Contributing Authors

Social Media | COMM 3307

Dr. Alice E. Marwick


FMH 452

(718) 817-4861

Office Hours:

Tuesday 2:30-3:30

Wednesday 11-12 or by appointment

Fall 2012 | COMM 3307

Tuesday/Friday 10:00 am - 11:15 am

Faculty Memorial Hall 302

Class blog:

Course Description

This class examines the relationship between society and the current crop of computer-mediated communication technologies known as “social media,” including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more. These technologies are often regarded with fear or awe; the purpose of this class is to break down the mythologies of social media and develop methods of analysis and critical understanding. To do this, we will draw from a broad range of social theory including science and technology studies (STS), communication theory, linguistics, cultural studies, and media anthropology to critically evaluate the impact of social media on relationships, activism, branding, politics, news media, and identity.  We will focus on the “sociotechnical,” or the relationship between the technical affordances of a website/technology and the social norms of a user community, and how to use this to understand emerging technologies (and social media that doesn’t exist yet!). Students will also gain basic practical social media skills: understanding the landscape, learning “best practices,” and using different social media technologies throughout the class to create and propagate content.

Course Materials

The following required textbook is available at the Fordham University Rose Hill Bookstore (phone: (718) 817-3400), through online retailers, and on reserve at Walsh Library.

Baym, Nancy (2010) Personal Connections in a Digital Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Other class readings, assignments, and announcements will be posted on Blackboard.


Attendance and Participation                         10%

Critical Reading Tumblr                                  20%

Midterm                                                      25%

Short Assignment #1                                    10%

Short Assignment #2                                    10%

Final Paper                                                  25%

TOTAL:                                                      100%

Attendance and Participation

You must do the reading or this class will be a waste of time. I randomly call on people to encourage everyone to fully absorb the readings and share your thoughts with your classmates.

This class is predicated upon active participation by all members. At the college level (especially in a communication class) you must take responsibility and participate as an active learner.

If you’re not in class, you can’t participate. Attending class sessions—showing up on time and staying the entire period—is required. However, life is full of unexpected events; therefore, each student gets 2 unexcused absences over the course of the semester. These can be used for any reason: sickness, family vacations, sample sales, etc. But once they are gone, your final grade will drop a half a grade with every excess absence. Please be aware that absences are not an acceptable excuse for not having done the required work. You are expected to find out from a classmate what you missed in the event that you are absent. I am under no obligation to allow makeups for unexcused absences.

Excused Absences include religious holidays, family emergencies, serious illness, and athletics: the university has specific policies about all of these. Any student with one of these issues should talk to me individually. Your total excused and unexcused absences CANNOT exceed four classes per university policy. See

Critical Reading Tumblr

Our class has a blog at http:// (Uh, the one you’re reading.) You should:

·         Create an account at You can use your existing Tumblr account if you already have one. You’re welcome to use a fake name/pseudonym/nickname, just let me know what it is.

·         Email me ( with the email address you used to set up your tumblr account, e.g. I will add you as a member.

·         I will regularly give specific instructions for blog posts. Those are due by 5pm the night before class. I encourage you to post articles, Tweets, videos, songs, pictures, etc. that you think relate to what we’re studying, along with your analysis of why.

·         Casual language is fine, but minimal profanity (“damn” is OK, anything stronger is not).

·         Blog posts can be short and sweet but should be at least a paragraph.

·         Read the class blog. Please comment on at least two of your classmates’ posts each week. I encourage you to reply to comments and discuss with your classmates!

·         You can post more if you’d like. The blog could be used for asking questions, coordinating study groups, working on midterm and final reviews, and so forth.

·         Grading: If you do it, you get credit. In other words, you can get an easy A in this assignment by writing every single post listed in the syllabus on time. Late or missing posts will decrease your grade.

·         I am available to help with technical issues but they are not an excuse for not posting—if you have problems, bring them up as soon as possible.

·         I will write periodic evaluations on your posts. Don’t expect comments on every one, but I’ll give you feedback and let you know how you are doing.

Midterm Exam (25%)

The midterm exam is an objective, in-class exam, consisting of true-false, multiple choice, and fill-in-the blank questions. The exam will cover the course material from the first six weeks of the class.

2 Short Assignments: Breaching Experiments & Election Politics and Social Media (10% each)

Instructions will be handed out in class. 2 pages, double-spaced.

Final Paper (25%)

There is no final exam for this class. Instead, you will research and write a 5-7 page paper. You will work on the components for this paper throughout the second half of the semester and compile them into a final report at the end. This will be 25% of your grade. Further instructions will be handed out in class.

Classes are subject to change based on the interests of class and direction in which class proceeds. Please make yourself aware of all changes to the schedule. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to learn of any changes.
Readings and other assignments are due on the date listed.                    
Friday 8/31        Introductions & Course Overview
Class objectives
What is social media?

Tuesday 9/4        Key Concepts
Nancy Baym “New Forms of Personal Connection” Chapter 1
Terms: interactivity, temporal structure, social cues, storage, replicability, reach, mobility

Blog Assignment: Set up Tumblr account. Post an example for one of the key terms. Include a photo, video or audio file, and a link.

Friday 9/7        Social Media in Context
Tom Standage, “Codes, Hackers and Cheats” and “Love over the Wires” (from The Victorian Internet)
Hafner & Lyon, “Email” (from When Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet)
What’s similar about these previous forms of media? What’s different?

Blog Assignment: Pick a pre-web technology and compare it to one of your favorite websites, apps, or games (e.g. record player vs. Spotify).  Hint: What’s the difference between the internet and the web?   
Tuesday 9/11        History of Social Media
Baron, “Language Online: The Basics” (from Always On)
Boyd & Ellison, Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship
Terms: Asynchronous, synchronous, one-to-one, one-to-many, bi-directional, uni-directional. Take note of the different technologies mentioned in these chapters; you will be seeing them again.

Friday 9/14        Introducing Theory
Gillespie, The Stories Digital Tools Tell
Baym Chapter 2, “Making New Media Make Sense”
Terms: Technological Determinism, social construction of technology, social Shaping, utopian, dystopian, interface

How are new technologies represented in the media?
Blog assignment: Pick a news story about social media and post it. Analyze whether you think the claims and evidence presented in the story are correct.
Examples: NYT, Washington Post

Tuesday 9/18        Computer-Mediated Communication
Baym, Chapter 3, “Communication in Digital Spaces”
Baron, Chapter 4, “Are Instant Messages Speech?”
Terms: reduced social cues, social presence theory, media richness theory, flaming, immediacy cues, mixed modality, intonation unit, conversational scaffolding, utterance break

Blog Assignment: Pick a politician’s Twitter account. Analyze his or her speech. What features of CMC does he/she show, or not? Compare this with the account of a musician or celebrity like @kimkardashian or @rihanna.

Tip: Find your hometown Senator or Representative:

Friday 9/21        Affordances   
Norman “The Psychopathy of Everyday Things”
Latour, “Where are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts”
Terms: Affordance, delegation, anthropomorphism, re-inscription

What is an affordance?
How does this play into social construction or technological determinism?

Blog post: Go back to your politician’s Twitter account. What affordances does Twitter have? How does the politician use them (or not)?

Note: In order to vote in the Presidential election in NYC, you must be registered 25 days before the election. This weekend is a great time to sign up! Register in NY(if you choose to vote in your home state, check to find out how to cast an absentee ballot, and to decide whether to vote there or in NYC. Many states have registration deadlines for the beginning of October).

Tuesday 9/25        Online Communities
Baym, Chapter 4, “Communities and Networks”
Ellison, N. Steinfield, C. & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook ‘friends’: Exploring the relationship between college students’ use of online social networks and social capital.
Terms: community, speech community, norms, social capital, bonding capital, bridging capital, maintained capital, network support, emotional support, esteem support, informational support, networked individualism

Blog Assignment: Pick an online site that you participate in (something smaller than “Facebook” or “Twitter,” e.g. a particular Facebook community, or a fan forum for a sports team). Do you consider it a “community”? Why or why not?

Friday 9/28    Norms
Garfinkel, “Studies of the Routine Grounds of Everyday Activities” (warning: This is a difficult piece. Concentrate on the experiments and how Garfinkel’s students responded to them.)
Marwick & Ellison, “There Isn’t Wifi in Heaven!” Negotiating Visibility on Facebook Memorial Pages
Sandvig, “Social Media Breaching Experiments”
Terms: social norms, context collapse, impression management, persistence, scalability, searchability

Blog Assignment: Return to the group you wrote about in the last assignment. What are its norms? Talk about one or two in a short post.

Tuesday 10/2        Online Identity
Baym Chapter 5, “New Relationships, New Selves”
Mendelson and Papacharissi, “Look at Us: Collective Narcissism in College Student Facebook Photo Galleries”
Terms: Disembodied identities, identity cues, self-presentation

Assignment #1 due: Social Media Breaching Experiments

Friday    10/5        Aspects of Identity
Marwick, “Gender, Sexuality and Social Media”
Nakamura, "Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet"

Manjoo, “How Black People Use Twitter”
Carter,  “A Response to Farheed Manjoo’s “How Black People Use Twitter”
Nakamura, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft”

Terms: disembodiment hypothesis, cyborg feminism, oversharing, otherness, identity tourism, passing

Last day for designating a course Pass/Fail

Blog Assignment: Find a news article on a popular site like or that deals with gender, race, sexuality, class, nationality, religion, or another aspect of identity. Read and analyze the comments—what views are expressed? How do commenters respond to each other? Do you think this is different from face-to-face conversations? Why?

Tuesday 10/9        Relationships
Baym,  Chapter 6, “Digital Media in Relational Development and Maintenance”
Gershon, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover” (from Breakup 2.0)
Terms: early idealization, relational development, relational maintenance, “friending,” idioms of practice, media ideologies, second-order information

Find/form midterm study groups (no blog assignment)
Friday 10/12        Midterm

Tuesday 10/16        Creativity and Culture
Shirky, “Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus” (from Cognitive Surplus)
Davidson, “The Language of Internet Memes”
Schifman, “Anatomy of a YouTube Meme”

Blog assignment: Peruse’s Meme Database for a half hour or so. Pick a meme (either one you found there or one you were previously familiar with) and write a quick analysis of what the meme involves.

Friday 10/19        NO CLASS – ALICE AT CONFERENCE
Watch We Live in Public (Ondi Timoner, 2009) 90 mins. This movie is available on Netflix (DVD only, not Instant), Hulu Plus, Amazon Video On-Demand ($3.99) and on reserve at Walsh library. I highly encourage using the blog to coordinate viewing parties. (Fun!!!) Note that having technical difficulties is NOT an excuse for not seeing it, so don’t wait until Sunday  night to try accessing the movie.
Blog assignment: Movie review (feel free to give a grade or a star rating). (due Monday 10/22 at 5pm)

Activism, Politics & News

Tuesday 10/23        What was the role of Twitter in the Arab Spring?
Grossman, “Iran Protests: Twitter, the Medium of the Movement”
Morozov, “The Google Doctrine” (from The Net Delusion)
Doctorow, “We Need a Serious Critique of Net Activism”
Stepanova, “The Role of Information Communication Technologies in the Arab Spring”

Blog Assignment: What’s your perspective? How do the theories of technology we discussed earlier in the semester (technological determinism, social shaping of technology, utopian/dystopian, etc.) play into these accounts?

Friday 10/26        How has social media changed online news?

Rosen, J. "The People Formerly Known as the Audience"
Starr, “Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to a New Era of Corruption)”
Braun & Gillespie, “Hosting the public discourse, hosting the public: When online news and social media converge.”

Guest Speaker: Joe Weisenthal, Editor,
Peruse and write a list of questions for Joe. Bring them to class. More about Mr. Weisenthal from his NYT profile.

Tuesday 10/30    What impact has social media had on civic engagement?

Knight Foundation, “What are the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy?”
Johnson et. al, “United We Stand? Online Social Network Sites & Civic Engagement”
Claire Cain Miller, “How Obama’s Internet Campaign Changed Politics”

Friday 11/2        Branding
Clemons, “The complex problem of monetizing virtual electronic social networks.”
Ivey, “Domino’s Pizza Case Study.”
Dash, “How to Fix Popchips’ Racist Ad Campaign”
How can companies engage well on social media?
Blog assignment: Post an example of a company you think is doing it “right” or “wrong.” Why or why not?

Tuesday 11/6        ELECTION DAY – NO CLASS. GO VOTE!!!
Assignment #2 DUE by 5pm 11/5 over email or Blackboard. How has (candidate of your choice) used social media in this election?

Friday 11/9        Legal Aspects of Social Media
Lessig, “Property” (from Free Culture)
Zittrain, “Tethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement” (from The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It)

Talk about final paper assignment

Tuesday 11/13        Privacy
Cashmore, Facebook Founder on Privacy: Public Is the New “Social Norm” (watch video too)
Kirkpatrick, “Why Facebook is Wrong About Privacy”
Boyd & Hargittai, Facebook Privacy Settings: Who Cares?

Blog Assignment: Given what we learned about norms and affordances earlier in the semester, do you agree with Zuckerberg, Kirkpatrick, or neither?

Optional: How are your Facebook privacy settings set? Why? Log out and try to view your profile. Were you correct about how you had set your settings?

Friday 11/16        Alice out of town – class cancelled
Thesis statement & outline of paper due over email at 5pm!

Tuesday 11/20        Transgression and Deception
Coleman, “Freaks, Hackers and Trolls: The Politics of Transgression and Spectacle”
Donath, “Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community”

Blog assignment TBD

Alice returns thesis/outlines with comments

Tuesday 11/27        Limiting Internet Speech?
Benkler, “A Free Irresponsible Press: Wikileaks and the Battle over the Soul of the Networked Fourth Estate” (LONG article)
Bosker, “Randi Zuckerberg: Anonymity online has to go away”
boyd, “Real Name Policies are an Abuse of Power”
Blog Assignment: What has the US government’s response been to Wikileaks? Do you think it’s reasonable or not? Should there be limits on internet free speech?

Friday 11/30        Opting Out & Non-Participation
Portwood-Stacer, “Media refusal and conspicuous non-consumption: The performative and political dimensions of Facebook abstention.”
Marwick, “If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Use It. It’s That Simple. ORLY?”

Alice out of town – Dr. Laura Portwood-Stacer (NYU) substitute professor
Very rough draft (not graded) due at 5pm
Tuesday 12/4        Who Benefits from Social Media?
Hargittai, <Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation”
Gray, “Online Profiles: Remediating the Coming Out Story.” (from Out in the Country)
Marwick, “Status, Social Media, and the Tech Scene” (from Status Update)

Blog Assignment: Choose a social media technology we’ve never discussed in class. Post a brief analysis of its affordances and norms, and how it may impact social or political issues. (The point of this assignment is to show that you can use the tools developed in this class to discuss technologies that we can’t even imagine yet!)
Friday 12/7        Last Day of Class: Wrap-Up
Baym, Conclusion
Class objectives: achieved?
Paper Q&A

Blog assignment: What worked in this class? What didn’t work? What would you alter and change if YOU were teaching the class?

Alice returns rough drafts w/ comments
Sign up for one on one paper review slot
Student Evaluations


Class Policies

Written Work
All submitted work must be typed on white, 8 by 11 inch paper using Times New Roman 12-point font, double-spaced, number all pages, and STAPLED (no paper clips). In the upper-left corner, include your name, date, assignment heading or paper title (no cover pages). 

I am a former copywriter and a grammar nerd and I will not give high grades to papers with spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. You should be familiar with a formal style manual.


Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 4th Edition. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1995.

Turabian, Kate. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 6th Edition. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1996.

All papers MUST have a thesis statement, an introduction, a conclusion, and a works cited page. All material should be sourced, not only direct quotations.

Late Paper Policy

All assignments must be completed on time in order to receive full credit. Late assignments will be penalized by half a grade for each 24-hour period it is late. After five calendar days, the assignment will not be accepted and you may fail this class. No incompletes are given for this course.


Plagiarism is not tolerated, and will result in failing the course: this includes falsifying sources, failing to cite source material, and using unattributed quotations. I am an excellent internet researcher and I know how to use Google. The pain of plagiarizing is absolutely not worth it. Check out Fordham’s policy on plagiarism, which is part of the Standards of Academic Integrity.

Challenging a Grade

If you disagree with a grade on an assignment or paper, please email me a written, detailed explanation of why you think the grade should be re-evaluated. DO NOT COME TALK TO ME ABOUT IT IN OFFICE HOURS OR AFTER CLASS UNTIL YOU EMAIL ME YOUR EXPLANATION. If I find your explanation convincing (hint: “I think you should give me an A because I worked really hard” is not convincing) I will re-grade the paper. This means the grade may go up; it may go down; it may stay the same.

Evaluation Standards

Fordham’s grading scheme reflects the following levels of work:

A, A- Excellent. Honors-level work, outstanding.

B+ Very Good. High level of performance.

B Good. Solid and above-average level of performance.

B- Good. Above-average.

C+ Better than satisfactory.

C Satisfactory. Acceptable level of performance.

C- Minimally acceptable.

D Passing but unsatisfactory. Performance is below the average level expected of a college student.

The lowest passing grade.

F Failure. Inferior performance.


Office of Disability Services

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, all students, with or without disabilities, are entitled to equal access to the programs and activities of Fordham University.  If you believe that you have a disabling condition that may interfere with your ability to participate in the activities, coursework, or assessment of the object of this course, you may be entitled to accommodations.  Please schedule an appointment to speak with someone at the Office of Disability Services (Rose Hill - O’Hare Hall, Lower Level, x0655 or at Lincoln Center – Room 207, x6282).

Writing Center

If you are really struggling with writing, I suggest you head to the Rose Hill Writing Center—their entire reason for existence is to help undergrads become better writers.


“Providing more than a proofreading service, our tutors will work with you on a variety of logical, rhetorical, and grammatical concerns in your writing. We can assist you with any type of writing from your curriculum, from conception, to composition, to completion. Our aim is not only to help you perfect an individual essay; we want to help you develop the tools you need to become a better writer. Our service is free and, if you come with the right expectations and the willingness to participate actively in the session, extremely effective.”

Open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:00-8:00; Tuesday 9:00-7:30; Friday 9:00-3:00 on the east side of Dealy Hall’s fifth floor in the Economics Department. (718) 817-4032.