digital globalization

Syllabus for an online course on Digital Globalization

This winter quarter I taught a fully-online class on Digital Globalization, which I greatly enjoyed. I believe that Digital Globalization is a form of globalization that is every bit as powerful as economic, political and cultural globalization. Of course, it is also inextricably linked to all these other forms of globalization. It’s strange, therefore, that has remained largely invisible in the literature in the field.

One point that struck me from the class is that the media gives a great deal of attention to the question of surveillance by governments, but my students are every bit as concerned about surveillance by corporations such as Facebook. I had also assumed that my students would be digital natives. Many of them, however, felt a great digital gap between themselves and younger siblings, who spend a great deal of time on social media, such as Instagram and Snapchat. They appreciated the chance to learn about topics such as Bitcoin that they had heard about in the media, but knew little about. From my students, I learned that there was a Bitcoin ATM in Portland, as well as bars and apartment buildings that accepted Bitcoin.

A few notes about the syllabus that follows. The majority of the content, including almost all of the videos, were obtained from my library’s Streaming Video and Music database. For this reason, I haven’t included the links here, because they would only work for people with accounts at my university. As you can see, I’m also beginning to use modules for online courses. In this particular case, I began with two weeks focusing on the individual (social media, the generation gap, music and art); two weeks focusing on institutions and the economy (Uber, Airbnb, the sharing economy, Bitcoin, 3D printers); and two weeks focused on the nation-state level (surveillance, privacy, encryption). For the fourth module of the course, students do three weeks of independent study on of the topics that they’ve explored in the class, to answer a key question. The goal of this module is to develop learner agency.

The final week of the course content students share a digital artifact, which is typically a Google Slideshow. I’ve done this in previous online classes, and it’s always very popular with the students, who take a great deal of pride in their work. I like the assignment because it in a sense it creates a co-constructed syllabus, in which students are responsible for their own learning. Lastly, for multiple reasons I did not allow students to do any research for this course on the Dark Web; that is, they could not research in areas of the Web that they could only access via a TOR, ITP or Freenet browser.

Shawn Smallman, 2016 …

Security and a strange cyberattack

The Natanz nuclear facility in Iran. This photo was taken by Hamed Saber, and was posted to http://www.flickr.com/photos/hamed/237790717, and downloaded from Wikipedia Commons
The Natanz nuclear facility in Iran. This photo was taken by Hamed Saber, and was posted to http://www.flickr.com/photos/hamed/237790717. I downloaded the image from Wikipedia Commons

In Countdown to Zero Kim Zetter describes a 2010 cyberattack on the Iranian nuclear program. In a brilliant piece of computer engineering, the control units for centrifuges that enriched uranium were forced to slow and fail. The attack was so carefully planned that even after it began the Iranians were initially unable to diagnose the problem. The book itself is well written and carefully researched. Zetter did extensive interviews in the cybersecurity community, to understand how people identified and studied this particular worm. This work is detailed in extensive footnotes, which will lead a curious reader down interesting paths. Zetter carefully describes the technical issues involved in the attack, without letting this detail impede the storyline. Overall, this is a masterful work of narrative non-fiction, which engages the reader in a highly complex topic. …

New Course on Digital Globalization

Globalization Flyer, Winter 2016. The image of Snowden comes from the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which published this photo under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License at https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/about/board/edward-snowden
Globalization Flyer, Winter 2016. The image of Snowden comes from the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which published this photo under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License at https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/about/board/edward-snowden

Now that classes have ended, of course I am excited to work on my course for next winter, when I will be teaching a fully online class on Digital Globalization. The course will be asynchronous, and students may be able to choose the content areas that they wish to focus on: Security, Crime and Privacy; Transformation, Business and Education; or Culture and the Individual. When students login to the course they will take a quiz, which will suggest which area they might want to focus on, and whether they might want to do a group or individual project.

Here is my flyer, which I created using Canva. This is a great way to create visually attractive posters and course flyers. It’s also free, so long as you download your own photos, which the site makes easy to do. The site also has some free photos to use as well. I have no affiliation with Canva; I just want to share a cool tool. See www.canva.com

For a whimsical take on digital globalization (set to the tune of “Video Killed the Radio Star”), please see this music video “Digital Life,” by Amy Burvall of History Teachers. The video starts with the Marshall McLuhan quote, which I’ve stolen for the flyer.

Prof. Smallman, Portland State University

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