Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Welcome to iGeneration: Digital Communication & Participatory Culture

Semester 2, 2005

Course Coordinator: Tama Leaver
B.A.(Communication Studies) Coordinator: Ian Saunders

Seminars: 1pm Wednesdays, Arts Building Room 1.38
Tama's Consultation Time: 12-1, Wednesdays, Arts Building Room 1.38
Course Blog: http://i-generation.blogspot.com

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
The University of Western Australia


In the past fifteen years the rapid increase in widely accessible hardware, software and digital communication (epitomised by, but not limited to, the internet) has led to substantial changes in the way cultural meaning and media are conceived, created, produced and distributed. One of the most significant and widely discussed changes has not just been the way digital media is produced, but who has access to the tools of creation. While the day to day ability to offer news, cultural criticism and political commentary used to be the almost exclusive realm of professional journalists, personal publishing tools such as weblogs have opened the door for millions of 'amateur' writers to share their voices and opinions. While the production of broadcast quality audio or video was once the exclusive realm of production companies with huge budgets, the expansion of digital technologies and their relative affordability has opened the door for non-professionals to create films and music which are of a comparable standard to those produced by their industry counterparts. As such, the twentieth century may be characterised by the expansion and domination of 'big media', but by contrast the twenty-first century is being hailed by many commentators as the digitally-facilitated era of participatory culture. According to enthusiasts, digital technology and communication are allowing cultural production to once enter the hands of average individuals as part of their everyday lives.

However, as more and more people participate in the creation, manipulation and distribution of new media forms and cultural production, a range of serious issues have emerged. The most public battles have been fought over the right to distribute, copy and remix digital music in the face of mp3 audio compression. Less public but equally intense debates have emerged regarding the realm of journalism and authority. If anyone can create a weblog (or blog), what authority should blogs have when compared to traditional print or television news? What responsibility do bloggers have to their (potential) readership? What credibility does a communally authored online encyclopaedia have? As these few questions begin to show, the emerging trends and rhetoric surrounding the ideas and practice of participatory culture have opened new realms of debate, as well as re-igniting existing arguments. In this unit, you will critically explore these emerging debates, utilising communications theory, exploring social and cultural trends in digital culture, and evaluating the ideas and practice of participatory culture. In order to fully analyse the specificities of some of these new media forms, your assessment with include the participation in a group blog, and the production of a researched podcast (a syndicated audio documentary, the form of which is named after the popular iPod digital audio device).


This unit aims to expand and develop your critical understanding of current social and cultural trends in the production, development, use, distribution and influence of new media forms. It is expected that you will build upon the communications theory examined in past units and broaden those perspectives in relation to the ideas and practice of participatory culture. Further, students are expected to enhance their practical skills in digital media by participating in collective authorship of participatory media forms (most notably through the unit weblogs) and individual authorship (most notably through the production of a podcast).

The unit is designed to enhance your existing skills in research, textual analysis, collaborative learning and digital media production.


At the successful completion of "iGeneration: Digital Communication and Participatory Culture", students will be able to:

[X] Identify and critically analyse key issues and debates emerging from recent social and cultural trends in the digital communication and interactive media
[X] Demonstrate a practical knowledge of participatory cultural forms
[X] Identify and evaluate the requirements of digital audio recording, editing and distribution
[X] Plan, produce and create a podcast
[X] Research a topic by collecting, analysing and interpreting data.
[X] Formulate, express and defend an argument.
[X] Express research findings and ideas coherently and logically in oral, textual and recorded digital formats.
[X] Engage in constructive and critical dialogue (in oral and electronically mediated forms) with peers and other course participants.


The major assessment components for the course are:

[X] 20% for a critical evaluation of one blog or podcast series (the specific blog or podcast you wish to critique MUST be negotiated with Tama at least a week prior to the due date). The critical evaluation is due in print to be handed in at the English Office before 5pm, Thursday 15th September. Your critical evaluation must also be posted online to the course blog before 9am, Friday 16th September.
[X] 30% for continual participation in the seminars and unit weblog including three main elements:
[1] A detailed presentation on one seminar topic (including notes posted to the course blog beforehand, and chairing the your chosen seminar). [10%]
[2] Ongoing critical participation in the course blog (including a summary comment posted after each seminar) and active participation in the seminar discussion. [10%]
[3] A critical reflection on one of your peer's first critical evaluation exercise. The critical reflection should be roughly 500 words, be posted as a comment on the blog post of your peer's critical evaluation, and must be posted before 5pm, Friday September 30th . [10%]
[X] 50% for a major research podcast. The podcast must be completed and submitted online (details on how will be provided) before 5pm, Thursday 27th October.


Week 1 [20th July] Introductions: A New Course, New People and New Ideas
Week 2 [27th July] Participatory Culture 101
Week 3 [3rd August] Copyright, Creativity & The Creative Commons
Week 4 [10th August] Citizen Journalism
Week 5 [17th August] The Politics of Play: Politics in/as/about Gaming [Andrew]
Week 6 [24th August] Wikis: The Wikipedia, Collective Intelligence & Communal Authorship [Hilary]
Week 7 [31st August] Machinima: From Game Platforms to Animation Studio [Gwyneth]
Week 8 [7th September] Fan Culture: The Origins of Participatory Culture [Liz]
Week 9 [14th September] Study Week: Complete 1st Assessment (No class)
19th September - 30th September 2 WEEK BREAK
Week 10 [5th October] Research Podcast Workshop + Proposals
Week 11 [12th October] Podcasting: Revolutionising Radio? [Kaori]
Week 12 [19th October] Participatory Culture Then, Now and Tomorrow
Week 13 [26th October] Study Week: Complete Podcast (No class)

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