Computer-Mediated Communication
Course basics
What   Computer-Mediated Communication (IS290-12)
When   Tuesday and Thursday, 12:30 to 2 pm
Where   Room 110, South Hall
Instructors   Coye Cheshire (coye@sims)
Andrew Fiore (atf@sims)
Office hours   Tuesday and Thursday, 2 to 3 pm, 305A South Hall
News and Announcements

Thu 16 Nov :: Please post project summaries to wiki

Please add your project summaries here.

Thu 19 Oct :: Interim report assignment posted

We've posted the detailed description of Assignment 2. It is due on Thu 2 Nov.

Tue 17 Oct :: Interim report due date changed

We have pushed back the due date for the interim project/paper report to Thu 2 Nov.

Sun 8 Oct :: Final project assignment posted

Detailed information about the two tracks for the final paper/project is now available.

Thu 5 Oct :: Sign up for meeting times for next week

We would like to meet with all of you sometime next week to discuss your problem statements and final project ideas. To that end, there's a wiki page on which you can sign up for 15-minute time slots on Tuesday 10/10 from 3-5 pm and Thursday 10/12 from 2-5 pm. Have at it... and email us if you will not be able to make any of these times.

Thu 31 Aug :: Grading scheme clarified

We updated the assignments page to clarify the grading scheme. Let us know if you have any questions.

Wed 30 Aug :: Class computing services

We encourage you to sign up for the class mailing list (cmc@sims) and get access to the class wiki as soon as possible. Instructions for both follow. We want you all to help us shape this class so that it is as useful and as interesting to you as possible; a great way to do that is to contribute actively to these shared resources. Please contact Andrew if you have any trouble with the procedures below.

Accounts for students outside iSchool

If you are not an iSchool student, you will need to request an iSchool account to access the class wiki. Use this form to do so. Your "sponsor" should be Andrew Fiore. Once you receive notice that your iSchool account has been created, you can proceed to create your wiki account as described below.

Subscribing to the mailing list

If you have an iSchool account, you can subscribe yourself to the class mailing list (cmc@sims) via my.sims.

Alternatively, you can subscribe any address (not just an iSchool one) by sending email to with the line "subscribe cmc" (minus the quotation marks) in the body of the message.

Wiki access

First of all, for those of you who have wiki accounts that we could find, we've already added you to the access list for the CMC class wiki.

If you do not yet have an iSchool wiki account, you can create one here. The wiki software will prompt you for your iSchool username and password and then take you to the registration form. (If you are not an iSchool student, you must complete the step in the previous paragraph before you can do this.) Note that WikiNames are MixedCase words with NoSpaces, like CoyeCheshire.

Once you have your wiki account, email AndrewFiore (atf@sims) to be granted access to the CMC class wiki. Sorry for all the hassle — there are a lot of layers of accounts here. Once it is set up, you shouldn't have to worry about it again.

Course description

This course covers the practical and theoretical issues associated with computer-mediated communication (CMC) systems. CMC includes many different types of technologies such as email, newsgroups, chat, and online games. We will focus on the analysis of CMC practices, the social structures that emerge when people use these applications, and the design and implementation issues associated with constructing CMC technologies.

We will primarily take a social scientific approach to computer-mediated communication (including research from psychology, social psychology, economics, and sociology). We will investigate questions such as: How do we represent identity and perceive others in CMC environments? How are interfaces and visualizations used in CMC to help make sense of relationships? Why do some Wikis "succeed" while others do not? How is the production of open source software such as Linux similar to (and different from) a social movement? Why are reputations useful in some online environments, and not in others? Can we really develop meaningful relationships and perhaps even love-purely through CMC?

Grading and assignments

Final project

The primary graded assignment in this class will come from a final project. The final project can either be a single-author paper (Type A final project) or an actual application or CMC-related prototype with up to two student developers (Type B final project). The final project details (including deliverables and how to choose which type of project to do) will be distributed in the first few weeks of class. The final project grade will make up 60% of your final grade.

Project development mini-assignments

There will be three graded assignments during the semester, each related to the development of your final project. These three assignments will be worth 10% each, for a combined total of 30% of your final grade.


The remaining 10% of your grade will come from regular class attendance, participation, and instructor discretion. Part of your participation grade will come from acting as a class discussion leader on at least one assigned week. Two to three students will be assigned as discussion leaders for each Thursday in the semester. These discussion leaders will guide the discussion of the week's material for the last 30 minutes of class each Thursday. The discussion leader week assignments will be created during the first week of class.

Course readings

The readings in this course include current academic research articles, "classic" texts from the area of computer-mediated communication, book chapters, and some popular-press pieces. Students are expected to do the readings before the day for which they are assigned.

Most of the readings for the course are available online, usually through one of the many online journal subscriptions that are carried by UC-Berkeley. If you choose to read/print the articles yourself, you can follow the links provided (where applicable) and make your own copy. To access some of these links from off campus, you will need to use the Berkeley library proxy server. Please contact Andrew if you have any trouble accessing them. For book chapters and other readings that are not available online, we will make a print copy available outside of room 305A for you to photocopy and return.

For those who would like a full print reader, we are making one available through Copy Central. These are going to be produced on a per-request basis ONLY, so we will ask you to make a decision about purchasing a printed reader by the end of the first week of classes.