For the first time, the New Media Department of the University of Maine is offering a course in Contagious Media–the use of the Internet, street performances, and other viral techniques for garnering recognition in the digital age.
After surveying some technical underpinnings of existing social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, the class examines techniques for splicing these networks together to disseminate viral concepts, or memes, for artistic or political ends.
Student projects have so far combined such technologies as blogs, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as such low-tech strategies as flashmobs and launch parties. One particularly successful scheme involved printing the url for DearMaineStreet.com–a site designed to air feedback on dysfunctional course management software purchased by the university–on real maple leafs and then scattering them around campus. Photographs of these leaves, including the domain, made their way onto the front page of the Maine Campus newspaper and generated sufficient buzz to spike visitors to the Web site.
Many of these student projects will be on view at a “Contagious Idea” expo coming up in December. These include a class project to create a social network tailored to the New Media Department called NMDnet.