The Internet

Course Overview

Instructor: Dave Feldman Email:
Office: Third Floor Arts and Sciences Phone: x249, 244-9836
Mailing List: Office Hours: Tuesday 1:00-2:30
Tutors: None. Web page:

Course Overview

The internet is here. It is estimated that there are over 200 million internet users worldwide. What does this mean? How will this effect us? (And how will it effect people who aren't us?) Will the internet change the way we interact? Will the internet change our vision of community? How can we make sense of all this?

Making sense of the internet is a difficult, perhaps impossible, task. In this course we will critically examine the internet from a number of different perspectives. A rough thematic outline of the course can be found here. I have several main goals for this course:

  1. I want to have fun, while critically and thoughtfully examining the internet as a social and cultural phenomena.
  2. I want you to gain a greater understanding of the internet.
  3. I want to help you find a set of tools and metaphors that are helpful for analyzing the internet and other technologies.
  4. I want you to gain a greater awareness of the social and political consequences of technologies.
  5. As we examine "virtual reality", I hope we also get a chance to critically look at some aspects of "real life".
  6. I want you to leave the class with more (and different) questions than those that you started the class with.

It might be useful at this point to say a few words about what this class in not. This is not a class on how to use the internet. Nor is this a class on how to design web pages or write programs for the web. This class is also not a physics or math class. This class is mainly concerned with the human consequences of the internet.


Paul Levinson, The Soft Edge: A natural History and Future of the Information revolution. Routledge, 1998.
David Porter (ed.), Internet Culture. Routledge, 1997.
Robert W. McChesney, Rich Media poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times. University of Illinois Press, 1999.
Preston Gralla, How the Internet Works. QUE Press, 1999.
And lots and lots of online and reserve readings.


Your evaluation will be based on the following: These percent values are approximate. There will be no exams. I will assign grades (for those who so opt) by following the guidelines on page 8 of the COA Course Catalog. I do not have any quota of A's, B's, etc.

You do not need any computer skills to take this course. You should, however, be willing to learn your way around the web. This course will involve a fair amount of reading and writing.

Short Response Papers

Throughout the term you will write four or five short response papers. Guidelines for these papers can be found here.

Other Writing Assignments

In addition to the short papers,there will be several other writing assignments. These will include an initial personal essay and several reports on the "virtual community" that you join.

Online Community Explorations

A major part of the course will be your joining, participating in, and reflecting upon an online community. You will report on your experiences in your online community both in writing and class discussions. We will talk about this assignment in class, and more details will appear here soon.

Final Manifesto

At the end of the term, you will write a final manifesto. This should be an informed, opinionated, written piece -- not an uninformed rant. This work should be around five to ten pages and constitute a significant synthesis of some of the ideas we've discussed throughout the course. I would like to publish these manifestos on the course webpage.

Policies and Stuff

  1. The final version of the course syllabus will be on the course web page. The syllabus and all policies are open to negotiation.
  2. All course work must be completed by the end of the term. I will not grant an incomplete except in extreme circumstances.
  3. I expect you to attend class. Please let me know if you're going to miss a class.
  4. Academic misconduct -- cheating, plagarizing, etc. -- is bad. Any cases of academic misconduct will result in a judicial hearing, as per pp. 14-15 of the COA handbook. Possible consequences range from failure of the assignment to expulsion. For more, see the statement on academic misconduct passed unanimously by the faculty in winter of 1999.

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