Philosophy 3210 Ethics and Technology: Social Media CRN 21041


WGST 4600 IB Gender and Social Media CRN 21213

Spring 2018 Online by Blazeview which is accessed through the University homepage, and clicking on MyVSU at the top, logging in, then choosing Blazeview.

This syllabus link is

If you need help, email me or call me using the information below:

Dr. Christine James 
Office: 1203 Ashley Hall, Valdosta State University

Office Hours: MTWR 2:00pm-3:15pm
Office Telephone: 229-259-7609   Home Telephone: 229-253-9265

Mailbox: Philosophy Department Office, Valdosta State University
Fax: 229-259-5011
E-mail address:

Once class begins you should actually use the Email feature within the class Blazeview area to contact me.

Our three textbooks, in the order they are needed: 

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens Paperback – February 2, 2015

by danah boyd. Paperback: 296 pages

Publisher: Yale University Press (February 24, 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0300199007

ISBN-13: 978-0300199000

Paperback $10.90 Kindle $10.36


Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap (The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning) Paperback – September 2, 2016

by Carrie James. Paperback: 198 pages

Publisher: The MIT Press; Reprint edition (September 2, 2016)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0262529416

ISBN-13: 978-0262529419

Paperback $17.95 Kindle $9.99


Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics 1st Edition

by Jeremy Harris Lipschultz. Paperback: 268 pages

Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (August 9, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1138776459

ISBN-13: 978-1138776456

Paperback: $50.59 eTextbook $16.18


If you like Kindle, that’s fine, but be sure to cite your direct quotes in all Discussions, Papers, and Quizzes (Exams) using the Kindle “location” numbers, the loc (students with paper books will be using page numbers for citation in all course work.) I also have the book on Kindle, so don’t worry about using location numbers, I will know what you mean.

Purpose and goals of the course: This course will provide a chance to analyze the ethical, social, and political issues of online communication in social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We will address traditional ethical theories, and consider how the special issues surrounding social media have affected young people in the last twenty years. Students will develop an understanding of ethics as it relates to the history of ethical theory, and we will use a variety of case studies from the texts and the internet.

A Special Note: Because the course is on social media and internet technology, you may notice that the textbook has some specific medical terms in it. For example, an “MUD” and a "MOO" are referred to in some of our materials. The books may not go into detail on what those acronyms mean. (MUD is a multiplayer real-time virtual world, and MOO is a MUD that is object oriented with participants connected at the same time – synchronized.) Please feel free to use the internet to look up new terms. The ethical theory involved is the most important thing, so don't worry if you don't have a lot of technical background. But, when there is a term you don't know, you should feel comfortable looking it up online. Finding out about something new may be the start of a great discussion post you can share with the class in the Discussion tool! 

Learning Outcomes: 

In accordance with the revised learning outcomes for the Core Curriculum of the Georgia State System, and the VSU Core Curriculum, our course follows the Area C Learning Outcome:

"Students will analyze, evaluate, and interpret diverse forms of human communication."

Philosophy courses at Valdosta State University contribute to the VSU General Education Outcomes listed at the link below, with special emphasis on numbers 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8.

The Learning Outcomes for our PHIL 3210 are:

1. To evaluate the distinctions among the various philosophical approaches to social media, including the historical nature of ethics as an academic field.

2. To analyze how philosophical inquiry applies to ‘real-world’ circumstances and to specific case studies in social media research examples, and to understand the ethical theory models and how to apply each to real world policy issues.

3. To become conversant with understand the historical and structural context of the internet, as well as specific examples of the issues of race, class, and gender as they influence social media activities and policies.

4. To recognize and define different world views, adopting a reasonably viable one and justifying it in a philosophically informed way that emphasizes critical reasoning and argument.

5. To demonstrate the ability to analyze, in both oral and written discourse, selected social media issues within an appropriate ethical framework and offer alternative resolutions to the problem.

6. To synthesize defensible conclusions of whether social media participants, and policy makers, are applying ethics in the design of policies and programs.

7. To be familiar with what academic philosophy is, and to understand how it can be applied to daily life as well as specific careers.

Members of the faculty in Philosophy and Religious Studies have verified that these outcomes are in line with the outcomes of the course as it is taught at peer institutions in the State System of Georgia.
These course-specific learning outcomes contribute to the departmental learning outcomes of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Major by enabling students better to
1. To encourage an understanding of central issues, topics and philosophers in the history of philosophy, from the ancient to the modern periods.
2. To develop students’ abilities to think, write, and speak critically and logically.
3. To enable students to challenge their own ideas and to develop self-understanding in the context of a diverse range of ideas which inform contemporary controversies and social conflict.
4. To enable students to engage in independent philosophical research, and to be responsible for communicating their understanding of the issues researched and developed, including a working familiarity with current research methods. 
5. To incorporate philosophical positions in oral and written communications.
6. To critically outline and analyze a philosophical question.

Course content: This course provides an introduction to the ethical principles and decision making process relevant to social media. We will use a method combining specific cases from the research literature with the history of ethical principles from the philosophical literature.

Requirements: Class participation and contact, one examination, and two written papers.

How grades will be calculated:
A = 100 - 90%
B = 89 - 80%
C = 79 - 70%
D = 69 - 60%
F = 59 - 0% 

Class participation, contact, Discussion = 40%
1 First Exam at 20% = 20%
2 Papers at 20% = 40%
Total = 100%
*****Please note that I am not obligated to accept late work or to allow work to be turned in after the date given.*****

Participation Policy: Because this class is an internet-based class, your participation in the class will be evaluated through your contact with each other as a using a variety of internet resources, including the Blazeview Discussion tool and websites as well as posting related to the class text. You should take part in the internet discussions on a regular basis to receive full credit. In general, you should plan to take part in Discussion every day. Most of the time, you should answer the Discussion topic with an independent first response, and with responses to your fellow students to get a back-and-forth debate going. In general, it would be good to make your own first response to the discussion question you see for a particular date and pages in the book, then go back in and reply to two other students.

Access Statement: Students with disabilities who are experiencing barriers in this course may contact the Access Office for assistance in determining and implementing reasonable accommodations. The Access Office is located in Farbar Hall. The phone numbers are 229-245-2498 (V), 229-375-5871 (VP) and 229-219-1348 (TTY). For more information, please visit VSU’s Access Office or email:


Title IX Statement: Valdosta State University (VSU) is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive work and learning environment free from discrimination and harassment.  VSU is dedicated to creating an environment where all campus community members feel valued, respected, and included. Valdosta State University prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex (including pregnancy status, sexual harassment and sexual violence), sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, national origin, disability, genetic information, or veteran status, in the University's programs and activities as required by applicable laws and regulations such as Title IX. The individual designated with responsibility for coordination of compliance efforts and receipt of inquiries concerning nondiscrimination policies is the University's Title IX Coordinator: Maggie Viverette, Director of the Office of Social Equity,, 1208 N. Patterson St., Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia 31608, 229-333-5463.



Weekly Readings and Topics for Discussion

1/8-1/13 Week 1: On these dates, make sure you have bought the textbooks, and try to log in to the class. Be sure to get the textbook as soon as possible, in a one-month class having the book from the beginning is so important! As soon as you log in, be sure that you have done all of the following: post your first Discussion message introducing yourself to the class (Discussions are under Communication), take the first introductory Quiz tool (which is just a short set of getting to know you questions under Assessments), and post your first practice Assignment item (which is where you upload a short .doc .docx or .rtf saying who you are, to show you know how the Assignment tool works, it is also under Assessments). These short welcome Discussion, Quiz, and Assignment have a due date of 1/13/2018 at 11:59pm.

Also, you should be reading the Introduction and the first chapter of the Boyd book, It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens up to page 53.

Remember, to have excess financial aid direct deposited to your bank account, you must set up your information following the instructions here by the last day of drop/add:


The last day to transfer excess financial aid to Flex is January 17 at 5pm:

What is Philosophy? Do Philosophy majors get jobs related to that major? Here are two pages to answer that:

1/16-1/20 Week 2:


Read It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens Chapters 2 and 3, Privacy and Addiction, pages 54-99.


In general, each set of pages you see here in the Syllabus and in the Calendar has a Discussion topic you must do, replying to the question, and then replying to other students.  Go to MyVSU, then Blazeview, then the Home Page of the class. You might need to search for it if you have had many previous Blazeview classes by typing in the name of the class or the semester. Next, see the choices inside the class on the middle menu bar. Content gives you the content pages of the class, Communication will give you a pull down menu with Discussions and Email as choices, etc. This Discussion on the first few pages of the book has a target due date of 1/20 at 11:59pm, and will lock after that time.


First Discussion first chapter of the Boyd book, It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens up to page 53. for First Discussion first chapter of the Boyd book, It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens up to page 53.

This is the first Discussion on our reading for the course, on the first chapter of the Boyd book, It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens up to page 53.  It's the first week of class and we are all getting started, so the target due date for this first Discussion is any time between 1/13 and 1/20 (During the second week of class.) 

1. Read and prepare to discuss the ethical issues in either pages 8-14 (on The significance of networked publics and the permanence of online posts and activities) or pages 16-24 (on kids online and the idea that kids need a place to "call their own.") 

2. Focus especially on one particular ethics philosopher from the Ethics Background material inside our Blazeview class "Content." Here are some examples of how to relate an ethical theory/philosopher to these sections:

a) Kant: Do we have a duty to protect our own privacy and online image? Do parents have a duty to monitor and protect their children online?

b) Utilitarianism and Mill: Is there a benefit, or beneficial consequence, for society in allowing open communication online, for a "free market of ideas"? Is there a harm to society when children are given free access to online communities without parental controls?

c) Manning and Ethics of Care (feminine and feminist ethics): Is there a problem with the way that young females can be "used" and "misused" online compared to boys? Is it possible that parents may try to overly protect female children, reinforcing a negative stereotype for young girls, and not holding boys and men responsible for their own actions?

See how you would connect those particular parts of the beginning of the book with one key ethical theory! Try to complete this discussion sometime between 1/13 and 1/20.

1/22 – 1/27 Week 3:


Read It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens Chapters 4 and 5, Danger and Bullying, pages 100-152.


Remember that Blazeview often goes down on Friday nights for maintenance. Work ahead for these items, so that you show you are in the class and working. (Dr. James has to turn in “proof rolls” or “attendance verifications” that prove you are attending and participating in our class.)


Second Discussion for Week 2: Read It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens Chapters 2 and 3, Privacy and Addiction, pages 54-99.

Contains unread posts for Second Discussion for Week 2: Read It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens Chapters 2 and 3, Privacy and Addiction, pages 54-99.

This is our class' second discussion for Week 2: on It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens Chapters 2 and 3, Privacy and Addiction, pages 54-99.

For this discussion, check out some scenes from the film Men, Women, and Children. The film includes Adam Sandler and Jennifer Garner, but it is not your typical romantic comedy. Everyone in the film is affected in their life by social media in one way or another. Try to find a character to discuss, and compare their situation with this section of the Boyd book. One example of how to do this: on page 64 the concept of "whitewalling" is discussed, in which high school students make their social media more acceptable to parents and family members by hiding, deleting, or creating a fake account. See whether there are characters in the film who do that and discuss. (There are other examples too, you don't have to do that one in particular!) Information on the film is in Blazeview.

Target date for this discussion to be completed is 1/20 -1/27.


1/30 – 2/4 Week 4:


Exam 1 will be in the Quizzes this week and must be completed by 2/6 by 11:59pm. Remember Quizzes in online classes are timed, so you have 2 hours to complete the exam once you click on it. Save you answers often. Please try to complete Exam 1 before this date and time. I will make the Exam available until this date at midnight, but remember your 2 hour window of time to do it. That means you should ideally click on the Exam before 10pm. During these dates, also read It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens Chapters 6,7, and 8 on Inequality, Literacy, and Searching for a Public of Their Own, pages 153-214, and post in Discussions.


Discussion for end of Boyd pages 100-152 for Discussion for end of Boyd pages 100-152

Discussion for the end of It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens Chapters 4 and 5, Danger and Bullying, pages 100-152.

Consider the way Boyd describes the definitions of "bullying" on page 131-134. Compare how she discusses bullying with the examples discussed in this TED Talk video by Jon Ronson, which focuses on a famous example from Twitter. Would you consider the examples he discusses to be bullying or not? Are there examples of women being bullied online that are especially different than men being bullied? Why?

Here is the link to the talk on TED: 

If their server is down, the same talk is on Youtube here:

Target date to complete this discussion is 2/5.


2/6 Exam 1 must be completed by midnight, in the Quizzes under Assessments (11:59pm)


2/5 – 2/10 Week 5:

Read Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap by James, Chapters 1-2 on Morality, Ethics and Digital Life and Privacy, pages 1-46, and post in Discussions.

Discussion for Disconnected by James pages 1-46 for Discussion for Disconnected by James pages 1-46

Review the powerpoint in our class material under Feminine and Feminist Ethics listed by the title "Rita Manning Ethics of Care for ESM." This powerpoint gives a summary of the work of Lawrence Kohlberg, and his theory that young men develop their ethics through a series of developmental stages. His student, Carol Gilligan, came up with a response focused on the ethical development of young women, which is also mentioned in the powerpoint. In this discussion, compare and contrast Kohlberg and Gilligan's theories with the ethical "ways of thinking" described by James on the following sections of her book:

Different ways of thinking: self-focused thinking, moral thinking, and ethical thinking p6-7

Lawrence Kohlberg and the stages of ethical development from egoistic self-interest to the larger social order p8

Target date to complete this discussion is 2/12.

2/12 – 2/17 Week 6:

Read Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap Chapters 3-4 on Property and Participation, pages 47-100, and post in Discussions.

Discussion for Disconnected by James pages 47-71 Actions for Discussion for Disconnected by James pages 47-71 Includes assessment. This discussion deals with Chapter 3 on Property. James notes many different issues with property and the social media world: remixing, fan fiction, pirate downloading of films and songs, and wikipedia are all discussed as problematic cases. Read this news article and compare it to the principles James used in the Property chapter, in terms of self- and consequence-directed ethical perspectives. It's an article about a countersuit against a company that allegedly set up internet users to download their material. Target date to complete this discussion is 2/19:


2/19 – 2/24 Week 7:

Read Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap Chapters 5 pages 101-122 on Correcting the Blind Spots and prepare Paper One, due in the Assignments Tool by 2/24 at 11:59pm.

2/24 Paper One due in the Assignments Tool under Assessments by 11:59pm


2/26 – 3/3 Week 8:

Read Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics by Lipschultz, Chapters 1 and 2 on Introduction to Social Media Concepts and CMC, Diffusion and Social Theories, pages 1-46 and post in Discussions.

Here's a topic for the first two chapters of the Jeremy Harris Lipschultz book, Social Media Communication. On page xv the book discusses how social media works in creating a "trusted" image of company, and how their social media activity works with creating a "brand" image. On page 3, the book notes that individuals like to feel engaged and participating in technology and in communication with companies. However, the social media advertisements of a company might actually work against them: on page 17, the point is made that when individuals are surveyed about social media ads, many find it to be "distracting and annoying." For this discussion, consider those points from the first parts of the book in comparison with this Forbes article on Wendy's twitter: do you think these kinds of tweets are effective and make people want to participate in Wendy's communications, or do you find them annoying, or problematic? Would it make you want to follow Wendy's on twitter? Would it make you more or less likely to actually buy food from Wendy's? Target date to complete this discussion is Saturday March 11 (the start of Spring Break.)


3/5 – 3/10  Week 9:

Read Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics Chapters 9 and 10 on Law and Regulation and SocialMedia Ethics pages 157-198 and post in Discussions.

In Social Media Communication: Concepts, Practices, Data, Law and Ethics Chapters 9 and 10 on Law and Regulation and Social Media Ethics pages 157-198, Lipschultz discusses the issues of freedom of expression and internet libel. One of the most important points on page 159 is that while there is some constitutional protection against libel lawsuits for ISPs and the members of the media, the average individual user has less protection, and a wide range of free speech acts are actually not considered to be safe from a libel lawsuit online. 

Compare this section of the book to the current situation involving Trump and Jacobus, or Trump and Obama. Here are three short articles to help:

A Tale of Two Trump Tweets: Is It Harder to Prove Defamation in Social Media?

A prominent law professor likes his chances. 

Analysis: Does Obama Have Grounds to Sue Trump for Libel? 

Target date to complete this topic is Saturday March 25 after we are back from Spring Break.


3/12 – 3/17 No Work, Spring Break Week


3/19 – 3/24 Week 10: Begin reading articles, Discussion posting, and preparing the second paper (which involves more outside research in journal articles than the first paper did)

What Is Data Ethics

Stanford Study Executive Summary

Your Echo Chamber

3/26 – 4/1 Week 11: Articles to read and Discussion posting

Social Media Online Sharing

New Civic Responsibilities for Online Service Providers

4/2 – 4/7 Week 12: Articles to read and Discussion posting

Disclosures by Academics

How Social Media Makes Us Unsocial

4/9 – 4/21 Week 13: Articles to read and Discussion posting

What It Means to Be a Woman

Rape Unconsciousness Social Media

4/23 – 4/28 Week 14: Articles to read and Discussion posting

Constitution and Revenge Porn

Copyright to Combat Revenge Porn


4/28 -  Final “Exam” Time – In our class, we have a Final Second Paper rather than an exam. Prepare your Final Second Paper and turn in through the Assignment Tool under Assessments. This paper is due by Thursday 5/3 at 11:59pm in the Assignments dropbox.

Discussion Advice

In the online environment the Discussions area acts as the classroom. It's where you'll meet the other students, engage in discussion, ask questions and post work. Your participation grades will be based on your posts to Discussions, and the participation and Discussions are one of the largest parts of your grade in the course. Every course takes some time to ramp up. That is, to get the discussion going. The first week some students have difficulty getting on. Then everyone has to get acclimatized to the surroundings and catch up... Then everyone has to get used to checking in on a regular basis... Then, everyone has to be focused on the discussion. It takes a lot but it will happen and you'll get a lot out of it. 

So don't become passive, waiting for others to chime in. If nothing's happening, post more! You'll make it easier for other students to join in. Online instructors will use these guidelines to grade your participation and the content, timeliness, support and use of language of your posts: 


Content of Post 


Support, backing up your claims

Use of Language

Use of Text, Citations, Research

Discussion Grades and What They Mean:
A Provides comments regularly. Interacts with a variety of participants. Reveals solid understanding of topic as evidenced by original and thoughtful posts, responses and questions. Has considered the arguments deeply. Posting meets deadline Comments well supported Complete sentences, well organized, grammatically correct and free of spelling errors. 

B Provides comments in a regular manner. Reveals adequate understanding of topic. Has considered the arguments well. Posting meets deadline Comments mostly well supported. Complete sentences, well organized, but some grammar and/or spelling errors. 

C Provides comments in a regular manner. Reveals adequate understanding of topic. Has considered the arguments. Posting meets deadline Comments mostly well supported. Complete sentences, but argument isn't coherent. Has three or more grammar and/or spelling errors per paragraph. 

D Sporadically provides comments. Interacts with only one or two participants. Reveals a restricted understanding of the topic limited to information that could be derived from online material and prior posts. Posting fails to meet deadline Comments somewhat well supported Poor sentence structure, inadequate organization, several grammar and/or spelling errors. 

F Provides minimal comments and information to other participants. Reveals a lack of understanding of the topic. Posting fails to meet deadline Comments not very well supported Poor sentence structure, confusing organization, many grammar and/or spelling errors. 

A few more pointers: Length does not equal quality. It depends on what's in there. A high number of posts does not mean you're doing high quality work. Formatting makes a difference. Preview your messages to make sure they don't come out as giant paragraphs. Use subheadings to help you organize your thoughts. 

In general, you want every post you make (in the questions on the readings pages) to be detailed. Cite specific information from the readings and use quotes. Also, remember that your grade includes 1) your own first post in response to the questions, 2) how you debate with other students and keep the conversation going, especially by replying to other students in class (that's why you should do some messages every day even if you don't see a new question yet, and 3) how many of the other students' posts you opened and read. Blazeview keeps track of how many of your fellow students' posts you actually read and I can see those numbers, so if you only open and read 5 other people's posts on a topic, but someone else was reading all 200 in the topic and replied to 20 other students, they would probably get the higher grade compared to you as long as those posts were substantive and well detailed and well written.



Tips on Philosophy Courses

Tips for doing well in Philosophy classes, adapted from a handout by Robert Scott:

1. People might assume that Philosophy is just opinions, it’s actually not. It’s about knowing specific principles, concepts, key terms, and ideas that are in the classic texts of philosophy. Citing the reading is important, and you should aim to cite the readings in all your work, including Discussions, Quizzes (Exams), and Papers (Dropbox). Think of it as a class in the history of ideas, and your responsibility is to show you know where ideas come from in the text.

2. Read text with a pencil, underline the important ideas and key concepts. Write down technical ideas, key terms, key distinctions between two terms, definitions, diagrams, etc. to help you remember them.

3. Write questions or reactions you have to the text in the margin of the book. Ask about these questions in class, and keep them in mind, since they may provide good points to make about that author in papers you will write for class.

4. Read ahead to see the ultimate objectives of the chapter and of the individual readings. Keep in mind the overall picture of the chapters given in the introductory sections to each chapter in the book.

5. Work with the new terminology frequently, and try to apply it to situations outside of class. I would recommend flash cards to help you memorize the meanings of new terms quickly.

6. For longer readings, be sure to review the reading as a whole after you have read it section-by-section. What was the main question the author wanted to address? What were the answers? What concepts were used to make the points?

7. When confronted with a difficult reading or question, break it down into parts, and into individual ideas. This will at least help to clarify the question, even if it might not give the answer. And for philosophy, clarifying the question is really half the battle!

8. Ponder an unsolved problem and return to it every so often to see if it will give. Inspiration may happen at an unexpected time, and the subconscious mind does work on problems even when we aren't consciously aware of it.

9. Begin work on all the class tasks early, and spread out your work over time so as to maximize your chances for comprehending the readings accurately, memorizing the information, and grappling with the questions for papers.

10. If you do need to meet with an instructor outside of class, be sure to have your questions for the instructor planned out ahead of time, to make the meeting as productive as possible.

11. Always think about the philosophical issues for yourself, rather than waiting to be told what to think or believe.

12. Study for all exams on a daily basis, for at least a week before the exam date. You will need to know who said what, from memory.

13. Try to anticipate the questions that will be asked on an examination beforehand. Questions may come from the readings or from lectures and class discussions, but in either case, certain terms and concepts will be emphasized more than others.

14. Listen carefully to different points of view, and actively respond (when you read, when you are in class, and when you write your philosophy papers)!

15. Philosophy involves skills, like learning to appreciate a good debate, learning to imagine the world differently than we assume it to be, and appreciating the world with a sense of wonder.

Section Instructor: Christine James

Outside of the course E-mail :