New Indiana University Undergrad Course Exploring Identity and Communication Online

This semester I’ll be teaching EDUC-U 212 Virtually Real: Myths and Realities of Online Identities. It’s a 2-credit class for undergraduates that is scheduled for the second half of the fall semester. I’m still finalizing the syllabus and I’ll make it available here when it’s finalized.

In the class, we’re going to explore how youths and young adults use online tools such as Facebook and MySpace to explore and exhibit personal identity. It’s a short course so it will be very focused on identity, mediated communication, and Social Network Sites (SNS). Although it will be firmly grounded in theory and current research, the class will have a very practical bent as students should leave the class better prepared to understand not only their own online actions but also some of the forces shaping those actions. At the end of the class, students should be able to:

  • Recognize and describe ways in which people present themselves online
  • Describe properties of online communication
  • Describe and critically evaluate popular views and (mis)conceptions of online communication and behavior
  • Make thoughtful, appropriate, and practical analysis of and recommendations regarding young adults’ use of online communication tools

For those interested in the gory details, we’ll be using Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life as the primary touchstone regarding identity and how identity is performed. We won’t have time to read more than a chapter or two but it’s a very insightful book with powerful but accessible ideas. We’ll also spend time looking at Suler’s Online Disinhibition Effect. Although I perceive some significant flaws in Suler’s ideas (there’s a strong feeling of determinism from which I instinctively cringe) it’s an accessible summary of some important ideas. We’ll also be looking at some of the current research regarding SNS use among youths and undergraduates.

Interested IU undergraduates should be able to sign up for the course using OneStart. If you have any trouble signing up for the course or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at

Edit: I’ve received a few questions and it may be helpful to answer them here, too. The class is scheduled to meet on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:00 until 6:15 in Foster SH021. The section number is 33403. And you don’t have to be an active user of Facebook or MySpace to enroll in and benefit from the class assuming that you have some knowledge of those tools and how others are using them.

Update: I’ve uploaded the syllabus.







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