Spring 2017

STS 3561 - Computing Cultures

Work required

This is not a lecture class, but a class in a lecture hall. Much of the work in this course will involve your participation in the form of interactive exercises, group discussions, and assignments.

1. Reading

The course readings are the foundation of your work in this class. You are expected to have read thoughtfully the day's readings. Readings can vary considerably in discipline and difficulty; keep in mind that reading length does not greatly correlate with reading time. Please bring both readings and your reading notes to class.

2. Participating

Your participation is essential to your (and our!) success in this class. We have designed the sessions to be interactive and activities-based. That is, we will analyze, build on, and struggle with the course readings; practice analytic and conversational skills; work on assignments; and engage in other activities to help you master the materials.

You will receive full participation credit for attending class prepared. You can further improve your participation credit by supporting the class community, for instance, by helping others on Piazza or volunteering for class activities and special tasks.

Please note: You may miss up to four classes without hurting your participation grade. Make sure you save these for important matters, such as interviews, illness, and emergencies. If you miss a class, we strongly recommend that you review the class slides (which are often minimalist) and check in with one of your co-students to get up to speed.

3. Writing

Over the course of the semester, you will receive writings prompts for four required essays. Writing prompts will be announced as the semester proceeds. Essays will be graded according to a rubric that we will discuss in class.

Deadlines are indicated in the schedule. Papers should be in 12pt font, double-spaced, and follow proper citation practices. Include a bibliography.

Essay 1: Offline Life Diary

How does technology shape your life? For this writing assignment, you will create a diary of your experience of going offline between classes on Thursday, February 4, and Tuesday, February 9. In other words, you will have more than four full days of your life offline – and a unique opportunity to record your observations.

Details: Essay prompt 1

Essay 2: Unpacking 'Privacy'

Pick a specific case, in which someone/something claimed a breach of privacy in the context of computing, and analyze it through the lens of some of the ideas discussed in class. 1,200-1,500 words.

Details: Essay prompt 2

Essay 3: Evils of Computing

Pick a case, in which an information system has been associated with bias, discrimination, or unfair treatment. What has gone wrong? According to whom? What might be done to remedy the situation? 1,500-1,700 words.

Details: Essay prompt 3

Essay 4: Your Choice

Pick a case, in which a computing technology raises important social, ethical, cultural, political, etc. issues, and analyze it in light of an idea or theme we discussed in class. 2,000-2,500 words.

Details: Essay prompt 4

4. Design activity: Project poster and presentation

This assignment is based on a class exercise, in which you will be asked to design a rating scheme. Working in groups of four, you will produce and present a poster that details your idea and analysis. This assignment will be graded on a pass/fail basis with an extra credit possibility for highly-ranked proposals. Detailed instructions to follow.

Grade breakdown

Please check the detailed memos on assignments on Piazza.

Grading is not just a matter of numbers, but also of judgment. We reserve the right to adjust grades by up to half a letter grade based on knowledge of your performance not summed up in this tidy formula.

Academic Integrity

It is absolutely crucial that you observe the Cornell Code of Academic Integrity, which states:

Absolute integrity is expected of every Cornell student in all academic undertakings. ... A Cornell student's submission of work for academic credit indicates that the work is the student's own. All outside assistance should be acknowledged, and the student's academic position truthfully reported at all times. In addition, Cornell students have a right to expect academic integrity from each of their peers.

Specifically, using text or ideas from someone else without proper citation is not acceptable in any assignment under any circumstances. You will be asked to take a tutorial on Academic Integrity in the first week of class to familiarize yourself with the rules. This is important because the rules at Cornell might differ from those at other schools and universities. Dealing with cases of plagiarism is by far my least favorite duty – let’s make sure this does not happen.