AH 348/FMS 348: Digital Media and Participatory Culture

Fall 2016


Class Locations and Meeting Times:

Hylan 203, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:40-10:55am


Contact Information:

Prof. Iskandar Zulkarnain


Office Hours: Morey 521, Tuesday 1:30 – 2:30 and Thursdays 3:30 – 4:30 (or by appointment)


Course Description:

This course will explore the notion that digital media technologies have liberating potentials to further democratic empowerment and produce a more inclusive public sphere. We will focus our exploration on the concept of participatory cultures in which developments of digital media technologies have transformed passive users into progressive and active “produsers” (productive users), indicative in the concept of Web 2.0’s “user-generated content.” We are going to explore how contemporary digital media’s participatory characteristics affect strategies and manifestations in social and political settings at a global scale. The overall objective of the course will be to gain a critical understanding about the impacts of digital media technologies on social and political participation in cultures globally. The course will be run as seminar, and students will be encouraged to incorporate media analysis and media production in their own projects.


Learning Goals:

By the end of the semester, students will have developed:

  1. The ability to analyze various types of digital media forms in terms of their technical affordance and their participatory potentials, and to situate them within their global social, historical, and cultural contexts
  2. The ability to craft a coherent thesis and to defend that thesis through careful and informed writing
  3. Intermediate vocabulary native to digital media studies and participatory media
  4. The ability to ask rich questions and to sustain a productive class discussion
  5. The ability to craft an independent research project and generate basic participatory media production skills
  6. The critical awareness to understand the complex two-way process digital media reflect and shape our perception, conception, and interaction with the world at a global scale


Required Texts:

All readings will be uploaded as PDF files or links on Blackboard. Since I am not requiring you to purchase textbooks, I ask that you please print hard copies of the readings and bring them with you to class so that you can refer to specific details during our class discussions. Bringing the readings with you to class is mandatory. Failure to bring readings to class will count as an absence for that day.

You will also be required to screen films/television shows/digital objects throughout the semester. Nearly all will be available for free online, or will be streaming on Netflix. If any are unavailable through these means, I will place a hard copy on reserve at the Art and Music library.



There are no prerequisites to enroll in this course, but previous exposure to digital media theories and production, as well as key concepts in cultural studies, will be very helpful.



Assignment must be handed in on time. Unless you have a verifiable reason for missing a deadline, I will deduct 1/3 of a letter grade for each day the assignment is late. Unless otherwise indicated, submit all written work electronically.


Academic Honesty

Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Please see the University guidelines for academic honesty. If you have questions about what constitutes plagiarism or academic dishonesty, please speak with your adviser or consult me with particular questions related to this course. See:


Disabilities or Other Concerns

If you have a documented medical condition or learning disability, please speak with me regarding special consideration or accommodations that you require.


Grading Rubric

All grades are the purview of the instructor and will change only for computational errors.


A (90-100)—Excellent. Student exhibits originality and creativity in media, cultural, and critical analysis. Writing and argumentation are clear and concise and grammatically flawless.


B (80-89)—Good. Student offers critical analysis with reference to relevant course materials, but relies on information and analysis presented in lectures and class discussions. Writing and argumentation are clear, with minimal mistakes.


C (70-79)—Satisfactory. Student makes adequate reference to course material but offers little critical analysis. Argumentation and writing are unclear or off-topic, lacking in relevance to the assignment and the course concerns.


D (60-69)—Poor. Student fails to engage with the material and does not attempt any critical analysis. Writing and argumentation are weak and/or illogical.


F (59 and below)—Fail. Student does not hand in assignment and/or work is very poor that and cannot be graded.


Assignments and Grading

Attendance and Participation (15%):

Class attendance is required. It is expected that you will arrive on time, engage in respectful and open discussion, and participate in in-class activities. You are encouraged to use your laptop in any way that increases your engagement in this class, but non-course related activities such as online chatting or email checking are prohibited. If your laptop proves to be a distraction, you will be asked to close it. Also, unless it is required for in-class activities, use of cell phones during class is prohibited. Your grade for class participation will reflect your preparation for class, your participation during individual and/or group in-class activities, your contributions to class discussions, and/or your quiz grades. Please note that absences will be excused only in recognition of religious observances or personal conflicts and emergencies beyond your control. In either of these cases, please notify me in advance.


Discussion Leader/Class Presentation (10%)

Each of you will select a day to present the assigned material. The presentation should not be a mere summary of the assigned readings. You should present a critical analysis of the readings as well as offer discussion questions for the class. I encourage you to consult with me before your presentation and to bring in a media artifact that illustrates the points made in the readings, or that relate in some way to the themes of the readings under discussion. The grade will be determined by the quality of your preparation, organization, and questions. You should also hand in your presentation notes at the end of class.


Mandatory Online Response and Twitter Post (15%)

  • Online response: Starting the second week of class, you will have to submit online responses every Thursday by 9am. The response should be 500-750 words and reflect upon the readings and concepts covered in the reading assignments for the entire week. You may not submit late. Your grade for the response will be based upon a random selection of 5 responses, with points docked for every response that is not submitted.
  • Twitter post: We will use Twitter for in and outside class discussions, reading reflections, and questions. The class hashtag will be: #AH34816 (Remember this!). I will give you specific instructions on some Twitter activities, but in general you will have to: post at least ONE tweet related to class readings and/or discussions; and respond to at least TWO of your classmate’s tweets each week. If you have a Twitter account, great. If not, we will talk about how to set one up in class. We will experiment a bit with using twitter for our course. Please note that I realize some of you may be apprehensive about having a twitter account. If you are completely against having an account on Twitter, please come and see me and we will try to find an alternate option for you. Detailed instruction of weekly Twitter assignment will be distributed in class.


Student Projects (60%):

Throughout the semester, you will have to complete three projects. Each of these projects will demonstrate your understanding of certain elements of digital participatory cultures as well as your own engagement with these cultures. Your projects will be evaluated in a 50%-50% model. The practical work (50%) will be assessed based on your work’s “Wow Factor,” i.e., its artistic presentation, as well as the originality of its conception and execution, and the relatability to the theme. The critical reflection (50%) will be graded on your understanding of the readings/concepts that influence your projects, a clear and precise description of your experience creating the practical work, and broader arguments about the nature of the overall theme (insights from readings + experience of media + argument on theme).


  1. Your first project will be a “Know Thy Selfie” project (15%). Detailed instructions will be made available when the project begins.


  1. Your second project will be called “Media Remix/Tactical Media Project” (20%). It will be a creative project that involves remix and/or media activism. Detailed instructions will be made available when the project begins.


  1. Your last project will be called “The Futures of Digital Participatory Cultures” (25%). In this last project, you will create a multimedia project that speculates about the futures of participatory cultures in a hyper-networked era. You can approach this project from any angle that you prefer, but it has to clearly synthesize what we have learned throughout the semester. Detailed instructions will be made available when the project begins.


Extra Credit:

Throughout the semester, I will announce official events that can count toward extra credit. In order to be eligible for extra credit, you must attend the event and submit a 2-3 page (double-spaced) response paper within 1 week of the event. In your response, please address how the event relates to some of the concepts/themes we have covered in class. Each extra credit assignment is worth up to 1 point added to your final class grade.  You may submit a maximum of 3 extra credit responses for a maximum of 3 total extra credit points to be added to your final grade.