Syllabus / MediaEconomicsF09
Media Economics, and Participation
Clay Shirky (email@example.com) Friday 12:30 - 3:00 p.m., Tisch 406 Version 1.0 / September 7, 2007
Making words and images public used to be difficult, complex, and expensive. Now it's not. That change, simple but fundamental, is transforming the media landscape. A publisher used to be required if you wanted to put material out into the public sphere; now anyone with a keyboard or a camera can circulate their material globally. This change in the economics of communication has opened the floodgates to a massive increase in the number and variety of participants creating and circulating media. This change, enormous and permanent, is driving several profound effects in the media landscape today.
This course covers the transition from a world populated by professional media makers and a silent public to one where anyone who has a phone or a computer can be both producer and consumer. This change, brought about by the technological and economic characteristics of digital data and networks, is upending old industries -- newspapers, music publishing, moviemaking -- faster than new systems can be put in place. The result is chaos and experimentation as new ways of participating in the previously sparse media landscape are appearing everywhere. This course will cover the history and economics of the previous media landscape, the design of digital networks that upend those historical systems, and new modes of participation from weblogs and wikis and Twitter to fan fiction and lolcats.
The class will consist of class discussion around readings and lectures, in-class presentations and analysis of new uses of media that you observe (or participate in) outside class. There will be two written analyses of the media landscape, one at mid-term and one final paper.
The course will progress through 3 phases, each taking roughly a third of the course:
1. What Just Happened We will spend the first four weeks looking at the media landscape at it existed in the late 20th century; the economic and social characteristics of that landscape common to most public media; and the ways digital data and packet-switched networks upend many of those characteristics.
2. Re-defining Media We will spend the middle third of the course, roughly, looking at the ways the low cost and increasingly high availability of media by amateurs is altering what media means. We will be especially interested in observing uses of media as tools for assembling and coordinating groups of people previously locked out of the media landscape, and the ways cheap, social media rewards productive rather than consumptive behaviors.
3. The Shape of Things to Come? We are living through the largest expansion in expressive capability in the history of the human race. This shift is disrupting many of our beliefs about how media is supposed to work.
The work of the class is studying uses and structures of media, internalizing your opinions about what you learn, and participating in discussions of that work in the class and in your written work. In keeping with the theme of the class, all the work you write in the class will be for public consumption.
Class participation 50% Mid-term paper 20% Final paper 30%
Section 1: Introduction and Observation
Week 1: From Gutenberg to Sarnoff – 500 years of media
What has changed in the media environment in the 500 years of modernity?
Readings: Gitelman, Lisa and Geoffrey Pingree: New Media: 1740-1915 (Handout) Eisenstein, Elizabeth: The Printing Press As An Agent Of Social Change (Handout) Duguid, Paul: Material Matters
Week 2: What Is Media?
We use the words medium, media, and “the media” to mean different things. What is common to all forms of media?
Readings: Starr, Paul: The Creation of The Media (Handout) Habermas, Jurgen; Between Facts and Norms (Handout) Christgau, Robert; Down by Law: Great Dance Records You Can't Buy;
Assignment: Observe a site that hosts conversations about news or current events.
Week 3: Consumers, Audiences, and Publics
One characteristic of public media is that an audience is more than just a list of individual viewers, and a public is more than just an audience.
Readings: Hill, Dan; Why Lost is Genuinely New Media;
Jenkins, Henry; Convergence Culture (Handout) Keen, Andrew; Cult of the Amateur (Handout)
Assignment: Observe a site that aggregates user-generated material, and lets those users comment on one another's work.
Week 4: If a Thing is Worth Doing, It's Worth Doing Badly: The Rise of the Amateur The distinction between amateur and professional is complicated, and not amenable to easy litmus tests.
Readings: Gillmor, Dan; We Media (Handout) Michel, Amanda; Columbia Journalism Review Get Off the Bus;
Shirky, Clay; Here Comes Everybody (Handout)
Assignment: Observe a site where amateurs are investigating or reporting news.
Week 5: Media By The Public
The definition of the public used to be people who could know things about the society they lived in, but not say things about that society. How can we make sense of a public that can talk to each other?
Readings: Carr, Nicholas; Sharecropping the long tail;
Gneezy, Uri, and Alfredo Rustichini; A Fine Is A Price Journal of Legal Studies (Jan 2000) Shirky, Clay; Fame vs. Fortune http://shirky.com/writings/fame_fortune.html
Assignment: Write a short paper (1500-2500 words) describing the dynamics of the participatory site you observed.
Week 6: Motivation: Why Would Anyone Work For Free?
It's clear why people whose livelihood depends on media work create media, but why do people make media without getting paid?
No readings; First paper due
Week 7: Midterm discussion In-class discussions of your observations
Watts, Duncan; Six Degrees (Handout) boyd, danah; Autistic Social Software http://www.danah.org/papers/AutisticSocialSoftware.pdf
Week 8: Social networks and FOAF-media Social networking, as pioneered by SixDegrees and perfected by Friendster, is the first new model for large communal networks since 1984.
Readings: boyd, danah; Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace;
Wenger, Etienne; Communities of Practice: Learning as a Social System;
Bey, Hakim; The Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ);
Week 9: Homophily and Communities of Practice Groups of people exhibit behaviors that can't be predicted from observing the individuals in isolation. As a result, creative efforts undertaken in groups differ as well.
Readings Adamic, Lada; A Social network Caught in the Web;
Susnstein, Cass; Republic.com 2.0 (Handout)
Assignment: Work in groups to find and observe a filtering strategy
Week 10: Social networks as filters and amplifiers When everyone can create, everyone needs a guide to the good stuff
Readings: Lakhani, Karim, and Andrew McAffee; Wikipedia Case Study;
Sanger, Lawrence; Toward a New Compendium of Knowledge;
Lanier, Jaron; Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism;
Assignment: Turn in a short proposal for your final paper
Week 11: Wikipedia The world's largest encyclopedia
Readings: Raymond, Eric, The Cathedral and the Bazaar;
Weber, Steven; The Success of Open Source (Handout)
Assignment: Work on your final paper
Week 12: Herding Cats: Open Source and Collaborative Action Collaboration requires a much higher level of social complexity than simple sharing
Assignment: Final paper due
Week 13: Final discussion/Open problems In-class discussion of the subjects of your papers
Week 14: Final presentations/Open problems In-class discussion of the subjects of your papers