Updates for fall 2017

The following pages have been updated for fall 2017:

The readings are 90 percent set. I might swap out one or two of the previous reading assignments and replace it, or them, with new readings. That will be decided before our first class meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 23. You can see last year’s readings. When the readings are all set, I’ll upload a new PDF.

Students will have an assignment due on Monday, Aug. 28, so it’s important to come to the first class and get the details.

Topics in this course:

  • Activism (especially online)
  • Algorithms in everyday life
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Democratic rights and freedoms
  • Foreign policy (public diplomacy)
  • Hackers/digital piracy
  • Mobile Internet
  • Privacy (Facebook, Google)
  • Remix/copyright (creative works)
  • Surveillance (by governments)
  • Twitter as a public forum / #blacklivesmatter
  • Viral media

More things about algorithms

Here’s the brand-new series of articles about algorithms, published by investigative powerhouse ProPublica (very relevant to this week’s topic!):

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Here’s the Khan Academy course about algorithms (in class, I showed the first video from this course, which gives examples of various kinds of algorithms):

algorithms

Also shown: Google Trends and Explore Google Trends; and FAQs about trends on Twitter.

We mentioned “brute force” algorithms (e.g. for winning at checkers) vs. machine-learning algorithms, which were necessary for this amazing achievement: How the Computer Beat the Go Master (March 2016).

TED Talk by Wael Ghonim

This is the video I mentioned in class, in which Wael Ghonim discusses how the Internet must change to support social change in the world. Wael was mentioned in the Week 3 readings as the well-known creator of the Facebook page “We Are All Khaled Said,” which helped to unite Egyptians in a mass protest during the Arab Spring in 2011. Thanks to Osama for this link!

An added note: In an article I like very much, scholar Merlyna Lim expands on the “We Are All Khaled Said” example:

Previous movements in Egypt “had already created a basis for a mass political action. Indeed the story of Khaled Said can also be read as a culmination of the longstanding online campaign against torture waged on blogs such as Wael Abbas’s Egyptian Awareness, Nael Atef’s Torture in Egypt, and Bloggers Against Torture. However, the critical new important element introduced by the “We are all Khaled Said” movement was a strong symbolic representation, an iconic figure to fight against the authorities” (Lim, 2012, p. 241; boldface added).

Think carefully before you claim that one blog or one hashtag started a movement! There is often a long history of activism before the spark that lit the fire.

How effective is surveillance?

Here is a short article from ProPublica, a well-respected independent non-profit news organization:

What’s the Evidence Mass Surveillance Works? Not Much (Nov. 18, 2015)

Very pertinent to yesterday’s presentation and discussion.

Transparency is a big issue: The government claims surveillance has helped to prevent some attacks, but no evidence is given. We are simply supposed to believe the claim because the government said so.

When we talk about political participation in Hong Kong

One of this week’s articles, by Leung and Lee (2014), can be discussed in the context of the 2014 Hong Kong protests, in which tens of thousands of people shut down Hong Kong’s CBD (Central Business District) by camping out in tents, sitting, walking, and holding signs, starting in September. Police drove the protesters away with relatively little violence more than two months later in mid-December 2014.

This popular video (it has 556,000+ views) gives a fast and accurate summary of Hong Kong’s relationship to mainland China and provides some context for why the protests took place.

It’s 6 min. 37 sec. and well worth the time. If you want to skip the history of Hong Kong and go straight to the part about the 2014 protest action, go to 03:40 in the video and play from there. But the first half is really good too.

The English subtitles on this video are great, by the way. Chinese subtitles are also provided!