Cultures of New Media / Syllabus / spring ’13

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Our class with Facebook Head of Entertainment Kay Madati (center).

Our class with Facebook Head of Entertainment Kay Madati (center).


10:00am – 11:50am
ASC 231 & via Adobe Connect: links provided for each class session
Kathi Inman Berens, Lecturer [kathiberens at gmail dot com]
Bio at end of this document.
Meryl Alper, Annenberg Ph.D. candidate [malper at usc dot edu]
Kathi Inman Berens: After class & by appointment.
Meryl Alper: Mondays after class from 12-1 pm in G26

Your Communication Interfaces
What is a “user interface”? It is the space where interaction between humans and computers occurs. Mobile computing informs our core disposition and habits; as soon as 2013, more people will access browsers using mobile devices than desktop or laptop. For many of us, the distinction between on- and offline no longer inheres; “the interface” is perpetual. This is called “ubiquitous computing.” 97% of students own mobile devices and compute ubiquitously. That’s why the classroom is an interface, whether or not a teacher’s course design reflects this state of being. Institutions of higher education have various responses to “ubi-comp.” We have yet to see strategic thinking about how mobility and expectations of on-demand learning shape, or ought to shape, pedagogy. Extravagant investment in MOOCs is not such a strategy.

This class anchors its experiments with interface in established topics in Media Studies. Students in this course will study the how and why of social media with the aim of discovering the messaging strategies that motivate the social media campaigns of brands, individuals, corporations and other entities. Our “classroom” is anywhere we learn: our various classroom interfaces will enable you to collaborate, share, revise and find an audience for your work.

This “Cultures of New Media” meets both “on ground” in our classroom (ASC 231) and virtually, in our virtual classroom via Adobe Connect. I send a link before each class session. Learners choose the context in which they wish to participate: surrounded by others in the class, coming in via software, or both. I come in via software 60% of the time, so even when learners come to the embodied classroom, at least some of the time they will also be participating via virtual classroom software.

In the four semesters I’ve taught at Annenberg using virtual classroom software, many of my students have found the class challenging & eventful. We collaborate actively across platforms. The Adobe software is optimized for distance learners, but that’s neither who we are nor how we use it. Each day, some of us are physically together and others come in virtually. Collectively we “mod” the software to our needs.

Attendance is non-negotiably crucial. If you suspect you won’t be able to attend all the classes, you and other learners will be better served if you drop the class. Moreso than other classes you might take, this “Cultures of New Media” requires attentive daily participation. We invent stuff, whether it’s media artifacts, new theories, or software workarounds, and that work happens when we’re all collaborating together. Particularly since you may attend virtually, I have little tolerance for students missing classes. If you are stuck in traffic, duck into a coffee shop and use your phone to attend. Much of our work is team-based, and your team members rely on you to show up on time ready to think & build. More than 2 non-medical emergencies will adversely affect your grade.

Three assignments, each worth 25% of your grade, will be individually authored and posted to a collective team blog. Each team is comprised of 5 learners. Each team has a “bucket” on the main page of our course blog. Ours is the first undergraduate class to author assignments in a multi-site blog platform called Genesis, which runs on a WordPress frame. Teams will design their unique web pages collaboratively. Students will also review each others’ writing and assess each others’ contributions to the group project workflow.

Our course materials are four assigned books, many posts and lectures by scholars, lead practitioners, media executives, and exemplary student work. I encourage students to read online materials in their original context. It’s easy to annotate within the bookmarking-and-annotation platform Diigo so that you can conveniently take notes on online material. The software is easy & intuitive. You can access help with the Diigo tools here.

I expect you to be on a network-connected device during class. You will need to enable your device’s mic and, ideally, camera in order to talk during our virtual sessions. Please update your Firefox and Safari browsers to the latest versions. Do not use Chrome: it causes problems with the Adobe Connect software. Connectivity is essential to our work. If you know you’ve got a weak wifi connection, you’re obliged to be somewhere you can obtain a strong signal: either wired in or in a different location with strong wifi.

1000-point scale
Assignment #1: Engagement Individual Analysis (individual blog post): 250 pts.
Due: Fri. February 22 9AM

Assignment #2: Transmedia Individual Analysis (individual blog post): 250 pts.
Due: Mon. Mar. 25 9AM

Assignment #3: Distributed Storytelling Individual Analysis: 250 pts
Due: Wed. May 1 9AM

Assignment #4: Collaborative Creation of Team Genesis site: 200 pts.
Due: Semester-long; Your self-assessment & ranking of your teammates’ work performances are due Wed. May 8 by 10AM.
Assessment Metrics for this project: self-reporting of your Genesis activities in a g-doc; these reports will be shared with other group members, who will assess & write comments on those reports. Meryl & I will have our own informal assessments of the small group collaborations throughout the term. We will offer feedback periodically so you have a sense of where you’re excelling & where you could improve. Of course, from the outset teammates should establish shared goals, timelines, and clearly stated rewards and consequences regarding shared team goals and deadlines.

Participation, Quizzes, Attendance: 50 pts.
*Note: I may give quizzes at the beginning of a class period. If you miss a quiz because you are late or absent, it cannot be made up. Quizzes factor into the “Participation” grade.

Week 1: Attention & Distraction
Jan. 14, 16

Davidson, pp. 1-58 for Wednesday’s class.
On Twitter follow: @kathiiberens, @merylalper and everybody in our class.
HW For Wed. Jan. 23: 1) ComScore White Paper about Facebook: “The Power of a Like” READ the 25-page PDF I sent to you via email. WATCH the 5 min introduction to key concepts & conclusions.
2) 17-min. vid: Participatory Culture by Henry Jenkins.
3) Stacy Wood, “The Value of Customer Recommendations” [from the Spreadable Media website essay collection.}
Note the difference in messaging: ComScore is for a professional audience, the Jenkins vid is for a popular audience, the Wood essay is for an academic audience. We’ll talk about these generic differences in addition to the content.

Week 2: Facebook: What Is the Power of a Like?
Jan. 21 = MLK Day; NO SCHOOL; Jan. 23
ADOBE Connect

Discuss ComScore “The Power of a Like” & Jenkins, “Participatory Culture” vid; and Stacy Wood, “The Value of Customer Recommendations.” All links are posted in HW above.

Week 3: Facebook and Entertainment: Database as 1-Stop-Shop?
Jan. 28, 30

Mon. Jan. 28: Kay Madati (Head of Entertainment & Media, Facebook) visits our class
Wed. Jan. 30 Introduction to our authoring platform, Genesis
HW: 3 articles about datamining & privacy
How Google — and 104 other companies — Are Tracking me on the Web” by Alex Madrigal
How To Get Privacy Right” by Nicholas Thompson
The Curious Case of Internet Privacy” by Cory Doctorow

Week 4 — Super Bowl & “The Second Screen”; Visual Rhetoric Writing Workshop
Feb. 4, 6
ADOBE Connect

Mon.: Slideshow: Super Bowl 2013 and Social Media Marketing by Kathi Inman Berens
HW for Wed.: Spreadable Media chapter 3: “The Value of Media Engagement” (pp. 113-152).
Wed.: Visual Rhetoric; Collaborative analysis of Genesis
HW for Mon. 2/11:
READ Cathy Davidson, Now You See It, pp. 1-58 and this post from Salon about how “FB Broke the Web” & in doing so, revealed how it aggregates individual browsing habits tied to real names.
EVALUATE Genesis course blog with others in your small group. Be prepared to present your findings informally to the rest of the class on Monday.
REVIEW essay prompts for Assignment #1. The prompt will arrive to you via email over the weekend.
CHOOSE which prompt you will answer & be prepared to articulate why in class Monday.

Week 5 — Drilling Down on Engagement; Corporate transmedial branding
Feb. 11, 13
EMBODIED (KIB comes to ASC 231) — Students should meet in ASC 231.

2/11 Mon.: KIB leads discussion about ComScore’s “The Power of a Like” and Davidson pp. 1-58. We’ll workshop the assignment prompts, and review close reading best practices. Small Groups present insights about assigned sections of Past, Present and Future of Journalism Genesis course blog.

HW For Wed. 2/13: WATCH ad:techSF 2011 Keynote address by Wendy Clark (Chief Officer of Integrated Marketing, The Coca-Cola Company), joined on stage by Renny Gleesen (Global Digital Strategies Director for Wieden+Kennedy). Vid is 1 hour.; WATCH also these definitions of transmedial advertising from Annenberg Innovation Lab’s write up of the October 2012 Transmedia Think & Do. WRITE 500 words for Assignment #1. Don’t just think about it, really write!

2/13 Wed: Transmedial Storytelling: Coca Cola
KIB presents WK deck
Discuss Wendy Clark’s Coke strategy as articulated in 2011, including these well-known YT vids security cameras and happiness machine. COMPARE those vids to what we learned about Coke Chase, the campaign they rolled out at SB47. Be prepared to talk about differences, how they represent a shift in Coke’s interactivity strategy. What do you think Coke was optimizing for in making the change?
WATCH Exemplary Student Work: Team Coke Social Media Analysis and Reflection in which they integrate course reading into their analysis.

HW for next week: DRAFT the entire 1st assignment. Be ready to workshop A FULL DRAFT in your small group next week. READ Henry Jenkins, et. al, Spreadable Media READ pp. 1-84; Introduction & chapter 1 “Where Web 2.0 Went Wrong.”

Week 6 — Corporate Transmedia Storytelling
Feb. 18, 20

Allow yourself time to load & test your post in the browser, then edit after you see it published live. (This is called “publish then edit.” It does not mean you publish sloppy work; it means you publish your absolutely best work, then see it more critically once it’s live. Then you edit again.)
ASSIGNMENT #1 IS DUE FRIDAY FEB. 22 9AM POSTED TO Assignment #1 bucket in BLACKBOARD (because our Genesis site is not yet ready.)

Wed. 2/20: WORKSHOP your full drafts of assignment #1. Discuss Jenkins et. al.
HW for Mon. 2/25: READ Henry Jenkins, et. al, Spreadable Media READ pp. 153-228: pp. 1-84; chapters 4 & 5 “What Constitutes Meaningful Participation” & “Designing for “Spreadability” (pp. 153- 228).

Week 7 — Participation, Copyright & Spreadability
Feb. 25, 27
ADOBE Connect

Mon: Discuss Jenkins et. al.: “What Constitutes Meaningful Participation” & “Designing for “Spreadability” (pp. 153- 228).
HW for Wed 2/27: Jonathan Coulton‘s cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” is ripped off by Glee’s uncredited copy; see also here. [READ, LISTEN, WATCH ALL of these links.]
Wed.: Discuss remix & sharability; Coulton, Glee, Sir-Mix-A-Lot
HW for Mon.3/4: PLAY with your group’s website on Genesis. Add text, images, links and color. Get a feel for how the dashboard works. READ Cory Doctorow about Glee, Jonathan Coulton and copyright; WATCH Harvard Constitutional Law Prof. Larry Lessig on Remix Culture at TEDxNY (18 mins.); READ Andy Baio, Kind of Screwed. EXERCISE: create your own interpretation of the 8 increasingly pixelated “covers” with which Baio ends the post. Where is the point when, in your judgment, he violates copyright? Use the legal definitions he references in the post and our other vids, readings, etc. to form your judgment: in other words, be ready to point to evidence or logic to back up your interpretation.

Week 8 — Fair Use & Terms of Service [ToS]
Mar. 4, 6

Mon.3/4: We’ll lead with the “Fair Use” EXERCISE (see above) and discuss Harvard Constitutional Law Prof. Larry Lessig on Remix Culture (19 mins.); Andy Baio “Kind of Screwed”

HW for Wed. 3/6: Why Aaron Swartz’s death is important. WATCH Overview 36-min vid; READ 1) Lessig on “Prosecutor as Bully“; 2) “Data “Rights” and the new Instagram ToS: Ian Bogost & David Murakami Wood debate via FB comments (Storify by KI Berens); 3) Electronic Freedom Frontier, No Prison Time for Violating ToS.

Wednesday 3/6: discuss Swartz, Lessig, ToS; CREATE design goals for collaborative blogs & rubrics for collaboration on group blog site. Goal: to create concrete tasks for each person to do over the weekend; to establish community expectations for participation.

HW for Monday 3/11: READ Jenkins, et. al: Spreadable Media chapter 7 “Thinking Transnationally” and Conclusion (pp. 259–305); WATCH Johanna Blakely, “Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture“; Cory Doctorow and others “The Privacy Bargain“; WATCH Amanda Palmer’s 2013 TED Talk: “Trust People to Pay For Music.” COLLABORATE on your group’s Genesis blogsite using your FB group or meeting face-to-face: 1) create mission statement & goals; 2) design the look of your front door working with the themes engagement, transmedia and mobility. WRITE an essay question you’d like to respond to regarding the work we’ve read and done in Unit 2.

Week 9 — Copyright Logics
Mar. 11, 13

Mon. 3/11: Discuss Jenkins, Ford and Green, “Ideas & Artifacts Circulation & Transnationalism”; discuss Blakely & Palmer on cultures of copying and asking rather than compelling fans to pay for art. WORKSHOP: 1) Genesis blogs. Discuss collaboratively established goals & mission statement; create specific design protocols. 2) essay questions for Unit 2.
HW for Wed. 3/13: KIB presents WK deck; review student transmedial analyses. WATCH Exemplary Student Work: Team Coke Social Media Analysis and Reflection in which they integrate course reading into their analysis.
Wed 3/13: Writing Workshop for Assignment #2. REVIEW Library of Congress Electronic Literature Showcase & its social media campaign. NOTE: Assignment #2 will be due ONE WEEK AFTER your return from Spring Break!

Mar. 18, 20

Week 11 — Mobile Reading
Mar. 25, 27
ADOBE Connect
Monday Mar 25
Discuss: Johanna Blakely, “Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture“; Amanda Palmer’s 2013 TED Talk: “Trust People to Pay For Music“; prompts for essay #2. KIB presents a deck about indifference to marketing; overview of Spine Poetry social media campaign for the Library of Congress Electronic Literature Showcase; preview of L.A. Flood, a distributed locative story set in part on the USC campus.
HW for Wed. 3/27: READ 1) Kathi Inman Berens, “Curation is Convergence,” my Electronic Literature Curatorial Statement from MLA 2013; 2) Make two spine poems and post them to Spine Poetry before Wednesday’s class. 3) L.A. Flood: read 5 off-campus entries including these two: “The Grove” and “Travis Barabbas.” The other three you can choose on your own.

Wed: Discuss Distributed Storytelling
HW for FRI 3/29Post your reflections on L.A. Flood to g-doc. Link & instructions in your email. HW for Mon.4/1: READ “Introduction” to Jason Farman’s Mobile Interface Theory. Keywords to focus on: evocative objects, pervasive computing, ubiquitous computing, context-aware computing, and remediation. WRITE your papers, due Monday April 1st at 9AM.

Week 12 — Mobility & Access [taught by T.A. Meryl Alper; I’ll be at the Library of Congress curating the “Electronic Literature Showcase“]
Apr. 1, 3

Mon. & Wed.: Meryl’s lectures
HW for Wed. 4/3: READ Ch. 1 of Farman. Also, watch this clip of Disney Channel’s Selena Gomez appearing on “The George Lopez Show” using what is known as an augmentative and alternative communication (or AAC) device (this article gives you a quick overview of AAC). We’ll use it to kick off our discussion of mobility, access, and embodiment.
HW for Mon. 4/8: READ Farman Mobile Interface Theory chs 4-6: ethics & location-based games; TEST game in development by Adam Liszkiewicz (I’m sending you the link via email); WATCH this video of Adam Liszkiewicz presenting AFEELD at Feb. 28, 2013 USC event “E-Lit Under the Stars.”

Week 13 — Mobile & Game Interfaces
Apr. 8, 10

Mon. Special Guest ADAM LISZKIEWICZ, electronic literature artist exhibited at the Library of Congress, will present to you his kinetic poetry series AFEELD, “Tenants in Action,” a social justice mobile app designed to help renters in L.A. connect with services they need, and his game-in-development. Adam is a Ph.D. candidate at USC’s iMAP (interdivisional Media Arts & Practice) program.
Wed HW: Ian Bogost, How To Do Things With Video Games chapters: Art, Empathy, Reverence, Transit, Branding, Electioneering, Textures, Kitsch, Relaxation.
Wed: Discuss Farman, Bogost
HW for Monday 4/15: READ and WATCH materials targeted by gender. Targeting Guys:
Red Bull #givesyouwings; Wings Girls; Red Bull transmedial marketing
Machinima ALSO read the entire NYT article linked to at the end of this post. Targeting Gals:
Daria Musk (Google+ social media co-venture: demonstrating the affordances of the G+ platform.
Lizzie Bennett Diaries

Week 14 — Gender & Distributed Storytelling
Apr. 15, 17

Discuss: Distributed stories & marketing targeting men and women with particular emphasis on mobile participation. Nike branding targeted at men and women. This is exemplary student work from COMM 499 fall 2012.
HW for Wed. 4/17: Work on Genesis blog site. Meet with your group in advance of class. Prepare for full-class workshop on Wednesday, the result of which should be a completed Genesis blog site ready for design review.

Wednesday 4/17: F2F required in ASC 231.
Full-class workshop; at the end, design review.
HW for Mon.4/22: HW for Mon.4/22: READ Davidson, Now You See It pp. 132-207 (“The Epic Win,” and “The Changing Workplace”). WRITE/AUTHOR your final assignment.

Week 15 — Distributed Storytelling; Digital Dualism
Apr. 22, 24

Monday: 1) We’ll kick off by discussing this post by Nicholas Carr “Digital Dualism Denialism.” Then we’ll discuss Davidson, “The Epic Win” & “The Changing Workplace.” 2) You’ll report your progress on Assignment #3, the final project of the term.

Wednesday: We will collaboratively design our landing page for the Genesis site. This process is our springboard into course review. We’ll discuss the major themes we’ve explored this term. We’ll do course evaluations.

Week 16 — Course Review & Final Presentations
ADOBE Connect
Apr. 29, May 1

April 29: Workshop your Assignment #3; course review.
Final presentations of your work!

May 8: Your comments evaluating yourself & each of your team members are due by 10AM.

Kathi Inman Berens is a lecturer at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and a Fellow at the Annenberg Innovation Lab, where she works on virtual classroom software and embodiment. Inman Berens is co-curating, with Dene Grigar, the first “Electronic Literature Showcase” at the Library of Congress April 3-5, 2013. Before moving to Portland, Oregon, she was an Associate Professor (Teaching) at USC Dornsife College’s Writing Program. She was USC’s first non-tenure track faculty member appointed a Fellow at the Center for Excellence in Teaching, where she continues as a Distinguished Fellow.

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 violation or pattern of violations of the Academic Integrity Code will result in the student’s expulsion from the Communication degree program.
It is particularly important that you are aware of and avoid plagiarism, cheating on exams, fabricating data for a project, submitting a paper to more than one professor, or submitting a paper authored by anyone other than yourself. If you have doubts about any of these practices, confer with a faculty member.
Resources on academic dishonesty can be found on the Student Judicial Affairs Web site ( “Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism” addresses issues of paraphrasing, quotations, and citation in written assignments, drawing heavily upon materials used in the university’s writing program; “Understanding and Avoiding Academic Dishonesty” addresses more general issues of academic integrity, including guidelines for adhering to standards concerning examinations and unauthorized collaboration. The “2012-2013 SCampus” ( contains the university’s student conduct code and other student-related policies.
Specific to This Class: For those assignments which require/allow collaboration, students are required to disclose all people who contributed to their process and identify all outside sources they drew upon in developing their answers. Failure to do so will be considered academic dishonesty.

Students requesting academic accommodations based on a disability are required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP when adequate documentation is filed. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me as early in the semester as possible. DSP is open Monday-Friday, 8:30-5:00. The office is in Student Union 301 and their phone number is (213) 740-0776.

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2 Responses to Cultures of New Media / Syllabus / spring ’13

  1. Pingback: Disability and Defamiliarizing the Smartphone: A Class Activity | Creative Amnesia

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