INFO 203. Social Issues of Information

Spring 2018

2 units

Tu & Th: 3:30-5:00
202 South Hall

Prof. Jenna Burrell (

Course Description

This course is designed to be an introduction to the topics and issues associated with the study of information and information technology, from a social scientific perspective. Students will be introduced to a broad range of applied and practical problems, theoretical issues, as well as methods for answering different types of questions.

This 2-credit half semester course is required for Masters students in the Master of Information and Management of Systems (MIMS) degree program at the ISchool at UC-Berkeley.

SECTION 1 – theories of technology in society

Tuesday March 13th – intro to the class

  • Aguera y Arcas et al (2017) Physiognomy’s New Clothes on Medium
  • OPTIONAL: Hardt, How Big Data is Unfair
  • OPTIONAL: Video: Gender Shades – how well do IBM, Microsoft, and Face++ AI services guess the gender of a face?

Thursday March 15th – technological determinism

  • Winner, L. (1999). Do Artifacts Have Politics? In D. MacKenzie & J. Wajcman (Eds.), The Social Shaping of Technology. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press: 22-40.
  • Fischer, C. (1992). America Calling: a social history of the telephone to 1940. Berkeley: University of California Press. (chapter 1)

Tuesday March 20th – theorizing the user in society

  • Fischer, C. (1992). America Calling: a social history of the telephone to 1940. Berkeley: University of California Press. (chapter 3, chapter 6, bibliographic essay)

Thursday March 22nd – social constructivism

  • Bijker, W. (1995) “King of the Road: The Social Construction of the Safety Bicycle” In W. Bijker, Of Bicycles, Bakelites and Bulbs: Toward a Theory of Sociotechnical Change. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

March 27th & 29th – NO CLASS SPRING BREAK

SECTION 2 – delegation between humans and machines

Tuesday April 3rd – the socio-technical gap

  • Ackerman, M. (2001). The Intellectual Challenge of CSCW: The Gap between Social Requirements and Technical Feasibility Human-Computer Interaction, 15(2-3), 181-205.

Thursday April 5th – implicit interaction

  • Ju and Leifer (2007) The Design of Implicit Interactions: Making Interactive Systems Less Obnoxious
  • Ars Technica: Death by GPS: why do we follow digital maps into dodgy places? –

Tuesday April 10th – professionalization and worker autonomy

  • Novek, J. (2002). “IT, Gender, and Professional Practice: Or, Why an Automated Drug Distribution system was Sent Back to the Manufacturer.” Science, Technology & Human Values, 27 (3), 379-403.
  • Mukherjee (2017) AI vs. MD. The New Yorker
  • OPTIONAL (but recommended): How technology led a hospital to give a patient 38 times his dosage

Thursday April 12th – algorithmic management of workers

  • Lee et al (2015) Working with Machines: The Impact of Algorithmic and Data-Driven Management on Human Workers (a study of Uber and Lyft drivers)
  • ‘Working Anything but 9 to 5: Scheduling Technology Leaves Low-Income Parents With Hours of Chaos’ (2014) [NYTimes] and addendum – ‘Starbucks to Revise Policies to End Irregular Schedules for its 130,000 Baristas’ (2014) [NYTimes]

SECTION 3 – networked sociability

Tuesday April 17th – new issues in a networked society

  • Boyd, d. (2010) “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications.” In Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (ed. Zizi Paparharissi), pp. 39-58.
  • Tufekci (2017) Chapter 6: Platforms and Algorithms, from Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest

Thursday April 19th – anonymity, pseudonymity, reputation and community

  • Tufekci (2017) Chapter 7: Names and Connections, from Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest
  • Bernstein, M. et al (2011) 4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Online Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community. In Proceedings of the ICWSM-11. Fifth International AAAI Conference on Weblog and Social Media. Barcelona, Spain.

Thursday April 24th – Wikipedia and commons-based peer production

  • Kriplean et al (2008) Articulations of WikiWork: Uncovering Valued Work in Wikipedia Through Barnstars
  • Geiger R. S. and D. Ribes, (2010) The Work of Sustaining Order in Wikipedia: The Banning of a Vandal. In Proceedings ofthe 2010 ACM conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Savannah, GA

Thursday April 26th – shaping behavior in online spaces

  • Lampe and Resnick (2004) Slash(dot) and Burn: Distributed Moderation in a Large Online Conversation Space
  • Chandrasekaran et al (2017) You Can’t Stay Here: The Efficacy of Reddit’s 2015 Ban Examined Through Hate Speech
  • OPTIONAL: Chen, (2014) “The Laborers who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed”