76.478 L02 The Anthropology of Cyberspace 
(Selected Topics in Cultural Anthropogy)

Slot E2 (Tuesday 7:00-10:00 PM)
Instructor: B. E. Schwimmer
303 St. Paul's College, x6651
schwimm@cc.umanitoba.ca

Objectives

Over the past five years, the Internet has been transformed from a arcane communication system for the military and scientific elite to a massively popular medium. Its phenomenally rapid growth will shortly make it as common as the telephone or TV set as a household appliance. While the spread of these older media have had many important consequences for contemporary life, the Internet has introduced a much more powerful and versatile communication and information infrastructure that some social theorists believe will have a revolutionary impact on societies across the globe. In this course we will consider current and emerging trends in the development of "cyberspace" from an anthropological perspective and chart the social and cultural dimensions of its growth and influences. We will be especially interested in the looking and the contexts of the international order, the workplace, the community, and the political arena.

Text

Smith and Kollock, Communities in Cyberspace

Assignments

1. Annotated bibliography. Chose a  major issue in the anthropology of cyberspace and prepare an annotated bibliography of printed and on-line information sources. Publish your report on the course web-site. (20%) Due date - April 6.

2. Seminar Report. Lead a seminar on the issue you identified for assignment 1.(40%)

3. Final exam (40%)

Syllabus

  1. Theoretical issues: technology, communication, society, and culture. What is the general relationship between technology and culture and how do changes in one area influence the other? What are the specific implications of communications technology and infrastructure? Has there been an information revolution?

    Readings:

  2. Lab session. Introducing the Internet.

  3. The history of the Net.

    Readings:

  4. The Net and the international order
    What countries have pioneered the development of the Internet and which ones are lagging behind?
    What will be the effect of Internet development on have and have not nations?
    What will be the implications of the "digital divide" among the members of the same society

    Readings:

    UND, Human Development Report 1999

  5. The Net economy and work: restructuring the corporation and the nature of work.
    What is the role of the Internet in new developments in corporate structure and global competition?
    How has telework spread and what are its implications for employment, worker satisfaction, and labour organization.

    Readings

  6. The Net as "virtual" community.
    What is the character of groupings of people that form on-line? Are they real communities?
    Castels: Chapter 6

  7. The Net in the wider community.
    What will be the effect of growing on-line facilities and resources on traditional communities and "civil society" in general?
    Castels: Chapter 7

  8. Cyberculture.
    What codes and values have emerged to regulate and colour the character of digital communication sysems.
    Castels: Chapter 5

  9. The Net and political participation
    How will on-line political mobilization, participation, and organization affect the democratic processes in contemporary governments?

  10. The Net in education and academia

Additional readings will be posted as web links on the course web site.
Other topics will be determined according to the interest of the students in the course.