Social Software                                               

Instructor: Prof. Peter Ohring
Class Hours:  Monday, Thursday 10:30-12:10
Location:   New Media Computer Lab in Nat Sci 1013
Office Hours: Nat Sci 1007: Thursday: 12:30-2:30,
Wednesday 2:30-3:30
Email:    peter.ohring@purchase.edu
Website:   http://faculty.purchase.edu/peter.ohring/

Course Description: Social Software is an expression that is used to describe the many kinds of software systems that facilitate group interaction. Popular examples include online systems that help build community by facilitating the exchange of information (Amazon Reviews, Facebook, Flickr), web-based software that is designed to facilitate collaborative projects (wikis, google docs), and multi-player games (Second Life, WoW).

In this course we will learn about social software both from technical and critical perspectives. Hands-on work in conceptualizing, designing and developing social software projects is informed by exploring the dynamics underlying social interaction, the evolution of social software and its impact on society, and through the study and use of current social sofware.

In this course we will learn about social software both from technical and critical perspectives. Hands-on work in conceptualizing, designing and developing social software projects is informed by exploring the dynamics underlying social interaction, the evolution of social software and its impact on society, and through the study and use of current social sofware. Technical underpinnings for projects will be developed through hands-on learning of PHP/MySQL and several web API’s including the Flickr API and the Facebook API.

Readings: One of my main goals for this class is for you to develop a deeper and broader appreciation of how the web is developing as a social medium that I hope will help stimulate ideas and inform the projects that you do in the class. To this end we will regularly read articles relevant to the class, write responses, and discuss collectively. These articles can be found on the web. For each reading you must submit a response that is at least one page long (double-spaced). These responses are not summaries. Unless we pose a question to you ahead of time in class, you should write your thoughts about the reading (e.g. what was interesting to you, what do you agree with, what do you not agree with, what do you not understand etc.). These responses are to show me that you read the materials closely and prepare you for class discussion. Submit yor responses through the weekly moodle assignment set up for this purpose.

Attendance and Grading: Class time will be split up between classroom discussion and brainstorming, mini-lectures, student presentations and computer lab activities. Attendance at all classes is required. You are allowed up to three absences. Each absence beyond this threshold will result in a letter grade deduction from your final grade. Attendance includes participating in social software facilitated interaction that we conduct outside of class.

Your grade for the class will be based on the lab work, Assignments, the final project, written responses to readings, and participation.

Labs: 25%
Assignments and Presentations: 15%
Project: 20%
Midterm: 10%
Written Responses: 20%
Participation: 10%

Reading Responses: You will have weekly reading assignments. For each reading you must write a typed response that is at least one page long (double-spaced). These responses are not summaries. Unless we pose a question to you ahead of time in class, you should write your thoughts about the reading (e.g. what was interesting to you, what do you agree with, what do you not agree with, what do you not understand etc.). These responses are to show me that you read the materials closely and prepare you for class discussion. Bring a hardcopy of each reading response to class. Late reading responses should not be emailed to me but put in my mailbox in the Natural Science office and will be marked down.

Assignments and Presentations: In addition to weekly readings/responses there will be a number of short assignments designed to promote greater familiarity with existing social software and to help us along the road towards conceptualizing and designing our final projects. During the course of the semester you will do a class presentation on a social software application, a case study on the use of social software, or a social media art.

Labs: The labs will be a combination of self-paced work using worksheets and instructor led activities.  Hand in your completed, signed, worksheets before the start of the next lab.

Midterm: The midterm will focus on technical material covered in the first part of the course and wil take place the week of October 18.

Text: We will be using the first four chapters of Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP & MySQL 4th Edition by Kevin Yanks, These chapters are available for free online. You might want to buy the book if you learn well with a book as it could be helpful with more advanced material.

A couple of the readings are from the book Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. He is an insightful thinker in social computing matters and I recommend reading the entire book.

Special Needs: I encourage students with disabilities to let me know as soon as possible during the semester what, if any, special accommodations they will need.  After-the-fact accommodations will not be possible.  All students requesting accommodation for disabilities need to provide documentation from the Office of Students with Disabilities.  This office is located in the Counseling Center, in the basement of Humanities (Room 0012).  Call Ronnie Mait, who directs the office, at (914) 251-6035, or call the Counseling Center, (914) 251-6390.  They are happy to answer questions.  For more information, go to http://www.purchase.edu/studaff/specialstudentservices.

Syllabus: This syllabus is subject to change. Always refer to the class moodle site. for the current syllabus, live hyperlinks and class announcements.

Week 1 (August 30 - First Day)

Class Activities: Discussion of course objectives, learning activities, and expectations; Class exercise on personality types; Social software case study (unspun); Setting up web space/database on purchase server.

Reading: (response due online via moodle on Sept 6)
Sociable Media, Judith Donath
A City is Not a Tree, Christopher Alexander

Lab: 
Intro to PHP (creating scripts, outputting data, embedding php inside html, variables, strings, expressions, operators and variable assignment, functions)


Week 2 (September 6 - Overview)

Class Activities:
Discussion based on the reading;

Reading:
Talking Headers, an excerpt from Where Wizards Stay Up Late, by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon
Tracing the Evolution of Social Software, Chris Allen, including comments

Lab: 
Intro to PHP (cont.) Create a personal website for this course that will to organize your lab work. Post links to your work from Lab 1.

Assignment:  

Week 3 (September 13 - Some History)

Reading:
Sharing Anchors Community
, Clay Shirky (from Here Comes Everybody)
The Dunbar Number as a Limit to Group Sizes , Chris Allen


Class Activities:

Discussion based on the reading and UnSpun exercise; Social software case study (flickr)

Lab: 
Indexed and Associative Arrays in PHP; Processing data from tenbyten.org

Week 4 (September 20 - Sharing)

Reading:
Personal Motivation Meets Collaborative Production, Clay Shirky

(from Here Comes Everybody)
The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism, Jaron Lanier

Class Activities:
Discussion based on the reading; Social software case study

Lab: 
Passing Data from the Browser to the Server; Creating a Domain Specific Search Engine

Week 5 (September 27 - Collaborative Production)

Reading:
A dozen things I think I know about working in groups, Clay Shirky
A Manifesto for Collaborative Tools, Eugene Eric Kim


Class Activities:
Discussion based on the reading; Social software case study

Lab: 
Branching and Looping in PHP; User-Created Functions, Include Files;  The Flickr API

Week 6 (October 4 - Working in Groups)

Reading:
"SOCIAL MEDIA ART" IN THE EXPANDED FIELD, Ben Davis

Class Activities:
Discussion based on the reading; Social software case study

Lab: 
Intro to MySQL (database basics, managing tables, inserting, updating and deleting data, queries)

Week 7 (October 11 - Art and Social Media)

Reading:
Sidewalks for Democracy Online , Steven L. Clift 
In the Beginning There were Wikis, Joshua Levy

Class Activities:
Discussion based on the reading; Social software case study

Lab: 
Querying a MySQL Database Using PHP

Week 8 (October 18 - Social Software and Political Activism)

Reading:
Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On, Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle

Class Activities:
Discussion based on the reading; Social software case study; Midterm

Lab: 
Writing to Web Databases

Week 9 (October 25 - Web 2.0 and Beyond)

Reading:
Where the Counterculture Met the New Economy, Fred Turner
The Tyranny of Structurelessness, Jo Freeman

Class Activities:
Group discussion based on the reading; Social software case study

Lab:
More practice creating web applications.

Week 10 (November 1 - Virtual Communities)

Reading:
The Tragedy of the Commons, Garrett Hardin


Class Activities:  Discussion Based on Reading; Social software case study

Lab:
The Facebook API

Week 11 (November 8 - Virtual Communities)

Reading:
Homophily in Social Software, Nat Torkington
Brooke Gladstone, Clive Thompson and Ethan Zuckerman from 'On The Media' discuss homophily

Class Activities:
Discussion based on the reading; Social software case study
Project Presentations

Lab:
The Facebook API Cont.

Week 12 (November 15)

Reading:
First Rule of Usability? Don't Listen to Users, Jacob Nielsen
Why You Only Need to Test With 5 Users, Jacob Nielsen



Class Activities:
Discussion based on the reading; Social software case study

Week 13 (November 22)

Reading:
No reading.

Class Activities:
TBA

Week 14 (November 29)

Reading:
No reading.

Class Activities:
Discussion based on the reading; Social software case study

Week 15 (December 6)

Reading:
None

Class Activities
Work on Projects

 

Week 16 (December 16, 9:00-11:30 p.m.)

Class Activities:
Present final projects