Internet Culture course at UWB this autumn – UPDATE

By May 6, 2013 Blog 6 Comments

This is an update to this post. While my class on Internet Culture was initially approved, it wasn’t going to be able to count as a Global Studies course. They’ve asked me to instead reteach “Information Technology & Social Movements.” I’m a bit disappointed as I was dreaming of nyan cats – but, the more mainstream info tech and protesty course is also fun. For any potential students–and I have been contacted by several–the class does include coverage of about Anonymous, WikiLeaks, The Pirate Bay/Pirate Party/filesharing, and other internety culture things–just a slightly different focus. I will be modifying the course slightly based on the winter experience.

I will leave the rest of this post up as a landmark of future intent to teach a course on this topic!


This blog post is to provide a bit more information for potential students in my BISGST 397D course this Autumn Quarter at UW, Bothell (UWB).

I taught a really fun course last quarter at UWB about information technology and social movements. During the course several students expressed interest in a course about internet culture. I proposed teaching a class about internet culture to IAS this autumn and they agreed.

I’ve created the following paragraph description for the course and I’ve updated the Time Schedule to have more information. This paragraph is still a bit rough as I’ve not had much time to focus on the course yet. However, it is a good approximation of the direction I envision the course going.

Researchers of English-speaking online communities and online phenomena have noted that there are cultural phenomena, such as “Lolcats,” that have arisen from specific online communities, spread to others, and have emerged into the “real world” as popular culture. For example, the Guy Fawkes mask used in the V for Vendetta movie was adopted by Anonymous as it became politically active and now it has become the face of post-2008 protest. This course attempts to investigate this aspect of “online culture,” in particular, the popular culture emerging from highly populated online communities. As a group we will engage with questions such as: What is “internet culture” and does it even exist as something that is analytically distinct from popular culture? What are the fountain points of internet culture and why? Why do some online communities become “meme-makers” and others do not?  If there is an “internet culture” where did it come from? As a class we will begin with early forms of online communities such as bulletin board systems and move to present day culturally influential online spaces such as 4chan, Reddit, online video games, and Facebook. We will also examine other significant movements that are a part of the development of the internet, such as the open source movement and hackers. As part of the course, students will be expected to become embedded within an online community and as a group we will contextualize their experiences and the broader course materials within theoretical texts.

I will be creating this class for the first time, so I still have not worked out many of the major details. If interested students have a particular place online or theme that they would like to see included, I would encourage you to leave a comment here, send me an email, or tweet at me. This could include something that you would like to know more about or something that you are particularly interested in already. The course is still being created and so there is room to tuck new things into the syllabus.

Again, please let me know if you have questions and don’t hesitate to request particular content. Also, spread the word! The more the merrier and I’d love to have a really lively conversational/research group!

(Note: I took the featured image from a Wikipedia page.)


  • Henry Nicholson says:

    I am very interested in taking your class in the fall. You mention that the class will cover “online gaming”, and I was wondering if that would include MMO gaming and the communities that develop within them? For example, would we examine the communities of games such as Eve online, World of Warcraft, and Runescape?

    Thanks, I’m really looking forward to this class!

  • Jessica says:

    Hi Henry,

    Apologies for the delay in response!

    With the change in course focus to the class I taught during Winter 2013, the class is going to be about info tech and political unrest. As such, we aren’t going to necessarily focus on anything having to do with MMO gaming. But, there is a research project in the class and you could focus on that, probably – we’d have to talk. MMOs are something that I’m interested in and have studied, so I would welcome conversation about that in the class even though we are no longer focusing on internet culture in the sense that I defined it above.

    Hope that helps 🙂 I’m looking forward to the class as well!

  • Chris Anonymous says:

    I love that classes like this are popping up at the UWB campus before I graduate!

    I’m assuming you’ve seen TPB: AFK?

    Also, have you seen the trailer for the new WikiLeaks film w/ Cumberbatch (BBC Sherlock) as Julian Assange??

    Gah, so much excite. See you next quarter.

  • Jessica says:

    Yay! I’m excited too – they are incredibly fun to teach.

    I have seen it and enjoyed it – but have you read Peter Sunde’s review?

    Another one I’m quite fond of is Good Copy, Bad Copy –>

    I have not seen that trailer though – I will have to check it out!

    I’m looking forward to it too 🙂

    • Chris Anonymous says:

      Thanks! I hadn’t read that. I definitely had a surprisingly “heavy” feeling from the mood in the latter half of the film. But that depiction of hopelessness was also fleeting since it didn’t really coincide with more recent TPB updates & FS news in general. I mostly enjoyed seeing the humanity and interactions between the trio. Fascinating and brilliant.

      And yess, GCBC is a good one among the few on the subject.

      • Jessica says:

        I agree about the heavy feeling. I can see where the filmmaker is coming from – it is a heavy subject and he was recording the consequences on actual people. But, on the other hand, I can see Sunde’s view that telling that story doesn’t quite capture the support they have and the support the whole movement has – and the joyful way that they engage with the issue. It seems like a tough story to tell both ways. I guess even with the support and the joy it is hard not expect that it would be hard for them while taking the hit for everyone.

        Okay, off to update site things 🙂

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