This course will examine “social media” from a cultural perspective, with a focus on how media technologies figure in practices of everyday life and in the construction of social relationships and identities. Although many of our readings will deal with Social Network Sites (SNSs), we will attempt to form an expansive definition of what constitutes “social media.” We will also work from an expansive definition of “technology,” considering the term in a cultural sense to include various practices and tools used to communicate in everyday life. Lastly, the course will also look at the impact of social media on journalism and activism, including a dissection of the recent debates on the power of social media to transform these fields.
Questions we will consider include: What falls under the definition of “social media”? What tools can we use to study the place of social media in culture? How can social media enable the formation of community? How is identity performed in/with social media? How are constructions of youth, gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality mediated through social media technologies? Can social media technologies be a vehicle for political activism? How are social media used in marketing and advertising? What are the ethical issues associated with social media technologies? Is it possible to refuse social media? Are social media improving the state of journalism?