Welcome to DMS 315! Hacking Social Media

Welcome to DMS 315, Hacking Social Media! This webpage will be your guide to the class. Check here for assignments and resources to help you.

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Lab Hours: (For project work or punching codes into NORAD)

Here is the current schedule for open hours in CFA 244

Final Project Documentation guidelines

Your final project documentation can be in PDF or webpage form. It is due no later than May 14th midnight. It must include visual documenation (images and/or video) and a written description of the project. We have looked at many projects over the semester, consider how those projects were documented while documenting your own work. Make sure that your documentation addresses the following questions:

  • Who is the audience for this work / where was it made for? (i.e.: an art space, the internet, consumers?)

  • What is the desired response of your project? What elements of the project do you expect to elicit this response and how?

  • What definitions of hacking is your piece addressing? (You may use any of the definitions discussed in class)

if you did not present your proof of concept in class today, you must submit it by midnight tonight (5/7) with detailed instructions for how to test the program and complete and thorough responses for the above questions since you are not available to answer the questions in person.

Video Response Assignment 2 PBS Frontline: Generation Like

Please watch PBS Frontline: Generation Like. Your response to the video sould be submitted no later than midnight on 4/16. Your response should address the following questions:

  • The video makes the case that social media is filling a role that was once filled by MTV. What is that role? Do you agree? Why?

  • The video features Oliver Luckett who founded theAudience that monetizes likes. How does he do this? How does the social network fit into this business model?

  • The video also mentions TVGla, a company that promotes movies through social media. The TVGla representative talkes about "using the social media audience" in the way that is profitable. The video's narrator explains this as: "Instead of selling the product to the audience, the idea is to get the audience to sell the product for them." How, specifically, does this work? Do you think people are aware that they are being used in this way? Explain why.

  • It is explained that the consumer is the marketer, many people are working for free to market the products of multinational corporations. What is the ethical dimension to this process? Should (all) social media users be paid for their work?

  • The teenagers in the video do not know what "selling out" is. Define it in your own words, and explain if (or when) social media personalities have "sold out" by your definition.


Mini - assignment Social Media design hack brainstorming

In groups of 2 or 3, create a design hack that would change behaviors facilitated by social media (or any web) interfaces. You will present 3 -5 of your hack ideas to the class on Tuesday 4/14. You do not need to work out the programming specifics, but your ideas should identify the following:

  • The social media or online platform you are targeting.
  • The specific behavior / actions your hack is targeting and how you expect to change the user's behavior
  • How generally will your hack work? (Could this be a browser plug-in or a major change to the social media platform?)

Here are some resources to help you brainstorm about what could be changed in social media:


Fourth Assignment: Social Media concept proposal

The 4th assignment is a proposal that does not require a proof of concept. Instead, we will complete a series of smaller tasks, including manually extracting data from Facebook using their API in class, and additional time will now be given for your final project. This proposal could also become your final project.

Additional material for small tasks

More will be added soon...

Reading Response Assignment 2 Alexander Galloway: Protocol

Please read Chapter 1 of Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization. Your response to the text sould be submitted no later than midnight on 3/23. Your response should address the following questions:

  • Galloway says it is clear that the internet was built to withstand a nuclear attack. What evidence does he give for this?
  • How does the meaning of protocol shift from its use in the military to is use on the internet?
  • Explain how the chain of command changes between a centeralized network, decentralized network, and a distributed network.
  • In chapter 5 of Protocol, Galloway states: "By knowing protocol better than anyone else, hackers push protocol into a state of hypertrophy, hoping to come out the other side. So in a sense, hackers are created by protocol, but in another, hackers are protocological actors par excellence." Using what you've learned about hackers so far, what do you think Galloway means by that statement?
  • Also: please address one of the questions for the film WarGames in your response. (The questions are listed below under WarGames.)


Third Assignment: Python Twitter Bot

In the programming language Python, create a Twitter bot that can post tweets at either a timed interval or in response to user interaction.

Here are some suggestions for your bot

  • The timed interval can be randomized
  • The twitter bot could search for specific terms on Twitter and respond with a tweet, or re-tweet posts that contain the search terms.
  • The twitter bot could post information scraped from other sites (perhaps data gathered from your last project)
  • Twitter bots are capable of posting images... (Twitter art show?)
  • Twitter bots can link to videos... (Twitter film festival?)
  • The user interaction can be through a physical device (sensor / mouse / keyboard) or through Twitter itself (in response to tweets sent to the bot)
  • Simply running the program in the terminal does not qualify as 'user interaction.'
Here is the code for the examples we will make in class.

This project will be using the Python module Tweepy

Here are some links to tutorials in case you run into trouble:

In class video WarGames

In class you will watch the film War Games. If you did not attend class, the film can be found on Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, or on eHootz.

In WarGames, a young hacker breaks into the computer system of NORAD, which the Galloway text explains is a decentralized system. The internet (a distributed system) was designed, in part, to withstand a nuclear attack. In your response to Protocol, please address at least one of the following questions:

  • The movie WarGames is credited with inspiring the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Some have made a direct connection between this film and the prosecution of Aaron Swartz. Given that a low budget Hollywood film is credited with playing a role in the generation the first cyber crime law, how much culpability would you attribute to the film itself? To what extent is the media artist responsible for the effects of their artworks?
  • In 1995, commercial ISPs replaced the government funded internet and control was largely handed over to the telecommunications industry. Now that entertainment and shopping have replaced the military and research as the internet's primary functionality, what should our concerns over hacking now be? Is the recent hack of Sony Pictures (an entertainment company) indicative of this new shift or an anomaly?

This film could also be a point of reference for some of the other questions in your Galloway response.


Artists who use the internet and creative Twitterbots

Check out these artists and art works that use the net and creative Twitter bots:

Want to learn more? Here's a YouTube tutorial on opionion mining. Our code is slightly more complicated because we aren't using an RSS feed, but the principels are the same.

Video Response Assignment 1 The Internet's Own Boy

Please watch the film The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Your response to the movie sould be submitted no later than midnight on 3/1. Your response should address:

  • Who was Aaron Swartz? (Why is he the internet's own boy?)
  • What was Aaron Swart's stance on information freedom? How does this relate to the internet?
  • What is net neutrality? How was Aaron Swartz involved?
  • Why was the government prosecuting Aaron even though JSTOR dropped the charges?
  • Related to Aaron Swartz:


Second Assignment: Python Web Scraper

In the programming language Python, write a program that scrapes information from at least one page located on the web. Visualize that information in a creative manner. The webpage you scrape, and the text that you look for should be meaningful in some way.

We will be learning visualization techniques shortly, so start on your web scraper ASAP! Here is the code for the examples we will make in class.

Links to Python modules that you will need (and instructions for installation):

Install the NLTK corpuses by:

  • Starting python (open the terminal and type: python) then type the following:
  • import nltk
  • nltk.download()
  • install everything from the panel that opens up

Want to learn more? Here's a YouTube tutorial on opionion mining. Our code is slightly more complicated because we aren't using an RSS feed, but the principels are the same.

Artists who use data visualization and or sourced information

Below is a list of artists and projects that involving data visualization in creative ways. These are only a few examples, there are many more that are not mentioned.

I want you to want me


Matplotlib Python Graphing Library

You may want to use Matplotlib to create a graphic visualization. Matplotlib graphs can be exported as a PNG file.

Here is the Dropbox where the code from class can be found

Want to learn more? Here's a very good YouTube series on Matplotlib.

Reading Assignment 1 Steven Levy: Hackers (done)

Please read chapters 1 and 2 from Steven Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. Your response to the text should be submitted no later than midnight on 2/9. Your response should address:

  • Where did the term hacker come from?
  • What do model trains have to do with hacking?
  • What is the hacker ethic?


First Assignment: Python 'Calculator' (done)

In the programming language Python, write a program that promts the user for at least 1 input, performs a function of your choice, and delivers a modified output. What the user inputs and recieves in return should convey some level of meaning.

Students already familiar with programming are encouraged to add additional functionality such as responding to a sensor, or data from the web. Here the code for the examples we will make in class.

Python resources:

Julian Oliver: