Digital Discourse

Digital Discourse

Carmel L. Vaisman

4 credits

2018-9 Fall Semester

Sunday & Thursday 2pm

Office Hours: by appointment


Short description:

Are digital communication technologies making the world a better place or hindering human sociality? Are we shaping technology or is it shaping us? The course introduces the theoretical frameworks of technological determinism on its utopian and dystopian discourses, versus social constructivism of technology, as interpretive lens for some of the key discourses concerning the digital culture we produce and inhabit. We shall engage contemporary discourses such as: language change between orality, literacy, and iconicity; digital identities between performance and self-branding; cooperation and wisdom of crowds versus incivility and mob mentality in networked publics; private/public boundaries collapse and surveillance culture; participatory culture and peer production versus the exploitation of our immaterial labor; human agency versus algorithmic-mediation etc. Ultimately, students will be able to better asses on a case by case basis, what is the meaning of the "new" in "new media".



The course is "gamified", thus the students choose a group of peers with which they work in class the entire semester and compete against other groups to earn the respective grade components.  


For B.A in Liberal Arts program:

Perfect attendance & in class weekly assignments                 30 %

Memes midterm assignment                                                35 %

Critical Discourse Analysis final assignment                           35 %


For OSP students:

Perfect attendance & in class weekly assignments                 30 %

Memes midterm assignment                                                30 %

Extra Assignment                                                               20 %

Critical Discourse Analysis final assignment                          20 %



Attendance is mandatory. Students are permitted a maximum of three unexcused absences without penalty. Any additional absences will affect the final grade and may result in failure of the course.


Course Schedule and Readings

This schedule is tentative and may change as the course progresses.


Part I - sociolinguistic aspects of digital communication: the role of language in online identity, community & conversation

Introduction to language and technology, addressing the question of change *Deutsher, G. (2005). The Unfolding of Language: An evolutionary tour of mankind's greatest invention. UK: Arrow books. Pp. 62, 63-77.  

Online language between orality and literacy
* Soffer, O. (2010). "Silent Orality": Towards Conceptualization of the Digital Oral Features in CMC and SMS Texts. Communication Theory 20(4): 387-404.

New media Literacies and the visual turn in digital language
*Lebduska, L. (2014). “Emoji, Emoji, What for Art Thou?" Harlot, Vol. 12.


Language and Identity performance

*Pearson, E. (2009). All the World Wide Web's a stage: The performance of identity in online social networks. First Monday, 14(3).


Language, gender and race online

*Vaisman, C.L. (2014) Beautiful script, cute spelling and glamorous words: Doing girlhood through language playfulness on Israeli blogs. Language & Communication 34: 69-80.


Identity and authenticity on social networks
*Marwick, A. and boyd, d. (2011). "I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately": Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience. New Media & Society 13(1): 114-133.


The challenges of mediated conversation
*Pinchevski, A. (2003) ethics on the line. The Southern Communication Journal 68 (2) pg. 152-166.

New media, new conversational strategies
*Naper, I. (2011).  "Conversation in a multimodal 3D virtual environment" Language@Internet, 8, article 7.

The Virtual community and its discontents
*Dibbell, J. (1993) "A Rape in Cyberspace, or How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database into a Society." In Peter Ludlow, ed., High Noon on the Electronic Frontier, 1996. pp. 375-396


From virtual communities to social networks
*John, N. A. (2013).  Sharing and Web 2.0: The emergence of a keyword. New Media & Society 15(2): 167-182.



Networked publics: the wisdom of crowds or the trolling of mobs?

*Surowiecki, J. (2005). The Wisdom of Crowds. Anchor Books. pp. 6-11.

*Senft, T. (2014). Hating Habermas: On Exhibitionism, Shame & the Life on the Actually Existing Internet.” Either/And: New Theories of Exhibitionism & Display. British Media Museum Books.


 29/11/18-2/12/18    Hanukkah MemeFest (midterm group presentations)

  1. Grundlingh, L. (2018). Memes as Speech Acts. Social Semiotics 28(2):147–168.
  2. Brubaker, J. R. (2008). Wants Moar: visual Media use of text in LOL cats and silent film. Gnovis Journal 8 (2): 117-124.
  3. Gawne, L. and Vauhgan, J. (2011). I can haz speech play: The construction of language and identity in LOLspeak. Paper presented at the Canberra Langfest 2011, ALS2011: Australian Linguistics Society Annual Conference.
  4. Shifman L (2014) The cultural logic of photo-based genres. Journal of Visual Culture 13(3): 340–358.
  5. Huntington, H. E. (2016). Pepper Spray Cop and the American Dream: Using Synecdoche and Metaphor to Unlock Internet Memes’ Visual Political Rhetoric, Communication Studies 67(1):77-93.
  6. Milner, M. R. (2013). Pop Polyvocality: Internet Memes, Public Participation, and the Occupy Wall Street Movement. International Journal of Communication 7: 2357-2390.
  7. Kendall, L. (2007). Colin Mochrie vs. Jesus H. Christ: Messages about masculinities and fame in online video conversations. Proceedings of the Fortieth Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences. Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE Press.



Part II- Critical analysis of key technology discourses

Discourses of technology's influence and agency
*Baym, N. K. (2010). Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Polity Press. Pp 22-49.
 *Winner, L. (1980). Do Artifacts have Politics? Daedalus 109: 121-136.

The Language of new media: Metaphors & Code
*Markham, A. (2003). Metaphors reflecting and shaping the reality of the Internet: Tool, place, way of being. Paper presented at the conference of the International Association of Internet Researchers in Toronto, Canada, October 2003.


Social media: playground or a factory?

*Fisher, E. (2012). "How Less Alienation Creates More Exploitation? Audience Labour on Social Network Sites", tripleC 10(2): 171-183.


Deconstructing "privacy"
*Bennett, C. J. (2011). In Defense of Privacy: The concept and the regime. Surveillance & Society 8(4): 485-96.


Big Brother and Panopticons in the age of Algorithms

*Doyl, W. and Fraser, M. (2010). Facebook, surveillance and power. In: Wittkower, D. E. (Ed.), Facebook and Philosophy, Carus Publishing Company. pp. 215-230.

*Bucher, T. (2012). "Want to be on the top? Algorithmic power and the threat of invisibility on Facebook." New Media and Society, 14(7): 1164–1180.


Discourses of Addiction & Disconnection
*Cover, R. (2006). Gaming (Ad)diction: Discourse, Identity, Time and Play in the Production of the Gamer Addiction Myth. The International Journal of Computer Game Research volume 6 issue 1


Additional Bibliography

Online language

Baron, N. S. (2008). Always On:  Language in an Online and Mobile World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Barthes, R. (1975). The Pleasure of the Text. New York: Hill & Wang

Boyd, D. (2010). "Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications." In Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (ed. Zizi Papacharissi), pp. 39-58.

Dresner, E., & Herring, S. C. (2010). Functions of the non-verbal in CMC: Emoticons and illocutionary force. Communication Theory 20:249-268.

Lankshear, C., and Knobel, M. (2007). Researching new literacies:

Web 2.0 practices and insider perspectives. E-Learning 4(3): 224-240.

Shortis, T. (2007). 'Gr8 Txtpectations': The Creativity of Text spelling. English Drama Media 8.

Soffer, O. & Eshet-Alkalai, Y. (2009). Back to the future: An historical perspective on the pendulum-like changes in literacy. Minds and Machines: Journal for Artificial intelligence, Philosophy and Cognitive Science, 19: 47–59.

Werry, C. C. (1996) Linguistic and Interactional Features of Internet Relay Chat. In Herring, S. (Ed.) Computer-Mediated Communication: linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.


Language & identity

Bucholtz, M. and Hall, K. (2004). Language and Identity. In Duranti, A. (ed.), A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. pp. 268-294.

Deaumert, A. (2014). The Performance of a Ludic Self of Social Network(ing) Sites. In: The Language of Social Media: Communication and Community on the Internet, ed. by Philip Seargeant and Caroline Tagg. London/New York: Palgrave/MacMillan.

Goffman, E. (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday.

MacAulay, M. & Moldes, M. D. (2016) Queen don't compute: reading and casting shade on Facebook's real names policy, Critical Studies in Media Communication, 33(1)-6-22.

Nakamura, L. (2014). Gender and Race Online. In Society and the Internet: How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing Our Lives, eds. Mark Graham and William H. Dutton. Oxford University Press.

Senft, T. (2012). “Microcelebrity and the Branded Self.” In: Blackwell Companion to New Media Dynamics. Eds. Jean Burgess and Axel Bruns. Blackwell. pp 346-354.

Page, R. (2014). “Hoaxes, Hacking and Humour: Analysing Impersonated Identity Online.” In: The Language of Social Media: Communication and Community on the Internet, ed. by Philip Seargeant and Caroline Tagg. London/New York: Palgrave/MacMillan.

Thurlow, C. (2013). Fakebook: Synthetic Media, Pseudo-sociality, and the Rhetorics of Web 2.0. In: Tannen, D. and, Trester, A. M. (Eds.). Discourse 2.0: Language and New Media. Washington: Georgetown University Press.

Vaisman, C. L. (2016). Pretty in Pink vs. Pretty in Black: Blogs as Gendered Avatars. Visual Communication 15 (3):293-315.


Mediated conversation

Baron, N. (2014). Consequences of Connection: Loneliness, Reading, and Robots. Communication & Social Change 2 (1): 2-28.

Gershon, I. (2010). The Break-Up 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media. Cornell University Press. pp 1-15.

Hutchby, I. (2001) Conversation and Technology: From the Telephone to the Internet. Cambridge: Polity. Chapter 8.

Page, R. (2012). The linguistics of self-branding and micro-celebrity in Twitter: The role of hashtags. Discourse & Communication 6(2) 181–201.

Peyton, T. (2014). Emotion to Action? In: Benski, T. and Fisher, E. (Eds.). Internet and Emotions, New York: Routledge. 113-128.

Tannen, D. (2013). "The medium is the metamessage: Conversational style in social media interaction." Discourse 2.0: Language and New Media. Ed. Tannen, Deborah & Anna Marie Trester. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Turkle, S. (2015). Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. New York: Penguin Press. pp. 19-35.

Zelenkauskaite, A., & Herring, S. C. (2008). Television-mediated conversation: Coherence in Italian iTV SMS chat. Proceedings of the Forty-First Hawai'i International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-41). Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE Press.


Community, Publics & Anti sociality

Coleman, G. (2012). Phreaks, Hackers, and Trolls: The Politics of Transgression and Spectacle. In: Michael Mandiberg (ed.), The Social Media Reader. NYU Press. pp. 99-119. 

Marwick, A. E. and boyd, d. (2014). 'It's just drama’: teen perspectives on conflict and aggression in a networked era, Journal of Youth Studies, 17(9): 1187-1204.

Pariser, E. (2011). The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is hiding from you.  New York: The Penguin Press. Chapter 5.

Rheingold, H. (1993). The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. MIT Press.

Suler, J. (2004). The Online Disinhibition Effect. Cyberpsychology & Behavior 7(3): 321-326.

Turkle S. (1996). “Virtuality and its Discontents: Searching for Community in Cyberspace”, The American Prospect, 21: 50-57.

Tellman, B. (2001). Physical place and cyber place: The rise of personalized networking. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 25:227-252.


Technology influence discourses

Dusek, V. (2006). Philosophy of Technology: An Introduction, Wiley-Blackwell.

Feenberg, A. 1999. Questioning Technology . London and New York: Sage Publications.

Fisher, D. R. and Wright, L. M. (2001), On Utopias and Dystopias: Toward an Understanding of the Discourse Surrounding the Internet. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 6.

Peters, J. (1989). Satan and savior: Mass communication in progressive thought.

Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 6: 247-263.


Metaphors & code

Manovich, L. 2001. The Language of New Media . Cambridge: MIT Press.

Vaisman, C. (Forthcoming). "Solidifying Metaphors by Platforms". In: Ways of Being in the Digital Age, edited by Markham, A. and Tiidenberg, K. chapter 14. The MIT Press.

van den Boomen, M. (2014). Transcoding the digital: how metaphors matter in new media. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.


Audience labor

Benkler, Y. (2004). Sharing Nicely: On Shareable Goods and the Emergence of Sharing as a Modality of Economic Production. Yale Law Journal 114: 273.

Fuchs, Christian. ‘Dallas Smythe Today: The Audience Commodity, The Digital Labour Debate, Marxist Political Economy and Critical Theory. Prolegomena to a Digital Labour Theory of Value’. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society 10, no. 2 (2012): 692-740.

Scholz, T. (ed.) (2013). Digital Labor: the Internet as Playground and Factory. New York: Routledge.


Privacy & Surveillance

Arendt, H. (1958). The Human Condition. The University of Chicago Press. Chapter 2.

Bauman, Z. and Lyon, D. (2013). Liquid Surveillance: A Conversation. Polity Press. Chapter 2.

Nissenbaum, H. (2011). "A Contextual Approach to Privacy Online," Daedalus 140 (4): 32-48.

Poster, M. (1995). Databases as discourse, or electronic interpellations. In The second media age. Cambridge: Polity Press. pp. 78-94.


Addiction & Disconnection

Griffiths M. (1998). Internet addiction: Does it really exist? In J. Gackenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the internet: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal applications (pp. 61–75). New York: Academic Press.

Light, B. (2014). Disconnecting with social Networking Sites. Palgrave Macmillan.

Schull, N. D. (2012). Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas. Princeton University Press.

Tel Aviv University makes every effort to respect copyright. If you own copyright to the content contained
here and / or the use of such content is in your opinion infringing, Contact us as soon as possible >>