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Writing and Watching: New Media Publishing in the Age of Surveillance

Semester and Year FA 2016
Course Number PRACT-UG1460
Section 001
Instructor Sarah Leonard
Days M
Time 6:20 PM - 9:00 PM
Units 4
Level U



This course will examine how new media centers surveillance in our experience of communicating ideas. On one level, a world of watchers shapes how we write: how do we write when we know that our work will be subject to immediate criticism on Twitter? And when relevance requires a social performance online—ranging from personal photographs on Instagram to liking things on Facebook—how do we understand how we are shaped not just by others, but by platforms? On another level, the knowledge that corporate and state surveillance collects information about us may affect political dissent, our safety within the legal system, and even the jokes we make on public platforms. We will begin by considering the public sphere and its contribution to democratic life. We will examine surveillance historically and theoretically, with a focus on the role of emerging technologies. We will work our way up to the early anonymous days of the internet, the rise of social media platforms, and finally the Snowden revelations and an understanding of the modern surveillance state. We will experiment with simple counter-surveillance techniques like encrypted email (no technical experience whatsoever is required—if you know how to use email, you’re good). These tools are increasingly fundamental to the sensible practice of modern journalism and media work. The course will feature occasional guests. Students will finish the course with an understanding of the relationship between modern media, surveillance, and the expression of ideas in the public sphere. Readings may include Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas, Astra Taylor, Gabriella Coleman, Zeynep Tufecki, Glenn Greenwald, and Laura Poitras.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Practicum (PRACT-UG)