DPI-658: Social Change in the Digital Age DRAFT: DPI

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DPI-658: Social Change in the Digital Age
DRAFT: DPI-658: Social Change in the Digital Age
Spring 2016
Mon and Wed 8:45 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Littauer 382
Instructor: Jesse Littlewood. Contact: [email protected]
Office Hours: TBD
Faculty Assistant: Kristina Mastropasqua
Subject to revision.
Course Aims and Objectives
Digital media is rewriting the playbook for social change, from the elections of Barack Obama to the 8
million members of MoveOn.org and beyond to the social media power of the #blacklivesmatter
movement. Older social change and civic organizations like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Common
Cause are searching for how to take advantage of the promise of digital media while “digital native”
movements showcase new possibilities to make change without a traditional civic or political
organization.
This course will explore the role of digital technology in contemporary U.S. civic engagement and social
movement organizing. Course work includes both an examination of the theories behind technology and
social change as well as practical examinations of tactics at work online and offline today. Students will
leave the course understanding both the “how” and the “why” of digital activism.
This is a practitioner-led course and has a focus on providing contemporary readings on how and why
digital media is used for social change. The classroom work and assignments will bring practical
examples of the use of digital media by organizations, campaigns, and movements and will train students
to become informed users and effective practitioners of digital media for social change. This is a
discussion-driven class. Students must come prepared, ready to participate in discussion, and to ask
informed questions. We will occasionally do small group exercises in class.
There is a focus on experiential learning, training, and participation in the use of digital media for social
change. Each student will have his or her own “beat” -- tracking a set of social change organizations, a
movement, an issue or a political campaign that has a significant digital presence. You will become a
follower (and participant or activist if you so choose) via available digital channels for the semester. You
will have assignments that tie the coursework back to the current practices of your “beat.”
Meeting Schedule and Reading Load
This class meets Monday and Wednesday from 8:45am-10:00am in Littauer 382. Readings will be
heavier for the Monday classes (~50-75 pages) than the Wednesday classes (~20-40 pages). This is a draft
syllabus and readings are almost certain to change, just social change practitioners are innovating their
use of digital media daily. Mondays will typically focus on lecture and classroom discussion. Short
experiential assignments will often be assigned between Monday and Wednesday. Wednesday classes
will typically focus on continued discussion and small-group exercises.
Required Book: Micah Sifry, The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet).
(Available at COOP)
DPI-658: Social Change in the Digital Age
Course Schedule
Week 1: Social change in the digital age: the case for optimism
1/25/2016: Course overview
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
none
1/27/2016: Social media can change the world
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Clay Shirky, “How Social Media can Make History.”
https://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_how_cellphones_twitter_facebook_can_make_history
 Clay Shirky, “The Political Power of Social Media.”
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67038/clay-shirky/the-political-power-of-social-media
 Nicholas Carr, “How Social Media Is Ruining Politics.”
http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/09/2016-election-social-media-ruining-politics213104
Week 2: What do we mean by “digital social change?”
2/1/2016: Civic engagement and organizing
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Aaron Smith (Pew Research Center), “Civic Engagement in the Digital Age.”
http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/04/25/civic-engagement-in-the-digital-age/
 The Digital CultureSHIFT: From Scale to Power. http://centerformediajustice.org/digital-cultureshift-from-scale-to-power/
2/3/2016: Digital identity
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Jay Rosen, “The People Formerly Known as the Audience” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jayrosen/the-people-formerly-known_1_b_24113.html
 danah m. boyd. “Participating in the Always-On Lifestyle.” in The Social Media Reader. Ed.
Michael Mandiberg. New York: New York University Press, 2012. pp. 71-76.
https://archive.org/details/TheSocialMediaReader
 Piotr Czerski, “We, the Web Kids” http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/02/wethe-web-kids/253382/
Week 3: Technical architecture of the internet
2/8/2016: What is code? Why does it matter?
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Paul Ford, “What Is Code?” http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-paul-ford-what-is-code/
 Aditya Mukerjee. “I Can Text You A Pile of Poo, But I Can’t Write My Name.”
https://modelviewculture.com/pieces/i-can-text-you-a-pile-of-poo-but-i-cant-write-my-name
DPI-658: Social Change in the Digital Age
2/10/2016: Web 2.0
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Tim O’Reilly, “What is Web 2.0?” http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web20.html
Week 4: Social media as new source of people power
2/15/2016: no class, HOLIDAY
2/17/2016: “New” power
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Jeremy Heimans & Henry Timms, “Understanding New Power”
https://hbr.org/2014/12/understanding-new-power
 Evgeny Morozov, “Why Social Movements Should Ignore Social Media”
https://newrepublic.com/article/112189/social-media-doesnt-always-help-social-movements
Week 5: Corporate control
2/22/2016: “Filter bubbles”
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Eli Pariser. “Beware online ‘filter bubbles’”
http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles?language=en
 Will Oremus, “Who Controls Your Facebook Feed”
http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/cover_story/2016/01/how_facebook_s_news_feed_algo
rithm_works.html
 Alex Hern, “Google 'bug' buries competitors Yelp and TripAdvisor”
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/nov/25/google-bug-buries-yelp-tripadvisor-search
2/24/2016: Monetization of public spheres
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Ethan Zuckerman, “Advertising is the internet’s original sin”
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/08/advertising-is-the-internets-originalsin/376041/
 Craig Desson, “An annotated guide to Facebook’s privacy settings (that you’ve never read)”
http://www.thestar.com/business/2015/02/24/signed-up-for-facebook-this-is-what-you-reallyagreed-too.html
Week 6: Guest Lecturer, TBA
2/29/2016 and 3/2/2016: guest lecturer
Week 7: Clicktivism / slacktivism
3/7/2016: Online activism = slacktivism
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Malcom Gladwell. “Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted”
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all
DPI-658: Social Change in the Digital Age

Micah Sifry, The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet). Chapter 1
“The Revolution That Wasn’t.”
3/9/2016: Online activism is just a first step
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Ben Brandzel, “What Malcolm Gladwell Missed About Online Organizing and Creating Big
Change” http://www.thenation.com/article/156447/what-malcolm-gladwell-missed-about-onlineorganizing-and-creating-big-change
Week 8: Spring Break
No classes 3/14/2016 and 3/16/2016
Week 9: Big Data, small data
3/21/2016: “Big Data” is data about you
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Micah Sifry, The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet). Chapter 2
“Big Data: The Politics of Computational Management”
 Sasha Issenberg, “The Definitive Story of How President Obama Mined Voter Data to Win A
Second Term” MIT Technology Review, December 2012.
http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/509026/how-obamas-team-used-big-data-torally-voters/
 John Sides & Lynn Vavreck, “Obama's Not-So-Big Data” http://www.psmag.com/books-andculture/obamas-big-data-inconclusive-results-political-campaigns-72687
3/23/2016: Small and medium data
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Beth Kanter, “Why Your Nonprofit Should Be A Big Listener”
http://www.bethkanter.org/listener/
 Michael Silberman & Jackie Mahendra, “Moving Beyond Vanity Metrics.”
http://ssir.org/articles/entry/moving_beyond_vanity_metrics
 Upworthy Insider Blog, “What Uniques And Pageviews Leave Out (And Why We’re Measuring
Attention Minutes Instead)” http://blog.upworthy.com/post/75795679502/what-uniques-andpageviews-leave-out-and-why
Week 10: Innovation and Tactics
3/28/2016: Framing, storytelling, experimentation
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Free Range Studios, “Winning the Story Wars - The Hero's Journey.”
https://vimeo.com/50791810 (watch the video)
 Story of Stuff Project, “The Story of Stuff.” http://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-stuff/ (watch
the video)
DPI-658: Social Change in the Digital Age


Center for Story-Based Strategy. “Harnessing the Power of Narrative for Social Change”
http://www.storybasedstrategy.org/uploads/4/5/4/4/45442925/1-harnessingpowernarrative.1-2.pdf
Peter Murray & Steve Ma, “The Promise of Lean Experimentation.”
http://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_promise_of_lean_experimentation
3/30/2016: Tactics
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals. “Tactics”.
Week 11: Email
4/4/2016: How organizations use email
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 David Karpf, The MoveOn Effect. Chapter 1 “The New Generation of Political Advocacy
Groups” and Chapter 2 “The MoveOn Effect.” (pp. 3 – 51)
 Micah Sifry, The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet). Chapter 3
“Big Email: The Politics of Passive Democratic Engagement”
4/6/2016: The A/B test
How to prepare for this class
 Joshua Green, “The Science Behind Those Obama Campaign E-Mails”
http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2012-11-29/the-science-behind-those-obama-campaigne-mails
 Brian Christian, “The A/B Test: Inside the Technology that’s Changing the Rules of Business.”
http://www.wired.com/2012/04/ff_abtesting/
 Millie Tran, “What We Learned From A Week Of Prototyping A Newsletter In Public”
http://www.buzzfeed.com/millietran/what-we-learned-from-a-week-of-prototyping-a-newsletterin-p#.fwxV4D3Z2
Week 12: “Digitally native” movements and campaigns
4/11/2016: #blacklivesmatter
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 “Our Demand is Simple: Stop Killing Us” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/10/magazine/ourdemand-is-simple-stop-killing-us.html
 “How Black Lives Matter moved from a hashtag to a real political force”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/08/19/how-black-lives-matter-movedfrom-a-hashtag-to-a-real-political-force/

“When Black Lives Matter Met Clinton: Activists Speak Out on Challenging Candidate over
Crime Record” — watch the video —
http://www.democracynow.org/2015/8/19/when_black_lives_matter_met_clinton
4/13/2016: Net Neutrality
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Edward Walker, Michelle Miller, and Sabeel Rahman, with Jenny Weeks, “What Worked in the
Fight for Net Neutrality” http://gettysburgproject.org/net-neutrality
DPI-658: Social Change in the Digital Age


Ben Brody. “How John Oliver Transformed the Net Neutrality Debate Once and for All.”
http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-02-26/how-john-oliver-transformed-the-netneutrality-debate-once-and-for-all (and watch the video)
Week 13: Online and offline
4/18/2016: Developing leaders, developing civic capacity
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Micah Sifry, The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet). Chapter 4
“The Way We Look to Us All”
 Ari Melber, “Year One of Organizing for America: The Permanent Field Campaign in a Digital
Age” http://techpresident.com/ofayear1
 Matt Price and Jon Stahl. “Engagement Organizing: The Technology and Culture of Building
Power.” http://engagement-organizing.org/
4/20/2016: Mobilizations
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Lisa W. Foderaro, “Taking a Call for Climate Change to the Streets”
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/22/nyregion/new-york-city-climate-change-march.html?_r=0
 Jessica McKenzie, “Civic Tech and Engagement: How Network-Centric Organizing Made the
People's Climate March” http://techpresident.com/news/25281/how-network-centric-organizingmade-peoples-climate-march
 Tom Liacas, “The 350.org and Hollaback! approach to distributed campaigning”
http://www.mobilisationlab.org/the-350-org-and-hollaback-approach-to-distributedcampaigning/#.VpK0fJMrKu4
Week 14: Future of social change in the digital age
4/25/2016
How to prepare for this class
Required reading:
 Micah Sifry, The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet). “Coda:
The Trouble We Face; The Opportunity We Have”
 Marisa Franco, B. Loewe and Tania Unzueta, “How We Make Change is Changing: Open Source
Campaigns for the 21st Century” https://medium.com/organizer-sandbox/how-we-make-changeis-changing-part-i-5326186575e6 and https://medium.com/@marisa_franco/how-we-makechange-is-changing-part-ii-7a5ca6170a9e#.jpy2t9x6c
 Molly Sauter, “The Future of Civil Disobedience Online” http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-future-ofcivil-disobedience-online-512193648
Assignments and Grading Procedures
Students will be evaluated on the following:
Participation, including Response Posts — 30%
In order to be prepared for class discussion, students are expected to have completed the readings.
Regular attendance and participation is critical and will count in formulating the final grade. Here are the
components of class participation:
 Attendance in class. Missing more than one class may affect your participation grade.
DPI-658: Social Change in the Digital Age



Weekly Response Posts (20%): Each week you will write and publish a single post on the class
blog that is your reflection on the readings for Monday and the topic for the week. These are not
given letter grades, but graded plus-or-minus. These should take you about 30 minutes to
complete each, and be 200 - 300 words in length.
o Summarize in 1-2 sentences what you think the thesis/primary argument of each reading
is (“key takeaways”) and one or two critical question(s) you have for discussion.
o Use your questions/topics to tell me where and how you want to spend our time in class.
What are aspects of the readings you found interesting and would like to discuss? What
parts of the readings were confusing that you would like to spend more time on?
o You are also encouraged to share related articles, videos or applications you’d encourage
the rest of the class to know about.
o These are due Sunday at 5pm ET. You can decide if you want to publish your pieces
publicly (e.g. on Medium or your own blog) as well.
o You are allowed to skip this weekly post one time during the semester.
Review Quick Responses: Read your classmates’ Responses before class — and you are highly
encouraged to comment on them -- it will make classroom discussion that much richer.
Class discussion (10%): Each week you will be expected to participate in a rigorous classroom
discussion of the key concepts and readings.
Digital Strategy Assignments — 30%
A the start of the semester, students will be asked to choose a “beat” to follow -- a civic or social issue,
organization or topic they will keep tabs on throughout the semester. Students will be assigned three
digital-strategy based assignments that relate the coursework to their chosen beat. Examples include:
digital footprint review and following for your beat; creating a sample advocacy campaign digital content;
creating an online petition and gathering signatures via digital outreach. Details to be provided in class.
Ignite Talk—10%
Taking a page from our friends in the startup/tech space, each student will create and deliver a short
presentation to the class on the “beat” you’ve been following and a critical question raised by the topics in
this class. These will be “Ignite” style 5-minute presentations, where each presenter must use 20 digital
slides, which auto-advance every 15 seconds. These are fun, engaging presentations that are graded on
content, not style, and will educate and engage the rest of the class on some of the insights you’ve found
over the course of the semester. These will commence at about the middle of the semester.
Final Paper— 30%
The final assignment will be a term paper of 4,000 - 5,000 words engaging on one or more critical
questions raised by the class. Students will be encouraged to choose a topic that interests them, including
(but not required) the political/civic “beat” they have been following.
On Being a Good Class Participant
Attendance and participation is critical to get the most out of our time together. In order to be prepared for
class discussion, students are expected to have completed the readings and any assignments. Here are
some additional tips:
 Read your classmates posts and comment on them. That not only gives you a clearer idea of what
questions or ideas you can bring to class but also gives your classmates ideas too.
 Your perspective is unique. Do participate, even if you are shy.
 Debate. You don’t have to agree. Your politics may be different: please share your point of view.
You might play devil’s advocate.
 Be to the point. Make a quick note about your key points. This keeps from rambling.
DPI-658: Social Change in the Digital Age


Step up, step back. If you’re someone who talks more readily, wait to give others a chance to
jump in first. If you are someone who is shy, or doesn’t participate right out of the gate, challenge
yourself to jump in early.
Get to know your fellow student’s names, and use them in class discussion. It helps make a better
class experience for everyone.
Academic integrity
I expect that all students understand and will comply with the HKS code of behavior discussed in the
academic integrity section of the website here:
http://www.hks.harvard.edu/degrees/registrar/procedures/integrity
Accommodations for students with disabilities
I will strive to make all accommodations for students with disabilities. From the HKS standard syllabus:
Students needing academic adjustments or accommodations because of a documented disability must
present their Faculty Letter from the Accessible Education Office (AEO) and speak with the professor by
the end of the second week of the term, February 5, 2016. Failure to do so may result in the Course
Head's inability to respond in a timely manner. All discussions will remain confidential, although Faculty
are invited to contact AEO to discuss appropriate implementation.
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