Posting Power - Digital Media and the Transformation of Politics

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
July 19, 2021 - August 18, 20217/19 - 8/184 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineIrina Kalinka

Course Description

Where do you spend most of your waking hours nowadays? Online, of course! Glued to smartphone screens for updates from friends, family, or the news, staying safe in zoom classrooms, or relaxing in online gaming communities – almost every aspect of our lives has become digital. Such a revolutionary change in our daily lives is not without consequences, least of all on how we get involved politically. From #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo to the Alt-Right, QAnon, and #Gamergate: Some of the most high profile political moments in recent years first gained traction online. In this course, you will learn how these movements bridge the gap between digital engagement and real-world protest; how the Snowden Leaks shaped public perception of ubiquitous tracking and surveillance; how science fiction stories like Black Mirror can influence political debates; and how filter bubbles, attention economies, fake news, and algorithms shape the way we conceive of our communities.

To take responsibility for our common world as citizens and activists, it is crucial to understand the potentials and limitations of our changing information landscapes. In this course, students will gain critical new media literacy through closely examining the ubiquitous ways we are immersed in media environments and the political problems and opportunities this entails.

As part of this course, we will be reading and discussing recent articles on politics and new media together. This course also has a multi-media focus. It will engage with science fiction movies and novels, computer games, and various kinds of online content like memes, advertising profiles, and Twitter feeds. These examples will introduce students to concepts such as the public sphere, theories of democracy, technological determinism, digital dualism, and their stakes in our digital age. Together we will ask, for example: How does one become a successful activist online? Has digital media contributed to the growing polarization of society? Are we being manipulated by online platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok? We will also explore how control and freedom are enabled or suppressed in digital spaces and what role narrative and the imagination might play in our relationships to technology. While drawing from a diversity of perspectives and examples, this course will show how our changing media landscapes can offer both new channels for resistance and dissent while also allowing for more effective surveillance and censorship.

Upon completion of this course, students will have written various short response papers, created digital content to draw attention to a cause they care about, and prepared a presentation about a media example that they find thought-provoking. This course will prepare future first-year college students for college-level work in the humanities, social and political science. It will also introduce students to strategies for successful interdisciplinary research, discussion, writing, and presentation and debate skills. Students will be given the opportunity to improve their knowledge about digital politics debates, form their own opinions, and engage in civil discussions about these topics with their peers.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • critically assess contemporary new media trends, like algorithmic governance, calculated publics, digital labor, or surveillance and activism through the lens of political and media theory
  • understand some of the main themes and questions in both new media and political theory, including questions of digital public discourse, democracy, media manipulation, and changing political climates
  • grasp the links between media representations and formats, as well as the communities and political ideals they embody and give rise to
  • gain valuable writing and communication skills, and receive extensive feedback on their various assignments that can be applied to future work on university level
Irina – the instructor – is currently writing her dissertation at Brown University in the department of Modern Culture and Media. She is a former elected official in local politics, in addition to being a former social media public relations officer, and will share practical experiences from her work in both areas.

Prerequisites: This course is designed for rising juniors or seniors ready for introductory courses in political and social science, media studies, science and technology studies, or literature.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPS0979

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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