CS378H Public Policy and the Digitally Native Technologist

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Honors course. Meets in GDC 2.410 three hours per week: Monday 1-2pm and Wednesday 1-3pm

Instructor: Prof. William Press
Email: wpress@cs.utexas.edu
Office: POB 3.258
Office hours: Monday, 2-3pm (immediately after class), or arrange time by email

TAs: Urmilla Banerjee and John Hawkins

Prerequisites: Upper-division standing in Turing Scholars program or, with consent of instructor, in Dean's Scholars or Polymathic Scholars programs.

Spring, 2016.

Course Contact List Form

Links to Google Groups or Docs

Our Google Group (for setting edit permissions if you post Google Docs): cs378h-2016@googlegroups.com

Upcoming Schedule

(Archived schedule events here.)
Monday, April 25. Group talks on Forensic Science, Public Sector Service, Mobile Payments.
Wednesday, April 27. Group talks on Internet of Things, Anonymity, Digital IP Rights, Digital Voting, G2.
Monday, May 2. Course Instructor Survey! Also work in teams on projects. (Bill away.)
Wednesday, May 4. Last class! Group talks on Intellectual Property, Public Sector, Internet Governance, EU vs. Google. Final wrapup/feedback.

Complete list of teams and schedule of due dates for talks and papers here.

Post your team or individual papers in this folder.

Course Description

Are you a digital native? How, and in what roles, can you influence public policy, now and in the future? This course will consider actual case studies as a way to provide practical experience in how policy is made, how to advise a President, a legislator, a judge, a CEO. Exercises may involve coding/scripting (for data collection, fusion, analysis), writing (communication of results to policy makers), and oral presentation.

Individually and in small teams, each student will participate in 4 or 5 topical units in the course of the semester. Each unit will have a fast research phase (starting with an introduction of the topic by the instructor), a writing component, an oral presentation component, and an instructor and peer assessment component. The purpose of each unit is to make a well-supported case to a (simulated) policy maker for a specific set of actions. Teamwork and appropriate division of effort, and fusion of results, will be required, but each student will him/herself do a significant amount of individual writing in each topical unit. Written exercises may include: a draft Presidential decision memo, a draft section of a Senate bill, a piece of an amicus brief to the Supreme Court.

For each topical unit, we will ask questions like these:

  • What is the issue? What are the questions that we should be asking about the issue?
  • What is known about the answers? Is there data? Could we get data? Where there is controversy, what are the different points of view?
  • What economic interests are at stake? What societal interests (other than economic) are at stake?
  • What are the policy levers, i.e., what can be changed? Who controls those levers?
  • What do we actually want to happen? Who should do what?
  • Can we produce a convincing case to motivate the relevant policy-makers to act?

Counts for writing flag.

Topical Units (2016)

Completed Topics

Other Topics Considered

An interesting source of related topics is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's list of legal cases.

Student-Written Course Output

Public Policy on Selected Technology Issues: A Student-Produced Wiki (2016)

Above is the link to the main output of the course. All students are encouraged to edit all pages. Your overall contribution to this Wiki will be the main part of your course grade. Do not be shy about improving other students' contributions, under Wikipedia-style rules of courtesy (e.g., use the Discussion pages to explain/discuss/debate changes that might be controversial).

Completed units:

Individual Student Logs and Workspaces

Above is link to space for each student to develop draft contributions. You should not edit another student's work in this area, though you are free to read it. Although material in this area doesn't directly count for the course grade (until you copy it into the main Wiki), I will use it to track your progress. Please keep your work log up to date.

Archive from Spring, 2015 Class

Public Policy on Selected Technology Issues: A Student-Produced Wiki 2015

Aereo and Copyright Law

The Net Neutrality Debate

The Privacy and Big Data Debate

Patent Trolls: Time for Action?

Additional Topics Investigated (small teams or individuals, less depth)


Archived schedule 2015

Individual Student Logs and Workspaces 2015

2015 Contributions Summaries and Links

Other

Getting started with the wiki