Final Project

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DUE MAY 14, 2013

Class on May 14 will consist of Extra Credit presentations and a final wrap-up.


The final project is a 8-10 page research paper, built around taking the theoretical concepts about Internet control brought forward in the course, generating a hypothesis around that idea, and then examining real-world Internet activity to answer that question. The student should develop a framework that endeavors to answer the research question by observation of Internet activity, and then report the results of applying that framework. The most successful projects develop a narrow research question tied to the behavior of a specific online community or set of communities, and then develop a framework consisting of observation within that community or comparison to another similarly-situated community.

In lieu of submitting a paper, you may present your finding using a different medium, such as a podcast, video, or web page. If you do submit a paper, your paper should be 8-10 pages long, double spaced, and use a serif font (e.g. Times New Roman, Cambria, Palatino, etc.). If you submit through another medium, we shall expect a depth and level of analysis equivalent to that of an 8-10 page paper. If you are interested in pursuing something other than a paper, please mention this in your prospectus, due February 26th.

The final project should be integrative - bringing together materials and issues from class and expanding upon them. Ideally, students will identify the topic for Assignment 2 and leverage their time working on the other assignments towards the final project. It will be detrimental to change mid-stream, due to the limited time of the course.

You may work in groups as long as you let us know by March 12.


Your paper should be 8-10 pages long, double spaced, and use a serif font (Times New Roman, Cambria, Palatino, etc.). Please upload your paper as a .doc, a .odt, or a .pdf.

You may use any commonly accepted style to cite your sources (Chicago, MLA, Bluebook, etc.), but please be consistent.


Please include your final project here, including name(s) and title: Final Projects

Submit the final project on or before May 14.

Research questions

In broadest terms, the general theme of the class is control. We look at who controls access to the web, who controls what content goes on the web, what tools they use (e.g. laws, contracts or other written rules, norms, code, other incentives), what sorts of things they seek to regulate and why, and how their decisions have both their intended effect and unintended consequences.

The goal of the project is to take this general theme and apply it to a particular online circumstance. The project should consist principally of original documentation of Internet activity, analyzed through the paradigms discussed in the class and in light of the topical discussion had in the class. This begins by selecting a particular research question or small set of questions to explore. It is impossible to do a meaningful analysis of any question across the whole Internet in 8-10 pages, so you should select a particular research frame for your question. This could be an online community or set of communities, a particular website, or participants in a particular online game. Your research may focus on a single Internet project or compare two communities, or sub-units within a given community.

The next step will be to gather evidence that will help to answer your research question. This should be primarily direct observation made by you exploring the community online. (Avoid direct engagement with members of the community, as your influence on their behavior will inherently change what you are trying to observe.) The observation should be methodical to avoid any arbitrariness or selection bias.

Finally, you will compile this into a final report that summarizes your research topic, methods and conclusions. We hope that you will be able to weave in one or more of the theories and constructs that have been introduced in the class.

Finding appropriate research questions is often the most complex and time consuming process in research and will normally take many iterations; feel free to contact the class staff if you have questions or need help narrowing a topic.


  1. Decide upon a research question set of research questions.
  2. Define a research frame (website, federation of websites, group, community, etc)
  3. Gather evidence
  4. Compile into report that summarizes your topic, methods, and conclusions

Frequently Asked Questions

As we have last questions and thoughts about the final, we'll gather those here.

Q1: Do I have to include exhibits in my page limit?

A1: No. In fact, we'd prefer it if you attached an appendix in the back with any reference material (screenshots, transcripts, etc.).

Q2: How much do I have to describe the scholarship I'm using in my analysis?

A2: If it is material from the class reading, you can assume that the reader has seen that material. If you are introducing new concepts, spend a few sentences explaining them, but keep the majority of the paper focused on your observations and analysis.

Q3: How strict is the 8-10 page limit?

A3: We are holding that as very strict (with the exception of appendices, noted above). We will only be grading based on the first 10 pages of your analysis; anything after that will not be used in calculating your grad. If you're worried about things to cut, remember: we care much more about observation-informed analysis than exposition and background material.