Communication and Technology

 COMM/INFO 2450 (Fall 2012)

This course serves as the introduction to the “communication and technology” focus area in the communication department and the “human systems” track for information science. It examines three approaches to understanding technology and its role in human behavior and society. The course will begin by discussing the factors that inform and shape the design of everyday objects and our virtual world, considering research in human-computer interaction that reflects and reveals communication practices and contexts. Next, the course will examine the psychological aspects of computer-mediated communication and virtual collaboration, including impression relations, group dynamics and social networks. Finally, the course will explore the ways in which human communication is situated inside of social and institutional structures and cultural formations; and with that in mind, it will examine the complex interaction between information technology and society.


Course Goals

The overall goal for the course is to introduce students to the three main lenses we use to understand communication and technology — including design, psychological, and societal perspectives. The course has multiple objectives intended for a wide variety of student backgrounds and goals, including:

  • Understanding how current theories and models of human behavior can explain and anticipate social dynamics over the internet;
  • Evaluating theories critically, with an emphasis on how humans both appropriate and adapt to technology; and
  • Forming an awareness of research methods that are used to study social behavior on the Internet

Required Readings

Students will be required to complete and engage with readings in advance of each class. Readings will be drawn from a variety of sources including academic conference and journal articles, selected chapters from books, and articles in the popular press. Most readings are available for free through Cornell’s site licenses. You will either need to be on campus or logged in through a VPN. Other readings will be made available in the resources sections on Ning.

In addition, students will be required to read the following text:

Norman, D.A. (1990). The design of everyday things. New York: Basic Books.


23 August
Course Overview

28 August
Norman, ch. 1 “The psychopathology of everyday things”

30 August
Norman, ch. 2 “The psychology of everyday actions”

4 September
Norman, ch. 3 “Knowledge in the head and in the world”

6 September
Norman, ch. 4 “Knowing what to do”

11 September
Norman, ch. 5 “To err is human”
Diary Study Part 1 Due
Last Day to Submit Questions for Exam #1

13 September
Gaver, W.W., Beaver, J., & Benford, S. 2003. Ambiguity as a resource for design. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ’03). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 233-240.

18 September
Exam #1 (Design Perspectives)

20 September
Hancock, J.T., Birnholtz, J., Bazarova, N., Guillory, J., Amos, B., & Perlin, J. (2009).  Butler lies: awareness, deception and design. In Proceedings of the 27th international conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ’09). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 517-526.

25 September
Gilbert, E. & Karaholios, K. (2009).  Predicting tie strength with social media. In Proceedings of the 27th international conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ’09). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 211-220.

27 September
Hancock, J. T., & Dunham, P. T. (2001). Impression formation in computer-mediated communication revisited: An analysis of the breadth and intensity of impressions. Communication Research, 28, 325-347.
Jeff Hancock, Guest Lecture

2 October
Jiang, L.C., Bazarova, N., & Hancock, J.T. (2011). From perception to behavior: Disclosure reciprocity and the intensification of intimacy in computer-mediated communication. Communication Research.

4 October
Class Cancelled — No reading and no tweet due.

9 October:   No Class — Fall Break

11 October
Walther, J. B. (2011). Theories of Computer-Mediated Communication and Interpersonal Relations. In M. L. Knapp & J.A. Daly (Eds.), Handbook of interpersonal communication (4th ed., pp. 443-479). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. (Part I)

16 October
Walther, J. B. (2011). Theories of Computer-Mediated Communication and Interpersonal Relations. In M. L. Knapp & J.A. Daly (Eds.), Handbook of interpersonal communication (4th ed., pp. 443-479). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. (Part II)
Last Day to Submit Questions for Exam#2

18 October
Kraut, R.E., Fussell, S.R., & Siegel, J. (2003). Visual information as a conversational resource in collaborative physical tasks. Human-Computer Interaction, 18, 13-49.
Jin Liu, Guest Lecture
Exam Review

23 October
Kiesler, S. & Cummings, J.N. (2002). What do we know about proximity and distance in work groups? A legacy of research. In P. Hinds & S. Kiesler (Eds.), Distributed Work (pp. 57–92). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

25 October
Exam #2 (Psychological Perspectives)

29 October  (Highly Recommended) **cancelled due to the storm**
Networked Politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama and the 2012 Elections
4:15-5:30, 700 Clark Hall
Daniel Kreiss Lecture

30 October
Mark, G. and Poltrock, S. (2003). Shaping technology across social worlds: groupware adoption in a distributed organization. In Proceedings of the 2003 international ACM SIGGROUP conference on Supporting group work (GROUP ’03). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 284-293.

1 November
Kreiss, D. (2012). Innovation, infrastructure, and organization in new media campaigning.
Taking 0ur country back: The crafting of networked politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama (pp. 3-32). New York : Oxford University Press.

6 November
Howard, P.N. (2005). Deep democracy, thin citizenship: The impact of digital media in political campaign strategy. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 597(1), pp. 153-170.
Election Day – Go Vote!!!

8 November
Granka, L.A. (2010). The Politics of Search: A Decade Retrospective. The Information Society 26 (5): 364–374.

13 November
Gillespie, T. (2010). The politics of ‘platforms’. New Media & Society 12(3), 347-364.

15 November
Boyd, D. & Hargittai, E. (2010). Facebook privacy settings: Who cares? First Monday, 15 (8).

20 November
Humphreys, L. (2005). Cellphones in public: Social interactions in a wireless era. New Media & Society, 70, 810-833
Lee Humphreys, Guest Lecture
Diary Study Part 2 Due
Last Day to Submit Questions for Exam#3

22 November:  No Class — Thanksgiving Recess

27 November
Marvin, C. (1988). Introduction. When old technologies were new (pp. 3-8). New York: Oxford University Press.
Exam Review

29 November
Exam #3 (Societal Perspectives)


45%    Blog Posts and Comments
20%    Diary Studies
10%    Exam #1 (Design Perspectives)
10%    Exam #2 (Psychological Perspectives)
10%    Exam #3 (Societal Perspectives)
5%      Tweets

Numerical grades will be converted to letter grades based on the following scale:
A+   97% – 100%
A     93% – 96.99%
A-    90% – 92.99%
B+    87% – 89.99%
B     83% – 86.99%
B-    80% – 82.99%
C+    77% – 79.99%
C     73% – 76.99%
C-    70% – 72.99%
D+    67% – 69.99%
D     63% – 66.99%
D-    60% – 62.99%
F      Less than 60%


Blog Posts and Comments (45%)
Each week, I will present you with exercises or prompts that you may respond to by writing a blog post for the class social network site. You do not need to respond to all prompts or complete all exercises but, rather, may pick and choose the 9 that are most interesting to you. Alternately, you may complete more than 9, in which case your grade will be computed based on your 9 highest scoring post+comments combinations. Posts must be submitted before the start of class (10:10) on the following Tuesday.

Update: Starting on 9 October, students may submit a maximum of 2 blog posts per week.  

Diary Studies (20%)
You will create a diary of your use of communication technologies once at the beginning of the semester and again at the end of the semester. Each time, you will complete a detailed log of all your communication technology use over the course of two days. You will compute descriptive statistics to characterize your communication patterns; generate communicatively effective visualizations of this data; and write a reflection about your technology use. You will post the analysis of your diary study to the class social network site before the start of class (10:10) on the day that each of the two assignments are due.

Exams (30%)
There will be three exams over the course of the semester to evaluate your mastery of the content in this course. Exam content may be drawn from readings, lectures, in-class discussions, or peer tweets/exam question proposals. Exam questions may be written in any of a variety of formats including (but not limited to) multiple choice, fill in the blank, short response, or essay. All exams will include questions written by both the instructional team and students; any student may submit exam questions or content for possible inclusion.  A review session will be conducted in class prior to each exam.

Tweets (5%)
Prior to each class, you will be required to tweet about the required reading. This is one of your opportunities to influence the direction and content of the course; your tweets will be used to help tailor time spent in class to more closely match your interests. You will be required to create a new Twitter ID to be used exclusively for this course. You must provide us with your Twitter ID so that we can “follow” you for these assignments. You will also be expected to follow the Twitter Feed  for the course.