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Ethical Social Media

The University of Sydney via Coursera


Social media connects us across space and time, allowing us to find like-minded communities and participate creatively in public life as never before. We may often use social media without thinking much about the possible consequences. But there is a shadow side associated with social media use, which takes the form of hate speech, increased surveillance, lack of anonymity and questionable use of our data. What do we need to know to use social media spaces effectively, in a way that is safe and productive for all?

This course will guide you into a deeper exploration of online identity, social media communities and their users. You will examine the ways that social media is being used by public institutions such as government to build participation and conversation with audiences. You will encounter the most common ethical debates in social media.

You will also have the opportunity to build your practical skills by developing your professional social media profile, defining your audience, building your social media influence and understanding how to interpret data analytics to "listen" and communicate well.


  • Social Media Concepts
    • In the introductory module, we will examine the concepts of being social, of self-representation, online identity and publishing. We will also look at how the social media technologies intersect with public and private spheres as networked communication develops.
  • Collaborative Practices of Social Media Users
    • We examine who the users of social media are, how they use it and their motivations. We will also look at the difference between networks and communities. Through the lens of 'produsage' we will explore participatory culture and understand the motivations behind users contributing to cultural production.
  • Participatory Culture and Media Organisations
    • Organisations are often accused of exploiting their users and online community members when they participate in collaborative cultural production activities. Similarly, participants are also accused of ignoring reciprocal efforts in collective online arrangements for personal gain, or what has recently been described as 'hope labour' (Kuehn & Corrigan, 2013). In this module, we will explore the tensions that surround precarious labour models for the productuon and consumption of social media content. In particular we will look at the concepts of cultural production, institutions, cultural intermediation, creativity and art.
  • Social Media Data Analytics
    • Communication across social media platforms produces an enormous amount of data that can describe content, location, users, purchases, events and emotions, along with larger scale areas such as reactions to news and politics, integration with sporting events or information and knowledge exchange, Each of these instances provides an opportunity to understand both general patterns of large-scale communication alog with nuanced individual and niche communication spaces. This module provides the opportunity to identify this sort of data, how to access and collect it and interpret and display it to strategically target larger users and networks.
  • Ethics in Social Media
    • Just because we can access social media doesn't mean that we should. In this module, you are asked to critically examine the use of social media and think about how you can manipulate the data in meaningful and beneficial ways compared with typical neo-liberal approaches. You are also encouraged to think about some of the not so obvious areas of social media data analytics, for example reconstructing potentially sensitive material, uncovering a dangerous conversation in social media, or exposjng users that may wish to remain incognito. Using social media data is tremendously rewarding, yet presents ethical challenges that many scholars are still grappling with.

Taught by

Dr Jonathon Hutchinson


1.0 rating, based on 1 Class Central review

4.5 rating at Coursera based on 109 ratings

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  • Anonymous
    Terrible online course, in fact, worst I've ever taken. Firstly, Uni Syd require you to pay UPFRONT in order to access the course. This means that there is no free options and also, if you pay for the course there will be limited students to inter…

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