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Investigating Cyberculture
STS 316 - SUNY Morrisville College
Professor Kurt Reymers


Review Papers

Ethnography Assignments

SL Assignments


Cyberculture Review Paper Assignments

Four papers will be due during the semester, each one examining a different two-week section of the course. The papers will be 600-800 words (2-3 pages) and will critically review the required reading material, the website review for the section (listed on the syllabus), and any material provided in notes or done from suggested readings (or found via individual initiative).

Review papers will be due on the Tuesday class meeting following the end of the section (due dates follow). The papers must be titled, typed, double-spaced, and have 1” margins.

Submission: the papers should be saved in PDF format and sent by email to reymers@morrisville.edu by the due date.

The form should be a standard critical review essay. In the essay you should:
- Identify the issue with which you are dealing;
- Briefly review the literature you have read;
- Critically analyze the literature and add your own response;
- Conclude with a description of how the cyber-issue at hand connects to the “real world,” particularly in relation to the social issue to which it connects.
- See this site for more info on critical essays

Review Topic Paper due dates and review ideas:

Section / Date Section Concept Paper Due Date
TOPIC 1

Introduction: History and Culture of Cyberspace

- What organization(s) were responsible for the developing and building the first computer network technology? (see Castells reading)
- Who were the individuals responsible for the developing and building the first computer network hardware and software? (see Castells reading)
- What was the technology that was developed? (see Castells reading)
- What are the four subcultures that merged to create Internet culture? Describe each one in detail. (see Castells reading)
- What is Second Life? To what city at what time does Meadows compare it? (see I, Avatar)
- What is The WELL? (see I, Avatar, Turner reading)
- What is the thesis of Turner's book, From Counterculture to Cyberculture?
- In what ways have the utopian ethic of cyberculture been expressed? (see Turner reading)


 

 Sept. 6

TOPIC 2

Self, Identity, Privacy: Review Ideas

- What is an avatar? (see I, Avatar)
- What does multiplicity mean? (see Turkle reading)
- What is the Protean Self (Lifton) (see Turkle reading)
- What is a Cyberpunk? (see Leary readings)
- What is an Avatar? How are Avatars like masks? (see I, Avatar)
- How do multiple and anonymous identities influence privacy issues? (see Powerpoint notes)

 

 

Sept. 20

TOPIC 3

Online Community and Cyberethnography

- In what ways are online communities the same as and different from face-to-face communities? (see Rheingold reading)
- How are boundaries and group norms decided upon in online communities? (see all readings)
- What is the place of rules and roles in virtual worlds? (see I, Avatar)
- What is the place of rituals and archetypes in virtual worlds? (see I, Avatar)
- How has the nature of human connection changed? (see Mulgan reading)
- What are the three laws of change that have had an impact on the nature of our connection to one another? (see Mulgan reading)
- What is a cyberethnography? Give an example. (see Boellstorff reading; see Powerpoint notes)


 

 

 

Oct. 13

TOPIC 4

Cyberpower and Online Governance

- What were the main themes of Barlow's 1996 Declaration of Cyberspace Independence?
- How did the techno-elite respond to the emerging real-world governance over the emerging public Internet in the 1990s?
- What was the outcome of the confrontation between Optic Phiber/Acid Phreak and John Perry Barlow in the WELL?
- Is STUXNET the next step toward cyberwarfare?
- What's the difference between "netwar" and "cyberwar"?
- Why did age verification become the norm in Second Life?
- In what way are virtual worlds "The American Dream, second edition" (see Meadows, p.87)?

 

 

 

Nov. 8


 

INVESTIGATING CYBERCULTURE - STS 316: FINAL PROJECT - The Ethnography

Ethnography Assignment 1

Ethnography Concept Paper (5%)

What is an ethnography? An ethnography is a piece of writing (graph) about a culture (or ethnic group). It involves long-term study of a culture or social group through participation with and questioning of people that belong to that group. Your job this semester is to find a social group that gets together in Second Life and study that "cyberculture".

Write a "ethnography concept paper" that is at least 2 pages. Discuss the social arena that you will be studying.

Be prepared to answer these questions in your concept paper:

1. What is the sociological concept that you are investigating in Second Life?
2. What area of Second Life are you investigating? (be specific)
3. How long has the community/area been in existence?
4. (How) does the community/area deal with “bad behavior”?
5. Describe the members that the community/area is populated by.

due SEPT 27


Ethnography Assignment 2

Literature Review and Citation List (5%)

Write a literature review that is at least 2 pages long. Write a research report that is at least 2 pages long.

Answer these questions in your literature review:
1. What research has been done on the specific virtual reality or cybercommunity that you are studying?
2. What research has been done generally on virtual reality relating to the issue or problem that you are studying?
3. What research has been done on virtual reality or cybercommunity generally that helps inform your perspective on your study community?
4. What other scholarly research have you done that helps inform your study?
5. Provide at least THREE ANNOTATED CITATIONS, in proper APA citation format.

Answer these questions in your research report:
1. What, specifically, is your "research site", i.e. the boundaries/"territory" within which you will collect data? Can this research site be defined as a "community"?
2. What aspect(s) of human behavior and culture (ethics, trade, governance, learning, religion, socialization, etc.) do you want to investigate at your site?
3. How are you going to collect data at your research site? List ALL of the ways you will gather information on the behavior you are studying.
4.
How are you going to organize and analyze your data?

due Nov 1


Ethnography Assignment 3

Ethnography Rough Draft (5%) - more information here

due NOV 17


Ethnography Assignment 4

Ethnography Final Draft (5%) - more information here

due DEC 8


 

Second Life Assignments


Second Life assignments involve using your avatar in Second Life to demonstrate your ability to navigate virtual worlds.

>>> SL Assignment #1: Your first Second Life assignment will be to perform the following tasks while in Second Life before our first full session together (Tues 9/6 in the SLLAB):

1) Follow the instructions below to setup the graphics, bandwidth and sound settings for SL that you will need to use this semester.

2) Put the SLLAB in your Second Life "Landmarks" (the Globe icon on the menu list at the right of your SL Viewer 2). Do this by choosing the "World" menu at the top of your Second Life browser and select "Landmark This Place." You can then add that Landmark to your Place quick links at the top of the screen by dragging it there. This way, you can always get back to the SLLAB when necessary.

3) Change your clothes. To do this, go to your Inventory (the "suitcase" icon on the list of icons at the right side of your screen) and choose the "Library" folder at the bottom of the list. Then select the subfolder called "Clothing" then the one at the top titled "Initials Outfits." From that folder select either the "Female Student Outfit" or "Male Student Outfit." For all of the items in the following list (which includes "eyes" "jeans," "footshaper," "rucksack" etc.) RIGHT-click on the item and select "Wear".

4) Add some information and possibly a picture to your Profile Information. To do this select the tab on the right that looks like an ID card (just below the SL Hand) and then type something into your profile. Add a picture by simply clicking the picture and selecting a photo from your inventory. Be sure to click "Save Changes" at the bottom when you are done. Note, you can import photos from your computer into your Second Life inventory by using the Upload feature (Ctrl+U), but it costs $10 Lindens. I'll give each of you some Linden cash soon so you can do things like this.

5) Finally, be sure to Request Friendship from all of your classmates and Kurt Karsin when you get into the Lab on Tuesday Sept 6. It will be convenient for us all to be able to instant message and chat with one another.


>>>
Instructions on setting graphics, bandwidth and sound capabilities:

To make your Second Life experience more enjoyable, you will want to "tweak" your settings based on individual performance and computer power. You can do this in Second Life by selecting the "Me" menu and choosing "Preferences..." (alternative ly you can type "Ctrl-P" on your keyboard). Then select the "Graphics" menu and choose the setting that gives you best performance: Low, Mid, High or Ultra. Clicking the "Advanced" tab below will further allow you to adjust settings.

Also helpful in adjusting settings to improve performance is the Me > Preferences... > Setup menu. If you change these settings, please be sure that you do NOT set the "Maximum Bandwidth" setting above 1000 Kbps (setting it too high will produce lag for everyone in your general area).

Finally, to be sure that you can hear me as I talk into the microphone to the class, you will need to go to the Me > Preferences... > Sound and Audio settings. Be sure the "Voice Chat" is checked and turn up the Master Volume. We'll test this in class before lectures start in Second Life.

Note, you may see the following screen from Windows Firewall when you enable sound and voice - select "Allow access" if you do. This will only appear the first time you enable SL Voice.

Play around with other settings to customize your experience and Have Fun! And start thinking about projects you might want to build or talk about in Second Life. See you there!


>>> SL Assignment #2: Make a box into a picture frame and put your picture onto it (as demonstrated in class). Leave the picture in the classroom and I will arrange them with a title indicating your real name and your SL name so that we can get to know each other's virtual appearance and connect it to our face to face identities.


 

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