Schedule for CSC 199/299:
Social Implications of Computing

Spring 2012

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
Assignment Due:  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
Assignment Due:  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 permissible? 
Thur. Feb. 2: 
Reading:  Textbook Sections 2.4–2.5
Tues. Feb. 7:  Anonymity and Freedom of Speech
Reading:  Textbook Sections 3.5–3.6
Assignment Due:  Learn about privacy on Facebook.  Read the privacy policy in its entirety.  If you are a member of Facebook, examine your privacy 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 changes to Facebook's privacy policy in recent years.  Summarize the controversy, discuss your position on it, and explain how it was resolved. 
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 collection.
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
Assignment Due:  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)
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 Force.
Reading:  Textbook Sections 5.3–5.5
Assignment Due:  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) 
Thur. Mar. 8: 
Prof. Scott out of town.  Guest presentation by KaeLyn Rich, Director, Genesee Valley Chapter, New York Civil Liberties Union.
Assignment Due:  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 be acceptable. 
    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 4.3.3–4.5
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 6.3–6.5
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 & Dentistry.
Reading: (these are short; read them carefully) 
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 Attorneys.
Reading:  Textbook Sections 4.6–4.7
Assignment Due:  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 in-class presentation):  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 comprise an 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.) 

Last Change:  14 April 2012 / Michael Scott's email address