Politics, Policy and the New Metamedia
POLS 3993 X1
Professor C. Alexander

Department of Political Science
Acadia University

  • Contact Professor Alexander
  • 1. Contacting Professor Alexander

    2. Course Description: Plug In, Log On and Get a Grip on the New Wired World!

    Please note that in this course, we will be having in-class computer workshops to help you gain some skills.  
    No prior computer knowledge is required!

    Whether you are aware of it or not, you are being processed into the bits and bytes of the Digital World. There are many unexpected socio-political and economic effects within this new 'wired world.' We will examine some of the effects of the convergence of powerful information and communication technologies for regional and national political economies, democratic processes, as well as their implications for gender, ethnic and class cleavages. Different theoretical approaches will be examined which are relevant to understanding the relationship between politics, science and technology. From an international comparative perspective, we will study an array of political and policy issues including:

    This seminar course offers you the opportunity to look beyond the hype in media headlines and soundbites. You will gain an appreciation of some of the new moral, legal and ethical thresholds we face in a high-tech world.

    While students will be expected to use the Internet and will be encouraged to hone a few computer skills, technical experience is not a prerequisite. Students who have never (or rarely) worked on a computer are encouraged to enroll...this is your chance to plug in and log on, and find out how your world is changing!

    3. Key Learning Objectives of this Course

    An ability to assess the strengths and weaknesses of alternative theoretical frameworks which can be used to explain the effects of the new informational and communication technological infrastructures impacts on social, political and economic structures and processes.

    An ability to explain what makes the convergence of information and communication technologies (fax machines, video-conferencing, personal computers, super and ultra super computers, satellites...) "revolutionary ".

    An awareness of the crucial value dimensions of seemingly value-free technologies.

    The knowledge to explain the political and policy implications of:

    An increased awareness of current and emerging political and policy implications of increasingly widespread applications of powerful information and communication technologies.

    An ability to assess how new information and communication technologies are affecting political institutions and processes, socio-economic relations, ethical codes and legal systems in different political systems, in both developed and developing nations.

    In addition, by the time each student has competed the course, he or she will have had the opportunity to acquire the following:

    A perspective the relationship between traditional political and policy issues, such as health care, and the new metamedia.

    A sense of the role that the newly converged information and communication technologies play in the international system.

    A greater interest and confidence in accessing and applying the information resources available on the World Wide Web and similar sources.

    And I hope, for the technological neophytes in the class, the acquisition of some useful computer skills.

    The successful completion of this course will give you an awareness of the implications of the New Information Order for you as...

    ...a voter,

    ...a credit card user,

    ...a recipient of public services such as health care,

    ...a job-seeker,

    ...a Canadian citizen,

    ... and as a 'global villager'.

    4. By the end of the fall 1997 term, it is expected that this course will have given you the opportunity to:

    5. Course Materials

    There is several different resource materials for this course, including books. Since technology is changing our world so rapidly and the implications are apparent throughout our lives, in a seminar course such as this one--where we will be sharing information and ideas--it is most appropriate for us to share one text and then for each of us to select two other books which we will read individually, and then share the authors' ideas in class. Therefore you need:

    A) One required Text for everyone:
               Manuel Castel. Power of Identity: Information Age--Economy, Society/Culture, vol. 2.

    B) One required reference reading book. Choose ONE from the following three (YOUR choice):
    either Taylor and Saarinen's book, Imagologies...
               or Brockman's book, Digerati...
    or the Krokers' book, Digital Delirium.

    C) ONE Book to Review:
    Given the rate of technological innovation and the rush to adopt powerful new systems throughout society, each student will have the opportunity to read one book which addresses a particular issue. To expand our collective knowledge base, you will present a comprehensive commentary on the book to the class. You will have an opportunity to select one of the books from the following list during the first class.


    You will be encouraged to use your student computer account to: access information resources from the World Wide Web; to prepare and present essays using powerpoint software (one-on-one help will be provided, if necessary); and perhaps, to communicate with each other, with students at other universities, with scholars and community activists around the world, and with me.


    The required readings are drawn from the texts as well as useful documents and articles which have been placed on reserve in the library. Doing the required readings prior to class is essential. While subjects addressed in the readings will be discussed during the succinct lecture which will introduce each class, I will typically go beyond the readings, bringing alternative perspectives and additional issues to your attention. Your comprehension of the lectures is dependent upon being well-prepared for class.


    Videos and films will be shown on appropriate topics. Guest speakers will be invited to address the class when possible. This fall, for example, I have invited Dick Miller, a CBC Radio Producer to speak to the class on evening.

    6. Overall Grading Scheme and Assignment Due Dates.

    There is no final examination!


    6. a) Short Essay Assignment

    You will be asked to prepare one short essay assignment (250-500 words). No additional research will be required...this is a thinking and writing exercise. The essays will be based on one portion of the required text. Assignments of the section which you will be responsible for will be posted the day after our second class meeting, September 17, 1997.

    This exercise is designed with several objectives in mind:

    6. b) One Major Research/Analytical Essay

    General Expectations:

    In each term you will be responsible for writing a major research paper of approximately 2500 words. It is your chance to study something you're really interested in already or would like to learn more about!

    Several key elements will determine the strength of your essay, including the strength of your:

    Typically, students tend to spend an all-night weekend just prior to the due date of the essay; as you probably know, this approach tends not to result in a student's best effort and leads to a serious drain on Wolfville's coffee supply. The essay 'assignment' therefore, has been broken down into a series of mandatory 'small step' assignments to encourage good time management. Such as process typically results in a better quality paper and a more rewarding experience.

    Please note that you are welcome to be as creative as you like. If you would like to create a multi-media essay, you are welcome to do so. If you choose to take a distinctive route, drop by to see me to discuss your proposal anytime.

    Due Dates for the Major Research/ Analytical Essay Work:

    An outline or a lateral map and an annotated bibliography (just enough to get you started) of your essay will due on September 24, 1997. A scheduled will be devised by Sept. 25, 1997 (and posted on this page) and you will then know when you will be asked to present your argument and key insights to the class in a 10 - 15 minute presentation and handout an accompanying lateral map. The feedback you receive from the class should be useful in revising your paper, as will the feedback you will receive from another student who will read your paper carefully. A final version of your essay must be handed in during class and posted on your website no later than November 26, 1997. You are welcome to hand it in at an earlier date. Of course, the papers will be composed in proper social science academic style and shall adhere to regulations concerning academic integrity (see the University Calendar). If you don't own one already, you may wish to purchase an academic style guide.

    6. c) Possible Fall Term Major Essay Topics: List is Forthcoming ASAP

    If there is another subject which you would very much like to investigate in the fall term paper, please see me for approval prior to September 18, 1996. There is a chance that we can accommodate your special interest. The inspiration for the following topics is to give you an opportunity to extend your understanding of one of the weekly topics through the research and careful consideration which the essay work will require.

    The implications of technological change for our the electoral process in Canada or elsewhere.
    The promise of the technology to enhance democratic institutions and/or processes.
    The gender implications of technology in the health care sector (ie. in hospitals).
    The legal implications of medical expert systems.
    The ethical implications of medical expert systems.
    The employment implications of the Information Society.
    The moral implications of 'smart wars.'
    The human rights implications of the growing technological gaps between north and south nations.
    The privacy implications of technology in government and/or the private sector.
    The implications of technological change in education for minorities in Canada or elsewhere.
    The promise of technological change to enhance the political or social or economic lives of indigenous peoples in Canada or elsewhere.
    The effectiveness of Canada's industrial policy.
    The merits of the current strategy to develop National Information Infrastructure in the United States or elsewhere.
    An assessment of the value of investments in artificial intelligence.
    The security implications of wired governments.
    ...and so on...the possibilities are endless...

    6. d)Lateral Maps: Why bother learning how to do this?????

    Cognitive Overload:

    One of the challenges of the so-called Information Age, is the rapid flow of a flood of data and information. How can one manage such an onslaught? The following quotation from an article in the June 1996 issue in Equinox, entitled "Are Computers Changing How We Explore?," clarifies the need for organizing information in new ways:

    We will learn more about how information technologies may be contributing to a shift in our cognitive abilities in class. How are computers affecting the way we think, remember, and communicate? To learn more about lateral mapping, please read the policy document for The Digital Agora.

    If you've never lateral mapped before, don't worry, we'll work on it together.

    OCTOBER 15                CHAPTER 1 Christina
    OCTOBER 22      After Thought, Chrissy
    The Second Media Age, Katie
    Sandy ~ religion Lauren~democracy CHAPTER 2 Heather
    NOVEMBER 5       Who Knows, Mike


    privacy essays:
    1) Mike Kendall
    2) Heather Smith
    CHAPTER 3: Lauren
    November 12      The Whale and the Reactor, Lauren

    Duane~`encryption debate CHAPTER 4 Katie
    November 19 Contributions to a Special Issue of The Political Byte The Information Highway, Heather Angela~international security CHAPTER 5
    November 26 Final Draft of your Essay must be posted on your webpage The Future Does Not Computer, Sandy Christina~`literature, politicsand the Web

    Katie~state of the discipline



    search engines
    If you're just getting started using the net, you might find
    metacrawler particularly helpful.
    Other useful search engines (remember, the words you choose to enter for your search make a big difference in the "success" of your search)
    http://www.policywonk.com/links.html http://www.drudgereport.com/ http://www.vir.com/~sher/julian.htm http://home.netscape.com/escapes/search/netsearch3.html http://www.metacrawler.com/
    Northern Light

    Interested in learning more about Innis or McLuhan? Start here:
    Hear McLuhan
    Professor Hibbitts' hotlinks

    Also interesting:
    Media Awareness Network Site
    Gender and Race in Media
    The Centre for Democracy and Technology
    Wired Magazine
    Howard Rheingold's Electric Minds
    The Media Lab at MIT
    Digital Time Capsule
    World-wide E-Democracy Project Page
    Europe and the Global Information Society
    Internet Statistics
    Artificial Life Online
    Cyberspace and Websociology
    Portraits in Cyberspace
    Electric Minds
    Peacefire--a youth newsletter about internet censorship
    Cyber-liberties (UK)
    Baudrillard in Cyberspace
    The Economist's Survey, A Connected World, Sept 21- 27 1997
    MIT Media Lab Graduate Seminar...student papers etc.
    MIT Technology Review Homepage

    Identity and Community:
    Sherry Turkle's Homepage, The Internet Anthropologist
    Sherry Turkle, Who Are We? in Hotwired
    Implications of the Internet in France
    EFF Net Culture and Cyber-Anthropology Archive
    Freenets and the Politics of Community in Electronic Networks

    Computers and Pressure Groups:
    Mark Bonchek's Harvard Ph.D. Thesis, From Broadcast to Netcast
    Feminist Activist Resources on the Net
    Canadian Women's Internet Association
    Canadian Green Page
    Green Parties of North America
    World Watch Institute
    Environment and Security Issues
    DOD: Environmental Security and National Security
    Fourth World Documentation Project Homepage
    Hawai'i: Independent and Sovereign State

    Computers and Religion
    Reinventing God
    Beyond Humanity
    God, The Scientist

    Indigenous Peoples
    The Assembly of First Nations
    Main Menu: Native American Everything
    Aboriginal SuperHighway
    Fourth World Documentation Project
    Artic Circle
    Nunatsiaq News Home Page

    GOOD EXAMPLE OF A STUDENT WHO CREATED A HYPERLINKED ESSAY AT SFU                    http://www.sfu.ca/~prodrigu/gilpge.htm

    A Master's Thesis by Elizabeth Reid

    How to Build a Website
    Why personal webpages?

    Writing Tips and Tools

    For Fun: Send a card!
    Byte-sized greeting cards

    8. Schedule

    9. Annotated Internet Address Book:

    10. To Do Well: Forthcoming ASAP

    a) General Observations about Doing Well

    b) Major Essay Marking Guide

    c) Typical Errors to Avoid

    d) A Thesis Statement versus a Statement of Intent

    e) A Sample Annotated Bibliography

    f) A Sample Essay Outline

    b) Essay Marking Guide

    Professor Alexander Department of Political Science Acadia Fall 1996

    The following marking guide is one which I will use when I am marking your major research / analytical paper. From the notations listed below you can gain a sense of what I will be looking for in your work.

    Student's Name: __________________


    Strength of introductory statement:

    Clarity, development and originality of thesis statement:

    Identification and definition of key concepts:

    Theoretical foundation:

    Historical overview, when appropriate:

    Development of argument:

    Key ideas are well-substantiated?


    Synthesis of ideas:

    Strength of concluding paragraph:



    Effective use of quotations:

    Diversity of sources:

    -use of academic journals:

    -use of government documents:

    -use of the Internet:


    Presentation of Ideas

    Originality and Effectiveness of the Title of the Paper:

    Overall English Usage:


    Spelling Mistakes?

    Flow and structure of ideas:

    Concluding Comments

    Final Grade ___%

    11. A C A D E M I C  I N T E G R I T Y *

    Academic integrity demands responsible use of the work of other scholars. It is compromised by such practices as plagiarism and cheating.

    Cheating is the copying or the use of unauthorized aids or the intentional falsification or invention of information in any academic exercise or the presentation of a single work in more than one course without the permission of the instructors involved.

    Plagiarism is the act of presenting the ideas or words of another as one's own. While it may be argued that few ideas are original, instructors expect students to acknowledge the sources of ideas and expressions that they use in essays. To represent them as self-created is dishonest and academically reprehensible.

    One may quote or paraphase other writers if they have stated an idea strikingly, as evidence to support one's arguments or conclusions, or as a point against which to argue, but such borrowing should be used sparingly and always indicated in a footnote. The aim of scholarship is to develop one's own ideas and research and only by trying to develop one's own thoughts and arguments will one mature academically.

    To provide adaquate documentation is not only an indication of academic honesty, but also a courtesy enabling the instructor to consult sources with ease. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism. Furthermore, a student who knowingly helps another to commit an act of academic dishonesty is also guilty of cheating.

    Questions or comments should be directed towards 002190s@axe4.acadiau.ca, webmaster for these pages.  Original gifs and background images © Krista L. Spurr, 1996.