Social Media Design & Build

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Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30am – 10:50am
ASC 223 & via Adobe Connect
Professor Kathi Inman Berens [kathiberens [at] gmail [dot] com]
See bio under “C.V.” tab.
After class & by appointment. I meet face-to-face with each student individually once a month during which we talk about your performance in the class, how it’s meeting your learning needs (or not), and how what we’re doing connects out into job and internships.

Social Media
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.
This semester we have two exciting projects:
1.  Matt Barkley for Heisman social media campaign, entirely designed and executed by students;
2.  Corporate transmedial branding, culminating in a visit from Kevin Doohan (Machinima SVP, former CMO at Red Bull) and your own final about Nike’s transmedial branding.

We study the nuts-and-bolts of social media by immersing ourselves in social media platforms to learn how they work.  We read scholarship and other writing about those platforms to develop a conceptual awareness of social media as a now-permanent part of international communication.  Platforms and tools will change over time, but cultural and commercial issues evoked by social media will not: the tug between privacy and use of “free” services; advertisers’ abilities to create compelling customer experiences in social media; the commercialization of participatory culture; the use of social media to gather and mobilize citizen protest. These issues will persist.

Mobility & Embodiment
Social media is the content of the course, but it’s only one of our objects of study.  The other is embodiment in the age of mobile communication.  This class meets both face-to-face and virtually: I lead 65% of the class sessions from inside a virtual classroom.  Students have the option to attend those sessions virtually from wherever they are in the world; or they can meet face-to-face in our regular classroom with other learners, where students engage class both face-to-face and virtually.

Mandatory Attendance
Students are expected to attend every class session during the designated times.  Video or audio recordings of our class may be available for your review, but such review does not constitute attendance.
Our class is both a seminar and a lab. We collaborate extensively in real time.  Failure to attend class or participate in required collaborative homework will impact your grade. (For more information about this, see “Grading Policies” below.)
Learning Outcomes
Students will

  • Author expertly both as individuals and collaborators;
  • Study the strategic uses of various social media platforms including but not limited to Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube, Google Maps, Diigo, Pinterest and Viddy;
  • Discuss and analyze important themes such as: privacy, surveillance, “passive surveillance,” mobility, participatory culture, “playbor” (in which corporations profit from fan-created content), remix, copyright, brand management, messaging and ubiquitous computing;
  • Apply academic reading to the specific context of a social media build;
  • Learn how to assess an interface: what is the “usability” of paper, books, post-it notes, whiteboards, face-to-face conversation, video, virtual meeting software, browsers and mobile apps?
  • Log and assess our attention and distraction;
  • Collaborate on a real-world social media campaign;
  • Measure the engagement earned by our social media campaign.

Our course materials are five assigned books, many posts by scholars and lead practitioners, and videos featuring scholars presenting their work at conferences or in public lectures.  I identify their university affiliations or other credentials in the Weekly Schedule below where I link to the assigned works.
I encourage students to read online materials in their original context.  I will teach you how to annotate within the bookmarking-and-annotation platform Diigo so that you can conveniently take notes on online material.  You can also access help with the Diigo tools here.
Bibliography, in the order we read the books:
Rheingold, Howard.  Net Smart. [MIT Press, 2012].
Bogost, Ian.  How To Do Things With Video Games. [University of Minnesota Press, 2011].
Jenkins, Henry.  Convergence Culture [New York University Press, 2006].
Farman, Jason.  Mobile Interface Theory [Routledge, 2011].
Davidson, Cathy N. Now You See It: How The Brain Science of Attention Will Transform The Way We Live, Work and Learn [Viking, 2011].

I expect you to be on your laptops and smartphones during class.  You will need to enable your device’s mic in order to talk during our virtual sessions.  (Use of your webcam is requested but not required.)  Connectivity is essential to our work.
I expect that you will stay focused on classroom activities and participate knowledgably in conversation.  I have been known to give quizzes when I surmise that students haven’t completed the reading.

Attention is the currency of the Web. How do you spend yours?
Some professors have adopted a “no laptops” policy as a way of preventing distraction in the classroom.  But distraction tells us something, and we’re better served tracking it than preventing it outright.
I define “distraction” as a misalignment between your goals and your practices.  Sometimes “info-snacking” (as Clay Shirkey calls it) aligns with your goal of expanding your apprehension of a given subject.  But if you’re studying for an exam and not on a break, then info-snacking is a distraction.  “Distraction” is context-based.

In this class we’ll learn how to recognize distraction, grapple with new reading practices endemic to the hyperlink, and train attention.  We start by observing our own media consumption habits while we are working.  We’ll think about what Linda Stone calls “email apnea,” breathlessness that constricts us when we feel overwhelmed by the apparent urgency of each item in our inbox or feed.

I will ask each of you to create a “Distraction Log” in which you note the moments when you leave the focused discussion of class to look at a social media or other site, or when you doodle in the margins of paper.  I’m looking for both frequency and duration of your “distraction.”  We will compare our “Distraction Logs” to study the ebb and flow of attention in a networked learning environment.

1000-point scale
Ongoing Assignments: 100 pts.
Corporate Transmedia Storytelling: Presentation & Follow-Up Reflection Paper 150 pts.
BE7IEVE campaign Media Authoring: 100 pts.
Midterm & Heisman White Paper: 150 pts.
Social Media Campaign: 200 pts.
Final & Nike Transmedial Branding
Participation, Attendance: 100 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.

Ongoing Assignments
Be prepared to talk with me in our monthly face-to-face meetings about your:
1:  Homework preparation and class participation
2.  Twitter & Diigo activity: acts of curation and publication
3:  “Distraction” Log

Corporate Transmedia Storytelling
We will study the corporate social media branding campaigns of three soft drinks companies: Coke, Pepsi and Red Bull.  We are comparing rivals selling nearly identical products.
You will break into teams of four.  Each individual will take responsibility for assessing the output in a particular platform.  You will collaborate to assess how those pieces fit together into a coherent (or not) transmedia endeavor.  You will present your findings to the rest of the class about your particular brand; then we as a group will search for patterns that result in engagement or disengagement — that is — success and failure.  We will apply pressure to the idea that “engagement” means anything: does it result in a transaction?  I will teach you how to situate different types of “transactions” on a continuum of investment (of time, of money, of attention) and tally those into a metric.

Everything we learn in this analysis will be applied to the White Paper you’re writing in your midterm for the USC Sports Information Department about successful and failed Heisman social media campaigns.  We will also apply what we learn when we craft our own Matt Barkley for Heisman campaign.

Due within one week of your team’s in-class presentation will be a personal reflection about what you learned in the process of collaborating and leading discussion.  You may author in a variety (or combination) of formats: text-only; text + image; Prezi, Powerpoint, video.  You should choose an authoring platform that lets you reflect a deep aspect of your point-of-view.  If your reflection is more ruminative, a text-based argument might be best. If your point is about the dynamic interplay among texts (or among learners), perhaps you want to use Prezi or some animation in pptx.  If a first-person reflection (“what this means to me”) is your object, perhaps you want video w/ text cards framing your perspective.  Use your creativity.  Feel free to use image, text and video to express the full range of your response.

BE7IEVE Campaign Media Authoring
Media authoring is a crucial component of your success as a social media manager and engaged citizen.
Here are the specifications for this assignment:
1. Author a media asset for the BE7IEVE campaign using a software authoring tool you don’t know well.
2. The object will be to share your asset in the BE7IEVE campaign.
3. The #1 criterion is improvement. It is much more important to me that you work with software you don’t know than that you churn out another thing you are already good at.
4. DUE: Tuesday Oct. 16 before class
5. LENGTH: vid = 30 seconds or less; image: work with multiple layers
6. POST IT: to our COMM 499 BE7IEVE Assets folder.
7. ALLOW FOR significant chunks of time to play with the software. That’s really the big goal here: familiarity with authoring software.
8. DOCUMENT your learning process in a txt file or gdoc: a short narrative of where you started out with knowledge of the software, how you grew your knowledge, and what you learned as a result of playing with it to make an artifact.
9. CONSULT YOUR FRIENDS. Ann and Graham are experts in Photoshop, Illustrator and vid authoring software respectively. Work with the software on your own; then ask specific questions — don’t ask your friends to give you a “general overview.”


  • Think about your digital portfolio. Author in a software that isn’t already represented there.
  • Get better at software you’ve just started to learn. For example, if you authored your reflection paper in iMovie, make your storytelling visually compelling by cutting between distances (long shot, midrange, close up).
  • Allow time for software and device FAILs. It just happens. Budget time upfront for it.
  • Midterm:Reading IDs & short answers; summative assessment of how our campaign moved from MB4H to #BE7IEVE.

    Social Media Build
    MB4Heisman: Market Research (accomplished before midterm)
    MB4H-1: Communications Plan: this will be designed by our RAs; you will participate in review of it.  We are likely to revisit the plan and redesign according to changing conditions that are unforeseen at the time of original design.
    MB4H-2: Build: platforms will be determined as a result of our assessment of how this campaign will contribute uniquely to the Sports Information Department’s larger campaign.
    MB4H-3: Liaison: Two students will take responsibility for obtaining clearance from SID for all public elements of our campaign.  This will be a constant process of communicating effectively with all members of our team and with SID.
    MB4H-4: Live Installation at a Football Game:  In initial conversations with me, officials at SID suggested they’d like a live element.  We may execute a live, embodied, interactive event during a football game.  If we do so, however, we will not be able to rely on social media during the installation itself: connectivity at the stadium is extremely limited.  The challenge would be use social media before the installation to build excitement & participation, and after it to create an enduring record of involvement.
    MB4H-5: Analytics: We will assess engagement with our campaign along the lines suggested above in the “Corporate Transmedia Storytelling” assignment.

    Final: Reading IDs & Short Answers; Nike transmedial branding collaboratively authored Prezis (teams of 6)

    Week 1: Curation, Filtering, Attention
    Aug. 28, 30
    F2F in ASC 223
    Building OL Knowledge Communities

    • Twitter: #, Lists, Groups, asymmetry, anonymity, following, exemplary accounts
    • Diigo: social bookmarking, tagging, following, annotation, highlighting
    • Begin your “Distraction” log

    Reading: For class discussion Thurs. 8/30: Howard Rheingold, Net Smart, Chapter 1: “Attention! Why and How to Control Your Mind’s Most Powerful Instrument”; Begin building your own knowledge network on Twitter.  Follow @MattBarkley, @USC_Athletics, @hrheingold,
    @CathyNDavidson and everybody in our class. On Thursday, we’ll practice with Adobe Connect, the virtual classroom software we’ll be using to meet much of the time.

    Week 2: Privacy, Datamining, and the Persistence of the Digital Trace
    Sept. 4, 6
    via Adobe Connect
    For Tues, three articles about data mining:
    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
    For Thurs: Rheingold, Net Smart chapter 3 “Participation Power”; and 17-min. vid: Participatory Culture by Henry Jenkins.

    Week 3:  Corporate Transmedia Storytelling
    Begin Collaborative Work
    Sept. 11, 13
    Via Adobe Connect
    Corporate Social Media: you should be researching storytelling specific to your chosen platform and brand.  We will allocate some time during each class for you to work together and talk about what you’re seeing.
    For Tues., 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.
    For Thurs: Henry Jenkins on Transmedia 202: Further Reflections (follow up to his original Transmedia 101 post: read both.)
    Also: each person add at least 5 posts this week to our Heisman successes and failures in Diigo.  What are the gaps in our coverage?  Do we know what made the winners successful?  What, if anything in social media, caused the Heisman losers to lose?
    In class, we’ll discuss the reading and collaborate on analysis of the Coke, Pepsi and Redbull social media campaigns.

    Week 4 — Group Work on Transmedia Corporate Storytelling
    Sept. 18, 20
    Via Adobe Connect
    Review our curations of the Heisman successes and failures you’ve gathered in Diigo.
    Work collaboratively during class on your Coke, Pepsi and Redbull analyses.
    Reconvene at the end of the class to apply what we’re learning about transmedia corporate storytelling to the context of Heisman, MB, USC Athletics messaging.
    The big picture: we’re looking a fully-formed transmedia campaigns in order to learn how to invent our own.
    Homework: create presentations of your findings.  This will involve working together over the weekend.  The presentation can be low-tech: you can speak from an outline or Powerpoint and then play or show us examples.
    Each team will present F2F in ASC 223 Tuesday, Sept. 25.

    Week 5 — Presentations & Reflection Paper: Corporate Transmedia Storytelling
    Sept. 25, 27
    F2F in ASC 223
    In-class presentations Tues. Sept. 25.
    Begin planning our MB4H campaign Thurs. Sept. 27.
    Individually-authored reflections about your Red Bull, Pepsi or Coke presentations will be due to me before class on Tues. Oct. 2.

    Week 6 — Materiality of the Medium: Platforms as Objects
    Oct. 2, 4
    Via Adobe Connect
    Ian Bogost, How To Do Things With Video Games chapters: Art, Empathy, Reverence, Transit, Branding, Electioneering, Textures, Kitsch, Relaxation.
    Heisman curation in Diigo, Twitter

    Week 7 — Remix, Fair Use, Digital Labor and “Playbor” [Digital Play+Labor]
    Oct. 9, 11
    Via Adobe Connect
    Create rubrics for evaluating Heisman, MB social media successes & failures
    Tues: New School University Professor Trebor Scholz “A Cautionary Note on Social Media” (4 mins); Scholz and Prof. Frank Pasquale (Seton Hall Law School), Digital Labor in Today’s Society (80 mins.); “What the MySpace Generation Should Know About Working for Free.”
    Thurs: Harvard Constitutional Law Prof. Larry Lessig on Remix Culture at TEDxNY (18 mins.); Wikipedia: Fair Use; Andy Baio, “Kind of Screwed

    Week 8 — Media Authoring Showcase; Midterm; Release Forms for media authoring
    Oct. 16, 18
    Via Adobe Connect
    HW: Gather signatures on #BE7IEVE shirts & vid documentation of it. Home game against Colorado 3PM Saturday at Coliseum.

    Week 9 — BE7IEVE deployment Phase 1
    Oct. 23, 25
    F2F in ASC 223
    BE7IEVE deployment: launching our BE7IEVE images and videos
    HW: Gather signatures on #BE7IEVE shirts & vid documentation of it.

    Week 10 — MB4H; Mobility & Embodiment
    Oct. 30, Nov. 1
    Adobe Connect
    Jason Farman, Mobile Interface Theory ch 1-3.

    Week 11 — MB4H; Mobility & Games
    Nov. 6, 8
    Adobe Connect
    Farman, Mobile Interface Theory chapters 4-6.

    Week 12 — MB4H; Interface Ethics
    Nov. 13, 15
    Adobe Connect
    Evan Selinger, “Impatience as a Digital Virtue
    Ian Bogost, “A Professor’s Impressions of Facebook
    B.J. Fogg, Stanford Professor of Experimental Psychology & Founder of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, “How Facebook Influences You“; “Why is Twitter Persuasive?” “The Future of Mobile Devices as Persuasive Platforms” (altogether these vids add to 15 mins.)

    Week 13 — Guest Speaker Kevin Doohan (CMO, Machinema & former Digital CMO Red Bull)
    F2F in ASC 223
    Nov. 20 [Nov. 22 is Thanksgiving Holiday]

    Week 14 — Classroom 2.0
    F2F in ASC 223
    Nov. 27, 29
    Davidson, Now You See It, parts 1 & 2: pp. 1-206
    Final Exam Prep: Nike Transmedial Branding

    Week 15 — Collaboration, Interface: Process as a Conceptual Frame
    Dec. 4, 6
    Via Adobe Connect
    Nike Transmedial Research.
    Media Authoring: creating the artifacts you’ll use in the group Prezis.
    Collaborative Authoring: putting the presentations together (two methods).

    DRAFT OF FINAL: due to me 12/10/12
    I’ll review & give you notes for revision
    Final Exam discussion: 11AM-1PM 12/13/12

    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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