Fall 2019 - CMNS 353 D100

Topics in Technology and Society (4)

The Digital Ecosystem

Class Number: 3348

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    AQ 3159, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    CMNS 253W and one of CMNS 201 (or 260) or CMNS 202 (or 262). Recommended: CMNS 362.



Examination of the emergence and shaping of information and communication technologies in the digital age. Explores new media and social change between everyday life, social institutions, and various enterprises. Emphasis is placed on social context and relations of power. May repeat for credit if topic studied is different.



This course examines social media and big data to understand how emergent technologies technologies are shaping societies, cultures, and conceptions of the self. Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube constitute a digital ecosystem through which our personal information flows seamlessly. In this digital ecosystem, our data is a valuable resource. While platforms afford users the agency to connect with friends, share ideas, and engage in political discourse, they also extract as much data as possible, according to business models and policies that prioritize seizing user attention and steering behavior. Moreover, third-party stakeholders collect and analyze data from the digital ecosystem to manipulate public perception for economic or political gain. What is the social media ecosystem and how does it work? Who has a stake in our personal data and why? How do we explore and mobilize modes of self-expression in an environment of mass surveillance? To answer these questions, we will conduct case studies of social networking sites and study research on technology, culture, and social change.


  • Two Exams 40%
  • Research Paper Proposal 10%
  • Research Paper 40%
  • Tutorial Attendance and Participation 10%


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.]


A minimum 2.25 CMNS CGPA and 2.00 overall CGPA, and approval as a communication student is required for entry into most communication upper division courses.



Course readings will be made available in class.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

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. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html