online communities and computer-mediated communication
justine cassell - instructor // email
david huffaker - t.a. // email
Spring Quarter, 2006 Northwestern University
Here are details about each of the assignments
Before each class meeting students are required to post at least two interpretive and motivated questions for the readings assigned for that class. Since the point of the questions is (a) to demonstrate that you have done the readings, and (b) to give the instructor a roadmap for class discussion, your questions cannot be both about the same reading. You can write one question for each of two different texts, or one question that compares two texts, and one question on a third text, or two questions that compare three texts, and so forth.
Questions must be posted to the class blog on Monday by noon (24 hours before the class meets), so that the instructor can base her discussion of the readings on the questions submitted. Questions that are posted after Monday at noon will be marked down. Occasionally I may cancel the question requirement in favor of another equally straightforward and non time-consuming assignment. Due each class period.
Blogs are most interesting when each post launches a conversation. Just to make sure you get to experience that phenomenon, you are required to comment on one of your classmate's posts once per week. So, when you are online posting your own questions, take a moment to post a response to a classmate's question. Due each class period.
Each student is required to present one (1) assigned reading during the course of the quarter, and to work with the other students presenting readings for that class to make a coherent presentation. The presentation should feature the highlights of the assigned reading (presentations that go over the reading will receive a zero grade), and a novel application of the theory presented in the reading to some online community. Students will be asked to sign the roster for class presentations during the first week of class. Class presentations will be posted on the Wiki. Due once during the quarter.
You will analyze an online community by making a visualization of the communication patterns of that community. For this assignment you will not need to write a paper. Instead, please turn in your visualizations of the networks and prepare a 2-3 page report about the networks and what your visualizations illustrate. You may complete this assignment in teams (2 people max), if you like. Due April 11.
In your report, focus on the following questions:
Note: This assignment was adapted from Robert Kraut's Group and Organizational Communication class at Carnegie Mellon University.
You will submit a proposal for the design of a new online community (it can be as simple or complex as you like. You will be working in teams with at least one tech-savvy person on each team). Refer to the guidelines presented in Kollock and in Preece for your proposal. Make sure that you describe target audience, purpose, design principles, technological tools, and how this online community fills both a social and technological void. Proposal should be no longer than 5-7 pages. Due April 25.
Your proposal only needs to be one-page long, but it should lay out (1) which community you intend to study -- it can be a community that you already studied for Assignment 1, or a brand-new community; (2) which topic you intend to research -- gender, race, age, globalization, or a brand-new topic; (3) why it's interesting to apply this topic/theoretical tools to this particular community; (4) how you are going to apply the tools to the language and behavior in this community; (5) what your initial claim is (your hypothesis). If you can't think of any ideas, ask Justine if you can work on one of her data sets (but ask in advance!). Due May 9.
Please note: The final paper can be written in teams, but you need to tell us who will do what (and you need to include a statement about who did what in the final paper). You don't need to keep the same teams for this assignment - feel free to re-organize.
Carry out your proposal. You will show the community to the class, so try to convince some people to use it! Due May 16.
See instructions above concerning final paper proposal. For some good examples of papers about online communities, check out the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication.
The final paper should be 12-15 pages for undergraduates and 15-20 pages for graduate students. Due May 29 @ 5pm.
The final paper will be graded on both content and form. Content means the originality and interest of the research question, nature of the methodology used to investigate the question, plausibility of your interpretations. Form means the organization, clarity and quality of the writing, and the scholarly use of conventions such as citations and footnotes. An 'A' quality term paper finds an interesting research question, makes use of primary and secondary sources to address the question, and adds interesting and original interpretations of the author's own. It is well-organized and clearly and professionally written.
General Note: You will be encouraged to carry out the community observation, analysis and design assignments in groups. You may also do your final paper in teams. However, if you write a paper together, you must include a paragraph stating which part of the work was done by each member of the team. In order to make sure that your collaboration falls within the Northwestern guidelines of academic integrity, you must read : http://www.northwestern.edu/uacc/ and http://www.northwestern.edu/uacc/plagiar.html.