TC 853: Information Technology and Organizations

Spring, 2008 | Prof. Nicole Ell ison

 Course Description

This discussion-oriented course examines the economic, social and organizational changes associated with new online technologies, specifically focusing on “Web 2.0” companies and concepts. Through coursework consisting of readings, in-class discussions, and hands-on projects and papers, students will use established concepts and theories to understand and predict developments in the Internet industry. The course will have four focus areas: (1) Established economic and communication-based principles and theories (such as Transaction Costs and Social Capital), (2) Web 2.0 companies and concepts (such as the “Long Tail” and mass collaboration), (3) Virtual teaming and issues of collaboration, proximity, and computer-mediated communication within the organization and (4) Social network sites and networking strategies.  

Course Objectives

   When students complete the course, they will be able to:

·        Discuss and describe major economic concepts critical for understanding the current information and technology landscape

·        Define and describe the characteristics of social media (“Web 2.0”)

·        Describe the unique affordances of successful “Web 2.0” companies and services and give examples of Web 2.0 implementations

·        Be able to list the characteristics of a valuable social network

·        Know how to use online tools to successfully manage one’s online self-presentation and social network

·        Understand the ways in which team dynamics and collaboration function in distributed and face-to-face groups – and how information and communication technologies can best support these processes

Primary texts

Shapiro, C., and Varian, H. (1998).  Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

(I recommend you purchase a used copy of this; many are available on Amazon. Please use this link if you do purchase from Amazon and I’ll use any revenues for the class.)

Other required readings will be in ANGEL, online, or included in an online course reader. I will send out an announcement when it is available.

Grading Scheme

Each assignment will be graded on a scale of 0 to 4.0. The final grade of record will be based on students’ achievements in the following areas and weighted according to the following:

In-class Participation                                                                                              10%

“We Googled You” Case Study & Online Self-Presentation Assignment        15%

Social Network Assessment and Development Assignment                            15%

Web 2.0 Company Presentation                                                              20%

Research Paper (35%) & Presentation (5%)                                                      40%

                                  TOTAL POSSIBLE                                                            100%

All students are required to spend time each week keeping up to date with industry news in the web 2.0 space and to follow technological and cultural developments that might affect the kinds of organizations we will be studying. I recommend using RSS newsfeeds, such as CNN’s technology newsfeed, to do so. Contributions to class discussions will be considered in the participation portion of the final grade.

Students are responsible for viewing their grades in ANGEL and informing the instructor of any discrepancies. Also, students must keep copies of any work submitted until final grades are submitted. If you are concerned about your grade please make an appointment to discuss the situation with the professor as early as possible.  After the final class meeting, there will be no opportunities to improve your grade. Extra credit opportunities may or may not be available.

Research Paper

Each student will write a research paper on a topic related to the course content and related to the student’s chosen area of study. This topic should be discussed with and approved in advance by the instructor. This paper should be approximately 8 – 9 pages in length (not including title page), typed, with a complete bibliography (preferably in APA format – if there is another style you prefer please check with the instructor). Papers are due at the beginning of class April 21. No late papers will be accepted.

Papers should incorporate concepts, ideas, theories, and observations from class.  Appropriate topics include: the ways in which a specific technology is affecting a particular industry, drawing upon concepts discussed in class as well as other relevant ideas or theories; an in-depth look at a particular company (its history, predictions about its future, how it incorporates concepts or rules discussed in class); or another topic of your choosing. All paper topics should be submitted to the instructor via email by March 17 and must be approved.

Students will be expected to present a 8-10 minute overview of their paper to the class. A visual aid, such as PowerPoint, is recommended. 


Web 2.0 Company Presentation

Each student will prepare a short (6-8 minute) presentation on one of the top ten trafficked websites (according to Alexa) that exemplifies Web 2.0 principles (or another company, with permission from the instructor). Students will analyze the site using concepts and principles discussed in class and will present important information about the company, such as history, as well as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (as appropriate). Before presenting, each student should submit one of the following to the instructor: a 2-page paper, a full-sentence outline, or a powerpoint deck with notes.

Online Self-Presentation Assignment (3-4 pages)

A.     Consider your “dream job” and the kinds of attributes a successful candidate for a position in this field should have.

B.     Then, pretend you are a third party who is trying to find out information about you on the Internet based on your name (you may need to include one or two facts about you, such as location). Do a thorough search using a variety of search engines and online tools. What kind of impression would this person get? Remember, there may be information online about other people with your same name, but a third party wouldn’t know this.

C.    Finally, consider what kinds of actions you could take to create an online impression that matches the attributes you described in the first part of the assignment. Come up with a plan of action for achieving your online self-presentational goals. Describe the information you found and how it relates to the characteristics you wrote down in step A.

D.    Read the “We googled you” case study (from the Harvard Business Review). Using ideas and concepts discussed in class, in our readings, and from any additional online research you wish to do, describe the advice you would give Fred. (You may wish to jot down some notes BEFORE you read the expert’s advice.). Which one of the experts do you agree with most and why? Which do you disagree with and why?

Social Network Assessment and Development Assignment (2-3 pages)

A. Read “How to manage your network” and do the activity described in the “Diagnose your network” section on page 3-4. According to the principles described in the article and our discussions, how could your network be improved? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

B. Create a profile in an online networking site such as LinkedIn. Take specific actions to improve your network.

Your paper should summarize what you did and what you discovered, incorporating concepts from the reading.

Academic Honesty

Academic Honesty: Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states: “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, TC 853 adheres to the policies on academic honesty specified in General Student Regulation 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site

Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. Students who violate MSU rules may receive a penalty grade, including but not limited to a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Signing another student’s name on attendance sheets is considered lying to the instructor.

Attendance Policy

Because this is a discussion-oriented graduate class, attendance at every class meeting is crucial. If you aren’t present, you can’t contribute. Therefore, for each class meeting that is missed after two classes, each students’ participation grade will be lowered by .5. It is not possible to pass the class if four or more classes are missed.

Classroom Courtesies

If you need to have a conversation with your neighbor, please step outside the classroom so that others in the classroom are not distracted. When you are in the classroom, it is expected that you are actively engaged in the class and not another activity, such as texting or reading the newspaper. You are welcome to bring food or beverages into the classroom as long as consumption will not distract other students. Thank you.

Tentative Content and Reading Schedule

Note: Any aspect of this syllabus, including the content and reading schedule, may be adjusted throughout the semester. Any changes will be announced in class and via ANGEL. Students are responsible for checking ANGEL on a regular basis. Please note that the topics and readings for the “To Be Determined” dates will be discussed in class and distributed via ANGEL email. You are responsible for either checking your ANGEL email or forwarding these messages to an account that you do check.




Reading Due



introductions, syllabus



Web 2.0 definitional issues

Wikipedia on Web 2.0 ( )

O'Reilly, "What is Web 2.0" (online at )

O'Reilly, "Web 2.0 compact definition" (online at )



Web 2.0 definitional issues

Wired's "6 business trends for 2007" (read all but "Green Power"); available online at



Does IT Matter?

Carr,  "IT doesn't matter" in HBR  (online at )

Skim the discussion of the article, online at







Economic Principles

Shapiro & Varian, "Information Rules," chapters 1, 2, 4



Economic Principles

Shapiro & Varian, "Information Rules," chapters  7, 8, 9 (skim 9)



Transaction Costs

Williamson, O. “The economics of organization: The transaction cost approach"  (in ANGEL)

Guest Lecture: Dr. Steve Wildman (TISM)

Malone, Yates, & Benjamin, "Electronic markets and electronic hierarchies” (in ANGEL)

Optional: Williamson, O. The theory of the firm as governace structure: From choice to contract. Journal of Economic perspectives, vol 16, (3) Summer 2002. P 171 - 195.



Mass Collaboration and Business Trends

Tapscott & Williams, "Wikinomics" (chapters 1, 2, 3, 5 (skim 5)



Mass Collaboration and Business Trends

Tapscott & Williams, "Wikinomics" (chapters 7, 9, 10)



Communication and Globalization


Guest Lecture: Dr. Kurt DeMaagd (TISM)



Social Production: Critical perspectives

Scholz, T. "What the MySpace generation should know about working for free" (online at )



Jarvis, "Who owns the wisdom of the crowd?" (online at )



Proximity and Collaboration

Kraut et al., "Understanding effects of proximity on collaboration: Implications for technologies to support remote collaborative work" (in packet)

Nardi & Whittaker, "The place of face to face communication in distributed work" (in packet)



Managing Virtual Teams

Armstrong & Cole, “Managing distances and differences in geographically distributed work groups” (in packet)


Optional: Gibbs et al. (in ANGEL)



Company Presentations

Company short paper due



Company Presentations










Grudin, “Why CSCW applications fail: Problems in the design an evaluation of organizational interfaces” (in ANGEL)

Guest Lecture: Dr. Cliff Lampe (TISM)

Olson & Olson, "Distance Matters" (in packet)



Long Tail

Anderson, "Long Tail," chapters 1- 4 (in packet)



Long Tail

Anderson, "Long Tail," chapters 7, 13, and 14 (in packet)

Paper topcs due (via email)

Carr, Sharecropping the Long Tail (online at



Online presentation

"We Googled You" HBR Case Study (in packet)

Google Yourself assignment due

Stross, "How to Lose Your Job on Your Own Time" (at )

boyd, "Controlling your public appearance" (online at )



Social Networks & Networking

boyd & Ellison, "Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship" (online at )


Potts, "Disability and employment: Considering the importance of social capital"  (in ANGEL)



SNS in Organizational Contexts

DiMicco articles to be distributed via ANGEL

Guest Lecture: Dr. Joan DiMicco (IBM)



Online networking strategies

Uzzi & Dunlap, "How to build your network" from HBR (in packet)

Social Network Assessment Due

"20 ways to use LinkedIn productively" (online at )

"Ten ways to use LinkedIn" (online at )



IM in the Workplace

Quan-Haase et al., "Instant messaging for collaboration: A case study of a high-tech firm" (at

http://j cm

Cameron & Webster, "Unintended consequences of emerging communication technologies: Instant Messaging in the workplace" (in ANGEL)
















Paper due.







10:00-12:00 noon

Class Review and wrap-up