NCSU Department of Communication

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



Class schedule



Readings & resources



Most assignments in this course are writing 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: 15%
-- due each class

These are brief summaries/comments about the text you just read for the class. The writing comments are due each class and should be around one paragraph. It's expected that you make a brief summary of the text you just read, adding your own personal comments and points of view. Whenever possible, try to connect your reading and comments with previous class-discussions and assigned texts.

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 the following week after the text is due, you will get a -1. You are excused from writing your comment if you are presenting to the class.

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

You are expected to write a 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 is the text's main idea? (maximum of 3 topics).
  • why do you think this text is/is not important to understand the topic Internet and Society?

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 name of the text, 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. In-class research presentation: 15%
-- once a semester
The research presentations are brief (10 minutes) presentations about a specific topic we are dealing with in the class to your peer-students. The presentations are individual and are based on research. They should follow the structure below:

  1. Abstract (1 minute): Summary of the topic
  2. Description (3 minutes): Matter-of-fact description of the topic
  3. Analysis (3 minutes):
    • Historical background
    • Connection to other theories/concepts studied in or outside class
    • Why is/is not this topic important?
    • Research questions that contextualize the topic
  4. Conclusions (2 minutes)
    • How would you expand the topic?
    • Possible future developments
  5. References (1 minute)
    • Minimum of three books, articles, essays, or Web sites about the topic (at least one scholarly source required)
    • References should follow APA style.
    • Reference source should be included in the presentation.

You should practice your presentation before presenting in class. You must not go over 10 minutes. 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:
    • how you describe your main point in adequate detail
    • if you present a historical background of the topic
    • how you address research questions,
    • how you connect with other reading and theories studied in class,
    • how you conceptualize the topic in a broader context,
    • your 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.
  • A correct citation of sources will also be evaluated
    • 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.


3. Mid-term Exams: 30% (15% each)
-- due 09.28 and 10.31
In the end of each major part of the course, students will form groups of 5 to 6 people and discuss a specific topic in class, relating it to previous readings and lectures. In the end of the discussion, each group will produce a paper on the group’s conclusions, due the following week. Some questions will guide the group on the short-paper structure.

Directions for the mid-term assignment:

  • Each question should be from one to two pages long.
  • 1.5 leading space.
  • 1” margins.
  • Cover page with the paper title, group member names, which virtual world was assigned to each member, class name/number and date.
  • Follow the APA style guide for references.
  • Cite at least 3 texts used in class and 3 outside source references.
  • Turn in a PDF or Word document in a disk (CD-ROM) + a printed copy

Discussion report 1. (15%) Choose among the movies The Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor and eXistenZ (previously watched as home assignment).

During the group discussion, make a comparative analysis of the 3 movies, answering the following questions:
1. How digital spaces have been represented in each film?
2. How can you apply the concepts of cybernetics and information theory to the construction of digital spaces in the films?
3. What types of interfaces were used to get immersed in the spaces and how did they change (did not change) the construction of space?
4. Can the digital spaces in the movies be considered simulation spaces? Why (not)?
5. To which type of digital spaces already existent on the Internet could you relate the movie spaces? Explain why and give at least 2 examples.
6. Describe the group’s vision (using supporting arguments) of how our society will interact with computers/digital spaces in the future. Describe your personal vision.

Discussion report 2. (15%) Choose one of the following virtual worlds: LambdaMoo, The Palace, or Active Worlds. You should spend at least two hours in any of the worlds. The Palace and Active Worlds are installed in the CHASS Computer Lab (room 133). Click here to see 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 LambdaMoo.

If you want 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 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 Active Worlds browser. If you have a PC with windows XP, you can also download the zip file from here.


PART I: In groups, make a comparative analysis of the three virtual environments, discussing and answering one of the following questions:

1. According to Julian Dibbel (1999), games and MUDs "quite literally map the real world of day-to-day and ultimately life-and-death existence onto the timeless and ultimately inconsequential realm of the imagined." (pp. 53).
Compare the graphic/textual interface in each environment. Having in mind that interfaces mediate the relationship physical (real) world / imaginary (digital) world and the user interaction with the digital world, explain how the different spatial representations influence the user immersion / interaction with the online space, and the connection between physical and digital spaces. (You can answer based on your own experience in the virtual world + future perspectives + supporting readings). (20)

2. Donath and Viegas (1999) and Donath (1997) defined presence, identity and activity as key factors to reveal the social structure of online conversations. How are presence, identity and activity represented in each environment? Compare the graphic/textual body representations in each environment. Do you believe that these types of representations strengthen or weaken embodiment online? Why? (20)

PART II: Answer the following question

3. We saw examples of telepresence / telematic artworks in class (e.g. Hole in Space, Telematic Dreaming) and in Arns (2003) text. Discuss the difference between online social environments and telepresence/telematic social environments (based on one example of each) taking into consideration: human interaction, body represention, and the construction of space. (20)

PART III: Think about the construction and design of an online social environment.

4. Describe its interfaces (connection interfaces and representation of space), and its inhabitants (avatars) justifying its aesthetics and functional design choices based on class readings and discussions. (15)

5. According to Sasha Barab (2005) multiuser environments can be powerful tools for educational activities. Describe the purpose of your virtual world. Why would you create this environment? Why would people join your community? (compare to at least one other theme-driven social environments online, such as educational environments, artistic worlds, or game worlds) (20)

The paper will be evaluated based on:

  • the substance of your research, that is:
    • how you answer the questions in adequate detail.
    • how you completely and clearly discuss the issues involved drawing from class lectures, discussions and readings.
    • how you provide specific criteria and evidence for the position being espoused based upon readings and lectures.
    • the quality of your comparative analysis (not only describing each environment alone, but comparing them with each other)
  • your citation of sources according to the correct style and number of sources
  • the paper formatting (number of pages, margins, etc)
  • the quality of your writing.


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/or 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. You can:

  • pick one of the topics discussed in class (e.g. representation of cyberspace in science fiction and why it the internet has been envisioned this way)
  • choose to research more deeply into your research presentation presentation (e.g. LamdaMoo – as an example of textual MUDs -- and how the construction of identity and/or presence on the Internet connects to our "real" identity)
  • make a comparative analysis of: (these are just examples, not mandatory topic choices)
    • two social environments on the Internet (considering spatial construction, identity, presence and implications for social communication)
    • two science fiction books/films which portray a vision of cyberspace (and its implications for our construction of space)
  • or select a topic of your choice, as long as it is connected to the topics we discussed in class.

No matter which topic you choose, you should always connect to broader social/spatial implications and include conceptual analysis.

A written proposal for your topic should be given to me no later than October 10th. Your paper must have:

  • Abstract / 5 keywords / Introduction / Conclusion / References.
  • a clear research question;
  • a clear 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 15 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 15 sources; at least 9 of these must be scholarly sources. You should cite at least 4 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 lenght 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 formating of the sources.
  • the overall mechanics of your paper:
    • if the paper is clearly 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:

  • A one-paragraph statement of your proposed topic. (10.10)
  • An annotated list of 7 sources relevant to your topic; at least 4 of these must be scholarly journals or books. This list can and should be expanded when your final paper is ready. (10.19)
  • Paper outline. A good example on how to write a paper outline can be found at the Online Writing Lab at Purdue's University: (11.14)
  • The final paper. (12.07)

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

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