Journalism and the Networked World

Journalism 390-0-24 (Special Topics)
Winter 2010: Wednesdays 2-5 p.m. McCormick Tribune Center, Room 3-107 Rich Gordon
(847) 467-5968 Office: 4-119 McCormick Tribune Center Office Hours: By appointment

Noshir Contractor
(847) 491-3669 Office: Tech D241 Office Hours: By appointment

Teaching assistant: Brian Keegan
Office: Frances Searle, Room 2-168 Office hours: Thursdays 12:30pm - 1:30pm or by appointment

Introduction The practice of journalism has historically assumed one-way content delivery via a media product or package such as a newspaper, magazine or broadcast. With digital technology, however, both one-way delivery and the concept of a media product are diminishing in importance. Displacing them are two key developments: (1) hyperlinked online content, which creates an entirely different way for people to find and discover information and entertainment; and (2) the multiway communication capabilities made possible by technologies such as weblogs, discussion boards and social networks. Both of these developments can be illuminated through an understanding of the science of networks. This experimental, interdisciplinary course will explore the connections among networks, media and journalism -- orienting you to networkbased frameworks and helping you understand and thrive in a digital, interactive world. Learning Goals     To understand the foundation principles of network theory – as our main text puts it, “the next scientific revolution: the new science of networks.” To explore the relevance of networks to journalism, journalists, media companies, news organizations and media audiences. To understand how new network-driven technologies – hyperlinked content and online communication – are changing the way people relate to one another and find relevant content. To apply your understanding of networks to media and journalism.

Course Requirements and Grading   Midterm exam (25%): The exam will be administered in class on Feb. 3 (week 5). It will test your understanding of, and ability to apply, the most significant aspects of network theory. Networked content sharing (15%): To build a learning community among members of the class, we will be using online network-based tools (an RSS reader such as Google Reader and a Facebook group) to share interesting news stories, blog posts, etc., related to networks. Starting after the second class, you will be expected to submit at least two articles/posts per week and to comment on at least one. (We’ll give you instructions on this.) Meeting this

minimum standard will ensure at least a B for this grading component; higher grades can be earned by posting more frequently and/or with particularly penetrating insights. Final paper (40%): You will write a 10-15-page final paper focusing on how a specific content Web site (run by a media company or individual blogger) uses digital networking tools to attract an audience and/or user participation. Your instructors will provide a list of sites where a representative has agreed to be interviewed; you may choose a different site, with approval from the instructors. Your final paper will have three sections: 1) an introductory section that explains the relevance of networks to building audiences and user participation (drawn from what you’ve learned in the course); 2) a section that, based on observations and interviews, describes “your” site’s current approaches to network-based audience development, analyzed through the prism of network theory; 3) recommendations, based on what you’ve learned in the course, on what the site could do additionally or better to build its audience. Participation and engagement (20%): Participation and preparation are essential to success in this course. Attendance is required at every lecture. All students will be expected to have completed the assigned weekly readings before class and be prepared to discuss the readings in depth. As noted below, we will frequently require you to post “reaction papers” and submit and define key concepts you encountered in the readings. We will also be asking you to complete other activities – for instance, visualizing your Facebook network – between class sessions. All of these will be taken into account in the participation/engagement grade. Absences are only excused for medical, athletic, or academic reasons with a note from a doctor, coach, advisor, or faculty member. Late assignments will be accepted but points will be deducted – the sooner you submit them, the smaller the deduction.

Course Readings & Related Requirements Students are required to purchase (available at the Norris bookstore):  Barabasi, A. (2003) Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means. Most other readings will be posted on the Blackboard website in the area marked “Readings.” Any reading that cannot be acquired electronically (e.g., selections from Networks, a book by David Easley and Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University) will be distributed in hard copy. To ensure that you understand and engage with the readings, we will typically have two related assignments each week (part of your “engagement” grade): 1. We will ask you to write a “reaction paper” reflecting on the week’s readings and post these reflections to the Blackboard discussion board. This will be due no later than noon The idea is to spur you to think critically about what you are reading. It should be in the range of 300500 words (a page or less single spaced). Here are some questions you might address: What are the main points the authors are trying to make? When considering more than one reading, how do the authors' perspectives differ and where are they the same? Have you read other opinions that conflict with, or complement, the authors’? Do you have personal experience that is relevant to what the authors say? What do you agree or disagree with, and why? Does the evidence in a reading support the arguments made by the author? What questions do these readings raise in your mind? 2. We will ask you to email us a list, with definitions, of at least five network-related terms or concepts that you encountered in the week’s readings. From your submissions, we will generate a list of key concepts for the midterm exam and for the final paper.

Course Schedule PLEASE NOTE: Because this is a new course and we want to allow for “mid-course corrections,” we have not listed reading assignments on the syllabus. Readings and other assignments for each week will be posted on the class Blackboard site under “Assignments.”      JAN. 6: The networked view of the world: course introduction JAN. 13: Social networks I: Individual properties JAN. 20: Social networks II: Global properties JAN. 27: Information networks: the hyperlink revolution FEB. 3: Search engine optimization (after exam: guest speaker Brent D. Payne from Tribune Co.)  MIDTERM EXAM IN CLASS FEB. 10: “Influencers” and the spread of information FEB. 17: “Social media” and the new ecosystem for content FEB. 24: Digital communities and geographic communities MAR. 3: Online communities and digital identity MAR. 10: Blockbusters, the “long tail” and echo chambers  Monday, March 15, noon: FINAL PAPER DUE (submit electronic copy to the Digital Drop Box on Blackboard)

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Staff & Office Hours Prof. Gordon and Prof. Contractor will be happy to meet with students by appointment (contact them by email and suggest a few good days or times). Brian Keegan will be the teaching assistant for the course and will hold regular office hours from 11:30am - 1:30pm Fridays in Francis Searle Room 2-168. Academic Integrity Students are expected to comply with Northwestern’s principles of academic integrity, which are listed at . Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating on an exam (e.g., copying others’ answers, providing information to others, using a crib sheet) and plagiarism on a paper (e.g., taking material from readings without citation, copying another student’s paper). In particular, please note that “submitting identical or similar papers for credit in more than one course without prior permission from the course instructors” is defined as cheating. Failure to maintain academic integrity on an assignment will result in loss of credit for that assignment – at a minimum. Other penalties also may apply. If you are in doubt about what constitutes academic dishonesty, speak with either faculty member before an assignment is due.

All students enrolled in this class, whether from Medill or another school, are also responsible for knowing and following Medill’s academic integrity code, which applies to all students taking Medill courses: Among other provisions, this code requires that you report other students’ violations of academic integrity that you become aware of. Students with Disabilities If you require appropriate academic accommodations as a result of any disability, please make any requests during the first week of the quarter. You are urged to register with Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) for disability verification and for determination of reasonable academic accommodations. For more information, visit All discussions will remain confidential.