DCC 106:

The Rise of Digital Society



Mondays 4:00 – 5:50pm (Tydings 0117) 

Sections (QAMPR):

Wed 4:00-4:50 (Section 0101 with Chau Pham)

Wed 5:00-5:50 (Section 0102 with Chau Pham)

Thurs 4:00-4:50 (Section 0103 with Joseph Meyer)

Thurs 5:00-5:50 (Section 0104 with Joseph Meyer)


Dr. Jason Farman


Office: 4123 Susquehanna Hall

Office Hours: Tuesdays 8:30-9:30; Wednesdays 1:00-2:00pm (or by appointment)

Office Phone: 301.405.9524

Course Website:


Graduate Assistants (Office Hours: 3:00-4:00 prior to each section day)

     Joseph Meyer

  • Email:

     Chau Pham

  • Email:




Information technologies have woven themselves into the fabric of our everyday lives, so much that we often call our digital era the “Information Age.” While the concept of “information” has been around for millennia, there are profound shifts happening in the ways we think about and practice information in our digital society. In this course, we begin by defining the “Information Age” in a historical context to then analyze the shifting concept of “facts” with the rise of big data. Throughout the course, we will look at the impacts of particular modes of information exchange on issues of identity, community, and our interactions with the world. Using examples such as the exponential growth of Facebook, anonymity and “catfishing,” the inequalities of access and uses of digital media, we will explore the ways that certain practices with digital media are encouraged, promoted, or taken as commonsense. We will then look at the material nature of these digital technologies, analyzing topics such as the physicality of the internet, how the design metaphors of these media impact the ways we think about our world, the causes and results of peer-to-peer file sharing. We conclude the course by looking at the connection between our everyday physical spaces and the emergence of ubiquitous/mobile computing that now give these spaces new meaning and context.

Course Objectives (What you will learn in this class):

  • This course will prepare you to analyze the role of informational technology in your individual life and in the cultures around you.
  • You will be able to identify and use appropriate methodologies to analyze and communicate the influences of evolving technologies and the many responses to these technologies.
  • You’ll understand how the concept of “facts” is changing in the digital age of big data.
  • You will understand how social media actually builds intimate relationships rather than replaces face-to-face communication.
  • You will be able to take a well-informed position about the role anonymity plays in an increasingly public culture.
  • You will learn about how people are often divided by the politics, economics, and lack of access to new technologies.
  • You will understand the value of the physical shape information technology takes; that ‘the cloud’ is a bad metaphor for ‘some warehouse in Virginia.’
  • You will understand why many mobile users expect apps to be free, despite the amount of labor that goes into designing them (giving rise to new economic models for the digital age).
  • You will understand the power of metaphors for our computing practices (and how we might rethink some of these).
  • You’ll understand how computers are weaving themselves into every space we move through and the larger social consequences.

Required Texts:

All texts will be available on Canvas


Quizzes:  10%

Twitter: 10%

Midterm: 15%

Active Engagement: 10%

Petabyte Visualization: 10%

Digital Divide Assessment: 15%

Self-Evaluation Paper: 10%

Final Exam: 20%

Written Assignments:

You will have several writing assignments due throughout the semester. These papers must be written in 12 point Times New Roman font, double-spaced, and sources cited accurately in MLA or APA style.  You must turn in your essays electronically by emailing them to your discussion leader as either Word Documents or PDF files. Please note: no late work is accepted on any assignments except under extraordinary circumstances.

Note on Academic Honesty and Plagiarism: Any source that you draw ideas, quotes, or images from must be cited accurately in your paper in APA or MLA style. If you use any source in your work without correctly citing the work, this constitutes plagiarism. Any intentional plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the assignment and will likely result in a failing grade for the course (and an XF on your transcript).


  • Category A: Sloppiness. Automatic “0” on paper, with option to rewrite for no better than a “C”
  • Category B: Ignorance. Automatic “0” on paper, with option to rewrite for no better than a “C”
  • Category C: Obvious Conscious Cheating. Automatic “0” on paper, with no option for rewriting. Depending on the egregiousness of the violation, you may receive an XF for the course (failure due to academic dishonesty). Please see the University of Maryland’s policy’s on academic dishonesty:

For those of you who are not aware of what constitutes plagiarism, here is a breakdown of the various types:

1. Buying papers, borrowing papers, or recycling former papers unrevised and claiming these types of papers as your own for your assignment in this course. (This constitutes a Category C offense)

2. Cutting and pasting text or images from a webpage or borrowing passages from a book for your paper without properly citing these parts and claiming the material as your own for the expressed intent of cheating. (This constitutes a Category C offense)

3. Failing to use proper citation style for material you borrow, accidentally. (This constitutes either a Category A or B offense)

Active Engagement:

Your participation is crucial to the learning you will experience in this class. Because this is a discussion-driven and hands-on class, the quality of the class for everyone is in large part dependent on the quality of preparation and visible engagement of each participant. Please realize that although you may have prepared the readings and assignments and may be listening to others, if you do not actively demonstrate your preparation and ideas in discussion, there is no way to observe and, hence, evaluate the quality of your preparation and participation. This process of contributing helps concretize the ideas covered in lectures and will ultimately help you do well on the exams and class project.

Your Active Engagement grade is based upon your written responses to the “warm-up questions” given by your discussion leader at the beginning of each discussion section. These questions will be given at the beginning of section and you will have 5 minutes to craft a response. You will hand in a hardcopy or email your response at the end of discussion. Your grade will also be based on how well you verbalize your ideas in discussion section and contribute to the overall conversation about the topics being covered. You will also be graded on participating in activities held during lecture such as the site-specific information gathering.

Lastly, you are required to attend 2 “labs” such as workshops, talks from guest speakers, or film screenings (or simply participate in a working group throughout the semester). If you are not in a working group, your two labs must be from different categories (i.e., while you cannot have two movies count, you can have one movie count along with a lab like a guest lecture). Active engagement constitutes 10% of the grade.

Twitter Responses (to Lectures):

You will need a Twitter account to interact with the in-class lectures. You may set up a separate account just for this class. Please be sure to email your username to your discussion leader. Please note, your Twitter account cannot be set to private (so that your tweets are searchable by other students in the class).

  • You must post to Twitter once during each lecture on Mondays. You are allowed to not tweet during one lecture during the semester.
  • All tweets must include the hashtag #dcc106

Your baseline score is out of 10 percent; exceptional posts and uses of Twitter may garner you a bonus score up to a maximum of 12 percent (giving you 2 percent extra credit in the course). To gain the 2 bonus percentage points (for a total of 12 percent for the semester), you must post especially insightful posts, provide useful links to outside material, or offer consistently helpful and engaged responses to classmates’ posts. Tweeting multiple times in a week will not make up for days that you did not tweet or were absent.

Note: for students who don’t have a laptop or smartphone, you can send tweets during class by using the text message feature on your phones. You must text your message (140 characters maximum) to 40404 after setting up your cellphone at

Your Twitter Responses are worth 10% of your grade (with a possible 12% based on quality of tweets).


You will have one quiz each week that covers the material in the readings and from lecture. These quizzes, which are mainly multiple choice and matching (with the occasionally short answer question), are designed only to make sure that you are keeping up with the readings and attending lectures. There are no trick questions; if you have done the readings and taken notes on the lectures throughout the week, you will get a good grade on these quizzes. These quizzes are taken on our Canvas and must be completed prior to lecture each Monday. Each quiz will be available on Canvas on the Friday morning prior to each lecture. Once lecture begins on these days, the quiz will be closed and cannot be taken if missed. Quizzes are worth 10% of your grade.

Midterm and Final Exam:

These exams will be held during the lecture on the dates noted in the schedule below. The format of these exams may include multiple choice questions, short answers, matching, and an essay question. You will write your short answer and essay questions in a provided exam book. You will review for these exams in section to get a strong sense of the material that will be covered. If you have to miss an exam for university-approved reasons, you must reschedule the exam with Dr. Farman. These exams cannot be taken late.

Students with Disabilities:

The University is legally obligated to provide appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities. The campus’ Disability Support Services Office (DSS) works with students and faculty to address a variety of issues ranging from test anxiety to physical and psychological disabilities. If a student or instructor believes that the student may have a disability, they should consult with DSS (4-7682, email Note that to receive accommodations, students must first have their disabilities documented by DSS. The office then prepares an Accommodation Letter for course instructors regarding needed accommodations. Students are responsible for presenting this letter to their instructors.

Please Note: This syllabus is subject to change at any time according to the professor’s discretion.  The assignments below may also include readings handed out in class, which each student is responsible for completing.


Week 1: Course Introduction (No Sections Meeting this Week)

Jan. 27 – Syllabus Overview

Week 2: Why Are We The Information Age?

Feb. 3 –

Week 3: The History of Information Exchange

Feb. 10 –

  • Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation, Introduction and Ch. 1
  • Carolyn Marvin, “Annihilating Space, Time, and Difference,” in When Old Technologies Were New
Week 4: Information in the Digital Age

Feb. 17 –

  • Manuel Castells, The Rise of Network Society, Chapter 1
  • In-Class Activity: Site-specific information (groups of 5 from same section): Understanding how we interact with information today, via multiple information and media streams.
  • DUE: Petabyte visualization due via email to your section leader prior to lecture.
Week 5: The Rise of Social Media

Feb. 24 –

  • Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman, “Networked Relationships,” Ch. 5 in Networked: The New Social Operating System
  • danah boyd, “White Flight in Networked Publics” from Race After the Internet
Week 6: The Impact of Anonymity

March 3 –

Week 7: The Digital Divide, Part 1

March 10 –

  • Mark Warschauer, Technology and Social Inclusion, Introduction
 Week 8: Spring Break

March 17 – 21

Week 9: The Digital Divide, Part 2

March 24:

  • Mark Warschauer, Technology and Social Inclusion, Ch. 1-2
  • Christian Sandvig, “Connection at Ewiiaapaayp Mountain: Indigenous Internet Infrastructure,” in Race After the Internet.
Week 10: Midterm (No Sections This Week)

March 31 – MIDTERM

Week 11: Material Culture: Internet Infrastructure

April 7 –

Week 12: Material Culture: Intimate Objects

April 14 –

  • Sherry Turkle, “The Things that Matter,” from Evocative Objects
  • Donald Norman, “The Psychopathology of Everyday Things,” chapter 1 in The Design of Everyday Things
Week 13: Material Culture: What is a Digital Object?

April 21 –

  • Pippin Barr, “Metaphor and Human-Computer Interaction,” Ch. 2 from User-Interface Metaphors in Theory and Practice
  • Jonathan Sterne, “MP3 as Cultural Artifact,” New Media & Society.
Week 14: Ubiquitous Computing

April 28 –

  • Anne Galloway, “Intimations of Everyday Life: Ubiquitous Computing and the City,” Cultural Studies.
Week 15: The Rise of Mobile Media

May 5 –

  • Paul Dourish and Genevieve Bell, Ch. 6, “Mobility and Urbanism” from Divining a Digital Future.
  • Adriana De Souza e Silva and Jordan Frith, “From Voice to Location,” Ch. 3 in Mobile Interfaces in Public Places.
Week 16: Course Conclusion / Final Exam Overview (No Sections this Week)

May 12 — Conclusion and Exam Overview Part 1

  • DUE: Self-Evaluation Paper Due to Section Leaders Prior to Lecture
Week 17: Finals Week

Final Exam: Wednesday, May 21, 1:30-3:30

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