Syllabus: This Digital Life

Course Title: This Digital Life: An ExCo-facilitated analysis of the uses and abuses of
today’s technology

Student Facilitator:
Hayley Johnson email: cell: (760) 703-6474

Faculty Facilitator:
Kathy Emery email:

Course Description:

In the Western world, at least, it would seem a though we too often mistake the
advancement of technology as "progress." While cell phones may better facilitate long-
distance communication, and while Google may have the power to answer any question
in a heartbeat, we cannot always assume that technological progress always results in
the betterment of society as a whole. Because, while those technologies have the
potential to do wonderful things for us, taking them at face value does not necessarily
translate into their most proper use.

Despite the fact that most of us are tethered to devices created to connect us, many
Americans are reporting feeling more lonely, isolated and disconnected than ever. Not
only that, but Facebook significantly raises narcissitic tendancies, Google shamelessly
steals personal information, search engines inhibit our ability to recall and remember
information, journalistic integrity is slipping through our fingers in the “blogosphere,” and
Apple is notorious for its unjust labor practices. And so, This Digital Life calls for an
indepth analysis of the coming generation (“iGen” or “Millenials”) in relation to the
implications of social media and ever-increasing technological connectivity. These
issues will be juxtaposed with a collection of "back to basics" sort-of philosophies (i.e.
Walden, Tao Te Ching, The Confession, etc) as well as a close look at those digital
prioneers, engineers and brainiacs who are, in fact, using and promoting technology to
our benefit. Fostering awareness of these issues to those who most often abuse current
technologies (iGen (myself included)) is the first step in bridging our “connection


While much of the course description may read like opinion (and a negative one, at
that), the intention of this course is not to sway anyone against the use of their digital
devices. In fact, while one could argue that modern technology exhibits both negative
and positive qualities (as this class will do), it would be almost unreasonable to argue
that technology consumption and use is going to end anytime soon. Therefore, the goal
is not to maladapt to an increasingly ditital world, but to find ways to remain social, well-
informed, self-reflective, and human in the midst of it all.

Tools and Texts:

Reading materials posted online for download or emailed by facilitator.

Excerpts from the following books: Generation Me, Bowling Alone, The Shallows, You
Are Not A Gadget, The Dumbest Generation, Digital Vertigo, The Cult of the Amateur,
Walden, The Confession, Is Google Making Us Stupid?, Tao de Ching, and Alone,
Together. More TBA.

Online Resources: TED Talks (Ze Frank, Shirley Turkle, Amber Case), 1000 Awesome
Things, Post secret, Ze Frank’s “The Show.” More TBA.


20%: Reflection Journal
40%: Final Project
20%: Class reading
20%: Participation in-class.
Show up to class, participate in class discussion, come with readings and/or homework
done, use class time effectively. For each missed class, you will be deducted 5% of your
total participation score. The class builds on itself, so it is incredibly important not to

Make-up/Late work:
Speaking to facilitator about missing a future class (or a past class, within reason) will
result in make-up work assigned. There will be a zero loss of participation points if
make-up work is completed and sent by email to facilitator within allotted time, to be

Required materials:
A single journal divided journal (one part for notes, one part for reflection), an open
mind, and internet access (irony of all ironies).

Schedule (subject to change):
Note: Reading will be assigned as we go, as it will be emailed a week ahead of the time it will be
discussed in class.

Week 1: Course Introduction: How can we be better?


Week 2: The Age of Information - Your Brain, On Technology: How search engines ramp up information,
and decrease our own hard drive’s ability to retain that very same information.

Week 3: The Age of Information - The Cult of the Amateur: How Google and Wikipedia have spawned the
age of the “semi-expert.”

Week 4: The Age of Information - Misinformation: Who to trust when literally anyone can publish anything

Week 5: The Age of Information - TMI: How there might, in fact, be such as thing as too much


Week 6: Second Self Syndrome - Plus one: How you now have more than one “self” to worry about

Week 7: Second Self Syndrome - “You an do anything!” Self-important or self-assuring?

Week 8: Second Self Syndrome - At least one of you never sleeps: What it means to be without a digital


Week 9: The Age of Isolation - 700 or more “friends”

Week 10: The Age of Isolation - InstaLife: Why everyone’s life looks cooler than your’s (but isn’t!).


Week 11: Technology Helps & Hurts: Your Education

Final Project Announced


Week 12: Technology Helps & Hurts: Your Family Life

Week 13: Technology Helps & Hurts: Your Social Circle

Week 14: Technology Helps & Hurts: The World

Week 15: Final Presentations Due (Last Class)

Democratic Education:

Due to the strong emphasis on student-guided learning, subject/discussion content or
themes of class meetings may chance based on what the class would like to learn,
practice, and explore. Any weekly subject can be changed or modified depending on
how the class takes shape.