G E O R G E T O W N C O L L E G E
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,
Social, legal, and ethical issues related to computers and information technology.
Primary Text Baase, A Gift of Fire, Second Edition
Possible Additional Readings
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
Categories and weightings:
Class participation 0.30,
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:
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
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
Be sure to mine the author's web
[ 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:
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.)
- 5 points for mere attendance
- 6 points for attending and taking notes. Take brief notes about the slides and the discussion. Specific
notes on who posed what questions and made what comments, as much as possible.
You will turn in your notes (or photo copies of your
notes, if you prefer) to me after each class meeting.
- 6-10 points for attending, taking notes and contributing to the discussion:
- Asleep -- 0 points.
- Awake and attentive -- 1 point.
- Incidental comments/questions -- 1 to 2 points.
- Substantial comments/questions, particularly if bringing new ideas/information from
recent reading other than the text, -- 2 to 4 points.
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
- 5 points for having slides and presenting them
- 6 to 7 points for customizing the slides minimally beyond a boring outline like
what is provided by the author
- 7 to 10 points for original, engaging and informative slides that incorporate
ideas and questions beyond what is in the body of the chapters in the book or elaborate
in interesting ways on ideas/questions from the body of the chapters in the book.
(Note that I awkwardly specify body of the chapters in the book to distinguish
from the ideas and questions that might come from the exercises in the book. For a
really good quality presentation, you should, in fact, leverage the ideas/questions
at the end of each chapter.)
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
for the sake of practicing a debate style defense of assertions
(in contrast to our discussions during the MW meetings which are typically
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
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.
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.
Some possible topics are
- provide a nice background on the topic/issue,
- explore opposing viewpoints, contraversy, a variety of ways of the thinking, etcetera about the topic/issue,
- elaborate on your own ideas and perspectives on the topic/issue, and
- wrap up with open questions and closing thoughts.
See our author's list of topics
[ http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/giftfire/2e/papertopics ]
for a longer, more elaborate list.
- Open source and/or free software
- File sharing
- Digital rights (DMCA, etc...)
- Extreme views on technology (e.g., anarcho-primitivism, extropianism, ...)
- Artificial intelligence
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.