Mobile Media

Instructor: Shawn Van Every
Office Hours: Mon Through Fri 1:30PM to 2:30PM – Room 823
Class Schedule: Mon through Fri 9:30AM to 12:30PM (occasional afternoon trips)
Classroom: Room 818
Class URL:


A massive new medium has arisen in the last decade.  The app, an encapsulation of functionality in the form of software on a mobile device is changing how we, both as individuals and groups communicate with each-other and even how we experience the world.  Mobile devices with their always on and always connected nature are ubiquitous in all senses.  They offer all of us the ability to access the network, anytime from anywhere.  They are changing culture at every level, globally, locally and perhaps even changing what it means to be human.

Perhaps in no other country is this change more pronounced than in China. With the largest population of mobile phone users in the world, more than 1.3 billion, the way people use their mobile devices for chat, media consumption, and payments is similar to the rest of the world but with a big difference.  Many western services such as Google and Facebook are at times unavailable, giving rise to incredibly successful China born apps and services such as WeChat.

In this class, we’ll examine the current state-of-the art in mobile technology and smart devices. We’ll focus on creating apps as well as exploring how mobile devices are changing the way we interact and communicate with one another and what effects this is having on society both within China and globally.

Class Schedule:

Each day will encompass discussion, lab/workshop time, and student presentations with periodic guest presentations.


25% Regular Assignments
25% Class Participation/Attendance
15% First Group Assignment
20% Final Project
15% Presentation

Assignments and Blog:

We will have daily assignments that are relevant to the current material. Assignments must be documented (descriptions, photos, screen shots, code, thoughts, and so on) on your blog (see below). They are required and turning in an assignment late will adversely affect your grade.

It is expected that everyone in the class will utilize a class blog for to document their work and turn in assignments.


Starting with the 4th class we will have short group presentations (15 to 20 minutes). I will randomly assign the groups and schedule the presentation dates. The topic of the presentations should be a mobile media technology (hardware, software, service) or cultural phenomenon (selfies, sexting, flash mobs) that relates to the the class. The presentations should cover what the technology/service/use is, what is novel or different about it from the past, how are people using it and so on.  An example might be how QR-Codes are or aren’t being used in different regions around the world and why or what is the future of mobile gaming and VR?

Presentation Schedule:

Class 4 – Maximilian and Erica
Class 6 – Irene and Xiaowei
Class 7 – Janice and Abigail
Class 8 – Matthew and Seungmin
Class 9 – Arielle and Jaclyn
Class 11 – Olivia and David
Class 11 – Shuang and Daniel
Class 12 – Annie and Su An

Final Projects:

Class will culminate with final projects. This will be a mobile application (website/sms/installable app) from concept to completion along with a final presentation.  The projects will be of your own choosing based upon your ideas and interests.

Class Participation:

This class will be highly participatory, you are expected to contribute to discussions and give feedback to other students. This (along with attendance) is 25% of your overall grade.


Mandatory, unexcused absences will affect your final grade. If you are going to be absent, please let me know ahead of time if you can.


Excessive lateness will affect your grade. Don’t be late.


There will be assigned periodic readings. Generally they will be online though occasionally I may hand out a hard copy. These readings are required and are very valuable in class discussions.


There are quite a few blogs and other websites that track the wireless industry and how mobile phones are changing society.

These along with what we collectively find and share are good starting points:

My “mobilemedia” tagged bookmarks on Delicious:

Weekly Rundown:

Class 1 (Jan 4)

Watch: TED Talks: Amber Case: We are all cyborgs now
On the class blog write about your relationship to your mobile phone? What is its effect on you and your life?

Class 2 (Jan 5)
Discussion: : Syllabus, Mobile Apps as Media – App Studies
Lab: Getting setup for App development with PhoneGap/Cordova
Finish getting setup for app development, get a simple app running on your phone using some basic HTML/CSS.  Take a screenshot and post to the class blog.
On the class blog, write about the 3 apps you can’t live without (or at least admire).
Watch Douglas Rushkoff – Program or Be Programmed

Class 3 (Jan 6)
Discussion: User Experience Design and Process
The Fable of The User-Centred Designer OR The Psychologist’s View of UX Design and write a short blog post with your thoughts or a summary.

As a group, answer the following: What is a simple app that would like to see in existence?  What problem do you have that could be solved?  Start the process of designing it (idea, user story, wireframes, paper prototype).

Class 4 (Jan 7)
Discussion: From Design to Development
Lab: JavaScript Primer, JavaScript + HTML for User Interface Development
Assignment:  Group Work – Work on functional prototype of app (HTML)

Class 5 (Jan 8)
JavaScript + HTML Continued and Single Page Applications
Lab: App Functional Prototyping Workshop
Discussion: User Testing
Group Work – Finish app prototyping and do user testing your app – Document the project and the user testing on the class blog – Be prepared to discuss what worked and what didn’t, where would you like to take it next?
iOS users, download and install the latest version of xcode on your computer. Android users, download the latest Android SDK (scroll down past the Android Studio downloads unless you want it)

Class 6 (Jan 11)
Lab: PhoneGap for iOS and Android setup
Basic App Template
Discussion: Mobile Cameras
Assignment:  Finish getting setup for development.  
Answer this question, in a blog post: Why are we compelled to document everything? Are we missing anything in the process?

Class 7 (Jan 12)
Lab: Programming Photo Capture and Display
Lab: Media Sharing
TED Talks: Jan Chipchase: The anthropology of mobile phones (older) AND Ethnography – Ellen Isaacs
Individually or with a partner, start on a simple app which which captures and displays photographs.

Class 8 (Jan 13)
Lab: Mobile Sensors and more
Field Trip to Tianzifang (Mapping and Ethnography)
Read: Locative Media Revisited By Jonah Brucker-Cohen
Using some ethnographic methods, observe and document how those around you use their devices.
Try out using some mobile sensors in a simple app.

Class 9 (Jan 14)
Guest Presentation: Matthew Fargo – Mobile Developer and Designer
Location and Mapping
In Class Workshop:  App development
Try out the location and mapping capabilities.
Assignment: Start thinking about final projects, discuss ideas with other students in the class.  Be prepared to discuss.

Class 10 (Jan 15)
Final Project Discussion/Planning
Assignment: Start on your final project, first detail it on the class blog (What is the idea, why do you want to build it?)  Then start on the UX design and prototype.  

Class 11 (Jan 18)
Discussion and Lab: Virtual Reality

Class 12 (Jan 19)
Discussion and Lab: Controlling The Physical World
Field Trip to Baoshan Road
Discussion:  Mobile accessories, beyond the mobile phone.
Read: Fashion Power, Fashion and Other Promises of Wearable Technology

Class 13 (Jan 20)
Final Project Workshop
Presentation Rehearsal

Class 14 (Jan 21)
Final Project Presentations
Expect Guests