Comm 106i: Internet Industries (Spring 2015)

Tu Th 2pm - 3:20 pm
CSB 002

Course website:


Lilly Irani (Professor)

Office Hours: Monday 2:00-3:30 or by appointment in MCC 103

Thomas Conner (TA)

Office Hours: Tuesday 3:30pm-5pm, or by appointment in SSR 306

Yi-Hong Sim (TA)

Office Hours: Thursdays 12:45-1:45pm, or by appointment in Sequoyah 222

Course Description

Apple, Google, and Amazon are all businesses emblematic of the internet industries and the forms of social life, media circulation, and data work they make possible. This class examines the claims made about these industries, the realities of the industries' workings, and what the differences between the claims and the reality mean for us. How do the internet industries rewire our everyday lives: the way we socialize, the way work, the ways we resist these circumstances? Students will learn how to analyze how industry structures shape social experiences by paying attention to economics, interface, and representations.



book cover

Additional Readings

McChesney is available as an e-Book through the UCSD LIbrary. Get the McChesney e-Book (You will need to use Web VPN to access it from off campus:

3/31 - I have requested McChesney and van Dijck be placed on reserve at the library.

Required readings beyond the required books will be posted on TED as PDFs.

Course Details and Policies

Expectations -- On Responsibility and Why What You Do Here Matters
This class is a place of learning -- students learn and teaching staff learns. We expect you to read carefully, read critically, evaluate the positions presented to you, and contribute how you see things differently. We expect students to attend all lectures, to work to interpret readings in context of their own experiences, and to bring their insights into the class for the benefit of all the learners in the classroom (including the teaching staff). You and the staff share responsibility for coming prepared, asking questions, and searching for how to connect what you learn in this class to your world. If you are unsure of the relevance, ask. Professor Irani teaches these materials because she worked in the internet industries after college and she wishes she had been taught these things going in. 

Students can miss one lecture per quarter with prior notice by email to Professor Irani explaining the reason for the absence. This class includes significant guest speakers, group brainstorms, and breakout groups so your attendance matters. All other absences must be accompanied by a doctor's note, auto shop bill, photograph of meteor strike, or other evidence of the emergency. Attendance will be taken each day via a sign in sheet distributed in class.

Building off of the ethos described in "Expectations" above, participation can take many forms but fundamentally is about you bringing your experiences into the classroom and taking responsibility for making the class better -- more critical, more thorough, more reflective -- for all of us. Participation can take many forms: questions and discussions in class, office hours visits, thoughtful emails to the teaching staff, sharing of links to interesting material, responding to fellow students' discussion forum posts, etc. 

Readings and Materials
All readings should be read in full prior to class. Required books can be purchased at the bookstore. Other required readings will be posted to TED in the "Content" area. (Updated 4/3/2014). 

Peer Review
The goal of this class it to help you develop as a writer and critical thinker about contemporary technological cultures. A major part of that development requires soliciting, receiving, and incorporating critical feedback of your work. The two major writing projects will have multiple phases which will include peer review of drafts. You are required to provide peer review feedback, and you are required to incorporate the feedback you receive into your subsequent drafts. 

TED Response Prompts: Throughout the quarter, you will write a response to the class readings on TED. For some days, teaching staff have assigned a substantive response question for you to address. On days without a prompt, choose an aspect of the reading you found surprising or interesting, explain why you found it so, and either critique it or expand on its implications.

The TED responses are also a great place to work through specific confusions you have about the readings so you can raise the question in class.

You must post your response by 2pm -- the start of class. Responses should be at least 150 words. You can miss two responses without penalty because, well, life happens.

Working Project: Inspired by journalist Studs Terkel's classic compendium Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, each of us will be interview someone at least two times over the course of the quarter about their work and its changing relationship to the internet industry. You can interview someone you know, someone you would like to know, or someone whose work seems interesting to you. You will record the interviews and transcribe the most interesting parts. These recordings will form the basis of the midterm and final projects.

See the detailed project timeline and guide

Take home midterm
Write a profile of the person you interviewed. Show one example of how their experiences and reflections exemplify claims made in readings. Show at least one example in depth of how their experiences and reflections challenge or complicate claims made in class readings. The midterm should total 800-1000 words.

Final project: You have a choice of an solo writing project or a group design and presentation projects. Go to TED > Content to download the full prompts.

Correspondence and Communication
For questions related to enrollment in the class, please contact your undergraduate adviser in the Communication Office. For all other matters, please attend the professors’ or TA's office hours. Generally, do not use email to replace face-to-face discussion with the instructors and TA about grades and course material. The teaching staff have scheduled four hours of office hours per week and are also available by appointment.

Why come into office hours? You may think you have a logistical question, but it is tied to a broader set of issues with your work or the class. Face-to-face, we can figure this out. You are also likely to get more detailed answers in face-to-face than over email because you can solicit the details that matter to you.

You are expected to check your UCSD mail for important class notices, including details on assignments and exams. 

Students with Disabilities
Any student who requires accommodations for a disability should bring the professors the requisite letter from the Office of Students with Disabilities specifying what accommodations are to be made.

Academic Integrity
We've designed this class to support your learning and development. You can only learn when you challenge yourself. Using other people's words is fine as long as you cite your source. When you shortcut by turning in other people's words, you waste your own time and you waste the time we have together in this class. you are All suspicions of academic misconduct will be reported to the Academic Integrity Office. Academic misconduct is not only blatant cheating (e.g. copying off another student during an exam or quiz), but also: copying other students' papers or assignments; copying or using old papers/reports; forgetting to cite material you took from an outside resource; turning in work completed in total or part by another; signing in your friend to class; taking a quiz for someone else. The Policy on Integrity of Scholarship ( list some of the standards by which you are expected to complete your academic work.

TED Reading Response Posts 30%
Midterm: 25%
Final Project: 40%
Participation 5%

Late Assignments
Assignments will lose 10% of the total grade for each day they are late. Responses will be docked one point per day for being late. Please see the TA or Professor early if you are falling behind in course work. If you come to us early, we can work out a plan to get you on track.

Clickbaiting & rating
This is a class about the internet industries, TED is social media, and thus we would be remiss if we did not have a little bit of fun with clickbait. Give your TED posts compelling, engaging titles that makes people want to know more.

Reading a post and like it? Give it a rating in the bottom right corner.

Each week, we'll congratulate the top rated posts and the posts with the most ratings in class. We'll also reflect on what it is like to interact with a community through rating and sorting, as compared to other experiences of group collaboration you might have had.

Course Schedule

Week Date Topic Readings Response prompt Assignments due
1 Tue Mar 31 Introduction

Thu Apr 02 Class cancelled
Terkel, Studs. "Introduction" from Working

Read a few pages that interest you from the 106i Working Stories (TED)
Reflect on Terkel to create two questions you'd like to ask someone about their experience of work. Explain how your question is a response to Terkel.

Brainstorm 5 possible people you might to like to interview for this project.

2 Tue Apr 07 How the Web Makes Money: The Product is You
McChesney pp130-171
Choose an aspect of the reading you found surprising or interesting, explain why you found it so, and either critique it or expand on its implications.
Brainstorm 5 people you might want to interview

Thu Apr 09 The PRISM-Industrial Complex


3 Tue Apr 14 Guest Lecture:
Joan Donovan, DebtCollective & Interoccupy, UCSD Sociology

Thu Apr 16 Privacy debate day --

4 Tue Apr 21 Journalism in the Digital Age
McChesney pp172-205

Watch Shirky's TED talk "How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World."
Evaluate Shirky's claims about Ushahidi and cognitive surplus in light of McChesney's account of journalism in the last decade. Working (Part 1): Post an interesting excerpt from your opening interview to the Working Interviews forum.
Thu Apr 23 Guest panel on editing and writing the news after the internet
* Thomas Conner, our TA and former music critic for Sun Times
* Craig Newman, Managing Editor of The Chicago Sun-Times
Working (Part 2): Post discussion responses to three other opening interview clips in the Working Interview forum.
5 Tue Apr 28 The Promise and Risk of the Venture Life
In class movie and discussion: Cybertopia

Neff, "The Social Risks of the Dot Com Era," pp 1-30, 36-38 (try especially to understand sections with blue lines on the margin)
What does Neff mean by "individualization" of economic and company risk? Give an example of individualized risk from your own life. 
No working project deliverable, but you might return for a follow up interview this week
Thu Apr 30 Guest speaker Rochelle La Plante on how the internet industries create new forms of work

6 Tue May 05 Selling the Edited Self
Marwick, A. "Ch 4: Self-Branding" from Status Update What does Marwick mean by the "safe for work" self? What parts of you might not fit the "safe for work" self?
Thu May 07 Debate Day: Changing Forms of Work

7 Mon May 11 Midterm due at 11am

Midterm due
Tue May 12 Resistance and Play as Sources of Innovation
No reading response

Thu May 14 The "Social" Industries van Dijck, Ch. 1: Engineering Sociality in a Culture of Connectivity What does it mean to engineer sociality? Explain your interpretation based on the text.
8 Tue May 19 YouTube, TV, and Video Convergence
van Dijck, Ch. 6 No reading response

Thu May 21 Twitter: The Tensions of Following vs Trending
van Dijck, Ch. 4
Review and reflect response: Choose an aspect of van Dijck Ch 4 and/or 6 you found surprising or interesting, explain why you found it so, and either critique it or expand on its implications.

9 Tue May 26 Facebook: "Monetizing" Social Life van Dijck, Ch. 3

We will watch the following and discuss in class, but you can preview it if you prefer to have more time to read things: 
Ptak, Laurel. Wages for Facebook

Should Facebook share money with users who help generate the data that generates the value? If so, how? Why or why not?
(We'll discuss this together in class.)

Thu May 28 Redistributing the Value of Facebook

10 Tue Jun 02 In class movie: Watch Sleep Dealer
Chen, A. "The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed." Wired. Oct 23 2014.
Due by midnight 6-2: Reflect on Sleep Dealer. What did you find surprising? What did you find confusing? What would you like to discuss with the class?

Professor Irani will use your comments to prepare for Thursday's discussion.

Thu Jun 04 Breakouts:
Discussing Sleep Dealer, imagining industries otherwise
Please fill out CAPE for 106i.

Bring Sleep Dealer "Networked Life Trajectory" worksheet to class for discussion

11 Tue Jun 09 3pm-4:30pm
Final Presentations and Wrap Up Discussion
(Attendance mandatory)

Final due on TurnItIn by 3pm on June 9.
Hard copy due at final presentation or MCC 122A by 3pm June 9.