CS-234 / 5 credits

Teacher: Ford Bryan Alexander

Language: English


Summary

This course will offer students a broad but hands-on introduction to technologies of human self-organization.

Content

Learning Prerequisites

Important concepts to start the course

Basic computing and programming skills

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the student must be able to:

  • Explore technologies available for societal self-organization
  • Expound key challenges and risks in using these technologies
  • Discuss social implications of digital communication and organization technologies

Teaching methods

The course will use readings, discussions, and exercises to lead students through an exploration of the vast number of different technological approaches to these challenges and issues, from extremely low-tech (e.g., picking representatives by drawing straws) to the latest experimental technologies. In different weeks the students will explore hands-on the architecture, design, practical use, and strenghts and weaknesses of different self-organization technologies, such as :

  • Public discussion forums such as UseNet, Twitter, and Reddit
  • Community self-organization systems such as Loomio
  • Peer review systems such as HotCRP
  • E-voting systems in use in around the world (especially the US and Switzerland)
  • Experimental participatory delegative democracy systems such as LiquidFeedback
  • Cryptocurrencies and smart contract systems such as Bitcoin and Ethereum

The course work will involve a substantial amount of reading background materials, both technical and non-technical and from a variety of disciplines including computer science, social science, political science, and law.  The lectures will be heavily discussion-oriented, covering both the background readings and hands-on exercises in addition to material presented in the lectures.

Expected student activities

The course will encourage students to "learn by doing" through exercises with practical systems. Students will be required to use some of these systems in groups in "hands-on" self-organization exericses, to get firsthand comparative experience of how they work, and in what ways they succeed and fail.

Assessment methods

Students will be assessed through regular exercises and mini-quizzes, participation in "peer review" activities, a small project in the second half of the semester on which the students must report, and a written final exam.  Grading will be based substantially on demonstrated active participation in the deliberative course exercises, in addition to learning and understanding of the course content itself.

Supervision

Office hours Yes
Assistants Yes
Forum Yes

In the programs

  • Semester: Fall
  • Exam form: Written (winter session)
  • Subject examined: Technologies for democratic society
  • Lecture: 2 Hour(s) per week x 14 weeks
  • Exercises: 1 Hour(s) per week x 14 weeks
  • Practical work: 2 Hour(s) per week x 14 weeks
  • Semester: Fall
  • Exam form: Written (winter session)
  • Subject examined: Technologies for democratic society
  • Lecture: 2 Hour(s) per week x 14 weeks
  • Exercises: 1 Hour(s) per week x 14 weeks
  • Practical work: 2 Hour(s) per week x 14 weeks

Reference week

 MoTuWeThFr
8-9    INR113
9-10    
10-11     
11-12     
12-13     
13-14     
14-15   INR113 
15-16    
16-17   INR113 
17-18     
18-19     
19-20     
20-21     
21-22     

Thursday, 14h - 16h: Lecture INR113

Thursday, 16h - 17h: Exercise, TP INR113

Friday, 8h - 10h: Exercise, TP INR113