Faculty of Information and Media Studies

MIT 321F:

Our Modems, Ourselves: Individuals in Cyberspace

Professor: Dr. Jacquelyn Burkell

Office: 281 Middlesex College

Telephone: 661-2111 ext 8506


Office Hours: Wednesday, 2:00-4:00

Classes: Thursday, 11-1, SH 3315

Labs: Tuesday, 10-12, SH 1310

*** Note that labs are not scheduled every week

Course Description and Course Objectives:

This course will explore the impact of virtual presence and computer-mediated communications on human relationships. In face to face interactions, we rely on appearance, body language, gesture, tone of voice and other factors to form the basis for a relationship. How does the absence of these affect communications and relationships in cyberspace? How do we change, how does our communication change, and how do our relationships change when computers become part of the picture? What do we know from research outside of the computer context that will inform our understanding of people interacting with, and through, computers?

The readings of the course will focus on the social aspects of computing, including the areas of human-computer interface design, computer-mediated communication, and computer-supported cooperative work. Students must be prepared to read, critically review, and synthesize the results of a number of current papers in order to fulfil the major course requirement, which is a paper on one of the topics identified by the instructor. Students are advised that understanding of the material presented in this course relies on a research methods background. It is for this reason that MIT 245, or an equivalent research methods course, is a prerequisite for MIT 321.

Course Prerequisite:

MIT 245: Designing and critiquing research for the digital age.

Please note: You are responsible for ensuring that you have successfully completed all course prerequisites, and that you have not taken an antirequisite course. Lack of prerequisites may not be used as a basis for appeal.

If you are found ineligible for a course, you may be removed from it at any time and you will receive no adjustment to your fees. This decision cannot be appealed.

If you find that you do not have the course requisites, it is in your best interest to drop the course well before the end of the add/drop period. If you believe that you have alternative courses that fulfil the course prerequisites, you should address the matter with your instructor immediately. Your prompt attention to this matter will not only help protect your academic record, but will ensure that spaces become available for students who require the course in question for graduation.

Course Readings:

Required text:

Gackenbach, J. (1998). Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. San Diego, Cal.: Academic Press.

On Reserve:

Gackenbach, J. (1998). Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. San Diego, Cal.: Academic Press.

Call No. BF637.C45P79 1999

Wallace, P. (1999). Psychology of the Internet. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Call No. BF637.C45W26 1999

Reeves, B., and Nass, C. (1996). The Media Equation:How People Treat Computers, Television, and Media Like Real People Like Real People and Places. Cambridge [England] ; New York : Cambridge University Press.

Call No. P96.A83R44 1996

Additional materials will be placed on reserve throughout the term

Other Resources (NOTE that these are examples only, and many other resources will be appropriate):

Online Resources:

The Psychology of Cyberspace: John Suler, PhD

Catalyst: Information on Computers in Psychology

Psychology of Virtual Communities


Journals (peer reviewed):

Behavior and Information Technology

Computers in Human Behavior

Journal of Experimental Psychology

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Journal of Computer Mediated Communication

Journal of Online Behavior Evaluation:

The due dates and distribution of course marks are indicated below. Late assignments will not be accepted unless complete documentation is supplied for a physician or an academic counsellor.

Breakdown of the marks for the lab and the paper will be supplied in lab.

Lab marks: 35%

Assignment 1 (Due September 21) 10%

Assignment 2 (Due October 26 ) 10%

Assignment 3 (Due November 9 ) 15%

Class Presentation (paper to be selected with Dr. Burkell) 15%

Paper 45%

Topic selected by October 12th (approval required)

Draft of paper (Due November 23rd) 5%

Final Paper (Due December 7th) 40%

Lecture participation: 5%
Topic Lab Lecture Due (In Class)
Introduction   September 7

Chapter 1, Gackenbach

How we relate to machines September 12

Turing Test Page

Assignment 1

September 14

Caporael, L.R. (1986) Anthropomorphism and mechanomorphism: Two faces of the human machine. Computers in Human Behavior, 2, 215-234.

Scaife, M., and van Duuren, M. (1995) Do computers have brains? What children believe about intelligent artifacts. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 13, 367-377.

Shamp, S. A. (1991). Mechanomorphism in Perception of Computer Communication Partners. Computers in Human Behavior, 7, 147-161. 

Interview with Clifford Nass

Sign up for presentation 
Identity on-line   September 21

Chapter2, Gackenbach

Assignment 1
Disinhibited behavior on-line   September 28

Chapter 3, Gackenbach

Mauri Collins (1992) Flaming: The Relationship Between Social Context Cues and Uninhibited Verbal Behavior in Computer-mediated Communication

Gender and the Internet October 3

Communication Analysis

Assignment 2

October 5

Chapter 8, Gackenbach

Topic for paper approved
Internet Addiction   October 12

Chapter 4, Gackenbach

Relationships on-line


October 17

Mailing list subscribe

Assignment 3

October 19

Utz, S. (2000) Social information processing in MUDS: The development of friendships in virtual worlds. Journal of Online Behavior, 1(1),

Assignment 2 
Relationships on-line

Romance and Sexuality

  October 26

Chapter 7, Gackenbach

Cooper, Alvin, Sportolari, Leda (1997). Romance in cyberspace: Understanding online attraction. Journal of Sex Education & Therapy. Vol 22(1), 7-14.

Relationships on-line

Social Networks

  November 2

Chapter 9, Gackenbach

Therapy on-line   November 9

Chapters 5, 6, Gackenbach

Assignment 3
    November 16


Learning on-line   November 23 Draft of final paper
Mediated Environments   November 30

Chapter 11, Gackenbach

Wrap-up   December 7 Final paper