As the line between humans and technology becomes increasingly blurred, the proliferation of social media platforms is transforming conceptions of identity, community, and citizenship. This course aims to build on the premise that technology changes not only what we do but also who we are. We draw upon established theories of identity formation, self-presentation, and impression management in order to map the intersection between new media technologies and the evolving processes by which identities are constructed, maintained, and represented. We consider how these developments are providing new opportunities for individual expression and collective empowerment, while at the same time contributing to a growing sense of fragmentation, polarization, and uncertainty.
Central to this course is the understanding that self and identity are both the product of social interaction, and a force impacting the societies which help create them. Toward that end, students investigate the connections between social media and the following: 1) The “commodified self” and consumerism, including self-branding, “micro-celebrity,” and the rise of online influencers. 2) Expanding opportunities for the expression of historically “marginalized” identities, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and social class. 3). New avenues for the formation and mobilization of oppositional (or resistance) identities, including collective identification with political movements spanning the ideological spectrum from the far left to the far right.
The central goal of this course is to provide students with a deeper appreciation for how digital technologies are fundamentally redefining traditional understandings of self and society, as well as to push participants to think more critically about their own place in what promises to an increasingly networked future. The course includes asynchronous work, which students are expected to complete between class sessions.
Tim Novak holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in media sociology from the New School for Social Research as well as a B.A. in humanities from the University of California, San Diego. For over twenty-five years he has been teaching college-level courses in sociology, media, and communications. His research focuses on the relationships between media, technology, social movements, persuasion, and identity formation.
Specific course details such as topics, activities, hours, and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.