Course Description

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, currently available services, and future delivery mechanisms.

Over the course of the semester we will track the convergence and shifting alliances between the broadcasting 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 and 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?

Many examples used in the course will be taken from current multimedia activities in the Cultural Heritage community, particularly those that the instructor is actively involved in. We will study current museum pilot projects to license and market multimedia material (individually, as consortia, or through marketers such as Bill Gates' Corbis Corporation). And much of what we discover in working groups and student projects will be used for future planning by the cultural heritage community.

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, marketing, 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, marketer, or social analyst rather than the standpoint of a technician. Students will also gain experience in technology forecasting, and should be better prepared to cope with planning in a world of rapidly changing technology.

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 working groups that will meet weekly to look at the material more intensively through a particular set of lenses (such as critical theory or marketing).

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