Sharing 101 - Survival Skills for the Digital Citizen

Morgan Schwartz

office: Nugent 560, Room A
tel: 1-212-774-4865
email: mschwartz AT mmm DOT edu

Spring 2011

COMM 308 Section 02 Wednesday, 2:30 pm - 5:20 pm

Nugent 556

This course is motivated in large part by the spirit of the open-source movement. Participatory culture, fans, gamers, bloggers and vloggers are challenging the dominant content of mainstream media and traditional notions of privacy and intellectual property. In this course we will complete projects that introduce and experiment with a variety of tools that enable collaboration and sharing. What is socially engaged citizenship in the context of open-source technology? [Buzzwords: blogs, social graph, wikis, freemium, podcasting, RSS feeds,, tumblr, Indymedia, Wikipedia, open API, flickr, skype].

sharing 101 buzzwords


Learning Goals

  • You will be able to publish (design, write, publicize, maintain) a blog dedicated to a topic(s) of your choice.
  • You will be able to make contributions (design and content) to wikis and other online collaborative authoring environments.
  • You will be able to discuss concepts of privacy and social networks as they relate to your digital identity.
  • You will be able to discuss the relationship of participatory culture to notions of citizenship and democracy.
  • You will be able to present and articulate your ideas to others in a variety of environments, both online and offline.

Textbooks and Materials

generosity and good will

required texts:
all required readings will be handed out in class or available online at:

Grade Weights

Participation: 10%
A large amount of class time will be dedicated to group critiques, team projects and class discussion. I encourage you to take an active role in contributing to make our class a fun and dynamic place to be.

Pecha Kucha (chit chat): 10%
A passionate presentation of 20 slides shown for exactly 20 seconds each - click here for Pecha Kucha guidelines.

Qwik Writes 10%

Occasionally I will give "pop" in-class writing assignments, in which you will be asked to make critical reflections on the day's readings.

Citizen Journalism 20%
You will develop and maintain your own "inquiry blog" over the course of the semester. In writing your blog you will strive to develop a unique and personal voice about topics that are interesting and important to you. You will experiment with connecting and communicating with your readers.

Collective Intelligence 15%
As a class, we will engage in an experiment about massive authorship. Over the course of the semester, we will use a wiki, a form of collaborative software, to collectively research, write and visualize a specific topic. You will write a reflective essay comparing and contrasting your experience of writing an individual blog to co-authoring a wiki.

Your Public/Private Self 10%
Assignment details forthcoming.

Your Social Graph 10%
Assignment details forthcoming.

Final Paper/Project: 15%
This will be a group project - details will be presented later in the semester.

Digital Media Lab

Work in the lab with a friend - when learning new technology, 2 brains are usually better than one. You are welcome to work on your assignments at home but many students use the Digital Media Labs in room 556 or 559. Lab hours will be posted after the first week of classes. Students may not use the lab when another class is in session. If the lab is locked during regular lab hours you may get a key from the Security Desk.

Attendance Policy

Attendance and participation are essential for success in this course. Remember that if you miss one class, you miss an entire week’s worth of material. You are allowed one unexcused absence (for the entire course) without penalty. You are responsible for the material (including exercises and projects) you missed during your absence. Additional unexcused absences will result in a penalty to your final grade in the course: your second absence means your final grade drops one notch (e.g. B+ to B); your third absence drops your grade an additional two notches. Your fourth absence results in a failing grade for the course.

Lateness is also damaging to the class dynamic and chronic lateness will adversely affect your final grade. Three late arrivals to class (or early departures) during the course of the 14 week sessions results in a loss of a full letter grade of your final grade in the course. A lateness is arrival to the classroom 10 minutes past the starting time or departure more than 10 minutes before class ends.

Any late assignments, written or media based, will result in a deduction of points from the grade for the assignment.


Students with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations or academic adjustments for this course must either enroll in the Program for Academic Access or register with the Office of Student Support Services. For any accommodation, the instructor must be presented with either a letter from the Assistant Director of the Program for Academic Access or an Accommodations Card from the Office of Student Support Services during the first week of classes.

Academic Honesty Policy

MMC fosters an academic community where students and faculty work together to create a learning experience that imparts knowledge and forms character. To achieve this, the College requires all members of the community to adhere to the policy of Academic Honesty that can be found in the Student Handbook, the College Catalogue and on the College website.


Week by week course schedule:

Feb 09 - Blogorama



DUE today:

Turn in a 1-page brainstorm for your blog project. It should include:

  • Generate at least 3 possible names for the blog.
  • Identify the topic of your inquiry and at least 2 and no more than 4 lenses through which you will examine your topic. Spend some time thinking about this. You will be asked to make at least one post on your blog every week of the semester… so choose things that you are interested in learning and care about so that you don't get bored. The point here is NOT to recreate what you are already doing on MySpace, Facebook, etc. - so topics can't include things like what you did with your friends last Saturday night…
  • Research and identify at least 3 other blogs that deal with similar material. They don't have to agree with you (in fact it would be more interesting if they didn't) but the things they write about should be fairly obviously related to some of the things you plan on writing about. The point here is to find some "massive conversations" that are happening online and join them. Briefly describe each one.


Feb 16 - Citizens journalism

Extending your blog skills: commenting, link equity, search engine optimization (SEO)

  • - call in audio, Facebook, Twitter, apps

DUE today:

  • create your blog at
  • write your 1st post entitled "Hello, world!" - introduce your blog to the world - indicate the topic(s) and lenses you will be dealing with
  • your 2nd post - this is your first "real" post after the intro
  • email me your blog URL


Additional resource:
Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents [pdf]

scott-shane_spotlight-again-falls-on-web-tools-and-change.pdf106.35 KB
naomi-wolf_wikileaks-revolution-lost-cojones-american-journalism.pdf186.03 KB
al-gore_assault-on-reason-ch1.pdf1.72 MB

Feb 23 - The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted

Twitter demo - learn how to tweet
Watch: Egypt: Seeds of Change on People & Power (Al Jazeera)
DUE today:
Now that you've planted your blog, grow it:

  • start "following" related blogs and "track" some tags
  • comment on at least 2 other blogs
  • weeding: install Disqus - try to respond to comments in a timely manner, watch out for spam
  • continue to write at least 1 post per week + experiment with promotion: post a comments on other blogs about your content, email your blog to friends and family, ask for other people to give you a boost
  • create a blog roll
  • experiment with another form of media: add images, audio or video



Mar 09 - Gift Economy + Open Source

Workshop: Hacking

DUE today:
Continue your weekly blog posts/tweets etc.

Your private public self - part one - start crafting your new identities:
Register at
Choose a name.
Get Dressed (create your avatar).
Learn how to fly.

Register at
Choose a name.
Start bookmarking socially.


Pekka Himanen, "The Academy and the Monastery" [PDF]

Mar 23 - Your Social Graph

Social networks have been the focus of much recent research and entrepreneurship. This discourse views social relationships as nodes and links (or ties). Nodes are individual entities (often people) and the links are the relationships between them (parent-child, student-teacher, friend-friend). The people you know are your social network. Social relationships can be characterized on a spectrum from shallow to deep. Some theorists claim that social networks with many weak ties are more valuable than ones with fewer and deeper ties. The premise is that the more connections you have, the more likely that new ideas and opportunities will be introduced to you. This seems to be the guiding principle of many of these new social networking websites. Deeper connections have greater costs in terms of time commitments, etc and tend to have redundant ties. Of particular value in these systems are nodes (people, entities) that can bridge two networks thereby brokering relationships between networks that otherwise are not directly linked.

In 1967, Stanley Milgram made the famous "small world experiment" which claimed to prove that people in the world are separated by at most 6 links. While the experiment is considered to have many flaws, the notion of six degrees of separation has persisted in popular culture.

Social network class notes


Privately Public Self Essay


Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8: Writing Community Into Being on Social Network Sites. by danah boyd

The Rhythms of Salience: A Conversation Map by Judith Donath

Apr 06 - The Commons


Introducing the wiki.
Wikipedia Cheat Sheet
MediaWiki Handbook
Wikimedia Commons

DUE: Your Social Graph


"The Wealth of Networks: Chapter 3. Peer Production and Sharing" by Yochai Benkler [pdf]
"Silence is a Commons" by Ivan Illich [pdf]

"The Tragedy of the Commons" by Garrett Hardin

Apr 13 - Collective Intelligence and Cognitive Surplus

DUE: Work on the wiki


Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky - Chapters 1, Chapter 5 (excerpt), Chapter 6 (excerpt)

clay-shirky_cognitive-surplus-ch-1.pdf1.55 MB
clay-shirky_cognitive-surplus-ch-5.pdf2.46 MB
clay-shirky_cognitive-surplus-ch-6.pdf1.2 MB

Apr 20 - The Networked Public Sphere

the Evolution of Cooperation
The Prisoner's Dilemma

DUE: Wiki updates

2 substantive original entries [150-200 words each]
3 substantive edits of existing entries


The Wealth of Networks: Chapter 7. Political Freedom Part 2: Emergence of the Networked Public Sphere by Yochai Benkler

Apr 27 - Freemium and the Economics of Sharing


wiki updates


The Mesh - Chapters 1 and 2

lisa-gansky-the-mesh-ch1.pdf2.59 MB
lisa-gansky-the-mesh-ch2.pdf1.88 MB

May 04 - We the participants

Commercial ReMix

Original Apple Commerical Introducing the Macintosh computer in 1984

"Anti-Hillary" commercial produced by the Obama campaign
Published March 2007

Video by Astrubal critiquing the 20 year rule of Tunisian president Ben Ali
Published February 29th 2004.

Terms of Service:

Discuss Final Project

Links for final project inspiration:

DUE: Collective Intelligence essay


We Media. Chapter 4: The rules of participation by Dan Gillmor

May 11 - Critiques and propositions

Critiques and propositions

May 18 - Final Presentations

Last day of classes - presentation and discussion of final projects.


Pecha Kucha

One week you will collaborate with a classmate to share or give something to the rest of the class. Each group will follow the "Pecha Kucha" presentation format 20 slides shown for exactly 20 seconds each. Presentations will be given at the beginning of each class. You must email me by the Tuesday night before your presentation with a zipped folder of your 20 slides according to the following convention:

format: 20 jpg images (1024 x 768 pixels, landscape orientation)
naming: your initials followed by consecutive numbers, i.e. ms-01.jpg, ms-02.jpg, ms-03.jpg

Please follow this format - if you don't your images will appear in the wrong order and affect your presentation. And please PRACTICE your presentation in advance to make sure your slides are named correctly.

presentation: each group shows 20 images. You have 20 seconds to show each image. You have no control over this. It will be programmed on a computer, so you should be fast and we recommend you practice your presentation. Members of each group should speak equally.

What should you present? The key to a great presentation is to present something you love - a creative project, your prized collection, how to make something…this is an opportunity to share something you enjoy greatly or feel passionate about. Here are some sites to refer to:

Inquiry Blog

  • due: February 9 - blog brainstorm
  • due: February 16 - blog creation, "hello, world" post, and 1st blog post
  • due: 1 reflection or "digest" post weekly until April 20th (10 posts total + hello world) - these weekly posts should be 250-300 words in length (or longer) - use this tool to get a word count. You can "tumbl" (aka research) as regularly as you want. I'd suggest trying to post 1 item a day (you can schedule or "queue" these in advance). Regular posting helps to build your audience.

Your Public/Private Self

DUE: 3-4 page essay
This essay should grow out of your experiences in Second Life and the social bookmarking website

  1. Take a snapshot of your SL avatar and attach it to this assignment.
  2. Describe the appearance of your avatar in Second Life in depth.
    • does your avatar resemble you?
    • do you change your appearance frequently or do you have one standard appearance?
    • what motivated any changes your made?
    • did you ask others for feedback on "how you look"?
    • have you spent any money on your appearance? How much? On what?
    • do you like how you look in Second Life?
    • are there changes you'd like to make but can't due to lack of funds, skills, etc?
  3. Conduct interviews with 2 other people in Second Life (who are not in our class).
    • be sure to inform them that you are doing research for a class and that nothing they tell you will be posted publicly to the Internet.
    • ask your subjects questions about their own appearance
    • what motivates the way they look (certain gestures, purposefully androgynous, dressed as an animal or object)?
    • summarize each subject's comments
    • reflect on the role/meaning of appearance in Second Life. How does the way people form identities in this environment differ/align with Real Life. What were your expectations and how did they measure up to your actual experiences?
  4. Finally, compare and contrast the experience of constructing your new alter egos - your new visual + virtual Second Life self/avatar and your new metadata self. Specifically address how your notion of privacy is different with these identities than in Real Life (RL).

Social Graph

DUE: write and draw

  1. write: How do people display social networks in everyday life (that is, not online)? Give 2 concrete, specific examples. Why do they do this? What are the costs of making this display? The benefits? Does honesty play in?

  2. write: Explore two different social networking sites [LinkedIn, Ning, MeetUp, SoundCloud, Orkut, Tribe, Ryze and others…]. One must be LinkedIn and the other is up to you but CANNOT be Facebook. Here is a very big list. What different aspects of your personality/identity can be expressed in these sites? How does the design of these sites facilitate networking? How does this sort of display compare to traditional means of displaying social connectedness. What are the advantages and disadvantages? Are signals of friendship here reliable? Why or why not?

  3. draw: a diagram of your social network (family, friends, acquaintances) using nodes and links. Aim to have between 30 and 60 people in your network - the more complete the better. Show connections among those people whom you know know each other. As you draw the diagram, think about where you are placing people - how have you grouped them, what meaning, if any, are you giving to adjacency or top/bottom? Try to identify brokers in your social network.

  • Think about how you can draw connecting lines: they can be thicker, thinner, longer, shorted. They can be solid or dashed, dark or light, wavy, curved, straight or angular. Consider the challenge of showing people who are physically distant but personally close.
  • Think about the groups/relationships in which people participate in your network. They might range from tight knit groups like families, to loosely focused groups like a college dorm. How can you use color, shape, size to represent these different types of groupings?
  • The final result can be turned in as a digital file (photoshop, illustrator, flash) or on a physical sheet of paper. You might consider including a legend or codex for your diagram.

Collective Intelligence

DUE: 4-5 page comparative essay

Compare and contrast your experience of writing an individual blog to that of co-authoring a wiki. Your essay should draw from class readings. Try to look critically at the output of both endeavors.

Some similarities and differences you might consider:

  • type of content generated
  • quality of the content
  • structure of the resulting document
  • freedom of expression
  • accountability
  • strengths and limitations of each
  • accessibility
  • interactivity, participation

Final Project

The Networked Public Sphere is being designed as we speak. How this occurs will govern what you can do, what you can see, what you look like and who can gain access to what. It is our responsibility to participate in envisioning this future.

Imagine: your team has been offered 10 gazillion dollars of venture capital and a crack team of engineers and computer programmers who can make anything you design. You have 15 minutes to convince the funders that they should pick your project.

The Challenge: design either a new web service, app, or personal display (handheld or wearable device) that augments/enhances social interactivity.

Deliverables: Project Proposal (2-3 pages ) & Presentation (15 minutes)

Teams: work in groups of 3-4


  • What are you making, what does it do?
  • Who are you making it for - who is your audience?
  • What kind of identity information is emitted?
  • Is the display/service public, private, both?
  • How does it interact with other users - proximity, affinities?
  • What problem does it set out to address?
  • What are some related products/services - how does yours differ?

Project Proposal (2-3 pages)

Project Name: consider a neologism.

Background: How did the idea for this project come about? What is the problem it is trying to solve? Why does it need to exist? Who will use it?

Specifically address:

  • Scope - What are you developing? What does the web service or app do? What does it NOT do?
  • Audiences - Who are the major types of users you want the software to serve?
  • Objectives - What goals should the software help your users meet?

Competitive Analysis: - Assess current alternatives/options. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How does your idea fit into the current landscape? You should case study at least 2 other products or services in this section.


What is the look and feel for this project? How can specific design decisions make this service/app appealing and usable to your target audience?

Architectural Strategy
What is a suitable platform for your project? What kinds of existing technologies can you leverage (open-source code, hardware)? What kinds of new software/hardware needs to be developed to realize your project?

Social Strategy
Sharing and participatory culture are essential concepts for this course. What concepts of sharing, cooperation, crowdsourcing, open-source, gift economies, the commons, etc can you incorporate into your service. How does this differentiate your service from its competitors.

Project Presentation

A 10-15 minute presentation in the form of Power Point or a webpage/blog/tumblr. Please turn in either a copy burned to CD or a URL.

The presentation should incorporate the following:

  1. A synopsis of your project proposal (include project name and answers to the above question)
  2. 2 Use cases* or scenarios that demonstrate typical user experiences.
  3. Visual designs - at least 4 visualizations that depict what the service/device/interface looks like and how it would be used. (These can be incorporated into your use cases.)

!!! your device/service does not have to work - but you need to explain how it would work.

* notes on use cases:

A use case is a description of how users will perform tasks with your software or app. Who can do what?

A use case includes two main parts:

  • the steps a user will take to accomplish a particular task
  • the way the software should respond to a user's actions

Each use case captures:

  • The actor - Who is using the software? What specific characteristics does this user have?
  • The goal - What is the user's goal?
  • The interaction - What can the user do? How does the software respond?

You should present at least two use cases for your project.

Student Blogs

Blogs written by students in Sharing 101 during the Spring 2011 semester. In no particular order: