Fall 2020 - CMNS 353 D100

Topics in Technology and Society (4)

The Digital Ecosystem

Class Number: 6855

Delivery Method: Distance Education


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    CMNS 253W and one of CMNS 201W (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 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.  


  • Personal Data Essay 15%
  • Meme Analysis Essay 25%
  • Research Paper Proposal 10%
  • Research Paper 35%
  • Tutorial Assignments (Written) 15%



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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).