Dr. Kirsten Foot

Office: Com #333
Office Hours: Mondays 3:30-4:30, some Wednesdays 3:30-4:30, and by appointment

Winter 2008

M 1:30-3:20, Com #104
W 1:30-3:20 Com #302

Course Overview

Pundits and presidential candidates have declared the advent of ‘politics online.’ From political discussions on Usenet to Bob Dole’s clumsy announcement of a campaign Web site address in 1996, to the coordination of protests via e-mail and the Web, and the data-mining efforts of elite lobbyists, digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become crucial components of contemporary politics. We will use some of the core concepts of political communication and theories of democracy to examine the emerging role of ICTs in candidate and issue campaigning, protest and advocacy movements, law-making and electronic governance—both within the U.S. and internationally.

This course will be run as a workshop in which students will be required to engage as participant-observers in a candidate and issue campaign of their choice, as well as a policy deliberation process, then share their critical insights on the role of ICTs in those campaigns and processes so as to help all of us understand how specific theoretical problems are manifested concretely. Current political sites and Web archives from U.S. elections 2000-2006 will serve as resources for analyses of how Internet-based ICTs have been used in the context of recent political events.

Here are some of the questions that the course will prepare you to answer:

  • How are ICTs currently being employed in democratic politics in the U.S. and internationally?
  • How are electoral, advocacy, rule-making and governance practices changing in relation to the use of ICTs?
  • How are power relations between political actors and the political playing field shifting due to ICTs?
  • What opportunities for civic engagement do current ICT practices afford?
  • In what ways do ICTs expand or diminish the power/role of the citizen?
  • How might ICTs alter relationships between citizens and government?
  • What are the implications of current ICTs practices for democracy?

Teaching Method

This class will be a workshop in which the professor, students, and guest lecturers exchange ideas about the conduct of politics online. We will often talk about current events in class, so you should start watching/listening for news items related to course topics. Each class will usually start off with people sharing relevant clippings or news stories read (New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Economist Magazine recommended) or heard (NPR or BBC recommended) during the week. You will earn one extra credit point each time you bring a relevant news article, with a one-paragraph written description of how the article relates to one or more course themes, and summarize it briefly for the class (maximum 3 extra credit points). Students will be responsible for leading discussion each week. Irregular attendance will disrupt our learning community, and absences will diminish your ability to participate.

UW Net ID & Email account

To complete some readings and assignments for this course you will need to access UW Catalyst tools and online resources which require you to have an active UW Net ID. Be sure you have an active UW Net ID and password by the end of the first week of class. Additionally, occasional course-related announcements will be posted on the course email list; messages from this list will be sent to your UW email account.

Classroom Learning Environment

Creating a good environment for learning is a responsibility shared by students and faculty. In addition to the general UW rules in this regard, this course entails a few additional rules to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to fully engage in each class session, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and without distractions from others.

  • Some class sessions will involve group exercises in which everyone is expected to participate.
  • Cell phones and pagers must be turned off during class.
  • In both room 104 and room 302, laptops and other note-taking devices may be used only for the purpose of note-taking while class is in session.
  • During class time, the desktop machines in 302 are to be used for class purposes only. You may check email and view non-class related Web sites during breaks as long as the material you are viewing is not offensive to others.
  • Reading newspapers and other non-course texts during class is not permitted.