This is the course website for Prof. Portwood-Stacer’s social media course at NYU.

Course Description

This course will examine “social media” from a cultural perspective, with a focus on how media technologies figure in practices of everyday life and in the construction of social relationships and identities. We will work from an expansive definition of what constitutes “social media,” considering social network sites, smartphone apps, and online games, among other technologies. Questions we will consider include: What tools can we use to study the place of social media in culture? How can social media enable the formation of community? How is identity performed in/with social media? How are constructions of youth, gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality mediated through social media technologies? Can social media technologies be a vehicle for political activism? What are the commercial uses of social media? What are the ethical issues associated with social media technologies? Is it possible to refuse social media? The course itself will involve communication in social media channels in addition to the traditional seminar format, thus we will be actively participating in the phenomena under study as we go.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Identify and critique instances of technological determinism in popular discourse on social media technologies
  • Critically evaluate methodologies employed by studies of social media use
  • Describe social media practices among various social groups, differentiated by age, gender, race, and sexual identity, among others
  • Understand performances of identity in social media
  • Critically evaluate the potential for social media technologies to facilitate the formation of identities, communities, activist movements, and consumer markets
  • Articulate some of the ethical problems posed by emerging social media technologies
  • Apply each of the above skills and concepts to their own real-life observations of social media use


Download the complete syllabus:

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