Summer 2016 - CMNS 855 G200

Selected Topics in Communication Studies (5)

Digital Social Media

Class Number: 5596

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 5:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 1600, Vancouver

  • Instructor:

    Linda Harasim
    Office: HC-3051



Specialized one-time graduate course offerings on topics related to the current research of school faculty of visiting professors.



This course explores the design, use and massive implications of social media in the 21st Century. The invention of computer networks in the late 1960’s, and early 1970’s gave rise to new ways of communicating, and led to a profound social and economic paradigm shift, transcending the industrial world of machines and factory models, to what has been called the Age of KNOWLEDGE. Whereas the industrial model was based on human and machine repetition and efficiency, the Knowledge Age is based on human innovation and inventiveness. Collaboration rather than competition, democracy versus authoritarian control, and mental over mechanical skills, were to be the hallmarks of the Knowledge Age. However, since 2004 there has been a gigantic and unforeseen fork in the digital road. The concept of web 2.0 that arose in 2004 shifted the digital path from a space for free public, democratic, and artistic expression to the rise of digital media giants such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google, who have gobbled up competing media companies for increasing control of the Internet and of human rights. The current situation is staggering in terms of the growth of the digital monopolies.

Whereas the late 20th Century celebrated the possibilities of the Internet to bring about democracy and open communication on a global scale, the early 21st Century has demonstrated alarming potential for totalitarian social control. Cell phones record every movement and conversation of every individual on the planet. Robots are replacing professionals with huge implications for unemployment. The very role of human beings is challenged, as artificial super intelligence zooms towards what is known as the Singularity; estimated to occur in approximately 20 years (2035) when artificial intelligence exceeds and surpass human intelligence.

What options do human beings have? Are there forms of digital media that can increase, rather than reduce, human privacy and human rights? What forms of communication are available, and do they enhance human knowledge or technological dominance?

This course will examine and employ social media such as: forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other user-generated content sites, to online collaboration and knowledge-building. Whereas much social media is being used for social marketing or datamining of personal information, the key questions in this course are: Do, or can, social media facilitate collaborative learning and knowledge-building? And if so, HOW? Which technologies? What designs? And, especially, how should discourse be moderated or curated to achieve these goals?

Approximately one-half of the classes will be conducted face-to-face (f2f), while the other half will be totally online, using and studying new media tools and their social applications.

[Co-taught with CMNS 453-4 (E100)]


  • Assignment #1: Project Design 10%
  • Assignment #2: Participation in Online Seminars 30%
  • Assignment #3: Analysis of Online Discourse 30%
  • Assignment #4: Final Paper 30%


The school expects that the grades awarded in this course will bear some reasonable relation to established university-wide practices with respect to both levels and distribution of grades. In addition, the School will follow Policy S10.01 with respect to Academic Integrity, and Policies S10.02, S10.03 and S10.04 as regards Student Discipline. [Note: as of May 1, 2009 the previous T10 series of policies covering Intellectual Honesty (T10.02) and Academic Discipline (T10.03) have been replaced with the new S10 series of policies.]



Harasim, L., Learning Theory and Online Technologies. New York: Routledge Press, 2011.
ISBN: 9780415999762

A variety of online articles.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site contains information on what is meant by academic dishonesty and where you can find resources to help with your studies.  There is also a section on tutoring.