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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Robert M Mason
INSC 557
Seattle Campus

Cultural and Ethnic Dimensions in Information Science

Examines ethnic and cultural dimensions of information storage and transfer, knowledge creation and exchange, and information-related values in an increasingly global world. Readings from anthropology, cultural learning, cross-cultural communications, and ethnic traditions provide the basis for discussions about conducting research across culturally distinct communities. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

Class description

For this quarter, we’ll focus on selected dimensions of culture, information and knowledge formation, information dissemination, and information use. We’ll critically examine frameworks that have been used for studying these dimensions in the information and knowledge ecosystem of 2014: an ecosystem of multiple social media platforms that enable people to be both producers and consumers of information. [Note: We define social media (or “digital and social media,” as some prefer to label it) as singular, as the dynamic and emerging set of information technology platforms that enable user-generated content to be created and shared with others. This set comprises such services as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and others. ]

Student learning goals

• To recognize, highlight, and discuss salient dimensions in the academic and practitioner discourses about social media and its implications for potential transformations of societal institutions and professions—e.g., business, journalism, law, government, education, art

• To identify and critically assess the (sometimes hidden) ethical and cultural foundations of system design and the implications of these foundations and social media to the processes of design, learning, and knowledge creation.

General method of instruction

The course is organized as a discussion of two central questions that reflect the tensions that we observe with the emerging information ecosystem: a) In what ways does this dynamic ecosystem tend to sustain existing structures of power and privilege? b) In what ways does the ecosystem enable the “counter power” discussed by Castells and disrupt existing societal institutions?

In addition to a critical review of research and writings related to these questions, we’ll address how our answers to these issues highlight ethical consequences of our choices in systems design and code construction.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

--Post questions on Canvas to guide class discussions --Two short papers (~1000 words each) --One longer paper (3000-5000 words)

Evaluation is based on • contributions to the discussions (questions posed on Canvas and the in-class discussion) [20%], • 2 short papers (~1000 words each) [40%], and • 1 longer paper (minimum 3000 words, but a conference-length of 5000 words is encouraged) [40%].


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Robert M Mason
Date: 03/22/2014