Impact of New Information Resources: Multimedia and Networks
Winter 1995 Class

Instructor: Howard Besser

This course will critically examine the new information landscape. Focusing on headlines from the daily newspaper, we will look at the broad implications of changes in information technologies, information providers, and information delivery systems. Close attention will be paid to the rapidly shifting borders between what were previously considered distinct domains: entertainment, publishing, cable, broadcasting, journalism, telephone, computers.

Though this course deals heavily with information technology, it is not a technical course. It is essentially a communications course that examines new information systems likely to affect everyday life 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.

Students will have first-hand experience coping with developing information technologies, as much of the course will be delivered using a variety of distance-learning techniques. The class will consist of 15 students each from Berkeley and Ann Arbor. The weekly lectures will alternate between the two campuses, and be viewed at the remote site in a specially-equipped distance learning facility. Office hours will alternate between videoconferences and in-person meetings.

All students must join at least one of the six focus groups, and attend weekly focus group meetings on their own campus. Each focus group will maintain its own online newsgroup with active participation from focus groups on each campus. Several times during the semester the focus groups from the two campuses will hold a joint meeting via videoconference. And all students will collaborate on projects with at least one student on the other campus.

This is an experimental 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 instructor 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 focus groups that will meet weekly to look at the material more intensively through a particular set of lenses (such as critical theory or information retrieval). Students will have a wide latitude in selecting project topics, but they must be serious and motivated to carry these through.

Prerequisites: Before the first class, all students must know how to use electronic mail.

Course Requirements: By the third week of class students must know how to read and post to newsgroups, and by the fifth week of class students must know how to create basic WorldWide Web documents (separate instruction will be given in each of these). Students will be expected to regularly attend class and focus group meetings and post to online focus group discussions. Focus groups will make their own selection of articles to read and science fiction films to view and discuss. In addition, all students will do a short review of a multimedia program, follow a commercial online service provider for 5-10 hours, and do a major project or paper on some topic related to the class

Class meets Fridays:
Michigan: ILS 609, Fridays 1-4
Berkeley: LIS 296A, Fridays 10-1

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