Honors 3260: New Media & Power

Just fifteen years ago almost no college students had personal computers, access to the Internet, cellphones, or blackberries.  Today (at least in the West) these technologies are almost ubiquitous.  There were 50 pages on the World Wide Web in 1993 and no more than 150 by 1994. Fast forward to 2016, there are approximately 2.94 billion internet users and over 1 trillion web pages. Moreover, thanks to rapid advances in computing power, in an increasing number of countries, individuals can now watch television shows on their computer, listen to satellite radio in their cars, and/or surf the internet with their mobile phones. What are the implications of these meteoric changes in information technology?

New media technologies can be “technologies of freedom” as well as “technologies of control.”  Throughout history, different groups (e.g. politicians, social movements, corporations) have sought to leverage the new media technologies of the moment in service of different goals. Government actors may manipulate Internet and/or mobile phone networks in order to win elections or suppress discontent. Activists use text messaging to organize social movements and/or bypass state censorship. Bloggers and citizen journalists now depend on Twitter and other social media applications to broaden their audience base and bypass “old-media” channels. Countries, communities, and diasporic populations across the world have also sought to expand internet and mobile connectivity in order to foster economic, social, and political development (a process commonly referred to as ICT4D). Each new generation of technology may challenge and/or reinforce existing power structures.

Paying particular attention to their physical characteristics, this course will examine the evolution of new media technologies and their impact on politics, society and culture.  We will explore a series of case studies that examine how and why states, citizens, and the media utilize new technologies. You will also have the chance to expand your basic technical vocabulary and participate in hands-on activities in order to more critically engage with the ramifications of today’s technology-rich environment.