Cultures of New Media

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/// a class that meets both on campus & via virtual classroom software ///

Photo by student Lindsey Caldwell.

We meet F2F & virtually at the same time. Photo by student Lindsey Caldwell.


9:30am – 10:50am
ASC 231 & via ADOBE Connect: links provided for each class session

Professor Kathi Inman Berens
T.A. Meryl Alper

Kathi Inman Berens: Tuesdays 11-12. Location: Inverted Fountain outside ASC East Lobby, or inside East Lobby.
Meryl Alper: Thursdays 11-12. Location: Annenberg Patio.

This class focuses on communication practices central to New Media:
• Engagement
• Transmedia
• Mobility

These subjects work in tandem. They yield new insight into how ubiquitous computing changes communication among ordinary people, brands, networked communities and cultural institutions.

Unit 1 on “Engagement” asks: “What is the value of a ‘like’ or retweet?” Social media is fueled by databases. We’ll drill down on what that means for our expectations of privacy and how your “Quantified Self” is a commercial asset you don’t own.

Unit 2 on “Transmedia” focuses on how storytelling today moves across platforms and exhibits media-specific properties. Currently most transmedial stories bolster legacy media ad campaigns. We’ll study the Juried Winners of the 2013 Immersive & Interactive Emmys to take a close look at transmedia as
• story experiences unfolding across platforms; and
• part of a media ecosystem of networked publics.

In Unit 3 our discussion of “Mobility” will explore how ubiquitous computing extends beyond what we specifically do with our devices to alter many aspects of everyday life. We’ll look at stories being made & accessed with mobile devices. We’ll make a collaborative story of our own. We’ll ask: how does human/machinic collaboration affect what it means to be human? Is Sherry Turkle right that we depend upon devices to “edit” the public representation of our lives, and that embodied life without a “delete” function now makes us anxious?

Students in this class will
• Build slides that convey arguments visually
• Design presentations that blend image, text and spoken word cannily
• Collaborate
• Understand evolving standards of privacy
• Meet media industry leaders & ask questions of them
• Situate social media in the broader medial ecosystem
• Examine how databases change ordinary life & commerce
• Become adept thinking & working in virtual environments

This “Cultures of New Media” meets both “on ground” in ASC 231 and virtually, in our virtual classroom via ADOBE Connect. In my four semesters at Annenberg teaching in a virtual classroom, I’ve found learners enjoy toggling between these environments. They discover the unique capacities of each setting.

I teach face-to-face in ASC 231 one week each month. However, your actual face-to-face time in ASC 231 will be more like 50%, because you’ll do workshops in our classroom during some class sessions, which I lead virtually through our virtual classroom software. Meryl our TA will always be in ASC 231, so there can always be an embodied experience even when we’re meeting in our virtual classroom if you want it.

Whether in the virtual classroom or ASC 231, I call on students. I love to learn your names, get to know your passions and help you become the best thinkers you can be. It’s a two-way street. I expect that you’ll come to every class prepared. If you’re not, your attendance grade will be impacted. If you miss more than three weeks of class (6 sessions), you may fail the class.

If you find yourself on Facebook or other non-classroom material during class for longer than 2 minutes, please tell me. We track “distraction.” Rather than judge it, we log our attention. Attention is a flow. I’ve found that students are highly engaged in the course material. If you’re not, let me know.

You’ll produce work throughout the semester, authoring in Twitter, Prezi or Powerpoint and Photoshop (or the open-source Gimp). All computers at ASC are loaded with the Adobe suite; and software tutorials are FREE: click the button on your Blackboard page. You’ll collaborate with others and may learn some new software.

You’ll need to be on a network-connected device during class. Please enable your device’s mic and camera; the ADOBE software automatically prompts this, and I’ll make sure you all know your way around the software during the first week of class. Please update your Firefox and Safari browsers to the latest versions. Do not use Chrome: it causes problems with the ADOBE Connect software.

BIBLIOGRAPHY — many of these items are linked below. For a full list of readings, see Weekly Schedule.
Baio, Andy. “Kind of Screwed.”
Berens, Kathi Inman & Davin Heckman: “Use the # and Tweet Yr Escape.”
Blakely, Johanna. “Fashion’s Free Culture.”
Clark, Wendy. Keynote address at ad:techSF 2011.
ComScore. The Power of a Like. (2012).
Doctorow, Cory. Various works.
Farman, Jason, ed. Mobile Stories [Routledge, 2013: ebook version].
Hayles, Katherine N. “How We Read: Close, Hyper Machine.”
Jenkins, Henry, Sam Ford and Joshua Green. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked World [New York University Press, 2013].
Lessig, Lawrence. “Remix Culture.”
Koblin, Aaron. Various works.
Palmer, Amanda. “Trust People to Pay for Music.”
Pike, Scé. “Connected Thinking.”
Turkle, Sherry. “Alone Together.”
Plus many posts, videos and other media artifacts. See Weekly Schedule below.

USChangeMovement was a powerful, DIY social media campaign launched by USC students last spring.

USChangeMovement was a powerful, DIY social media campaign launched by USC students last spring.

1000-point scale
Assignment #1: Engagement Best Practices Presentation: 150 pts.
Due in class Oct. 8 & 10

Assignment #2: Transmedia Group Analysis: 500 pts.
Due dates:
• Draft of Project Idea due Oct. 22
• Full draft of Presentation (individual portion; Prezi, Powerpoint) due Nov. 12
• In-class spoken, group presentations Nov. 19 & 21

Assignment #3: Reflection on Mobility 200 pts.
Due Dec. 12

Participation, Quizzes, Attendance: 150 pts.

Week 1: Introduction to Engagement
Aug. 27, 29
in ASC 231
HW For Aug. 29:
1) Read ComScore White Paper about Facebook: “The Power of a Like”;
2) Watch 17-min. vid: Diversifying Participation by Henry Jenkins.

Thurs. Aug. 29
Discuss “The Power of a Like” and “Diversifying Participation.”

Week 2: Participation v. Privacy
Essays on 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 3: The Value of Engagement
in ASC 231
Sept. 10, 12
in ASC 231
Discuss Spreadable Media Introduction and Chapter 1.
Bring your own examples of “best engagement practices” for our workshop.
Engagement workshops: how to discover & analyze best engagement practices

Week 4 — Storytelling & Engagement; Aaron Koblin
Sept. 17, 19
Annenberg Innovation Lab: definitions of transmedial advertising; October 2012 Transmedia Think & Do.

Aaron Koblin‘s works: Wilderness Downtown, The Johnny Cash Project, Exquisite Forest.
Discuss these works. Spend a lot of time exploring them and think about the mechanics of engagement & participation. Think, too, about “where art meets commerce”: Koblin’s partnership with Chris Milk and Google.

Week 5 — Where Art Meets Commerce: Aaron Koblin visits our class!
in ASC 231
Sept. 24, 26
Aaron Koblin visits class Tuesday 24 September!
Thurs: workshop your presentations for Assignment #1

Week 6 — Introduction to Transmedia
Oct. 1, 3
via ADOBE Connect
Tues: Chapter 2 of Spreadable Media
Thurs: Wendy Clark’s ad:techSF 2011 Keynote address. Wendy is Chief Officer of Integrated Marketing, The Coca-Cola Company. She is joined on stage by Renny Gleesen (Global Digital Strategies Director for Wieden+Kennedy). Vid is 1 hour.

In addition to Wendy’s talk, we’ll discuss these well-known Coke YT vids security cameras and happiness machine. We’ll discuss Coke Chase, the campaign Coke rolled out at Super Bowl 47. Finally, we’ll review these exemplary student analyses of Engagement: Team Coke Social Media Analysis and Reflection in which they integrate course reading into their analysis.

Week 7 — Your Presentations
Oct. 8, 10
in ASC 231
Students present your “Best Engagement Practices” presentations.
Reading homework (to be applied next week: Chapters 3 & 4 of Spreadable Media)

Week 8 — Transmedia in the Wild: Interactive Emmys & USChangemovement
Oct. 15, 17
via ADOBE Connect
Apply Spreadable Media in our discussion of

  • Prize winners for the Interactive Emmys
  • USChangeMovement
  • Start tracking GigaOM’s Mobile coverage: CEO Paul Walborsky will visit our class Tues. 11/12.

    Week 9 — Copyright & Spreadability
    Oct. 22, 29
    via ADOBE Connect
    Jonathan Coulton‘s cover of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” is ripped off by Glee’s uncredited copy; see also this. Amanda Palmer’s 2013 TED Talk: “Trust People to Pay For Music.”
    Thurs: Harvard Constitutional Law Prof. Larry Lessig on Remix Culture at TEDxNY (18 mins.); Andy Baio, Kind of Screwed. Johanna Blakely, “Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture

    Week 10 — The Mobile Story
    Nov. 5, 7
    via ADOBE Connect
    Purchase the e-book The Mobile Story. It is $30. We’ll read several essays.
    Continue tracking GigaOM’s mobile coverage (and check out the site more generally).
    Activity: Using Twitter for Mobile Storytelling

    Week 11 — GigaOM; Site-Specific stories at USC
    Nov. 12 & 14
    in ASC 231
    GigaOM CEO Paul Walborsky visits our class Tues., Nov. 12!
    Paul will talk with us about how GigaOM leverages research, events and news to create a new business model for media properties.

    Thurs: L.A. Flood
    Use the # and Tweet Yr Escape“: essay in L.A. Review of Books by Kathi Inman Berens & Davin Heckman
    Your individual contribution to your group’s Transmedial Presentation is due 11/12.
    We’ll begin using these materials to craft a group presentation.

    Week 12 — Group Presentations
    Nov. 19, 21
    via ADOBE Connect

    Week 13 — Community Storytelling in L.A.
    Nov. 26, 28
    in ASC 231
    Hayles, “How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine.” Note: this link will load a PDF directly to your computer.
    Kathi Inman Berens lecture on Hayles.
    Nov. 26 — Mobile Storytelling exercise on & around the USC campus

    Week 14 — Mobile Connected Thinking or Alone Together?
    In ASC 231
    Dec. 3, 5
    Scé Pike, “Connected Thinking
    Sherry Turkle, “Alone Together

    "Team Coke" shooting a vid they made for a student-created transmedia campaign.

    “Team Coke” shooting a vid they made for a student-created transmedia campaign.

    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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