Interpersonal Media (Winter 2020)

From CommunityData
Interpersonal Media: Online Communities
COM482A - Department of Communication
Teaching Team: Benjamin Mako Hill / (Instructor) and Wm Salt Hale / (TA)
Course Websites:
Course Catalog Description:
Examines the relationships and groups formed through digital social media. Focuses on how people manage interactions and identities, develop interpersonal relationships, engage in collaboration and conflict, and develop communities in online environments. Involves both the study and use of network-based computer-mediated systems.

Overview and Learning Objectives

Digital social media has radically and rapidly transformed the nature of how we communicate and interact. When this class was first offered at UW many years ago, instructors might hope to introduce students to online communities and computer-mediated communication for the first time. Today, online communities are central parts of each of our daily lives and have an important impact on our cultural, social, and economic experience of the world and each other.

This course combines an in-depth look into several decades of research into online communities and computer-mediated communication with exercises that aim to give students experience applying this research to the evaluation of, and hands-on participation in, online communities.

As students of communication in the twenty-first century, I expect that many of you taking this course will, after graduation, work in jobs that involve communicating, working with, or managing online communities. This class seeks to inform these experiences by helping you learn how to use and contribute to online communities more effectively and how to construct, improve, or design your own online communities.

I will consider the course a complete success if every student is able to do all of these things at the end of the quarter:

  • Write and speak fluently about the rules and norms of the Wikipedia community and demonstrate this fluency through successful contributions to Wikipedia.
  • Recall, compare, and give examples of key theories that seek to explain why some online communities grow and attract participants while others do not.
  • Demonstrate an ability to critically apply the theories from the course to the evaluation of a real online community of your choice.
  • Engage with the course material and compellingly present your own ideas and reflections in writing and orally.

Note About This Syllabus

You should expect this syllabus to be a dynamic document. Although the core expectations for this class are fixed, the details of readings and assignments will shift based on how the class goes, guest speakers that I arrange, my own readings in this area, etc. As a result, there are three important things to keep in mind:

  • Although details on this syllabus will change, I will try to ensure that I never change readings more than six days before they are due. We will send an announcement no later than before we go to sleep each Tuesday evening that fixes the schedule for the next week. This means that if I don't fill in a reading marked "[To Be Decided]" six days before it's due, it is dropped. If we don't change something marked "[Tentative]" before the deadline, then it is assigned. This also means that if you plan to read more than six days ahead, contact the teaching team first.
  • Because this syllabus a wiki, you will be able to track every change by clicking the history button on this page when I make changes. I will summarize these changes in the weekly an announcement on Canvas sent that will be emailed to everybody in the class. Closely monitor your email or the announcements section on the course website on Canvas to make sure you don't miss these announcements.
  • I will ask the class for voluntary anonymous feedback frequently — especially toward the beginning of the quarter. Please let me know what is working and what can be improved. In the past, I have made many adjustments to courses that I teach while the quarter progressed based on this feedback.
  • Many readings are marked as "[Available through UW libraries]". Most of these will be accessible to anybody who connects from the UW network. This means that if you're on campus, it will likely work. Although you can go through the UW libraries website to get most of these, the easiest way to get things using the UW library proxy bookmarklet. This is a little button you can drag-and-drop onto your bookmarks toolbar on your browser. When you press the button, it will ask you to log in using your UW NetID and then will automatically send your traffic through UW libraries. You can also use the other tools on this UW libraries webpage.


This course is organized into two components that roughly span the first and second halves of the quarter.

Component 1: The Theory and Practice of Online Communities

Kraut and resnick-bsoc.jpg

In the first half of the class (Weeks 1-6), the readings will look to theories of interpersonal media by focusing on how and why online communities succeed and fail and how and why they grow or shrink. In each of the weeks in this period, we will read from the book we'll be using as a textbook: Kraut et al.'s Building Successful Online Communities (BSOC). Here is the citation:

Kraut, Robert E., and Paul Resnick. Building Successful Online Communities: Evidence-Based Social Design. The MIT Press, 2012.

A digital version of the book is available at all UW students through UW libraries and ProQuest Ebook Central at the following link (requires a UW NetID):

If you would like a paper copy, MIT Press sells the book for $35 as a paperback. Amazon has a limited number of hardcover copies available, starting at $23 as of January 2020. They also have paperbacks starting at $31 and the Kindle version is $19. Wikipedia has this long list of possible book sources.

More or less following the organizations of BSOC, we will focus on these key drivers of participation in online communities:

  • Motivation: How do online communities incentivize participation?
  • Commitment: How do online communities build relationships to keep individuals involved?
  • Rules and Governance: How do online communities create norms, rules, and governance?
  • Newcomers: How do online communities attract — or fail to attract — newcomers?
  • Creation: How should one start a new online community?

In order to ground the theoretical readings during the first half of the quarter, there will be weekly assignments that provide a structured opportunity to learn about and become involved in Wikipedia.

You should keep in mind that the bulk of the reading in the course — and most of the most difficult material — will be front-loaded in this first five week period. The goal is to make sure that you have all the tools you'll need by Week 7 so that you can use this material to focus on your projects.

Component 2: Examples and Challenges

In the second half of the course, we will focus less on theory and more on examples of online communities and on applications, examples, and challenges, associated with interpersonal media and computer-mediated communication.

Our reading during the second part of the quarter will be focused on cases studies. We will also focus on in-class discussions and exercises that prompt critical consideration of how online communities take place in different domains as well as the challenges associated with using online communities. Our goal here is to build up the ability to critically understand these communities in terms of the theory we covered earlier.

In general, readings during this second component will be on the lighter side and there will be no weekly assignments other than reading. The readings are lighter during this component because I'm expecting you to be spending time outside of class working on your projects.


The assignments in this class are designed to give you an opportunity to try your hand at using the conceptual material taught in the class. There will be no exams or quizzes.

Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are due at the end of the day (i.e., 11:59pm on the day they are listed as being due).

Participation and Cases

The course relies heavily on participation, discussion, and the case study method. A standard "case" usually involves reading an example — perhaps up to 20-35 pages of background about an organization or group facing an ambiguous or difficult challenge. I will mark certain readings as "[Cases]" in the syllabus and I will expect you to read these particularly closely. It is important to realize that I will not summarize case material in class and I will not cover it in lecture. I expect you all to have read it and we will jump in and start discussing it.

Cases ask students to put themselves in the positions of individuals facing difficult situations to tease out the tensions and forces at play in the case and to construct — through group discussion — the broader lessons and takeaways. Cases are a wonderful way to connect the sometimes abstract concepts taught in many academic courses to real examples of the type of ambiguous situations that you will likely encounter in your career. Generally speaking, there are not right and wrong answers in cases.

Cold Calling

Cases rely roughly on the socratic method where instructors teaching cases cold call on students—i.e., instructors call on people without asking for volunteers first. We will be doing this in each class.

I have written a computer program that will generate a list of names each day and we will randomly select a number of students in the class to call on in class. The program will ensure balance so that everybody is called on a roughly equal number of times during the quarter.

If you cannot attend class, you must tell us in advance by filling out this simple Google form that asks for two things: (1) your UW student number and (2) the date you will be absent from class. You must fill this out one hour before class begins or will not be able to incorporate it into the program that select names.

Because cold calling can be terrifying for some students, we will be circulating a list of questions we will alongside the weekly announcements (i.e., at least 6 days in advance). We will only cold call to ask students for which you have time to prepare your answers. Although it is a very good idea to write out answers to these questions in advance, we will not be collecting these answers. You are welcome to work with other students to brainstorm possible answers.

Assessment for Participation

The "Participation Rubric" section of the detailed page on assessment gives the rubric I will use in evaluating participation.

As the name suggests, your participation grade in the class rely on your participation, not your attendance. Although we are collecting attendance information using the online form, you will not be "marked down" for attendance. Of course, if you do not attend courses, it will be difficult for you to participate as fully as your classmates.


You will hand in two papers in this class. In both cases, I will ask you to connect something you have experience or knowledge about to course material.

The "Writing Rubric" section of the detailed page on assessment gives the rubric I will use to evaluate these papers.

Project 1: Contributing to Wikipedia

In the first project, you will be asked to learn about Wikipedia, its norms, rules, and processes. With this knowledge, you will all be asked to research and write a new article in Wikipedia on a topic of your choice and to publish this article in the encyclopedia. As part of this process, you will interact with other community members who are not part of the class. Afterward, you will be asked to write a short essay piece to reflect on this process and to connect your experience to the conceptual course material where appropriate.

We will use material from the Wiki Education Foundation (WikiEdu) to help you learn how to participate in Wikipedia. Every Friday during this first component of this class, there will be a assignment due that corresponds to one step in the process of getting involved in Wikipedia. Most weeks this will involve completing learning modules and assignments in a website put together by WikiEdu. These Wikipedia participation assignments won't be synced up with the theory, but they will provide with you lots of opportunity to reflect on the theoretical work we are covering.

Although only Task #7 includes anything that you will need to turn in, you will need to participate in Wikipedia each week. We will be able to see this activity and we will help you. We will take time each week to discuss our progress and experience with Wikipedia in sections on Friday and to connect it explicitly to the theoretical concepts we are covering.

Wikipedia Task #1

Create an account and start orientation
Friday January 10
Make contributions in Wikipedia and the class WikiEdu dashboard
  • Complete the WikiEdu training and assignments for week 1.
  • During this training, you will create an account, make edits in a sandbox, and learn the basic rules of the Wikipedia community.
  • Once you have created an account, you must enroll in the course so that your account on Wikipedia is associated with the course and so that I can track your activity on Wikipedia. Click this link to enroll in the course. If you are asked for a passcode, you can enter ratxwlye.

Wikipedia Task #2

Complete Wikipedia orientation and choose article topic
Due Date
Friday January 17
Make contributions in Wikipedia and the class WikiEdu dashboard
  • Complete the online training topics for week 2.
  • To practice editing and communicating on Wikipedia, introduce yourself to Salt and at least one classmate on Wikipedia (it can be anybody). Salt's username is Altsalt and you can find a list of all of your classmates on the WikiEdu class page.
  • Decide on an article in Wikipedia that you would like to significantly expand and improve. Please choose an article that is as short and simple as possible and we stronglly recommend that you choose a "stub" article on Wikipedia. Because some people are going to start with articles that are better than others, we're going to assess you on the amount to which you can improve the article—not on the final state of the article.

You can find a list of Stub articles arranged by topic here (there are literally millions):

  • List of Stubs — This is an extremely long list of articles that are currently stubs and which is also sorted into categories and then subcategories. It might be a little bit out of date so be sure to click through before you decide on an article.

If there is a topic you know you are interested in writing about that doesn't have an article, that is also possible but will be more difficult so we're recommending against that relatively strongly. If you're committed to doing that in any case, there are a few resources you might find helpful:

  • Requested Articles — This is a list of articles that others have asked to be created. It is sorted into categories and sub-categories. When you're looking at the list, remember that it's possible that somebody else has "gotten" to them first and forgot to remove it. Remember that a red link indicates that there is no page with that name.

Wikipedia Task #3

Compile research and write draft
Due Date
Friday January 24
Make contributions in Wikipedia and the class WikiEdu dashboard
  • Complete online trainings for week 3
  • Compile a bibliography of relevant research.
  • Write a 2-3 paragraph summary version of your article—with citations—in your Wikipedia sandbox.
  • Add the URL For your sandboxed article to yourself on the course WikiEdu page by clicking the assign article button next to your name and assigning the URL for your sandbox to yourself.

Wikipedia Task #4

Peer review other students' articles
Due Date
Friday January 31
Make contributions in Wikipedia and the class WikiEdu dashboard
  • Select two' classmates’ articles that you will peer review and copy-edit. To sign up, you can mark this in the dashboard by using the Assign a review button. Try to pick articles that other students are not yet reviewing.
  • Peer review two of your classmates’ articles. Leave suggestions on the article talk pages for how to improve them.
  • Improve and copy-edit the two reviewed articles to help fix issues, improve sourcing, create a more neutral or encyclopedic tone, etc.

Wikipedia Task #5

Incorporate peer feedback
Due Date
Friday February 7
Make contributions in Wikipedia and the class WikiEdu dashboard
  • Respond to your peer review. Consider their suggestions and decide whether they makes your work more accurate and complete.
  • Continue improving your article. Refine your text, do more research, make sure things are well organized, think about adding images, infoboxes, and templates. If you add images be sure to complete the WikiEd material on images and media.

Wikipedia Task #6

Make article "live."
Due Date
Friday February 14
Make contributions in Wikipedia and the class WikiEdu dashboard
  • Polishing your article, it should be ready for public consumption. Here are some general suggestions.
  • Move sandbox articles into the "(Article)" name space by following these detailed instructions.
  • Once you have moved the article, visit the list of students in the WikiEdu dashboard and make sure that you are assigned the live article URL. If needed, remove the old one by clicking the "+" button to open the menu and using the "-" button next to the old "sandbox" copy of your article, then press "Save" at the top of the page once you are done.

Wikipedia Task #7

Finalize article and turn in report
Due Date
Monday February 17
  • Finish article in Wikipedia and turn in a URL to the finished article in Canvas.
  • Turn in report as subpage of your Wikipedia userpage and turn in the URL in Canvas.
Maximum length for report
1000 words (~4 pages double spaced)

Turn your report your reflection essay as a subpage of your userpage. For example, I would create mine with as the URL. Of course, you should replace "Benjamin_Mako_Hill" with your Wikipedia username. You can also just go to your userpage by clicking on your username on Wikipedia and then adding "/Report" at the end of the URL.

When you go that page, it will say Wikipedia does not have a user page with this exact name.

You can create the new page by just clicking the "Create" tab on that page. When you're done, you can paste the URL into Canvas.

Evaluation Criteria:

Your Wikipedia article will be evaluated based on your demonstrated understanding of Wikipedia rules and policies. Is it a good article by Wikipedia's standards?

In addition to finishing up your Wikipedia article, everybody should turn in a report reflecting on your experience contributing to Wikipedia in light of your experience and the course material and, most importantly, offering advice to the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikipedia Community on how to improve their community. I want you all to treat this as a dress rehearsal for your final projects.

Your report will be evaluated, first and foremost, on the degree to which it provides useful, informed, and actionable advice to the Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia Foundation. It will also be evaluated on the degree to which you engage with the course material. See the writing rubric for details on my expectations in terms of the content of the papers. A successful essay will do the following things:

  1. Provide detailed, concrete, and actionable advice to the Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia Foundation. What should Wikipedia think about doing? What should they think about changing?
  2. Comment directly on your experience in Wikipedia. What did you do and what did you learn?
  3. Connect your experience in Wikipedia explicitly to the concepts in the course material we have covered. Justify your recommendations in terms of the theories and principles we've covered. Why should your recommendations be taken more seriously than just random advice from one new user?
  4. If possible, reflect on what parts of the theories or concepts we covered applied or didn't. You don't have to take everything taught in the course for granted. What would you change or add based on your experience? What is unique or different about Wikipedia?

We will give everybody in the course feedback on their assignment. The basic structure is shorter, but extremely similar, to what you will be doing in the final project. As a result, you can treat this as a "mid-term" and make adjustments based on feedback.

Project 2: Critical Analysis of an Online Community

For the final assignment, I want you to take what you've learned in the class and apply it to a community you have observed or participated in. This project will involve two written assignments and a presentation.

Community Identification

Maximum Length
300 words (~1 page double spaced)
Turn in through Canvas
Due Date
Friday February 21

In this assignment, you should identify a community you are interested in — and that you hope to analyze critically in your final project. In this assignment, I am asking you to write 1-2 paragraphs explaining what community you want to study, why you care about it, and why you think it would be a rich site for reflection. If relevant or possible, it might be useful to also provide a link.

I am hoping that each of you will pick a community that you are intellectually committed to and invested in your personal or work life. You should also keep in mind that you will be presenting this publicly to the class.

You will be successful in this assignment if you identify a community and clearly explain why you think it would be a useful community to study using the concepts we have covered in the class.

I will give you feedback on these write-ups and will let you each know if I think you have identified a project that might be too ambitious, too trivial, too broad, too narrow, etc.

Final Projects: Critical Analysis of Online Community

Poster Presentation Date
March 9 and 11
Paper Due Date
March 18 @ 9am
Maximum paper length
2,000 words (~8 pages double spaced)
  • Attend poster sessions to present poster; Turn in copy of poster in PDF form through Canvas
  • Turn in copy of paper in Canvas

For your final project, I expect students to build on the community identification assignment to describe what they have done and what they have found. I'll expect every student to give both:

  • A short presentation to the class (5-6 minutes)
  • A final report that is not more than 2,000 words (~8 pages double spaced)

Each project should include: (a) the description of the community you have identified (you are welcome to borrow from your Community Identification assignment), (b) a description of how you would use the course concepts to change and improve the community.

You will be evaluated on the degree to which you have demonstrated that you understand and have engaged with the course material and not on specifics of your community. I want you to reflect on what parts of theory we covered apply or do not. What does the community do right according to what you've learned? What might it do differently in the future based on what you've read? What did the course and readings not teach that they should have?

A successful project will tell a compelling story and will engage with, and improve upon, the course material to teach an audience that includes me, your classmates, and students taking this class in future years, how to take advantage of online communities more effectively. The very best papers will give us all a new understanding of some aspect of course material and change the way I teach some portion of this course in the future.


I will follow the very detailed grading rubric described on this page Teaching Assessment, which Mako (my advisor and supervisor for this course) put together. Please read it carefully I will assign grades for each of following items on the UW 4.0 grade scale according to the weights below:

  • Participation: 30%
  • Wikipedia assignments: 15%
  • Wikipedia reflection essay: 10%
  • Community identification: 5%
  • Final Presentation: 10%
  • Final Paper: 30%


January 6 (Monday): Intro and Wikipedia


Goals for the day:

  • Collect some basic information from you all
  • Provide an introduction and some context for the course (and hopefully get you excited about the rest of the quarter)
  • Review the course objectives and requirements

January 8 (Wednesday): Motivation (Part I)


Required Reading:

Optional Reading:

  • BSOC, Chapter 1, pg 1-17

January 10 (Friday) Section

Working through the Wikipedia assignments.

January 13 (Monday): Motivation (Part II)


Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 2, pg 41-70 (Sections 4-7)

For the case, we're going to talk about Twitch:


January 15 (Wednesday): Commitment (Part I)


Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 3, pg 77-102 (Section 1)

In this case, we're going to be looking at five different "subreddit" communities within Reddit. In some of these cases, there is an enormous amount of material on the pages and subpages. Poke around for 10 minutes or so (please not more!) until you get a sense for who is participating and how and why people build commitment to the site such that you will be comfortable answering the questions in the reading note. Please do not post on the sites or disrupt them in any way. We're guests in their communities and you only need to look:

  • [Case] /r/aww — "Things that make you go AWW! -- like puppies, bunnies, babies, and so on..."
  • [Case] /r/udub — "the unofficial subreddit of the University of Washington"
  • [Case] /r/SeattleWA — "the active Reddit community for Seattle, Washington and the Puget Sound area"
  • [Case] /r/NoSleep — "a place for authors to share their original horror stories"
  • [Case] /r/CasualPizzaCats - a World of Warcraft guild

January 17 (Friday) Section

Working through the Wikipedia assignments.

January 20 (Monday): NO CLASS

No class due to the observation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Day.

January 22 (Wednesday): Commitment (Part II)


Required Readings:

January 24 (Friday) Section

Working through the Wikipedia assignments.

January 27 (Monday): Rules and Governance (Part I)


Required Readings:

January 29 (Wednesday): Wikipedia Assignment Workshop [Attendance is optional]

Benjamin Mako Hill will traveling to Belgium to attend a conference on online communities. Instead of lecture, Wm Salt Hale will be hosting a Wikipedia walk-through and help session. Class will be meeting in the Communications Building (CMU) room 126 from 4:30-6pm. We will be exploring:

  • The difference between articles and talk pages
  • Article quality and priority scales
  • Bibliographies and citations
  • Direct messaging
  • [if we have time] a series of additional "Special" Pages.

Please bring your laptop to follow along and troubleshoot. Attendance is not required, but is strongly recommended.

January 31 (Friday) Section

Working through the Wikipedia assignments.

February 3 (Monday): Rules and Governance (Part II)


Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 4, pg 140-170 (Sections 4-5)
  • [Case] Slashdot: Spend 5-10 minutes to visit the homepage, look at a story you think is interesting, and read several of the comments, paying specific attention to the rating system.
  • [Case] Slashdot Moderation FAQ, 2017 (Internet Archive Copy)
  • [Case] Lampe, Cliff, and Paul Resnick. 2004. “Slash(Dot) and Burn: Distributed Moderation in a Large Online Conversation Space.” In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 543–550. CHI ’04. New York, NY: ACM. [Available through UW libraries] [Available free from author]

Optional Readings:

February 5 (Wednesday): Newcomers (Part I)


Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 5, pg 179-205 (Sections 1-2)

We're going to look at the citizen science community Zooniverse:

  • [Case] Visit Zooniverse and create an account. Then visit the Zooniverse project website and pick a project that interests you. I worked on Chimp&See but there are a bunch of projects on a lot of different types of things. Spend 10-15 minutes on the site figure out how it works and make sure you both do a few tasks and look at the "Talk" or discussion and commenting features of each site.
  • [Case] Mugar, Gabriel, Carsten Østerlund, Katie DeVries Hassman, Kevin Crowston, and Corey Brian Jackson. 2014. “Planet Hunters and Seafloor Explorers: Legitimate Peripheral Participation through Practice Proxies in Online Citizen Science.” In Proceedings of the 17th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing, 109–119. CSCW ’14. Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Association for Computing Machinery. [Available through UW libraries] [Available on authors website]

Optional Readings:

February 7 (Friday) Section

Working through the Wikipedia assignments.

February 10 (Monday): Newcomers (Part II)


Required Readings:

February 12 (Wednesday): Creating New Communities


Required Readings:

Optional Readings:

February 14 (Friday) Section

Working through the Wikipedia assignments.

February 17 (Monday): NO CLASS

No class due to the observation of Presidents' Day.

February 19 (Wednesday): Wikipedia Debrief


In the first half of today's class we'll hear from a series of local Wikipedia researchers.

In the second half of class, we will have a visit from local Wikipedia group Cascadia Wikimedians (full disclosure, I am a member). Prepare to give a very short (~1 minute ) in-class presentation about your Wikipedia editing experience and also be ready with questions for them about your experience or about Wikipedia in general based on the readings and cases we've done so far.

Required Readings:

Optional Readings:

  • Halfaker, Aaron, R. Stuart Geiger, and Loren G. Terveen. 2014. “Snuggle: Designing for Efficient Socialization and Ideological Critique.” In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 311–320. CHI ’14. New York, NY: ACM. [Available from UW libraries]
  • Morgan, Jonathan T., and Aaron Halfaker. 2018. “Evaluating the Impact of the Wikipedia Teahouse on Newcomer Socialization and Retention.” In Proceedings of the 14th International Symposium on Open Collaboration, 20:1–20:7. OpenSym ’18. New York, NY: ACM. [Available from UW libraries]

February 21 (Friday) Section

February 24 (Monday): Hackers


Required Readings:

February 26 (Wednesday): Innovation Communities

Required Readings:

Optional Readings:

February 28 (Friday) Section

No meeting as a group. Instead, folks should sign-up for one-on-one projects meetings with Wm Salt Hale.

March 2 (Monday): Instant Messaging, Group Chat, and Synchronous Communication

March 4 (Wednesday): Interactions Between Communities

Guest Lecture: Nathan TeBlunthuis


  • [To Be Decided]

March 6 (Friday) Section

No meeting as a group. Instead, folks should sign-up for one-on-one projects meetings with Wm Salt Hale.

March 9 (Monday): Final Poster Presentations

No readings. The final classes will be devoted entirely to poster presentations in the MGH commons.

March 11 (Wednesday): Final Poster Presentations

No readings. The final classes will be devoted entirely to presentations.

March 13 (Friday) Section

Administrative Notes

Your Presence in Class

As detailed in section on participation and cases and in my page on assessment, class participation is an important way that we assess learning in the class. Obviously, you must be in class in order to participate. If you need to miss class for any reason, please fill out the course absence form so that we know you are not coming and do not include you in our cold call list. In the event of an absence, you are responsible for obtaining class notes, handouts, assignments, etc.

There are many students who have eagerly requested to join the class, but there are not enough seats. I want to include as many students in the class as possible, we will automatically drop anyone who misses the first two class sessions and try to replace them with unenrolled students who do attend. This is consistent with college policy and with the course description in the catalog.

Devices in Class

Electronic devices (e.g., phones, tablets, laptops) are not going to permitted in class. If you have a documented need to use a device, please contact me ahead of time to let me know. If you do get permission to use a device, I will ask you to sit in the very back of the classroom.

The goal of this policy is to help you stay focused and avoid distractions for yourself and your peers in the classroom. This is really important and turns out to be much more difficult in the presence of powerful computing devices with brightly glowing screens and fast connections to the Internet. For more on the rationale behind this policy, please read Clay Shirky’s thoughtful discussion of his approach to this issue.

Office Hours

Benjamin Mako Hill will hold office Hours on Thursdays 1-2pm in Communications (CMU) 333.

Wm Salt Hale will hold office Hours on Monday 12-1pm in Communications (CMU) 333.

If our planned office hours do not work for you, please contact either of us over email to arrange a meeting at another time.

Religious Accommodations

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.

Student Conduct

The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at Safety

Call SafeCampus at 206-685-7233 anytime–no matter where you work or study–to anonymously discuss safety and well-being concerns for yourself or others. SafeCampus’s team of caring professionals will provide individualized support, while discussing short- and long-term solutions and connecting you with additional resources when requested.

Academic Dishonesty

This includes: cheating on assignments, plagiarizing (misrepresenting work by another author as your own, paraphrasing or quoting sources without acknowledging the original author, or using information from the internet without proper citation), and submitting the same or similar paper to meet the requirements of more than one course without instructor approval. Academic dishonesty in any part of this course is grounds for failure and further disciplinary action. The first incident of plagiarism will result in the student’s receiving a zero on the plagiarized assignment. The second incident of plagiarism will result in the student’s receiving a zero in the class.

Disability Resources

If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to uw at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Other Student Support

Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the graduate program advisor for support. Furthermore, please notify the professors if you are comfortable in doing so. This will enable us to provide any resources that we may possess (adapted from Sara Goldrick-Rab). Please also note the student food pantry, Any Hungry Husky at the ECC.

Credit and Notes

This will be the fourth time this course has been taught at UW in its current form. This syllabuses draws heavily from these previous versions. Syllabuses from earlier classes can be found online at:

This syllabus was inspired by, and borrowed heavily with permission from, other classes on online communities taught by young academics whose teaching I admire and respect: