Reimagining Social Media
with Laura A. Wackwitz, Ph.D.
Inspire a Better Future
Reimagine the "social" and strengthen the "me" in social media. Before people can change online worlds for the better, they need vision and inspiration. Learn to identify needed changes and then develop creative ideas for meeting needs, solving problems, or simply enjoying e-life more fully.
Walk-in: Schedule TBA
Drop by: If I'm here, just pop in!
Casual: Look for me at TBA every TBA. I'll be the one with my nose in a book hoping that you'll interrupt me!
By appointment: Contact me by email or phone (talk or text) to set up a time that works for you.
Pronouns: she / her / hers
The Primary Question Guiding the Course
Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)
Each course element supports anticipated learning outcomes, critical and creative thinking, and personal development:
Big Picture Purpose
Interrogate the current information & communication technology (ICT) and social media landscapes; conceptualize alternatives by employing research, critical analysis, and creative thinking.
Inspire participants to critically evaluate and imagine solutions for an ICT or social media problem, resulting in new ideas for "doing" social media, enhanced critical thinking skills, and a professional portfolio contribution.
Projects and Resources
This course is both intellectual and creative with choice built into many facets of the course. As a learning community we will work together to creatively engage obstacles & opportunities in the current social media landscape and to develop alternative ways of thinking about social media and ICT design.
Individual & collaborative activities provide opportunities to develop creative, thoughtful responses to the central question. After review and discussion of course concepts, you will identify a problem to research that is shaped by ICTs/social media. You will then work with your group to design and critique possible solutions to address that problem.
After participating in this course, you will be able to:
identify key terms, authors, and concepts in analyzing the social media landscape
[Remember & Understand: assessed by knowledge checks, online forum, & exams].
explore and justify the need for creative solutions to ICT or social media problems
[Analyze & Evaluate: assessed by exams, oral presentations, & written/visual projects].
collaboratively design a solution for a contemporary problem by following the provided problem-solving design workflow
[Evaluate & Create: accomplished through active participation in teams].
analyze key social media concepts as they apply to specific groups & situations
[Apply & Analyze: assessed by in-class discussion, online forum, projects, & exams].
evaluate design proposals; provide feedback in collaboration with a project team
[Analyze & Evaluate: accomplished through active participation in teams].
present a problem-solving design proposal using creative engagement techniques
[Create & Communicate: assessed by team presentation to the class, portfolio design, & self-report].
What to Expect
Reimagining social media in pursuit of greater meaning and reduced harm requires that our course be built upon mutual respect, openness, and creative (even crazy!) ideas. I join with you in the creative journey, serving as guide, facilitator, co-learner, and co-creator. To promote learner success and creative outcomes, I provide:
Your work will benefit from feedback among peers and between instructor and student, both ways. I will regularly share constructive feedback with you and hope that you will do the same for me. Specific feedback opportunities are built into the course; please provide or request additional feedback anytime!
clear expectations for students, faculty, & assignment success
choice & revision
Revision is important to both creativity and learning. All projects will entail either pre- or post-submission revision opportunities. Whenever possible projects and activities will include options for multiple means of completion (i.e., varying topics or formats). You may also choose to propose an alternative learning plan or substitute assignment(s). Plans must be approved in advance of beginning work on the alternative proposed. (Plans may not receive approval.)
a reliable weekly flow
Creativity thrives on choice and freedom. It also thrives in secure environments where people know largely what to expect and how their time will be spent. For each session, I provide a brief opening presentation to initiate class discussion. Following the discussion, students will work collaboratively on a creative and/or intellectual task. I will be available for consultations throughout the collaborative session and may even participate if asked! After class, I will be available to meet with anyone who has questions, concerns, or comments, or who wants to chat.
for all class sessions
This class comes with an online (LMS) component that is integral to your success. There I provide video introductions, discussion notes, learning checks, interactive forum opportunities, as well as links and information for required & suggested readings, websites, videos, and assignments. To maximize success, use these resources both to prepare for upcoming class sessions and to review materials for any session you may need to miss.
Expectations for Students
Be active class participants
Listen & respect others
Take creative & intellectual risks
Be curious and share that curiosity with others
Fully engage in group work
Provide thoughtful feedback
Prepare for class as indicated in the course schedule & LMS
Complete assignments honestly
Submit only original work
Expectations for the Instructor
Facilitate student learning with enthusiasm, joy, and empathy
Listen & respect others
Provide thoughtful, timely feedback & evaluations
Evaluate fairly & without bias
Accommodate differences in learning needs and styles
Be open & available for student interaction, questions, feedback, and concerns
shared governance where possible
As a creative learning community, we will share responsibility for establishing many of the policies and procedures for our course, including those related to participation, scheduling (e.g., deadlines, late or make-up work), the class space (e.g., phones, food, music), and maintaining a healthy classroom climate for all.
Course requirements are sequenced and interlaced such that all readings, work, and assignments lead toward creative solutions to the central question: What futures can we imagine that improve communication and human connection or ameliorate harm related to the current ICT and social media landscapes? The class will use critical inquiry and creative design to develop responses to that question. All elements of the course support that journey: in-class lectures & discussions, course materials (readings, videos, websites, app exploration, etc.), individual assignments, collaborative work, regular feedback/revision, and group projects.
Due dates and assignment weights open to discussion and may be adjusted by class agreement early in the term (no agreement = no adjustment). An optional final exam will be offered during finals. Score will replace one of the other two exams. Keep highest 2 exam scores.
Readings & Other Media
Lobel, Orly. (2022). The Equality Machine: Harnessing Digital Technology for a Brighter, More Inclusive Future.
Public Affairs. ISBN 13: 9781541774759
Fisher, Max. (2022). The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World.
Little, Brown. ISBN 13: 9780316703321
Research articles and critical commentaries provide context for class discussion, individual research, and team projects. Required and suggested readings are identified on the course schedule and homepage. For research projects, you will also read many sources about your topic to understand both the situation/context and the cultural groups the topic affects. Please add readings you find interesting to the course resource forum for student-recommended readings and resources.
Orlowski, Jeff. (Director). (2020). The Social Dilemma. Netflix.
Proyas, Alex. (Director). (2004). I, Robot. 20th Century Fox.
Kubrick, Stanley (Director). (1968). 2001: A Space Odyssey. MGM/Warner Bros.
Select from among the many streaming videos identified on the course schedule and homepage. Some are specifically required for class discussion, but often you will have a choice of what to watch and when. Please contribute additional recommendations to the course resource forum for class consideration or discussion. Some topics: social media use, algorithms, machine learning, creativity, design, engineering process.
Reimagining Social Media is experiential by design; thus, participation is a defining element of this course. Your thoughts, ideas, creativity, and questions will help shape our weekly sessions and the course overall. The course is a collaborative effort to explore social media through inquiry, research, and design. Together, we will create a welcoming learning environment that helps inspire imaginative problem-solving and creative expression. In recognition of your contributions, you will earn credit for being an active member of the Reimagining Social Media team. Opportunities to participate include:
ideas / creativity
skills / work
Personal Social Media History Project
Regular and consistent participation is key. Got an idea? Share it! Think something is insane? Tell us why! Like to make videos, draw comics, build apps, "do the math," or design experiments? Share your skills with us. Found a resource that caused you to think (or laugh or cringe)? Add it to our resource forum, share it with your team, or present it in class.
The course requires active engagement, but this is not a surveillance course, nor do you need to be an extrovert to succeed. The wide variety of opportunities for participation should accommodate your style of learning and level of comfort with interaction. (And if they don't, let me know and we'll figure something out!)
At the start of the term, you'll describe your preferred participation style and establish participation goals for yourself. You'll then keep a participation record which we will review together a minimum of two times during the course (following each exam) to ensure you are on track with your goals and contributing positively to the course. Curiosity, creativity, and inquiry take many forms. Let's celebrate those together.
Personal Social Media History Project (Individual)
We all have a history with social media, whether we use them or not. For this project, you will craft a personal history that is part biography and part analysis of how social media has impacted your life. The project has two parts: creation and presentation. Choose from among the many options available to you: personal essay, graphic-novel style or text-based story, reporting or journalistic-style article, live-action or animated video, podcast-style episode . . . the options are only limited by your imagination and access to technological resources. We'll then have low-pressure presentations to the class where you share your history with social media and your creative style. Share only those elements of your social media history that you are comfortable sharing. This is a creative, thoughtful exercise, not a psychological intervention! To encourage wide-open creativity, this project is ungraded. Completion of the project, sharing it with the class, and participating in the class presentation day(s) will positively affect your participation grade.
[Supports SLO 2, the creative process; provides a foundation for the individual & team projects.]
Social Media Problem Research Project (Individual)
Whether social media can be redeemed or reimagined remains an open question for many scholars and media practitioners. That social media or the absence of social media can negatively shape human experience, however, is unquestioned. Your task is to research a situation or group either harmed by social media use or in need of alternative ICT or social media applications. You'll work with a team to brainstorm ideas and help select topics for individual investigation that will be of possible utility for the larger team project (see below). You will then engage the research process, develop a position, and present your findings and analyses.
1. Conduct Research: Learn about your selected situation or group.
2. Contextualize: Consider the research in light of what you know about ICTs and social media.
3. Analyze Problem: What are the primary concerns and what types of changes might help address them?
4. Research Specifics: What more do you need to understand the problem in logical and empathetic ways?
5. Define Clearly: Define the problem in specific terms; include the "whys" and "hows."
6. Communicate: Present your findings and analyses in a short, well-argued research paper (5-7 double-spaced pages).
7. Propose: Advocate for your topic to become the basis for your team's Reimagining Social Media project (see below).
[Supports SLOs 1, 2, & 3; provides opportunity for peer-review and feedback; leads into the major team project.]
Reimagining Social Media Project (Team)
Ever wanted to change the world? Now is your chance. Change begins with imagination and communication. For this project, you'll spend the term working with your team to imagine new possibilities for future ICT & social media landscapes. Through conversation and negotiation, your team will determine which problem (or combination of problems) best meets the team's needs in terms of feasibility, interest, and inspiration. Using the provided problem-solving design workflow, each team will generate creative solutions to the identified problem that fall outside traditional social media parameters. (In other words, "creating a new Facebook group" is not the kind of solution you should be seeking!) Teams will then present design ideas to the class and submit a portfolio-worthy visual version of the complete project using whatever medium/format that best fits the proposed design solution and the team's personality.
[Supports SLOs 4, 5, & 6.]
Your learning is supported through two required exams and optional final. All are essay-based examinations with responses of varying length. Depending on class and individual preferences, you may be asked to respond with brief answers (1-2 paragraphs), short essays (3-6 paragraph), or longer essays (5-10 paragraph). [We will discuss and vote on options in class prior to the exams.] Regardless of length, I'll be evaluating your essays for clear demonstration of understanding as well as insight, coherence, and effective use of evidence. All exams are "open book, open note, open brain" opportunities. Plan to keep good notes throughout the course to assist your studying and exam performance.
Exam 1: Stones in the Road
The first exam, Stones in the Road, helps establish a foundation for the course by encouraging all class participants to share familiarity with topics and terms important to the work ahead. You will be provided with a series of essay prompts asking you to clearly articulate your understanding of and ability to work with course material.
[Supports SLOs 1 & 2; Bloom's Revised Taxonomy skills: remember, understand, apply.]
Exam 2: From Obstacles to Opportunities
The second exam, From Obstacles to Opportunities, provides an opportunity to consider course resources from your own unique perspective. Essay prompts will ask you to draw connections among ideas to analyze and evaluate the possibilities for reimagining social media. Some sources will argue that reimagination is an impossibility; others will argue the opposite. You will weigh options, critique arguments, and appraise sources as you articulate your own perspective.
[Supports SLOs 2 & 3; Bloom's Revised Taxonomy skills: apply, analyze, evaluate.]
Final Exam (Optional): Creating Meaningful Change
The final exam, Creating Meaningful Change, is an optional opportunity to improve your course grade by demonstrating your critical and creative thinking skills. If you choose to participate, you will be given a social media or ICT problem to analyze and evaluate. Using course concepts and sources, you will examine the problem, identify and appraise three possible solution paths, and recommend the most appealing option, arguing for its implementation. The exam will be presented as several essay prompts to help organize your thinking and responses. Your overall course grade will be calculated using the highest two exam scores only. Taking the final can raise your grade but cannot lower it.
[Confirms competencies built through SLOs 3, 4, 5, & 6; Bloom's Revised Taxonomy skills: analyze, evaluate, create.]
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