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6000-level seminar Spring 2016 on Designing to Change Power and Authority!

Deborah will be teaching a 6000-level class this Spring (2016) on Designing to Change Power and Authority.

This is the description:

Why build a system unless there is something that you want to do differently? Computer Scientists build systems to change things in the world.   But as computer systems touch more and more aspects of life, it is not just all about efficiency.   It’s very easy to design systems that get users to interact with computers in a way that satisfies some set of narrow goals, but the cost may be that we are constrained and even bullied by our systems. As recently 1994, Howard Rheingold claimed that the “internet promotes democracy,” yet the ensuing 20+ years have begun to reveal more complex patterns, starting with the observation that we must be concerned now not with “the” internet, but with “this” internet [Dourish, 2015]. In a recent New York Times op-ed, Robert Reich (Former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton) notes that “while in 2001, the top 10 websites accounted for 31 percent of all page views in America, by 2010 the top 10 accounted for 75 percent” [Reich, NYT, 9/18/15]. Likewise, “Amazon is now the first stop for almost a third of all American consumers seeking to purchase anything.” As Reich goes on to say, “Talk about power.”

But the power of computer technology in society does not just lie at these institutional levels. It also lies in the ways that habitual practices in design result in the creation of computational systems that demand and reinforce ritualized behavior in the users. We can and ought to design differently! We can design to promote equity, inclusion, and freedom of action.

This project-based class designs and implements, taking into consideration such current movements as participatory design, critical design, adversarial design, feminist design, as well as Dr. Tatar’s own understanding of the challenges that face the knowledge society in the next ten years. We will design systems to promote equity and inclusion, and we will inform our design activity with (1) an understanding of who and how people are currently marginalized and (2) design propositions about what we can do differently.

17th Women in Computing Day

Congratulations and a big thank you to the Association for Women in Computing and the Department of Computer Science for a very successful 17th annual Women in Computing Day on April 24.   Held this year at the Moss Art Center, the event brought in 7th grade girls from around the region to explore various ideas in computation and computational thinking — from circuits made of playdoh to being data in the Moss Art Center Cube.

Here’s a gorgeous thought

In Snaps: 2005–2015, by David Remnick, in the Feb. 23/ Mar, 2 issue of the New Yorker (the President in the following  is Obama):

“I think we are born into this world and inherit all the grudges and rivalries and hatreds and sins of the past,” the President said in a series of interviews for The New Yorker. “But we also inherit the beauty and the joy and goodness of our forebears. And we’re on this planet a pretty short time, so that we cannot remake the world entirely during this little stretch that we have. But I think our decisions matter.” He added, “At the end of the day, we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.”