Impact of New Information Resources: Multimedia and Networks

ILS 604, Winter 1996

Class meets: F 1-4, room 409 plus Weekly Working Group Meetings (to be arranged)

Dr. Howard Besser
Office Hours: Fridays 11-12 and by appointment Note: No office hours on Feb 16

Assignments and Grading
Working Groups

Examples from last year's class [W95] (taught at a distance)
Examples from other class versions (non-distance)
More details on assignments
Newspaper articles discussed in class

Follow up to discussion on cryptology

Information about HyperNews

As new technology makes the shift from broadcasting to narrowcasting more feasible, how will people get their news, culture, and other information? This course will examine past predictions (Goodbye Gutenberg), currently available services (Prodigy, America Online, San Francisco Chronicle's The Gate, Listservers and Newsgroups, Time Magazine, multimedia CD ROMs, etc.), and future delivery mechanisms (Media Lab's Newspaper of Future, movie delivery to the home, etc.).

Over the course of the semester we will try to track the shifting alliances between the networks, the telecommunications companies, newspapers, and the entertainment industry. We will focus our attention on a wide variety of aspects of the changing landscape: technological, public policy, indexing & access, marketing of services, social, cultural, etc.

We will examine the structure and interaction promoted by the various new information technologies. What kind of language and discourse are they composed of?

Though this course deals extensively with information technology, it is not a technical course. It is essentially a communications course that examines new multimedia and networking information systems from a variety of different social science perspectives: sociology, critical theory, public policy, communications theory, structuralism, political science, etc. Students will learn a lot about the new technologies and how they operate, but from the standpoint of a consumer, regulator, or social analyst rather than the standpoint of a technician.

In the past this course has been accompanied by a weekly lecture series where leading public figures and visionaries addressed the fundamental issues raised in class. We will have few guest lectures this term, but viewing of previous guest lectures may be assigned.

This is a graduate-level course that will present a wide range of material within the course of the semester. Because such a wide variety of perspectives will be presented, classroom time may not be devoted to delving deeply into all the perspectives offered. The insturctor expects that students will be motivated and self-directed, and will focus on and pursue the topics and perspectives that interest them the most. We will form working groups that will meet weekly to look at the material more intensively through a particular set of lenses (such as critical theory).


The closest thing we will have to a text will be Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of Information, edited by Jim Brook and Iain Boal, City Lights Books, 1995. In addition, readings will be selected from among the following. You will not be expected to read all of the following, but you will be exposed to ideas from all of these in class. In addition, the Working Groups will select readings appropriate to their focus and perspective.


Course Requirements

Working Groups

Students will divide into working groups to focus their studies during the course of the semester. The instructor expects that many individual and group projects will come out of these working groups. These groups will allow for more in-depth discussions from particular perspectives, and should be especially helpful in formulating ideas for the final projects. The groups will also periodically report back to the class as a whole to encourage a cross-fertilization of perspectives. Each group will consist of students from both campuses. Group members will hold weekly meetings, and will continue online discussions between meetings. From time to time, groups will be given class time for discussions.

Each group will start and manage its own Web site with summaries and pointers to relevant resources. The group will also manage an electronic communications forum to discuss relevant topics between face-to-face meetings. The group will choose thread names (subject headings) within the forum, periodically purge older messages, and perform all necessary management functions. Each forum will be open to students in other groups and (to a limited extent) to the general public.

The following is a sample list of groups likely to form, and the topics they are likely to discuss. Which of these are actually formed depends upon student interest, and some of these groups might be combined.

Sample Class Subjects

* Personal Communication Devices
* Digital video/audio on Networks, Talk Radio
* Video on Demand to Home
* Electronic Publishing
* Infotainment
* Interactive Video
* Video Conferencing/Image Telephones
* Motion Picture Browsing (Pickers)
* Networking Superhighway
* Future/Present of Newspapers
* Tailored information, knowbots, artificial intelligence
* Privacy
* Privacy--Cryptology
* Digital Production for Hollywood
* Standards for viewing and exchanging multimedia
* Electronic democracy
* Distance-Independent Learning
* New input devices (visualization, speech recognition)
* Virtual Reality
* Public Policy, Regulatory Issues
* Economics of Large Corporations
* The Changing Information Industry Workplace
* Environmental Impact
* Social Effects
* Media as social change or protest
* Education
* Technical Issues
* Standards Issues
* Changing Cinema
* Hackers/Crime
* Copyright
* Structure/Language of the interaction
* Recent Commercial Services
* Decentralized Information Sources
* Internet Resources
* Text encoding
* Electronic Art

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