Schedule for CSC 199/299:
Social Implications of Computing

Spring 2016

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. 14:  Introduction and Brainstorming of Topics
Tue. Jan. 19:  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 (~300 word) summary of/reaction to the article, and post to the class discussion board on Blackboard.  Articles already appearing on the articles page don’t count. 

To facilitate browsing by fellow students, please post your essay as in-line text, rather than an attachment.

Thur. Jan. 21:  Privacy
Reading:  Textbook Sections 2.1–2.2
Tue. Jan. 26: 
Reading:  Textbook Sections 2.3–2.4
Thur. Jan. 28: 
Reading:  Textbook Sections 2.5–2.6
Assignment Due:  Pick one of the following topics and address it in an essay of at least 1000 words.  Discuss arguments for both sides.  Are there useful non-cyber analogies?  Identify the negative and positive rights involved.  Which side do you think is stronger?  Why? 
  1. [exercise 1.23 in the book] Advocacy groups have sued certain companies because blind people cannot use their websites.  The suits argue that the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that the sites be accessible.  Should a law require all business and government websites to provide full access for disabled people? 

  2. Kim Dotcom was the founder of the now-defunct, alleged by US authorities to have “generated more than $175M in criminal proceeds and caused more than $500B in harm to copyright owners.”  In 2010, Dotcom fled Hong Kong for New Zealand, where he has for several years been fighting attempts to extradite him to the US (he lost the latest round the week before Christmas).  In 2013 he launched, which offers what it characterizes as secure, encrypted, anonymous cloud storage.  Is Dotcom a hero or a criminal, or something in-between?  To what extent should governments (in the US or elsewhere) hold people responsible for (merely?) facilitating illegal activity? 

Please generate PDF (not .txt, .doc, .rtf, .dvi, or any other format), and submit your assignment through Blackboard.

Tue. Feb. 2: 
(No new reading for today.)
Thur. Feb. 4: 
Reading:  Textbook Sections 3.1–3.3
Tue. Feb. 9: 
(No new reading for today.)
Assignment Due:  Learn about privacy on Facebook.  Read the privacy policy in its entirety.  Also read the “details page.”  If you are a member of Facebook, examine your settings for security, privacy, and timeline and tagging. Update these settings if they strike you as inappropriate.  Explain the principles you use to decide what should be visible to whom—both by default and for individual posts.  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. 

The length of this assignment is up to you: take as much space as you need for a clear response.  Please submit your essay, in PDF format, via Blackboard.

Thur. Feb. 11: 
Reading:  Textbook Sections 3.4–3.6
Tue. Feb. 16:  Computer Crime
Reading:  Textbook Sections 5.1–5.2
Thur. Feb. 18: 
Reading:  Textbook Sections 5.3–5.4
Tue. Feb. 23:  Intellectual Property
Reading:  Textbook Sections 4.1–4.2
Thur. Feb. 25: 
Reading:  Textbook Sections 4.3–4.5
Assignment Due:  “Whistleblowing” has a long tradition prior to the Internet, but modern technology has substantially increased both its feasibility and its potential impact.  Clearly it can be a powerful force for good.  It also has the power for substantial collateral damage. 

As an example of whistleblowing in the digital age, read up on the history of Wikileaks, and the scope of its activities since its founding in 2006.  Drawing examples from this history (but without necessarily passing judgement on any specific case(s)), discuss the underlying ethical issues in an essay of at least 1000 words.  As usual, bolster your arguments with facts from reputable sources, cite those sources appropriately, and turn in PDF.  Questions you may wish to consider include: 

Tue. & Thur. Mar. 1 & 3:  Open Access
(Tue. morning and Thur. afternoon sections) Guest lecture by Mary Ann Mavrinac, Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of River Campus Libraries
Reading:  Also browse the following:
Tue. & Thur. Mar. 1 & 3:  Law Enforcement
(Tue. afternoon and Thur. morning sections) Guest lecture by Jason Fickett, Supervisory Special Agent, Cyber Intrusion Task Force, FBI-Buffalo Division
Assignment Due:  Choose a topic for your end-of-semester term paper 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.  (Your completed paper, due at the end of the semester, should be about 4000 words [12–15 pages, depending on formatting]). 
(Mar. 7–11: Spring Break)
Tue. Mar. 15:  Online Education
Guest lecture by Eric Fredericksen, UR Associate Vice President for Online Learning and Associate Professor, Warner School of Education (Prof. Scott out of town)
Please bring a smartphone, tablet, or laptop with you to class.
Thur. Mar. 17:  University IP
Guest lecture by Reid Cunningham, Associate Patent Counsel, UR Ventures (Prof. Scott out of town)
Tue. Mar. 22: 
Project proposals
Thur. Mar. 24: 
Project proposals
Tue. Mar. 29: 
Project proposals
Thur. Mar. 31:  Civil Liberties (reprise)
Guest lecture by Iman Abid, Community Organizer, Genesee Valley Chapter, New York Civil Liberties Union
Tue. Apr. 5:  Errors, Failures, and Risks
Reading:  Textbook Sections 8.1–8.2
Thur. Apr. 7: 
Reading:  Textbook Sections 8.3–8.4
Tue. Apr. 12:  Artificial Intelligence/Consciousness
class led by TA Richard Lange
Thur. Apr. 14: 
Tue. Apr. 19:  Sustainability—Toxins
Thur. Apr. 21: 
Sun. Apr. 24: 
Assignment Due:  Discuss, in a paper of approx. 4000 words, 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 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, and that URLs, by themselves, are not acceptable bibliographic entries.)  One last request: to make it easier for me to add annotations, please use a line spacing of at least 1.5. 

Note: Students taking the course for upper-level writing credit will receive their papers back no later than Sunday evening, May 1.  They will have until Sunday evening, May 8 to submit revisions. 

Tue. Apr. 26: 

Last Change:  18 April 2016 / Michael Scott's email address