CSC350 Spring 2009 Syllabus

CSC350 Perspectives on Computing, MWF 11:00am-11:50am, Asher 132 [ http://scholar.georgetowncollege.edu ]
Danny Thorne, Asher 121, 502-863-8362, danny_thorne@georgetowncollege.edu, http://www.georgetowncollege.edu/Departments/mpc/thorne/

Course Description Social, legal, and ethical issues related to computers and information technology.

Primary Text Baase, A Gift of Fire, Second Edition

Possible Additional Readings
Wells, 1984;
Doctorow, Little Brother;
Schneier, Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World
Darmer, Baird & Rosenbaum, Civil Liberties Vs. National Security In A Post 9/11 World (Contemporary Issues)
Etzioni, How Patriotic is the Patriot Act?: Freedom Versus Security in the Age of Terrorism
Leone & Anrig, The War on Our Freedoms: Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism
Schneier, Beyond Fear

Grading Categories and weightings: Class participation 0.30, Presentations 0.30, Papers 0.15, Quizzes 0.05, Final project ("term paper") 0.20. Numerical scores between 0 and 1 (0% and 100%) are computed for assignments, quizzes and exams by dividing the total number of points earned by the total number of points possible. Scores for categories are computed by averaging the individual scores in the categories. The score for each category is then weighted according to the above weights to give an overall course score between 0 and 1. The overall score for the course is then mapped to a letter grade for the course as follows: [0.925,1.000]-->A, [0.875,0.925)-->AB, [0.825,0.875)-->B, [0.775,0.825)-->BC, [0.700,0.775)-->C [0.600,0.700)-->D [0.000,0.600)-->F .

Class Participation This is not a lecture course. We will discuss the material together as we cover it. You should want to engage in this discussion and contribute your viewpoints, experiences and ideas at every class meeting.

Attendance Attendance is required for a non-zero class participation grade. If you provide an acceptable, documented reason for missing a class, I will drop that class participation score when I compute your final grade.

Office Hours My office hours ( M 2:00p-3:00p, T 3:00p-4:00p, W 3:00p-4:00p, R 3:00p-4:00p ) are posted on my door and on my web page. They might change, so check my door or the web page to confirm. I am at your disposal independently of office hours. You may call ahead, make an appointment or just drop by and see if I am available. If I am unavailable due to work-related business when you drop by, I will let you know; otherwise, I am happy to see you anytime.

Monday/Wednesday Class Meetings

The Monday and Wednesday class meetings described here are the same as they were under the former two credit hour version of CSC350.

We will cover as much of the primary text as possible. We will explore additional material (books, news media, online discussion groups, etc.) as well. To an extent, the material that we cover will be determined by your own curiosity and interests. Be sure to mine the author's web page [ http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/giftfire/2e/gof2e.html ] throughout the semester.

For each MW class meeting, your participation grade will be computed as follows: Presentations You all will take turns giving Powerpoint presentations to drive discussion of the topics in the book (and beyond the book, as much as possible) for the MW class meetings. Depending on the size of the class, we may do one or two talks per class period. (Don't let this make you nervous. My experience is that students do not have a problem doing 50 minute talks in this class. The key is that there will be a lot of discussion.)

In your slides, include citations to sources external to the class text that you use. Note that the text is replete with references to external sources. Please copy-and-paste any and all URLs that you find interesting during the course of researching your slides. You do not have to formally include information from every URL, necessarily, but having the links in your slides will be useful for others who are reading through your slides later. Also, on occasion, you might want to pull up an interesting web page in class during your presentation. That is acceptable and encouraged.

For each presentation, a presentation grade will be assigned as follows: You will not be graded on your public speaking skills per se.

Quizzes Each presenter will give a very brief quiz (e.g., two or three trivia questions) to their classmates before their presentation. The purpose of this is to motivate everyone to prepare for discussion by at least reading the corresponding few pages from the book. I will take the quizzes as well, and no one will be docked for any questions that I answer incorrectly.

Friday Class Meetings

In addition to the primary text, we will read one or more other books and/or journal articles (c.f., the secondary texts section above). These will be written up and discussed on Fridays. For each Friday meeting, one person will be the discussion leader. The discussion leader will produce a short paper (approximately three pages) and lead a discussion. The paper will be an synopsis of the social, legal and ethical issues raised in the latest reading and emphasize an exploration of opposing viewpoints on controversial issues. The paper should be finished and distributed by the Wednesday before the Friday meeting in which it will be discussed so that all members of the class will have a chance to read it before the meeting.

We will engage in an "artificially" polarized discussion of issues for the sake of practicing a debate style defense of assertions (in contrast to our discussions during the MW meetings which are typically dispassionate). The discussion leader will adopt a viewpoint to defend and begin the discussion by expressing that viewpoint. Some of the remaining members of the class shall adopt the viewpoint of the discussion leader and some shall adopt an opposing viewpoint. You may not always defend a viewpoint that you actually sympathize with. Everyone should keep this in mind. The purpose is to practice supporting assertions, independently of your personal inclinations about those assertions. In fact, it is good to make a habit of arguing for viewpoints that you do not agree with. This will help you better understand the viewpoint you do agree with as well as learn to think carefully about difficult issues while avoiding reactions based largely on emotions. When a class meeting ends, do not assume that the viewpoint that was passionately defended by one of your classmates during class is the viewpoint that they actually accept.

Quizzes Each discussion leader will give a very brief quiz (e.g., two or three trivia questions) to their classmates before initiating the discussion. The purpose of this is to motivate everyone to prepare for discussion by at least reading the minimal amount assigned for that meeting. I will take the quizzes as well, and no one will be docked for any questions that I answer incorrectly.

Final Project

You will pick a pet topic to research more thoroughly and think about more deeply during the course of the semester and present at the end. This will include a write up in addition to powerpoint slides. I expect a good write up may require around 10 pages, but I do not have an a priori length requirement. It just needs to be interesting and show evidence that you put substantial time, effort and thought into it. It should
  1. provide a nice background on the topic/issue,
  2. explore opposing viewpoints, contraversy, a variety of ways of the thinking, etcetera about the topic/issue,
  3. elaborate on your own ideas and perspectives on the topic/issue, and
  4. wrap up with open questions and closing thoughts.
Some possible topics are See our author's list of topics [ http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/giftfire/2e/papertopics ] for a longer, more elaborate list.

Each person will be given a full class period to give their final presentations. They ought to be a bit more formal as presentations in contrast to the discussion fodder presentations given during the semester.

At least one intermediate submission of the final paper will be required around midterm. You should plan on having an outline of your paper with sketches of ideas in each section by midterm. In addition to reviewing these myself and providing feedback, I may have you trade them among yourselves to get peer feedback from at least one classmate.

I will probably also request a more complete draft sometime toward the end of the semester. The hard deadline for the final submission of the paper is the beginning of our regularly scheduled final exam period: Monday, May 11, 2008, 11am. I implore you to get them done and turn them in long before that, though.