‘Surveillance Technology: The Universal Panopticon’. Future imperfect : technology and freedom in an uncertain world. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. pp66–79. Print.

b. Zittrain, Jonathan. ‘The Lessons of Wikipedia’. The future of the Internet and how to stop it. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. pp127–148. Print.

Week 11: Digital modernity – an unfinished project?

a. boyd, danah, and Eszter Hargittai. ‘Facebook Privacy Settings: Who Cares?’ First Monday 15.8 (2010). Web. 25 July 2012.

b. Dibbell, Julian. ‘Radical Opacity’. Technology Review. Web. 25 July 2012.

Week 12: Course wrap-up / exam guidance


One thought on “Media and the Information Society Syllabus

  1. erinmeyers

    I think this looks great overall. You’ve shown your framework and reading list quite clearly. I like how you emphasize your ability to shift in order to keep up with current literature. I would suggest some “learning outcomes” or “objectives” for a syllabus you sent with a job dossier. What are the students coming out of the class able to do/think about? I also would suggest some more specificity in assignments. Maybe examples of the kinds of prompts you give? Or maybe add a page with the guidelines used for one or more of those assignments. That’s my $.02

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