Cyberactivism and Cyberliberties
Interdisciplinary Studies Seminar II

Prof. Martha McCaughey
Fall 2004
Appalachian State University

Office: Living Learning Center, Room 211
Office hours:  Mondays and Wednesdays 10:00-NOON and by appt.
Email (but not as a substitute for office hours):
Class meets: Mon/Wed 6:30-7:45 PM
Classroom: Room 223 Living Learning Center

Course website:

Course Description:  Can a university block a student from creating his or her own political web page stored on the university’s web server?  What makes a web page any different from posting one’s own political flyer in the print era?  This course explores the ways in which the Internet and other computer technologies have affected people’s civil liberties, identities, and senses of democracy and community.  It simultaneously explores the efforts by computer professionals, lawyers, ethicists, college students, and average citizens to democratize the Internet, to make social change, and to exercise civil liberties.  The course stresses the ways in which people are enhanced, thwarted, and/or transformed by cyberspace and thus the new challenges before us as we settle into the digital age.  We will pursue questions such as: Is cyberspace as free from government restraint as the spoken or printed word is, or do special qualities of the medium itself warrant new standards or constraints? What level of privacy can an employee expect at work now that most of that work is done on a computer provided by the employer?  What forms of political protest occur online?  Are such forms as effective as traditional, face-to-face activism?  As we examine these issues, we will use interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary methods of inquiry and analysis.  

Course Requirements:
Students are expected to attend each seminar meeting, coming prepared to discuss the assigned readings and homework activities; to present and write reaction papers on particular issues pertaining to cyberliberties and/or cyberactivism; and to keep a list of online resources pertaining to cyberactivism and cyberliberties.  
    This course does not require special computer skills, other than the ability to surf the Internet and go to specific websites.  The course will allow you to develop more computer skills.
The required books are available for purchase at the university bookstore, or can be ordered at  Additional required readings will be available online (linked from our course website) or made available to you at Precision Printing store on Blowing Rock Rd (after announced in class).
 You will make four major presentations and submit a final paper, which you will have the option of putting online.  You choose the cyberactivist site and cyberliberties topic.  You may explore some cyberactivism with which you’re already involved or that you find objectionable.  For your presentation on cyberliberties I encourage you to explore an aspect that we did not fully cover in class.  
For all assignments presented in class I ask that you clear a topic with me before beginning so that no two presentations cover the same issue.  Possible presentation and paper topics include: peer-to-peer file sharing controversies; the open-source movement; hacking; cyberwar; employee computer privacy; students’ free speech online; the Observing Surveillance Project; phishing; flash mobbing; blogging during war; the USA Patriot Act; campus identification cards; cyberselfishness; cyberpeeping/cyberstalking; dot-coms; e- and online marketing and consumer privacy; online petitions; studies of specific online activist organizations; and studies of specific cyberliberties organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Grading (totals 100% or 100 points):  
Class attendance and participation: 10%
Semi-Weekly Presentations and Papers:
(due as scheduled in class or listed in schedule)
--Presentation of cyberliberties issue 1: 10%
--Presentation of cyberliberties issue 2: 10%
--Presentation on cyberactivist site/issue: 10%
--Presentation on cyberactivist site/issue 2: 10%
--Written and oral presentation of readings 1: 10%
--Written critical commentary and presentation about readings 1: 10%
--Written and oral presentation of readings 2: 10%
--Written critical commentary and presentation about readings 2: 10%
Final paper: 10%

Required Books (both in paperback):
Martha McCaughey and Michael D. Ayers (eds).  2003.  Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice. New York, NY: Routledge.
George Orwell.  1977 (1949).  1984.  NY: Signet Classic.

Additional Required Reading:
Most of the additional articles are available online, in which cases the URL is indicated in the reading schedule and is a link from the online syllabus on the course website.  Those not available online will be made available, after that availability is announced in class, at Precision Printing on Blowing Rock Road, just beyond the 321/105 intersection in Boone.  Be sure to check in advance so that you know whether your reading assignment is online or not, and make plans to access readings accordingly.

Course Reading and Assignment Schedule

What is Internet studies? What is cyberculture? How do technologies have politics?
Wed Aug 25
Introductory Discussion: What is activism? What is liberty? Why study cyberactivism and cyberliberties?  What is the cultural and political impact of computer and Internet technologies?  How do we differentiate between activism, liberty, identity, community, and commerce online?
(no readings for today- articles for next week passed out in class)
√ Homework (in addition to doing the assigned readings): Go to the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies and the ASU Internet Studies Program websites, check out their missions, and come to class next week prepared to discuss the reasons people seem to be studying the Internet.

Thinking about Liberty and Technology
Mon Aug 30
--Steven Jones, “The Internet and its Social Landscape” in Virtual Culture (1997) (provided in class Aug 25)
√ Homework: Consider whether/when/how you’ve experienced computer technology as liberating, constraining, oppressive, empowering, invasive, time consuming, and/or freeing.  Come to class with at least one example from 3 of the above categories.

Wed. Sept 1
--Progress and Freedom Foundation, “Cyberspace and the American Dream” online at
--George Orwell, 1984, Part One

Mon Sept 6 (Labor Day)

Wed Sept 8
--George Orwell, 1984, Part Two
Mon Sept 13
--George Orwell, 1984, Part Three

How the Internet Affects Ethics, Bodies, Spaces, and Meanings
Wed Sept 15
--Julian Dibbell, “A Rape in Cyberspace,” online at

The Internet and the University
Mon Sept 20  -- presentations of Cyberliberties Issue #1 begin today
--Robert M. O’Neil, “The Internet in the College Community.” Northern Illinois Law Review  1997 (provided in class)
--Annalee Newitz, “How US Schools Rate in Cyber Liberties” online at
√ Homework: Rate ASU’s cyberliberties using some of the criteria Newitz uses, and make up some of your own criteria

Making Ethical Decisions and Practicing Cyber Etiquette
Wed Sept 22
--Jeordan Legon, “Phishing Scams Reel Your Identity,” online at
--Marsha Woodbury, “Decision Making and Professionalism,” in Computer & Information Ethics
√ Homework:  Bring to class an example of poor Netiquette, a flame war, or email from a hate group.  OR: bring to class an email that you’ve received that is trying to get you to sign up for a credit card, give your Social Security Number, or provide banking information

Power, Inequality, Crime, and other Social Issues
Mon, Sept 27
Marsha Woodbury, “Social Issues,” in Computer & Information Ethics
Chris Hoofnagle, “Gender and Electronic Privacy,” online at

Wed Sept 29
Wyatt Galusky, MY GOOGLE, a play

Student Presentations on Cyberliberties #2 (all students)
Mon Oct 4
(readings supplied by each presenter the week prior)

Computer and Information Privacy
Wed Oct 6
--Erica Hill, “Cyber rights. . . and wrongs” online at
--Alan R. Earls, “Is Big Brother Watching the Wired Campus?” in Connection (2000)

Information, Privacy, and the Law
Mon Oct 11
--Daniel Solove and Marc Rotenberg, “Introduction,” in Information Privacy Law
--Daniel Solove and Marc Rotenberg, “Privacy at School,” in Information Privacy Law

Wed Oct 13
Submit written presentation or commentary only today, by email to

[[[ASU Fall Break]]]

Workplace Privacy
Mon Oct 18
--Liz Stevens, “Work! You’re on Company Camera,” online at
--Martha McCaughey, “Windows Without Curtains: Computer Privacy and Academic Freedom,” online at

Wed Oct 20
Eric Raymond, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” online at
--Jonah Peretti, “My Nike Email Adventure,” The Nation (2001), online at
--Martha McCaughey and Michael Ayers, Cyberactivism, Introduction
√ Homework: Bring in one (and only one) web address of a political web site.  Come prepared to tell the class the mission of the website or its organization and what is political or activist about the site.

The Open-Source Movement
Mon Oct 25
--Richard M. Stallman, “Why Software Should Not Have Owners” and “What’s in a Name?” in Free Software Free Society
The Open-Source Movement (read at least three sections of your choice), online at

Cyber-Social Movements Emerging Online
Wed Oct 27
--Martha McCaughey and Michael Ayers, Cyberactivism, chapters 1-2

Mon Nov 1—begin Student Presentations on Cyberactivism #1--
--Martha McCaughey and Michael Ayers, Cyberactivism, chapter 3-4

Theorizing Online Activism
Wed, Nov 3
--Martha McCaughey and Michael Ayers, Cyberactivism, chapters 5-6
--“A Manifesto for Bad Subjects in Cyberspace,” Bad Subjects online journal, online at

Mon Nov 8
--Martha McCaughey and Michael Ayers, Cyberactivism, chapters 7-8

Is it Really Activism?  Community, Empowerment, and Capitalism Online
Wed Nov 10
--Andrew Feenberg, “Community Technology and Democratic Rationalization”
--Martha McCaughey and Michael Ayers, Cyberactivism, chapters 9-10

--Martha McCaughey and Michael Ayers, Cyberactivism, chapter 11 and Epilogue

Student Presentations on Cyberactivism
Mon Nov 15
 (student presenter will provide a relevant reading the week prior)

Student Presentations on Cyberactivism
Wed Nov 17
(student presenters will provide a relevant reading the week prior)

Mon Nov 22
(open topic/guest presenter)--We will read MY GOOGLE: a Play by Wyatt Galusky

Wed Nov 24
Online assignment today (no class meeting). Details announced in class the week prior.

[[[ASU Thanksgiving Break]]]

Mon Nov 29
(open topic/guest presenter)--We will read "Virtual Reality" by Derek Stanovsky-- avail. from the Prof. with permission from D.S.

Interdisciplinary Methods of Studying the Internet
Wed Dec 1
Michael D. Ayers, “A Man Studying Women Online,” in XXX.  Not yet published (used with permission)
James Witte, “The Case for Multimethod Research,” in Society Online: The Internet in Context”

Mon Dec 6 (last class)
Summary, Review, Discussion of Final Papers, Course Evaluations

Final Paper due before or during the scheduled final exam period for this course at my office (or my office mailbox).  No emailed final papers please unless arranged in advance.

Note: this is not any kind of endorsement of the missions or perspectives of any of these websites.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility:
Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Electronic Privacy Information Center:
The Digital Speech Project:

Kuro5hin, on technology and culture:
Wired News:
New City, a subculture news site:
Tasty Bits from the Technology Front:
Science and Technology Daily:
@stake Security News:
Linux Today:

Erin O’Connor’s Blog:
Kevin Sites’ warblog:
Jeremy Hunsinger’s Blog:
Howard Rheingold’s Blog:
The Reverse Cowgirl’s Blog:
Sean Savage’s Blog:

Wired online magazine:
Plastic Plastic:
Salon online magazine: The Culture Jammer’s Encyclopedia:

IT and Society journal:
Website of interviews and reviews on new media technology and science:

Center for Law, Technology, and the Arts:

Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan:
Feminist Majority Foundation:

Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies:
Association of Internet Researchers:
ASU’s Internet Studies Program: