CSC356: Platform Activism (Fall 2021)
Instructor: Johanna Brewer
Place: Ford 345
Time: Mondays, usually 1:20-4pm, occasionally 7-9:30pm
Course Overview
Networked platforms like social media sites, gig sharing apps, and game consoles have become important spaces for grassroots activism, but human-computer interaction researchers continue to grapple with the question of how our work can effect positive social change online.

Classes follow a seminar format. During the first 90 minutes students take turns leading a discussion of the week's readings and in the remaining hour they discuss progress on their own research projects. Over the course of the semester, working as individuals or in pairs, students undertake a literature review, conduct a community study, or build a prototype to explore one of the class topics in more detail. At the end of the course the research teams submit a 3,000-4,000 word paper about their project and give a scholarly presentation to their peers.
Learning Goals
  • Examine how platforms shape our creative labor & communication
  • Develop a critical perspective on the power of big tech
  • Contrast approaches from design activists
  • Practice participatory design with a grassroots community
  • Build & release a new tech intervention on a media platform
Week 1
Sep 6, 2021
Labor Day
Week 2
Sep 13, 2021
Welcome & Introduction
Week 3
Sep 20, 2021
How Platforms Shape What Society Sees: The Algorithmic Lens
Zeynep Tufekci. (2017). Twitter and Tear Gas Chap. 6: Platforms and Algorithms.
Tarleton Gillespie. (2018). Custodians of the Internet Chap. 6: Facebook, Breastfeeding, Suspension.
Week 4
Sep 27, 2021
How Platforms Hide the Humans Powering Them: The Legions of Oz
Tarleton Gillespie. (2018). Custodians of the Internet Chap. 5: The Human Labor of Moderation.
Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri. (2019). Ghost Work Chap. 1: Humans in the Loop.
Week 5
Oct 4, 2021
How Platforms Harness Creative Labor: The Panoptic Ouroboros
William Clyde Partin. (2020). Bit by (Twitch) Bit: Platform Capture and the Evolution of Digital Platforms.
Charlotte Panneton. (2023). Cultures of Precarity and Grinding for Audiences on
Johanna Brewer. (2023). Seeing Like the Streamers: Reprogramming the Panopticon.
Week 6
Oct 11, 2021
Autumn Recess
Week 7
Oct 18, 2021
Platforms, Resistance, and the Power of Storytelling
Jill Dimond, Michaelanne Dye, Daphne LaRose, Amy Bruckman. (2013). Hollaback! The Role of Storytelling Online in a Social Movement Organization.
Sasha Costanza-Chock. (2020). Design Justice Chap. 3: Design Narratives: From TXTMob to Twitter.
Topic Proposal (Due: Oct 22)
Week 8
Oct 25, 2021
The Aspirations and Failings of Participatory Design
Liam J. Bannon, Pelle Ehn. (2012). Design Matters in Participatory Design.
Sasha Costanza-Chock. (2020). Design Justice Chap. 2: Design Practices: Nothing About Us Without Us.
Week 9
Nov 1, 2021
Supporting Grassroots Communication with Novel Technology
Lilly Irani and M. Six. Silberman. (2013). Turkopticon: Interrupting Worker Invisibility in Amazon Mechanical Turk.
Angelika Strohmayer, Janis Lena Meissner, Alexander Wilson, Sarah Charlton, Laura McIntyre. (2020). We Come Together as One…and Hope for Solidarity to Live On: On Designing Technologies for Activism and the Commemoration of Lost Lives.
Week 10
Nov 8, 2021
Sending in the Good Bots
Saiph Savage, Andrés Monroy-Hernández, Tobias Höllerer. (2016). Botivist: Calling Volunteers to Action Using Online Bots.
R. Stuart Geiger. (2016). Bot-Based Collective Blocklists in Twitter: The Counterpublic Moderation of Harassment in a Networked Public Space.
Week 11
Nov 15, 2021
Channeling Community Power to Shut Down Harassment
Lindsay Blackwell, Jill Dimond, Sarita Schoenebeck, Cliff Lampe. (2017). Classification and Its Consequences for Online Harassment: Design Insights from HeartMob.
Johanna Brewer, Morgan Romine, T.L. Taylor. (2020). Inclusion at Scale: Deploying a Community-Driven Moderation Intervention on Twitch.
Week 12
Nov 22, 2021
From Perfunctory Participation to Equitable Engagements
Dorian Peters, Susan Hansen, Jenny McMullan, Teresa Ardler, Janet Mooney, Rafael A. Calvo. (2018). Participation Is Not Enough: Towards Indigenous-Led Co-Design.
Christina Harrington, Sheena Erete, Anne Marie Piper. (2019). Deconstructing Community-Based Collaborative Design: Towards More Equitable Participatory Design Engagements.
Rough Draft (Due: Nov 22)
Week 13
Nov 29, 2021
Confronting Systemic Erasure in and through HCI
Jennifer Pierre, Roderic Crooks, Morgan E. Currie, Britt S. Paris, Irene V. Pasquetto. (2021). Getting Ourselves Together: Data-centered Participatory Design Research & Epistemic Burden.
Sheena Erete, Yolanda A. Rankin, and Jakita O. Thomas. (2021). I Can't Breathe: Reflections from Black Women in CSCW and HCI.
Week 14
Dec 6, 2021
Emerging HCI Frameworks for Substantive Change
Ihudiya Finda Ogbonnaya-Ogburu, Angela D. R. Smith, Alexandra To, Kentaro Toyama. (2020). Critical Race Theory for HCI.
Cedric Deslandes Whitney, Teresa Naval, Elizabeth Quepons, Simrandeep Singh, Steven R. Rick, Lilly Irani. (2021). HCI Tactics for Politics from Below: Meeting the Challenges of Smart Cities.
Week 14
Dec 10, 2021
Major Project Discussions
Final Paper (Due: Dec 10)