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Investigating Cyberculture
STS 316 - SUNY Morrisville College
Professor Kurt Reymers

Review Papers

The Cyberculture Blog

Cyberculture Review Paper Assignments

Four papers will be due during the semester, each one examining a different topical section of the course. The papers will be 600-800 words (2-3 pages) and will critically review the required reading material and any material provided in notes or done from suggested readings or comment/blog posts on the Blackboard site (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 specific thesis which you are arguing -- this should relate to a topic/issue common to all of the resources being reviewed;
- 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

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 the thesis of Turner's book, From Counterculture to Cyberculture?
- In what ways have the utopian ethic of cyberculture been expressed? (see Turner reading)


Feb 2


Self, Identity, Privacy

- 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 an avatar? (see I, Avatar)
- What does multiplicity mean? (see Turkle reading)
- What is the Protean Self (Lifton) (see Turkle reading)
- What does Baldwin suggest is the value of Second Life in developing student writing?
- What is an Avatar? How are Avatars like masks? (see I, Avatar)
- How do multiple and anonymous identities influence privacy issues? (see Powerpoint notes)



Feb 16


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)




Mar 23


Write a review paper for one of the four topics: a, b, c, or d.

(a) Cyberpower and Online Governance
due by Mar 30

- 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)?

(b) Economies Online
due by Apr 13

- What is the point Malaby is making (Making Virtual Worlds, Chp 1) about Erving Goffman's impression managment and putting on of fronts?
- What does Malaby mean by the statement that virtual worlds are contingent places where failure has consequences (how does one "fail" in Second Life where there are no clear rules)?
- What are the three different forms of "capital" important to transactions in Second Life? Also describe the subtypes of each form of capital (for example, commodities versus currencies).
- In what ways are cars like avatars (from I, Avatar reading)?

- Give your impression of the "slave play" described by Meadows in I, Avatar (p.98-102).
- What does Julian Dibbell mean when he says that "it is no mere conceit to say that M.M.O.’s are just as much economies as games" (NYT, Chinese gold farmers)?

- In what ways do game designers try to crack down on R.M.T. (real-money trading) sellers? What solution did R.M.T. "gold farmers" make it into the "end game"?
- What does virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier mean when he says "information doesn’t deserve to be free" (You Are Not A Gadget)?
- What is is the problem with micro-transaction software, or free games "paid" forby the inclusion of ads (Lanier, Who Owns the Future?)?

(c) Education Online
due by Apr 20

- What does Clifford Stoll think about using computers and calculators in high school mathematics classes?
- Why is the "New Math" taught in high school insufficient for college preparation?
- What are the real reasons for a turn to online education, according to Stoll?
- Will teaching be yet another job to become automated in our new information economy?
- According to the authors of "Technology Literacy," at what age should computers be introduced in grade school, and why?
- What are some of the ethical issues with technology and computers that should be infused into the curriculum along with technical know-how?
- Why should high school students know the inner workings of computers and the history of technology?
- What is the ultimate goal of information technology literacy?
- From "computers in Education," what are some of the patterns that emerge from arguments regarding the introduction of computers in elementary education, and how can those patterns and arguments be critqued?







(a) Mar 30

(b) Apr 13

(c) Apr 20

The Cyberculture Blog (Blackboard)

The Blog will be your opportunity to demonstrate original research and analysis. You will be responsible for writing four posts on the course weblog, available on the course Blackboard page. I have provided an example as the first post on the blog. Find something interesting that you have found online about the cybercultural world and relevant to one of the themes in the class (one we have already covered or one to come).

Rubric: Post a hyperlink and at least one-paragraph description of the hyperlink content (images/video are okay too, but do not count as the paragraph), and then at least one more paragraph of critical sociological analysis of the content (click here to teach yourself critical analysis). Remember, critically analytical writing attempts to:

 get under the surface of a particular situation or problem;
 discover the possible reasons behind it;
 break it down into the various facts and questions of which it essentially consists;
 examine the strengths and weaknesses of different ideas about it, and any evidence relating to it.

The blog post will be evaluated on a basis of 1 (weak presentation and analysis) to 5 (strong presentation and analysis). Posts should be made once every week starting the week of March 26 and ending on April 23. Late posts will be accepted only through April 30, at a penalty of 1-point (20%).



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