UCLA DIS 19, “The FACEBOOK and Beyond:

The Role of Social Network Sites

in the Presentation of Self in Society”




Winter Quarter 2012

Tuesday afternoons, 1:30 to 2:20 PM

In 245 GSE&IS Bldg, west of Young Research Library

Thursday Office Hours @ 204 GSE&IS Bldg.


Course Description: Facebook (FB) has become the second most popular website in the world with more than 750 million users in less than six years, according to Alexa.com.  FB is “a social utility that connects people, to keep up with friends, upload photos, share links and videos.” This course raises issues of self-identify, authenticity (who and why), and difference negotiation; self-disclosure; community boundaries (including in- and out-groups); rhetorical narratives; and moral order (including allegiances, betrayal, truth-telling and trustworthiness) as well as public versus private spaces (including privacy or surveillance concerns) along with other safety risks.

Draws on a variety of theoretical work, for an exploratory and explanatory analysis of FB’s success, including Erving Goffman’s dramaturgical and impression management framework, Claude Lévi-Strauss’ bricolage, Kenneth Burke’s rhetorical narrative, George H. Mead’s symbolic interactionism, Michel Foucault's theories of bio-power and confession along with self-determination theory, and Blumler and Katz’s uses and gratifications theories.  The utility of sociograms is demonstrated, which are defined as “a sociometric chart plotting the structure of interpersonal relations in a group situation,” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary and its first known use dates back to 1933 by Jacob L. Moreno.


Learning Objectives:


This course is organized into five units of ten one-hour sessions; two sessions per Arabic number (see below)—the first session of each unit is a lecture by the instructor and then the second session which follows is a student-lead seminar style discussion.  By the end of the course, students will have learned why individuals are motivated to use FB and other social media as well as many of the attendant issues surrounding its use.  In addition, W2012 students will focus on politics via FB’s community pages.

Figure 1.  New Yorker, 2 August 2010


Course Syllabus/Outline:


1.     History, Role, and Competition (10 January and 17 January, student seminar)

2.     Identity as Claude Lévi-Strauss’ bricolage (24 January and 31 January, student seminar)

3.     User Types and Community 7 February and 14 February, student seminar)

4.     Location Services and Monetization of FB (21 February and 28 February, student seminar)

5.     Community Pages for:

a.     Political Parties in the US, Russian Federation, and Arab Spring Countries (6 March and 13 March, seminar)

b.     Libraries, Archives, and Other Cultural Institutions (Spring 2011)


Recommended, NOT Required, Textbooks:


·       Ben Mezirch, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal (New York: Doubleday, 2009).  –An unauthorized account, favoring Eduardo Saverin’s perspective, and basis of the movie, “The Social Network” (2010).


·       David Kirkpatrick, The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010). –An authorized account with FB’s imprimatur.


·       Martin Lister; Jon Dovey; Seth Giddings; Iain Grant; and Kieran Kelly.  New Media: a Critical Introduction. London: Routledge, 2003. –A good discussion of the shift from modernity to postmodernity; the rise of globalization; the “new” post-industrial information age; and the potential for the decentering of geo-political orders.


Class assignments:


There are three assignments due during this course:


1)     Write a brief, two-page paper with several citations/references/bibliography on either: a) How many friends do you have (and, then, on FB; or, who isn’t on FB—what are the implications of being/not being on FB)? b)  Who are your five most important friends—and why? Or, c) After undertaking a Google search of yourself, are you really who Google says you are?  10% of grade; due second session.

2)     Lead an assigned discussion on one of these five topics above (i.e., the Arabic numerals); 40% of grade; due according to class schedule.

3)     Propose a FB app/page related to: a) a political candidate of your choice, b) a cultural institution such an archive, bookstore, or a library; or c) a personal home page; in any case, before writing your two-page paper proposing such a page and discussing its design, see “Reading is Sooo Not My Thing”; 50% of grade, due last class session.





Attendance is expected; you cannot pass this course, having missed the first two sessions.  Otherwise, attendance is not formally counted except for leading one class session; class contributions are formally graded during the oral presentations; in borderline cases, however, I will consider overall attendance and class contributions in determining your final Pass/Fail grade. As you know, all grades, including the final grade, are subjective--merely the opinion of the instructor. Papers should cite the textbooks and/or other sources. When you receive a paper back with a grade, be sure to check ursa.ucla.edu or My.UCLA.edu to be sure that they match.  Again, grading is necessarily subjective; if these standards are not clear, please ask for further clarification at any time.



"Readings," so labeled above, are required; other WWW links or "additional readings" are optional.  Backup your work regularly. During class, cell phones should be off or on vibrate.  As for late papers: all papers and presentations are due on due date.  Unexcused late papers will be substantially penalized—half letter grade per session.  Suspected research misconduct (including fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism--such as click, drag, copy, and paste without adequate attribution) will result in a grade of DR and be reported to the UCLA Dean of Students; be sure to submit your first paper to TurnItIn.com, if you have any doubts about plagiarism, before handing it in to me.  No extra credit is given.  Incompletes are not awarded in this class; plan accordingly. Disabled students must present the appropriate form from the Office of Student Disabilities at the beginning of the quarter, if they wish special accommodation. You may drop the class up until the last class, according to the UCLA Registrar.


I reserve the right to change the content of this syllabus for any reason including the accommodation of field trips and guest speakers.  Also, I practice the policy of continuous improvement, so please check back even if we have completed a unit.


Updated:  29 February 2012; created: 11 May 2009; I also wish to acknowledge the helpful contributions of Millie Tran, my 2011 Global Studies undergraduate honors student as well as Michal Matejovic, my 2011 international graduate student from the University of Utrecht for identifying useful websites.