NCSU Department of Communication

COM487::Internet & Society
Instructor: Dr. Adriana de Souza e Silva



Class schedule



Readings & resources



Assignments will be evaluated based on:

  • The originality and creativity of your ideas,
  • The quality of your argument,
  • The quality of the sources you use to support your argument
  • How well you connect your assignment to the topics we are discussing in class,
  • The quality of your writing / speech

All assignments must be completed in order to pass the course. No late assignments will be accepted, excepted in the case of an excused absence.

Many assignments in this course are written assignments. It is expected that you write in clear, formal, academic language. If you need help with improving your writing skills, please let me know early in the semester. You can contact the University Writing and Speaking Tutorial service for support.


1. Weekly reflections (blog posts): 15%
-- due each class

These are brief summaries/comments about the text you just read for the class. The writing comments are due before each class and should be around one paragraph (minimum of 8 lines and maximum of 15 lines, in 1.5 leading space, 1” margins, 12-point font).

For each post, you are expected to answer the following questions:

  • What's the text main idea? (maximum of 3 topics)
  • Why do you think this text is/is not important to understand the topic Internet and Society? Support your argument with connections to previous class-discussions and assigned texts + your own personal comments and points of view.

All text comments shall be posted in the class weblog prior to the class meeting. Posts are graded as 1, 1/2 or 0. Late posts will automatically receive a 0. However, if you don't post until one week after the text is due, you will get a -1. If you have an excused absence, you can still get credit to your blog post if you post it within one week of the absence. You are excused from posting if you are presenting to the class. If you write an outstanding blog post, you'll get an extra credit (*) which will make that post worth 2 points. You will receive your partial grades for the blog posts in the end of each course section.

In the first class you will receive a login and a password, as well as detailed instructions on how to post your comments.

You are also encouraged to comment/reply to your colleagues’ posts.

Instructions to post comments:
1. Go to:
2. Login with your username and password.
3. Go to "Write > Write post"
4. Give a title to your post: the title should be the last name of the text's author, e.g., Abbatte.
5. Write your post.
6. Sign your post (include <p></p><p></p> by "your name")
7. Assign a category to your post. This should be your name, listed on the right hand side of the page.
8. Unclick the "uncategorized" category.
9. Click "publish".
10. To view your post, click on "View Site" on the top right hand corner of the page.
11. If you wish to re-edit it, click on "Edit" below your post, which will take you back to the post interface. Make your changes and click "save".



2. Research presentation: 15%
-- once a semester
The research presentations are group presentations about a specific topic we are dealing with in the class to your peer-students. The presentations are in groups of 3 and are based on research. They should reflect critical engagement/analysis with the topic. It is important that the presentations not simply be a recitation of findings ("here is what we saw") but show some analysis. Think about what is at stake in what you have observed. What is interesting about it? Why does knowing "x" matter? How has what your group found connect to previous research on the subject, including things we have read? Presentations should take about 40-55 minutes and follow the structure below:

  1. Introduction (5 minutes):
    Detailed explanation of the general topic. Interconnections among presentations.
  2. Analysis (30-45 minutes):
    • 10-15 min: presentation of topic 1 - student 1
      • Description (a matter-of-fact description of the topic)
      • Historical background
      • Connections to other theories / concepts studied in class
      • Research questions that contextualize the topic
    • 10-15 min: presentation of topic 2 - student 2
      • Description (a matter-of-fact description of the topic)
      • Historical background
      • Connections to other theories / concepts studied in class
      • Research questions that contextualize the topic
    • 10-15 min: presentation of topic 3 - student 3
      • Description (a matter-of-fact description of the topic)
      • Historical background
      • Connections to other theories / concepts studied in class
      • Research questions that contextualize the topic
  3. Conclusions (5 minutes)
    • Expand the topic and show possible future developments.
    • Re-enforce interconnections among topics.
    • What the group learned from the topic
  4. References (1 minute)
    • Minimum of nine books, articles, essays, or Web sites about the topic (at least three scholarly sources required)
    • References should follow APA style.
    • Reference source should be included in the presentation slides.
  5. Discussion (20 minutes)
    • Give 3-5 questions to generate class discussion; lead class discussion


You should practice your presentation before presenting in class. A good way to control your time is to plan to cover one slide per minute. Do not fill the slide with text.

The presentation will be evaluated based on:

  • the substance of research, that is:
    • the group's introduction: how you describe your main point in adequate detail
    • How well you interconnect all topics, finding similarities and differences among them.
    • if you present a historical background of the topic
    • how well you address research questions and conceptualize the topic in a broader context,
    • how well you connect with other readings and theories studied in class,
    • the group's conclusions (how to expand the topic).
  • how clearly it is presented to the class, that is:
    • if your presentation is clear and well-organized,
    • if you use audio/visual materials
    • your presentation skills
  • how your group leads the class discussion.
  • the correct timing of the presentation.
  • a correct citation of sources according to the APA style
    • you should also mention your sources during the presentation
  • You may use HTML or Power Point slides to present your topic.

Your research presentaion is worth a maximum of 15 points.

All presentations should be turned in in a CD-ROM right after the presentation.

- For help with APA style format, see reading > resources
- For help with scholarly sources, see reading > resources
- Dowload research presentation grading rubric model


3. Mid-term Exams: 30% (15% each)
-- due 02.08 and 03.20
In the end of each major part of the course, there will be a short mid-term exam. You should be prepared to answer questions about the topics we discussed in class (based on your class notes and slides) and readings.

Directions for the mid-term assignment:

  • Each question should be from one to two pages long.
  • Cover page with your name, class name/number and date.
  • Cite at least 2 texts used in class and 2 outside source references.

Mid-term exam 1. (15%) Watch the movie The Thirteenth Floor (before the assignment).

[model for correct answer 1A] [model for correct answer 2A]
[model for correct answer 1B] [model for correct answer 2B]
[model for correct answer 1C] [model for correct answer 2C]


Two of the following questions will be chosen:

1. In the beginning of the course, we talked about concepts of cyberspace and the Internet (e.g. Robins, 2000). Compare the concepts of cyberspace and Internet, describing how they differ and overlap with each other. To support your answer, give two examples of how cyberspace has been represented and two examples of representations of the Internet (you can exemplify with graphics or words, and draw it from sci-fi, resources such as The Atlas of Cyberspace, etc.). You should also justify why you chose these specific examples. Lastly, point out similarities between the simulation environment in The Thirteenth Floor and William Gibson’s concept of cyberspace.

2. Paraphrasing William Gibson (1984), Kevin Robins (2000) argued that "the contemporary debate on cyberspace and virtual reality is something of a consensual hallucination, too" (p.77). Explain Robins' argument in the light of Gibson's definition of cyberspace. Connect some of the “utopian views of cyberspace” presented by Robins with the purpose why characters Hannon Fuller and David used to "jack into" the simulation in The Thirteenth Floor? Are there precedents in the way we use the Internet today to the uses presented for the simulation in the film?

3. Homeostasis, Autopoiesis and Virtualities are the names of the three cybernetic waves according to N. K. Hayles (de Souza e Silva, 2004). How do the first, second and third cybernetic waves can be applied to the construction of the digital space(s) and the avatars in the film The Thirteenth Floor? Take into consideration the (dis)connection between materiality / information, the definition of human/spatial boundaries as flows of information, the questioning of reality, and the idea that life is made out of code.

4. Describe the concept of interface according to Johnson (1997) and to the lectures in which we defined interface. Compare the types of interfaces used to get immersed in the digital space(s) in The Thirteenth Floor to the usual interfaces we use(d) to connect to the Internet and to virtual worlds (giving 3 examples of each). Explain (using examples) how different interfaces might make us have different modes of relationships with computers and the Internet (Murray, 1999, Turkle, 1995).

5. According to Murray (1999) computers are spatial mediums for storytelling. Also Johnson (1997) describes computers as “information-spaces”. Explain (a) why computers are spatial entities according to Murray, and (b) why computers are regarded as information spaces according to Johnson. Can the simulations environment in The Thirteenth Floor be considered an information space, following Johnson and Murray? Give 2 examples of how computers / the Internet / softwares have been represented as a space, explaining why.

* Download grading rubric

Hand in a PDF document in a disk + a printed copy

Mid-term exam 2. (15%) Get immersed in the following virtual worlds for 30 minutes to one hour each: LambdaMoo, The Palace, and Active Worlds. For Lambda Moo you just need a Telnet connection. The Palace and Active Worlds are installed in the CHASS Computer Lab (room 133). Click here to find out when the room is free of classes.

Connecting to LambdaMoo:
Click on the link telnet://
You just need a basic Telnet connection from any computer. The first time you enter the MOO, you start as a guest character. More info about how to navigate LambdaMoo.

If you wish to install The Palace and Active Worlds in your own computer, follow the instructions below:

Downloading The Palace:
Go to [] and click on the appropriate palace client for your computer. If you have a PC with windows XP, you can also download the zip file from here.

Downloading Active Worlds:
Go to [] and click on the Active Worlds browser. If you have a PC with windows XP, you can also download the zip file from here.

[model for correct answer 1A] [model for correct answer 2A]
[model for correct answer 1B] [model for correct answer 2B]
[model for correct answer 1C] [model for correct answer 2C]

Two of the following questions will be chosen:

1. According to Julian Dibbell (1999), "Dungeons and Dragons succeeded as no game ever had at slaking the ancient desire of the map-gazer to enter the map, and it did so, paradoxically enough, by simply taking the map away." (pp. 55). Explain Dibbell's argument in relation to his experience in LambdaMOO. Describe and compare LambdaMOO's and Active Worlds' representations of space taking into consideration how 3D graphical interfaces might entail different levels of immersion in virtual worlds. Lastly describe / explain other 2 factors that might increase the immersion experience in virtual worlds.

2. Donath and Viegas (1999) and Donath (1997) defined presence, identity and activity as key factors to reveal the social structure of online conversations. Give 2 examples of how presence, identity and activity are represented in LambdaMOO, The Palace and Habbo Hotel comparing the graphic/textual body representations in each environment. Lastly, create an argument for supporting or criticizing the idea defended by Thomas (2004) and Taylor (1999, 2002) that visual representations of the self strengthen embodiment online. Point out 3 advantages or 3 disadvantages to the use of graphical avatars in synchronous online social environments.

3. According to Barab et al. (2005) and Squire (2002) multiuser environments can be powerful tools for educational activities. However, while Barab constructed a MUVEE solely for educational purposes, Squire used an existing videogame and transformed it into a learning tool. Describe how one MMORPG/virtual world/video game of your choice could be potentially used for education. Take into consideration subject matter, learning objective, human interaction and target age group. Point out 3 advantages and 3 disadvantages to the use of this virtual world for educational purposes, comparing it to one MUVEE discussed in class.

The answers for both assignments will be evaluated based on:

  • the substance of your research, that is:
    • how you answer the questions in adequate detail.
    • the originality and creativity of your ideas.
    • the quality of the sources you use to support your argument.
    • how well you connect your assignment to the topics we are discussing in class.
  • the correct citation of sources according to the APA style
  • the correct number of sources
  • the adequate length of the answer
  • the quality of your writing.

Both mid-term exams are take home assignments and are due one week after announced.

Hand in a PDF document in a disk + a printed copy


4. Final Research Paper: 30%
-- due 12.07
This will be a research paper which combines rigorous analysis of some topic within the general subject of the Internet & Society. Every research paper starts with a clear research question (e.g. why has the Internet been regarded as an immaterial space?) and a clear statement recognizing a shift in the current situation (e.g. shift from static to mobile internet, shift from textual to graphic interfaces). It must be an original study written by you for this course and based on scholarly sources.

For this research paper, you should find a topic within the general subject "The Internet as a social place" and make a comparative analysis between two social environments on the (mobile) Internet (considering spatial construction, identity, presence and implications for human interaction). Please be aware that "social environments" include not only virtual worlds, such as LambdaMoo and Active Worlds, but also MMORPGs, mobile messaging, like ImaHima, pervasive games like Botfighters and even fictitious virtual spaces such as the one in The Thirteenth Floor. So your task is try to narrow down this broad area to specifically match your interests.

No matter which topic you choose, you should always connect to the topics we discussed in class, to broader social/spatial implications, and include conceptual analysis. But, most importantly, you have to be specific and very focused on defining your theme.

A written proposal for your topic should be given to me no later than 02.22. . Your proposal should be composed of:

  1. A clearly defined thesis statement
  2. Clearly defined research question(s)
  3. The name of 2 social environments you will be be comparing
  4. Which criteria you will be using for the comparison.

Your paper must have:

  • Abstract / 5 keywords / Introduction / Conclusion / References.
  • a clear defined research question;
  • a clear defined thesis statement;
  • clear supporting points;
  • a logical, argument-based structure; and
  • concrete, well-documented evidence.

Directions for the paper:

  • Minimum of 10 pages and maximum of 12 pages, not including title page, notes, references list, and appendix.
  • double line spacing, 1” margins, 12-point font, and no extra space between paragraphs.
  • If you want to include images, insert them as an appendix. Don’t forget to mention copyright and sources.
  • Cover page with the paper title, your name, class name/number, and date.
  • Follow the APA style guide for references. (information on the APA style guide can be found here. A copy of the publications manual is also available at the NCSU library).
  • You must have at least 12 sources; at least 7 of these must be scholarly sources. You should cite at least 3 texts used in class.

The paper will be evaluated based on:

  • your topic definition, that is:
    • how you define your research question in adequate detail.
    • if you analyze some aspect of the Internet.
    • if you connect it some social issue.
  • the substance of your research, that is: .
    • the originality of your idea
    • how you completely and clearly discuss the issues involved drawing from class lectures, discussions and readings.
    • how you define, review, and draw on the relevant scholarly literature.
    • how you provide specific criteria and evidence for the position being espoused based upon readings and lectures.
    • the adequate length of your paper.
    • if your research is appropriate to your topic.
  • your citation of sources:
    • the adequate number of sources.
    • the adequate number of scholarly sources.
    • the proper formatting of the sources.
  • the overall mechanics of your paper:
    • if the paper is clearly structured and organized.
    • the quality of your writing (paragraph transitions, spelling, grammar, punctuation).

You will write this paper by completing a series of 4 individual assignments, each of which contributes to the total of 30% of your grade:

For additional help on writing your paper look at the following Workshop:

Hand in a PDF document in a disk + a printed copy

*Download grading rubric model