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Values Embodied in Information & Communication Technologies
Mondays 4:55-7:05pm, 194M 209
Helen Nissenbaum, Department of Media, Culture, and Communication

Virtually all parts of our lives are touched by computing and information technology. It mediates much private and public communication, interaction, and transaction, and forms the infrastructure for critical social and institutional functions in commerce, banking and finance, utilities, national defense, education, social networking, and entertainment, The course steps back and considers social, political, and ethical implications of these systems, evaluating how they promote or impede the values to which we, individually and as societies are committed, such as freedom, privacy, sociality, justice and autonomy.

The course follows two paths. The first takes us through social commentary and key works in the philosophy and social study of technology that seek to understand the rich and sometimes troubling relationship between development and deployment of technology, on the one hand, and social and political factors, on the other. We address questions such as: Does technology make the world better, or worse? Is technology neutral? Who should be in charge of directing technological development? What is the role of scientists and engineers? The second path directs us through the arena or information and communication technologies as we consider how the general questions and theories of the first path apply to ICT and new media.

This is a project-centered course in which students will collaborate in small groups, applying philosophical and social theories of technology to analyze and, possibly, design computer and information systems. From the start, students will be guided in the selection and development of project ideas and will be matched with one or two other students, based on mutual interests and complementary skills.

The course welcomes students with a variety of backgrounds, including technical computer science and engineering students interested in learning about social, political, and ethical implications of their field, as well as students with humanistic, social science, and communications backgrounds interested in learning about the technology behind digitally mediated communication and experience. Project goals and deliverables will be adjusted according students? backgrounds and skills.


All articles are available through the seminar website.

Blackboard Course Homepage

The course homepage includes the most up-to-date schedule as well as course requirements, readings, and announcements. In addition, you will find external links and an online discussion board.

Requirements and Grading Policy

Students are expected to attend all classes, complete assigned readings before class, and turn in readings responses each week. Grades will be assessed according to four criteria: participation (in-class, online, and written responses to readings), a short paper due mid-term, a collaborative project presentation, and a term paper.

***To pass the class, students must pass each of the four elements.

20% Participation (attendance, in-class and online)
20% Weekly readings responses
20% Project presentation
40% Term paper (12-15 pp)


Sept 10 Introduction to the Course

Sept 17 Technology and Human Values


Winner, L. "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" The Whale and the Reactor. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1986. 19-39.

Ellul, J. "The 'Autonomy' of the Technological Phenomenon.? Philosophy of Technology: The Technological Condition. Ed. R. Scharff. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003. 386-397.

Mumford, L. "Authoritarian and Democratic Technics.? Technology and Culture 5.1 (1964): 1-8.

Friedman, B. & Nissenbaum, H. ?Bias in Computer Systems.? ACM Transactions on Information Systems 14.3 (1996): 330-347.

Sept 24 Technology a Force for Good or Evil: The Idea of Technological Determinism


Weinberg, Alvin M. "Can Technology Replace Social Engineering." Controlling Technology: Contemporary Issues. Ed. W. B. Thompson. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1991. 41-48.

Postman, Neil. ?Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change"

Dreyfus, H. "Heidegger on Gaining a Free Relation to Technology" Readings in the Philosophy of Technology. Ed. D. Kaplan. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004.

Norman, Donald. The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Doubleday, 1989. (excerpts)

Oct 1 Technological Alternatives


Introna, L. ?Towards a Post-Human Intra-Actional Account of Socio-Technical Agency.? Towards a Post-Human Account of Socio-Technical Agency (and Morality) (draft)

Weber, R. "Manufacturing Gender in Military Cockpit Design." The Social Shaping of Technology. Eds. MacKenzie, D. and J. Wajcman. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985.

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. (excerpts)

Oct 15 Values Embodied in Technology


Bowker, G. & Star, S. L. ?Ch.7: What a Difference a Name Makes ? The Classification of Nursing Work? and ?Ch.10: Why Classifications Matter.? Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999. 229-252 and 319-326.

Introna, L. & Nissenbaum, H. "Shaping the Web: Why the Politics of Search Engines Matter." The Information Society 16.3 (2000): 1-17.

Latour, Bruno. "Where Are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts." Shaping Technology/Building Society. Ed. W. Bijker and J. Law. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992. 225-258.

Oct 22 Social Construction of Technology


Pfaffenberger, B. "Technological Dramas." Science, Technology, & Human Values 17.3 (1992): 282-312.

Pinch, Trevor and W. Bijker. "The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts: Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other." Shaping Technology/Building Society. Ed. W. Bijker and J. Law. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992. 17-50.

Oct 29 Social Constructivism and its Critics


Brey, P. ?Philosophy of Technology Meets Social Constructivism? Techne: Journal for the Society for Philosophy and Technology. 2.3-4 (1997). (recommended)

MacKenzie, D. and J. Wajcman. "Introduction: The Social Shaping of Technology." The Social Shaping of Technology. Eds. D. MacKenzie and J. Wajcman. Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985.

Winner, L. "Upon Opening the Black Box and Finding it Empty: Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Technology." The Technology of Discovery and the Discovery of Technology. Eds. J. Pitt and E. Lugo. Blacksburg, Va: Society for Philosophy and Technology, 1991.

Joerges, B. "Do Politics Have Artefacts?" Social Studies of Science 29.3 (1999): 411-431.

Johnson, D.G. "Computer Systems: Moral Entities but not Moral Agents." Ethics and Information Technology 8 (2006): 195-204

Nov 5 The Practical Turn I


Bentham, Jeremy. "Panopticon; or the Inspection House." The Panopticon Writings. New York: Verso, 1995. 31-37.

Flanagan, M., Howe, D. and Nissenbaum, H. "Values in Design: Theory and Practice." (draft) 2005.

Boehner, K., C. DiSalvo, M. Bodker, and R. De Paula. ?The Increasing Value of Reflection: A Discussion of Reflective HCI.? Interfaces 72 (2007): 20-23.

Nov 12 Values: What? Whose?


Constitution of the United States of America (esp. Bill of Rights)

Nagel, Thomas. "The Fragmentation of Value." Mortal Questions. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1979. 128-141.

Berlin, I. The Crooked Timber of Humanity: Chapters in the History of Ideas Ed. Henry Hardy. New York: Knopf, 1991. 1-19.

Fried, Charles. An Anatomy of Value: Problems of Personal and Social Choice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970. (excerpts) Chapter 4, Chapters 5-6

Nov 19 The Case of the Internet


Abbate, J. Inventing the Internet. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999. Chapters 3-4.

Lessig, L. "The Law of the Horse: What Cyberlaw Might Teach." 113 Harvard Law Review 501 (1999). Law of Horse (2)

Shirky, C. "Social Software and the Politics of Groups." Clay Shirky?s Writings About the Internet.

Nov 21 Project Discussions

Nov 26 The Practical Turn II


Friedman, B., Kahn, P. and Borning, A. "Value Sensitive Design and Information Systems." Human-Computer Interaction in Management Information Systems: Foundations. Eds. B. Schneiderman, P. Zhang & D. Galletta. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2006.

Perry, J., Macken, E., Scott, N. and J. McKinley. "Disability, Inability, and Cyberspace." Human Values and the Design of Computer Technology. Ed. Batya Friedman. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 65-90.

Dec 3 Project Presentations

Dec 10 Project Presentations, cont.

Guest Presentation
Shay David, Founder, Kaltura

Course Project Planning Guide

Guide to Collaborative Projects: Target Timeline:

Sept 24: Settle on a Topic and Group

Oct 1: Outline Project; Decide on Project Type

Oct 15: Project Sources (Submit Bibliography, Websites, Objects)

Oct 22: Divide Tasks (Meet with Instructor)

Nov 5: Working Draft (Analysis, Design)

Dec 3 or 10: Project Presentations

Dec 17: Term Paper Due

Supplemental Readings

Agre, P. "Peer-to-Peer and the Promise of Internet Equality." Communications of the ACM 46.2 (2003): 39-42.

Agre, P. "Real-Time Politics: The Internet and the Political Process." The Information Society 18.5 (2002): 311-331.

Barlow, J.P., "Coming Into the Country." Communications of the ACM 34.3 (1991): 12?21.

Berlin, Isaiah. "Two Concepts of Liberty." Four Essays on Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958. 1-16.

Bimber, Bruce. "Three Faces of Technological Determinism." Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological Determinism. Eds. M.R. Smith and L. Marx. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998. 79-100.

Bunge, M. "Philosophical Inputs and Outputs of Technology." Philosophy of Technology: The Technological Condition. Ed. R. Scharff. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003. 172-182 (with chapter introduction).

Cowan, R. S. "How the Refrigerator Got Its Hum." The Social Shaping Of Technology: How The Refrigerator Got Its Hum. Eds. D. MacKenzie & J. Wajcman. Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1985. 202-218.

Ellul, J. "The Autonomy of Technique.? Controlling Technology. Ed. E. Katz. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2003. 163-174.

Grimmelmann, James. "The Structure of Search Engine Law."

Heikkerö, T. "Focal Things and Practices - In the West and in Japan." Technology in Society, forthcoming.

Heilbroner, Robert. "Do Machines Make History?" Controlling Technology: Contemporary Issues, 2nd ed. Eds. E. Katz, A. Light, and W. Thompson. New York: Prometheus Books, 2003.

Hughes, T.P. "Introduction.? Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1983.

Johnson, D.R. and D.G. Post. ?The New Civic Virtue of the Internet.? First Monday. 1997.

Kramer, Mark. "The Ruination of the Tomato." Controlling Technology: Contemporary Issues. Ed. W.B. Thompson. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1991. 131-141.

Kwitny, J. "The Great Transportation Conspiracy." Controlling Technology: Contemporary Issues. Ed. W. B. Thompson. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1991. 265-274.

Lessig, Lawrence. Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace. New York: Basic Books, 1999. Chapters 2, 5, 7.

Marcuse, H. "Social Implications of Technology." Readings in the Philosophy of Technology. Ed. D. Kaplan. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004.

Mitcham, C. "Ethics Into Design." Discovering Design: Explorations in Design Studies. Eds. R. Buchanan and V. Margolin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Mitcham, C. "In Memoriam: Ivan Illich: Critic of Professionalized Design." Design Issues 19.4 (2003): 26-30.

Mitcham, C. "Values and Valuing." Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics. Ed. C. Mitcham. New York: Macmillan Reference, 2005.

Pitt, J. C. "The Autonomy of Technology." Controlling Technology. Ed. E. Katz. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2003. 229-241.

Sengers, P., Boehner, K., David, S. and Kaye, J. "Reflective Design." Culturally Embedded Computing Group. Cornell Information Science, 2005.
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