Schedule for CSC 199/299:
Social Implications of Computing
This schedule will evolve over the course of the semester.
Check back frequently!
NB: Readings and assignments are listed on the date by which
they must be completed, not the date they are assigned.
Unless otherwise noted, assignments are due before the beginning of
class on the listed day.
- Thur. Jan. 19: Introduction and
Brainstorming of Topics
- Tues. Jan. 24: Changes Brought on by
Computing and the Internet
Reading: Textbook Chapter 1
Find an article in the “reputable” media (an outlet that
researches its stories, and is quick to acknowledge and correct any
factual errors) that appeared in the last month and that addresses
social implications of computing. Write a one-page summary
of/reaction to the article, and post to the class discussion board on Blackboard. Articles
already appearing on my resources page don’t count.
- Thur. Jan. 26: Privacy
Reading: Textbook Sections 2.1–2.2
- Tues. Jan. 31:
Reading: Textbook Section 2.3
Pick one of the following topics and address it in an essay of at least
three pages (1500 words). Discuss arguments for both sides.
Identify the negative and positive rights involved.
Which side do you think is stronger? Why?
(a) [exercise 1.18 in the book] Advocacy groups have sued certain
companies because blind people cannot use their Web sites. The suits
argue that the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that the sites
be accessible. A judge dismissed a suit against Southwest Airlines
because Web sites did not fit in any of the categories specified in the
law. Another judge allowed a similar suit, National Federation
for the Blind v. Target Corporation, to proceed. Should all
business and/or government Web sites be required by law to provide full
access for disabled people, and in particular the blind?
(b) The SOPA and PIPA bills recently derailed in Congress (largely
through grassroots agitation) are largely intended to address the
proliferation of pirated content online. Should the US government take
action to block access to pirated content? If not, what recourse should
content owners have, esp. with respect to sites beyond the reach of US
law? If so, what sort of due process should be involved, and how much
collateral harm (e.g., blocked access to non-pirated content) is
- Thur. Feb. 2:
Reading: Textbook Sections 2.4–2.5
- Tues. Feb. 7: Anonymity and Freedom of
Reading: Textbook Sections 3.5–3.6
in its entirety. If you are a member of Facebook, examine your
settings. Update them if they seem inappropriate.
Explain the principles you have used to decide what should be public and
private, and to whom. If you are not a member of Facebook, and
prefer not to join, describe the settings you would choose if you were a
member, or would recommend to a friend. (You may need to look over
a friend's shoulder to see what the options are.) Again, explain
the principles behind your choice. Finally, do an Internet search
to find information on one or more of the public controversies regarding
the controversy, discuss your position on it, and explain how it was
- Thur. Feb. 9
Reading: “Should Personal Data Be Personal? Europe Moves to Protect Online Privacy” (Somini Sengupta, NY Times)
and “Facebook Is Using You” (Lori Andrews, NY Times).
Come prepared to debate the pluses and minuses of Facebook data
- Tues. Feb. 14:
Reading: Textbook Sections 3.1–3.4
- Thur. Feb. 16: Community Impacts
Reading: Textbook Sections 7.1–7.3
- Tues. Feb. 21:
Reading: Textbook Sections 7.4–7.5
Investigate and discuss, in an essay of at least three pages, some
aspect of the role of computer and Internet technology in the
“Arab Spring” of 2011.
Possibilities you might want to consider include (but are not limited to)
- the use of the Internet, cell phones, etc. to organize protests;
- government attempts to block or disable Internet access or communication;
- government monitoring of communication to find and harass
- controversies between vendors (e.g., RIM) and governments regarding
interception of communication;
- the extent to which access to technology influenced who tended to
participate in reform movements, and where those movements would
- the extent (if any) to which the use of technology correlated
with other trends, such as a tendency toward nonviolence, more
democratic participation, or collaboration with parties outside the
country in question.
- Thur. Feb. 23: Computer Crime
Reading: Textbook Sections 5.1–5.2
- Tues. Feb. 28:
Prof. Scott out of town. Guest presentation by Barry Couch,
Special Agent in Charge, Rochester Division, FBI Cyber Crimes Task
Reading: Textbook Sections 5.3–5.5
Find a computer crime (one in
which computing or the Internet played a major role) that was
committed and resolved within the past five years. In a roughly
2-page posting to the discussion group on Blackboard,
summarize what happened, what law(s) were violated, and what penalty,
if any, was imposed on the violator(s). Does the penalty seem
appropriate to you? Explain.
- Thur. Mar. 1: Intellectual Property
Reading: Textbook Sections 4.1–4.3.2
- Tues. Mar. 6: e-Books
Prof. Scott out of town. Guest presentation by
Michael Bell, Interim Co-Dean, River Campus Libraries.
Reading: (these are short; read them all)
“Ebooks on Fire: Controversies Surrounding
Ebooks in Libraries.”
Information Today, February 2011.
“Judge Rejects Google Books Settlement.”
The Wall Street Journal, 23 March 2011.
Hardy, I. Trotter.
“Contracts, Copyright and Preemption in a Digital
Richmond Journal of Law and Technology, April 17, 1995.
“The Effect of E-Books and E-Readers on Brick-and-Mortar
Popcorn Reads (n.p.), 2011-2012.
“Apple Introduces Tools to (Someday) Supplant Print
The New York Times, January 19, 2012.
“The Myth of the Bookless Library.”
Inside Higher Ed, November 15, 2011.
- Thur. Mar. 8:
Prof. Scott out of town. Guest presentation by
KaeLyn Rich, Director, Genesee Valley Chapter, New York Civil Liberties Union.
Choose a topic for your end-of-semester major project and post a
one-to-two paragraph description of it to the discussion group on
Blackboard. A list of possible topics can be found HERE.
Note that you are not limited to topics on this list; anything that
addresses the impact on society of computing and the Internet will
You will have the option
for your project of writing a 10–15-page paper, or making a
20–30-minute formal presentation to
the class. If you would like the latter, please mail me as soon
as possible to reserve a time slot. We will use the last three
class periods (April 24, April 26, and May 1) for this purpose.
I’ll fill the slots first-come, first-served.
- (Mar. 10–18: Spring Break)
- Tues. Mar. 20:
Presentation of project topics; feedback from the class.
Come prepared to present your topic
(you will be graded on this.)
- Thur. Mar. 22:
Additional topic presentations.
- Tues. Mar. 27: Errors, Failures, & Risk
(and last few project presentations)
Reading: Textbook Sections 8.1–8.2
- Thur. Mar. 29:
Reading: Textbook Sections 8.3–8.4
- Tues. Apr. 3: Intellectual Property (reprise)
Reading: review Textbook Sections 4.1–4.3.2; read
- Thur. Apr. 5: UR Perspective on File Sharing
Guest speakers: Julie Myers, Chief Information Security Officer, and
Richard Crummins, Senior Counsel, Univ. of Rochester.
- Tues. Apr. 10: Workplace Issues
Reading: skim Textbook Sections 6.1–6.2; read
- Thur. Apr. 12: Ethics
Reading: Textbook Sections 9.1–9.2; skim 9.3
- Tues. Apr. 17:
Prof. Scott out of town. Guest presentation by Dr. Marjorie
Hodges-Shaw, Dept. of Medical Humanities, UR School of Medicine
Reading: (these are short; read them carefully)
Learning How to Think, by Nicholas D. Kristof, NY Times, March 26, 2009.
Remarks by Chairman Alan Greenspan, Commencement address, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, June 10, 1999.
Remarks by Steve Jobs, Commencement address, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, June 12, 2005.
- Thur. Apr. 19:
Prof. Scott out of town. Guest presentation by Corine
Farewell, Director, UR Office of Technolog Transfer, and
Alfonzo Cutaia, Associate,
Intellectual Property & Technology Practice Group, Hodgson-Russ
Reading: Textbook Sections 4.6–4.7
Research some failure of computerized technology, within the past five
years, that had significant financial or social cost.
Describe what happened in a roughly 2-page posting to the discussion
group on Blackboard. Does the failure appear, realistically, to
have been preventable? How? What steps, if any, should
be taken to prevent or avoid similar failures in the future?
- Tues. Apr. 24:
project presentations: Michaela Kerem, Jason He, Ben Feinberg
- Thur. Apr. 26:
project presentations: Aaron Eisenberg, Christina Boretsky
Bring laptops for course evaluations
- Tues. May 1:
project presentations: Nicole Karam, James Wu
Semester Project Due Fri. May 4, at 5pm (or when you make an
Discuss, in a paper of 10–15 pages or a formal presentation of
20–30 minutes, a topic of your choice
related to class material. Keep in mind that the focus should be
on social implications of technology more than on the technology
itself. At the very least, your paper or presentation should
insightful overview of the topic; ideally, it should state and defend a
position or point of view.
Be sure to cite sources for nonobvious facts, expert
opinions, or verbatim material. (Your bibliographic entries
should provide sufficient information, when printed on paper, for a
library user to find the original source easily. Note that
Wikipedia and similar sites are not original sources.)