Anthropology 138a

Social Relations in Cyberspace

Spring, 2010

Professor Jacobson

M & W 2:10-3:30 PM
Office: Brown 205.
Office Hours: M&W 1:00-2:00 PM and by appointment.
Phone: x. 62228

This course will examine various modes of asynchronous and synchronous computer-mediated communication and the ways in which people interact when using them. It will also provide an opportunity to assess the applicability of various social science theories to computer-mediated communication.

Course requirements include preparation for and participation in class discussions, weekly written responses (1-2 pages) on assigned readings, a term paper proposal, and a term paper. For further details, click here.

If you are a student with a documented disability on record at Brandeis University and wish to have a reasonable accommodation made for you in this class, please see me immediately.

Academic integrity is central to the mission of educational excellence at Brandeis University. Each student is expected to turn in work completed independently, except when assignments specifically authorize collaborative effort. It is not acceptable to use the words or ideas of another person—be it a world-class philosopher or your lab partner—without proper acknowledgement of that source. This means that you must use footnotes and quotation marks to indicate the source of any phrases, sentences, paragraphs or ideas found in published volumes, on the internet, or created by another student.

Violations of University policies on academic integrity, described in Section Three of Rights and Responsibilities, may result in failure in the course or on the assignment, or in suspension or dismissal from the University. If you are in doubt about the instructions for any assignment in this course, it is your responsibility to ask for clarification.

Reading assignments marked with an asterisk (*) are available on LATTE.

Week 1 (1/20) Introduction [No class Monday]

Week 2 (1/25) Analytical Frameworks: Culture and Context.

Clifford Geertz, "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture." In The Interpretation of Cultures, 1973, pp. 3-30*

Julian Pitt-Rivers, “Contextual Analysis and the Locus of the Model,” European Journal of Sociology, 1967, 8:15-34*

Week 3 (2/1) Context and Meaning

David Jacobson, "Contexts and Cues in Cyberspace: The Pragmatics of Naming in Text-Based Virtual Realities," Journal of Anthropological Research, 1996, 52:4:461-479.

David Jacobson, “Interpreting Instant Messaging: Context and Meaning in Computer-Mediated Communication.” Journal of Anthropological Research, 2007, 63: 359-381*

Joseph B. Walther and Kyle P. D’Addario, “The Impacts of Emoticons on Message Interpretation in Computer-Mediated Communication.” Social Science Computer Review, 2001, 19:3:324-347*

Week 4 (2/8) Friendship

Liz Spencer and Ray Pahl, Rethinking Friendship, 2006, Ch. 3 (pp. 57-86, 262-267)*

D. Jacobson, “Fair-Weather Friend: Label and Context in Middle-Class Friendships,” Journal of Anthropological Research, 1975, 31:3:225-234.

Elizabeth Bernstein, “How Facebook Ruins Friendships.” New York Times, 2009.

Douglas Quenqua, “Friends Until I Delete You.” New York Times, 2009.

Week 5 (2/15) No Classes (Winter Recess)

Week 6 (2/22) Privacy

Katherine Strater and Heather Richter Lipford, “Strategies and Struggles with Privacy in an Online Social Networking Community.” 2008.*

Alyson L. Young and Anabel Quan-Haase, “Information Revelation and Internet Privacy Concerns on Social Networking Sites: A Case Study of Facebook.” C&T’09 2009.

Patricia G. Lange, “Publicly Private and Privately Public: Social Networking on YouTube.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 2007, 13:1:18.

Clive Thompson, “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy,” New York Times, 2008.

Week 7 (3/1)   Status Updates and Small Talk

John Laver, “Communicative Functions of Phatic Communication,” in Organization of Behavior in Face-to-Face Interaction (Eds., Adam Kendon, Richard Harris, and Mary Ritchie Key), 1975, pp. 215-238.*

Bernard N. Meltzer and Gil Richard Musolf, “‘Have a Nice Day!’ Phatic Communion and Everyday Life.” Studies in Symbolic Interaction, 2000, 23:95-111.*

Small Talk (Phatic Communication),

Tony Watt, “Phatic Communication, Twitter, and Web 2.0,” Micronarratives, 2009.

Week 8 (3/8) Identity Management and Impression Formation

Samuel Gosling, Sam Gaddis, and Simine Vazire, “Personality Impressions Based on Facebook Profiles,” 2007,

Shanyang Zhao, Sherri Grasmuck, and Jason Martin, “Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships.” Computers in Human Behavior, 2008, 24:5:1816-1836.*

Michele Strano, “User Descriptions and Interpretations of Self-Presentation through Facebook Profile Images,” Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 2(2), article 5.

College Candy, “The 6 Most Common Facebook Photos.” 2009.

Week 9 (3/15) Trust and Deception   (Term paper proposals due)

Melanie C. Green, “Trust and Social Interaction on the Internet,” in The Oxford Handbook of Internet Psychology (Eds., A. N. Joinson, K.Y.A. McKenna, T. Postnes, and U-D Reips), 2007, pp. 43-52.*

Catherine Dwyer, Starr Roxanne Hiltz, and Katia Passerini, “Trust and Privacy Concern Within

Social Networking Sites: A Comparison of Facebook and MySpace,” 2007, Proceedings of the Thirteenth Americas Conference on Information Systems,

Lauren Sessions, “You Looked Better on MySpace: Deception and Authenticity on Web 2.0.” First Monday, 2009, 14:7.

Week 10 (3/22) Online Connections

Judith Donath, “Signals in Social Supernets,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 2007, 13:1.

Jolene Zywica and James Danowski, “The Faces of Facebookers: Investigating Social Enhancement and Social Compensation Hypotheses; Predicting Facebook™ and Offline Popularity from Sociability and Self-Esteem, and Mapping the Meanings of Popularity with Semantic Networks.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 2008, 14:1:1-34.

Jacqueline Olds and Richard S. Schwartz, “The Technology of Relationships,” in The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century, 2009, pp. 95-113.*

Week 11 (3/29) No Classes (Spring Recess)

Week 12 (4/5)   Social Network Affordances (No Class Monday)

Cliff Lampe, Nicole Ellison, and Charles Steinfield, “A Face(book) in the Crowd: Social Searching vs. Social Browsing,” CSCW'06,  2006*

Cliff Lampe, Nicole Ellison, and Charles Steinfeld, "A Familiar Face(book): Profile Elements as Signals in an Online Social Network," 2007. CHI 2007, pp. 435-44.*

Nicole Ellison, Charles Steinfield, and Cliff Lampe, "The Benefits of Facebook ‘Friends’: Social Capital and College Students' Use of Online Social Network Sites." 2007. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12:4.

Week 13 (4/12) Small Worlds and Social Networks

S. Milgram, "The Small World Problem," in The Individual in a Social World, 1977, Ch. 18, pp. 281-295.*

Judith Kleinfeld, “Could It Be a Big World After All? What the Milgram Papers in the Yale Archives Reveal About the Original Small World Study.”

David Jacobson, "Boundary Maintenance in Support Networks," Social Networks,
1985, 7:341-351.*

Week 14 (4/19) The Future of Online Social Networks

Cliff Lampe, Nicole B. Ellison, and Charles Steinfield, “Changes in Use and Perception of Facebook.” CWCW’08, 2008.

Chad Mumm, “15 Reasons to Quit Facebook,” Switched, 2009.

Steve Tuttle, “You Can’t Friend Me, I Quit!,” Newsweek, 2009,

Virginia Heffernan, “Facebook Exodus,” New York Times, 2009.

Allen Salkin, “No Twittering Allowed.” The New York Times, August 7, 2009.

Week 15 (4/26) Online Dating

Nicole Ellison, Rebecca Heino, and Jennifer Gibbs, “Managing Impressions Online: Self-Presentation Processes in the Online Dating Environment,” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 2006, 11:2.

Jeffrey T. Hancock, Catalina Toma, and Nicole Ellison, “The Truth about Lying in Online Dating Profiles.” CHI 2007.*

Monica Whitty, “Revealing the ‘real’ me, searching for the ‘actual’ you: Presentations of self on an internet dating site.” Computers in Human Behavior 24 (2008) 1707–1723.*

Week 16 (5/3) Review, Term Paper Due May 5th.

1. Preparation for and participation in class discussions. The reading assignments marked with an asterisk (*) are available via LATTE. You should have read the assigned materials by the beginning of the class for which they have been assigned and you should be prepared to present your view of the materials. Participation implies attendance: you are expected to be present for class meetings; unexcused absences will affect your grade.

2. Written responses. Each week (except those noted below), you should write a short response (1-2 pages) to assigned readings. (Responses are not required for Weeks 1, 2, 5, 11, 13, and 16.) In your responses, you should apply the central concept(s) of the assigned readings to your own experiences as these relate to the week’s readings. The responses are due at the beginning of the week in which the readings are assigned. Late responses will not be accepted.

3. Term paper proposal. Each student will select the topic of her or his term paper (relevant to the themes of the course) in consultation with the instructor. Your proposal for the term paper, indicating the question (or set of questions) you plan to address, the kind(s) of data you plan to collect to answer it, your method(s) for collecting data, and at least five (5) sources relevant to your topic, is due on or before the class meeting of Wednesday, Marth 17th.

4. Term Paper. In consultation with Professor Jacobson, you should choose a term paper topic that examines some aspect of computer-mediated communication, focusing on an issue in online interaction. The paper may be either a library project or one based on fieldwork or some combina­tion of both; it is to be approxi­mately 10-12 pages, typed and double-spaced, not including biblio­graphic materials. The paper is due on or before the last class meeting of the semester, Wednesday, May 5th

5. Final grade. Your grade for the course will be based on preparation and participation in class discussions (both offline and online), the average of the grades on the reading responses, and the term paper, each component counting for one third of the final grade.