Hacking Social Space: Transforming Our Digital Cultures


Monday 2:00-2:50pm (Lecture)
CSI 1115



Krista Caballero
E-mail: klc@umd.edu
Office: 0103 Queen Anne’s Hall
Office Phone: 301-405-2866
Office Hours: by appointment

Dr. Jason Farman
E-mail: jfarman@umd.edu
Office: 2107B Holzapfel Hall
Office Phone: 301.405.9524
Office Hours: Mondays and Tuesdays, 12:00-2:00pm or by appointment

Leah Flake
E-mail: flake.leah@gmail.com
Office: 0103 Queen Anne’s Hall
Office Phone: 301.405.2866
Office Hours: by appointment/email


The ways that we think about and practice space deeply affects our relationship with the digital world. Early descriptions of the internet used spatial metaphors to describe our experiences. From William Gibson’s early use of the term “cyberspace” to notions of the web as the “final frontier,” we have always conceived of these technologies as spatial. As digital technologies become pervasive and ubiquitous, locating one’s self simultaneously in cyberspace and in material space has become an everyday action for many people. With this alteration of embodied space, the cultural objects we are producing and interacting with are also being transformed. This course will analyze how digital media are changing our thoughts and practices about space and place, using examples such as virtual reality, mapping, surveillance, pervasive computing, and augmented reality. We will trace not only the historical development of how technologies have transformed space, but also seek to imagine future practices for this transformation of space.  Each section will take a unique approach to the hands-on exploration of hacking social space.

Course Objectives:

  • To investigate a variety of theories of space and place across human culture and history. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the ways in which cultural definitions and practices of space have changed through their interactions with technology.
  • Students will utilize a wide range of methods to investigate emerging media and the cultures that produce these media. These include methods drawn from the arts and humanities, qualitative and quantitative studies of intercultural and interpersonal interactions with spatial media, and theoretical approaches to studies of space and the senses in pervasive computing culture.
  • The course will describe the ways in which spatial metaphors and practices in digital cultural reflect a way of thinking, cultural heritage, and the larger set of cultural values and aspects of the societies we will study.
  • Students will identify their own assumptions and values about emerging media and identify the underlying premises in these assumptions.
  • Students will use a wide range of location-aware and pervasive computing technologies to conduct their research and design their final projects.


Required Texts:

All readings will be available in ELMS


  • Assignment #1: Flash Mobs: 10%
  • Assignment #2: Mis-Guide of Campus: 10%
  • Midterm: 15%
  • Surveillance Map and Write-Up: 10%
  • Infrastructure Map and Write-Up: 10%
  • Final Project Proposal: 5%
  • Final Project: 25%
  • Participation (including Twitter Responses and co-curriculars): 15%

Written Assignments:

Throughout the semester you will turn in several written assignments. These papers must be written in 12 point Times New Roman font, double spaced, and cite sources accurately in MLA or APA style. You must turn in your written assignments electronically as Word documents or PDFs. You must email your paper directly to your section leader. No late work will be accepted.

Note on Academic Honesty and Plagiarism: Any source that you draw ideas and quotes from must be cited accurately in your paper in APA or MLA style.  If you use any source in your work without correctly citing the work, this constitutes plagiarism.  Any intentional plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the assignment and may result in a failing grade for the course.

Category A: Sloppiness. Automatic “0” on paper, with option to rewrite for no better than a “C”
Category B: Ignorance. Automatic “0” on paper, with option to rewrite for no better than a “C”
Category C: Obvious Conscious Cheating. Automatic “0” on paper, with no option for rewriting

Students caught plagiarizing a second time will be asked to leave the class and will receive an automatic “0” in the course.
For those of you who are not aware of what constitutes plagiarism, here is a breakdown of the various types:
1. Buying papers, borrowing papers, or recycling former papers unrevised and claiming these types of papers as your own for your assignment in this course. (This constitutes a Category C offense)
2. Cutting and pasting parts of a webpage or borrowing passages from a book for your paper without properly citing these parts and claiming the material as your own for the expressed intent of cheating. (This constitutes a Category C offense)
3. Failing to use proper citation style for material you borrow, accidentally. (This constitutes either a Category A or B offense)

Co-curricular activities and Classroom Participation

An important element of this course is participation. There will be classroom participation
in the form of things such as twitter posts, group activities, and your interaction
over the course of the semester. There will also be a variety of workshops, films and visiting lectures throughout the semester. You will be required to participate in the following:

  • 2 workshops
  • 2 visiting lectures/DCC events
  • 1 TechnoFilm

Twitter Responses (to Readings and to Lectures):

You will need a Twitter account to interact with the course readings and the in-class lectures. For each set of readings, you must write a short reaction (comment, question, challenge) to one or more of the readings. You will post this before lecture every Monday, which must include the hashtag #dcc106. At the end of the semester, you will be posting updates about your fieldwork and project progress. During lecture on Mondays, we will have a backchannel for Twitter responses. You must write a similar reaction to the content covered and can take any form (reaction, question, conversation with other students) and must include the course hashtag. You will need to provide at least one reaction during each class. I recommend setting up a Twitter archive through a service like Backupify.com/Tweetbackup.com so you can track how many times you have contributed throughout the semester. Your Twitter Responses are worth 10% of your grade.

Students with Disabilities:

The University is legally obligated to provide appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities. The campus’ Disability Support Services Office (DSS) works with students and faculty to address a variety of issues ranging from test anxiety to physical and psychological disabilities. If a student or instructor believes that the student may have a disability, they should consult with DSS (4-7682, email Dissup@umd.edu). Note that to receive accommodations, students must first have their disabilities documented by DSS. The office then prepares an Accommodation Letter for course instructors regarding needed accommodations. Students are responsible for presenting this letter to their instructors.

—Please Note: This syllabus is subject to change at any time according to the professor’s discretion.  The assignments below may also include readings handed out in class, which each student is responsible for completing.


Week 1: Introductions: Defining Space for a Digital Age
Jan. 30

  • Syllabus overview
  • Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, Ch. 1
  • Elizabeth Grosz, “Cyberspace, Virtuality, and the Real” from Architecture from the Outside.


Week 2: Theories of Space as Practice
Feb 6

  • Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place, Introduction and Ch. 5 “Spaciousness and Crowding”
  • Bill Wasik, “#Riot: Self-Organized, Hyper-Networked Revolts—Coming to a City Near You.” Wired Magazine. January 2012, http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/12/ff_riots/.


Week 3: Theories of Pervasive Computing and Augmented Reality Space
Feb. 13

  • Adriana de Souza e Silva, “From Cyber to Hybrid: Mobile Technologies as Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces.” Space and Culture 9.3 (2006).
  • Paul Dourish, Where the Action Is, Preface and Ch. 2, “Getting in Touch”
  • - Assignment #1 Due


Week 4: Space as Power
Feb. 20

  • Edward Soja, Seeking Spatial Justice, Pg. 13-24
  • Vincent Mosco, The Ditgital Sublime, Chapter 4


Week 5: Power and Mapping
Feb. 27

  • Mark Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps, Introduction and Ch. 3, “Map Generalizations”
  • Mei-Po Kwan, “Affecting Geospatial Technologies: Toward a Feminist Politics of Emotion,” The Professional Geographer 59.1 (2007): 22-34.
  • Jason Farman, “Mapping the Digital Empire: Google Earth and the Process of Postmodern Cartography”
  • -Assignment #2 Due


Week 6: Military and Space
March 5

  • Trevor Paglen, Blank Spots on the Map, Ch. 1 and 4
  • Wendy Chun, Control and Freedom, Introduction


Week 7: Midterm
March 12

  • Midterm Exam


March 19

  • No class meetings


Week 9: Privacy and Location Awareness
March 26

  • Christian Licoppe and Yoriko Inada, “Mediated Co-Proximity and its Dangers in a Location-Aware Community: A Case of Stalkin”
  • Adriana de Souza e Silva and Jordan Frith, “Location-Awareness in the Contemporary City”


Week 10: Surveillance (With Guest Lecture from Hasan Elahi)
April 2


Week 11: Infrastructure
April 9


Week 12: Case Studies of Transforming Space: Mobilities and Transportation
April 16

  • Surveillance map and Infrastructure map due, with 2-page write-ups on each


Week 13: Case Studies of Transforming Space: Space-based Art
April 23


Week 14: Case Studies of Transforming Space: Locative Gaming
April 30


Week 15: Gallery Show of Final Projects
May 7


Week 16: Finals

  • Wednesday, May 16 Turn in final projects by 1:30 pm to your section leaders via e-mail

Twitter updates

No public Twitter messages.