ICT, Society, and Democracy

3 units, Autumn Quarter 2013-2014, Stanford University

Meeting Time: Mondays 7:15-9:45 PM
Location: 460-126 (Margaret Jacks Hall, Greenberg Seminar Room)

Instructor: Todd Davies
Instructor's Office: 460-040C (Margaret Jacks Hall, lower level)
Email: davies at stanford dot edu
Phone: x3-4091; Fax: x3-5666
Office Hours: Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays 10:30 - 11:55 AM


Interactive website: ICT, Society, and Democracy Course Blog
Photo by Alan Brandt, Associated
                Press. Original at


This version: November 15, 2013 [check this site for updates]

: Completion of a course in psychology, communication, human-computer interaction, or a related discipline, or consent of the instructor. Note: The course materials and blog will be publicly available, but class sessions are open only to students enrolled in the course.

Course Overview and Required Textbooks:

This advanced small seminar explores the impact of information and communication technologies on social and political life, as well as the possibilities in store for our future. The course is taught as a reading seminar: We read books (and some articles), and we discuss them both online and in class. Under the proposed syllabus, we will all read two recent and important books on ICT, society, and democracy, and discuss recent articles on current "hot topics". In the final sessions, each student will lead a discussion about one of several other books concerning ICT, society, and democracy.

The course will be organized around two books (shelved under this course in the textbooks department at the Stanford Bookstore):
After an overview and introductions in week 1, the whole class will read Turkle's book over weeks 2 through 4, and McChesney's book over weeks 5-7.  For week 8, I plan to assign a set of recent articles about currently hot topics related to ICT, society, and democracy, based on a poll of the class. Then, for the last two weeks of the course, students will present and lead discussions about other works they have read related to the themes of the course, and we will have a summation at the end. The exact schedule of the last three weeks will depend on the number of students enrolled and their interests.

The written component of the course will take place online, with weekly 300-500 word comments on the assigned readings, graded in a mixed instructor/peer scheme (see below for details).  Comments must be made ahead of each class session by 5 pm so that everyone can read them before that week's discussion.  I will lead the discussions of Turkle's and McChesney's books and the "hot topics" articles over the first phase of the course (weeks 2-8), turning it over to student presenters/discussion leaders in the latter phase (weeks 9-10).  A tentative schedule is given below.


Each student is required to (a) attend and participate regularly, (b) do the assigned reading and post at least one reaction comment (300 to 500 words) on this website per week, by 5 pm on the day of class, and (c) select and present a focus topic in class, provide sample readings for the class at least one week ahead of their presentation, and lead a discussion on their focal topic during the final weeks of the course. There is no final paper or exam in the course.

Tentative Schedule:

Week 1 (September 23) -- Overview and Introductions

Week 2 (September 30) - Alone Together Introduction, and chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5

Week 3 (October 7) -- Alone Together chapters 6, 7, 8, 9, & 10

Week 4 (October 14) -- Alone Together chapters 11, 12, 13, 14, Conclusion, & Epilogue

Week 5 (October 21) - Digital Disconnect chapters 1, 2, & 3

Week 6 (October 28) -- Digital Disconnect chapters 4 & 5
Week 7 (November 4) -- Digital Disconnect chapters 6 & 7

Week 8 (November 11) -- Selection of Readings on "Hot Topics" (e.g. NSA surveillance, Wikileaks, Silicon Valley culture, and the future of work), Chosen by the Class - TBA for timeliness

Week 9 (November 18) -- Student-led Discussions I

Week 10 (December 2) -- Student-led Discussions II


The course grade will be based on the following breakdown:

Grades for the presentation/discussion leading and attendance/partifcipation will be assigned by me alone. Grades for comments, however, will be graded in the following way:

Each week, I will solicit from each student a score (out of 5 points possible) for every other student's comments that week. Individual peer scores will be kept confidential between me and the student issuing the score. I will average my own score for each comment with the median peer score for that comment to arrive at a weekly comment score for each student.

Suggested Books for Student-Led Discussions (Weeks 9-10):

* Adam Alter (2013), Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave

Lori Andrews (2012), I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy

Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler (2011), The Future of Us

Julian Assange, with Jacob Appelbaum, and Andy Muller-Maguhn (2012), Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet

Anne Balsamo (2011), Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work

Alexander Bard & Jan Soderqvist (2012), The Futurica Trilogy

Jonah Berger (2013), Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Nick Bilton (2013, forthcoming), Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal

Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson (2011/2012), Infinite Reality: The Hidden Blueprint of Our Virtual Lives

Andrew Blum (2012), Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet

Heidi Boghosian (2013), Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power, and Public Resistance

William G. Bowen (2013), Higher Education in the Digital Age

David Brin (1998), The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (2011/2012), Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy

Manuel Castells (2012), Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age

Anupam Chander (2013), The Electronic Silk Road: How the Web Binds the World Together in Commerce

Susan Clark and Woden Teachout (2012), Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home

E. Gabriella Coleman (2012), Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking

Susan P. Crawford (2013), Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age

Ronald J. Deibert (2013), Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace

Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler (2012), Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

* Cory Doctorow (2010), Little Brother

Jonan Donaldson, Eliane Agra, Mohammed Alshammari, Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bowdoin, Meghan Kendle, Lauren Nixon, Lisa Wressell (2013), Massively Open:: How Massive Open Online Courses Changed the World

George B. Dyson (1997/2012), Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence (Second Edition)

Dave Eggers (2013), The Circle

Martin Ford (2009), The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future

Abraham H. Foxman and Christopher Wolf (2013), Viral Hate: Controlling Its Spread on the Internet

James Gleick (2012), The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood

Marina Gorbis (2013), The Nature of the Future: Dispatches from the Socialstructed World

Andy Greenberg (2012), This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World's Information

Arlie Russell Hochschild (2012), The Outsourced Self: What Happens When We Pay Others to Live Our Lives for Us

Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha (2012), The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career

Ryan Holiday (2012), Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green (2013), Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture

Steven Johnson (2012), Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age

Tim Jordan (2013), Internet, Society and Culture: Communicative Practices Before and After the Internet

Andrew Keen (2012), Digital Vertigo: How Today's Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us

Ray Kurzweil (2012), How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed

Jaron Lanier (2013), Who Owns the Future?

Geert Lovink (2012),
Networks Without a Cause: A Critique of Social Media

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier (2013), Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think

Mariana Mazzucato (2013), The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public Versus Private Sector Myths

Frank Bryce McCluskey and Melanie Lynn Winter (2012), The Idea of the Digital University: Ancient Traditions, Disruptive Technologies and the Battle for the Soul of Higher Education

Nicco Mele (2013), The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath

David Moon, Patrick Ruffini, and David Segal, editors (2013), Hacking Politics: How Geeks, Progressives, the Tea Party, Gamers, Anarchists and Suits Teamed Up to Defeat SOPA and Save the Internet

Evgeny Morozov (2013), To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism

Tina Nabatchi, John Gastil, G. Michael Weiksner and Matt Leighninger (Eds.) (2012), Democracy in Motion: Evaluating the Practice and Impact of Deliberative Civic Engagement

Annalee Newitz (2013), Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction

Gavin Newsom with Lisa Dickey (2013), Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government

Michael Nielsen (2011), Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science

Helen Nissenbaum (2009), Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy, and the Integrity of Social Life

Parmy Olson (2012/2013), We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency

Danny Oppenheimer and Mike Edwards (2012), Democracy Despite Itself: Why a System That Shouldn't Work at All Works So Well

Lee Raine and Barry Wellman (2012), Networked: The New Social Operating System

Howard Rheingold (2012), Net Smart: How to Thrive Online

Douglas Rushkoff (2013), Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

Johnny Ryan (2010), A History of the Internet and the Digital Future

Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen (2013), The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations, and Business

* Bruce Schneier (2012), Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive

Trebor Scholz (Ed.) (2012), Digital Labor: The Internet as Playground and Factory

Jeffrey J. Selingo (2013), College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students

Catherine Steiner-Adair and Teresa H. Barker (2013),
The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age

Thomas Streeter (2010), The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet

Cass Sunstein (2013), Simpler: The Future of Government

Daniel Trottier (2012), Social Media as Surveillance: Rethinking Visibility in a Converging World

Fred Turner (2013, forthcoming), The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties

Joseph Turow (2013), The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth

Ethan Zuckerman (2013), Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection
* NOTE: A shelf of hard copies of those books marked with a bold asterisk is located in the 460-040 lounge area for use in selecting which book to read.

The list above is not exhaustive. See also previous versions of this course and its predecessor (Symbsys 209): 2005-2006, 2007-2008, 2008-2009, and 2011-2012 for other suggestions, or you may propose a book not on this list.

Articles of Interest (and Candidates for Possible Assignment in Week 8 - Class May Suggest Others):

Lori Andrews (February 4, 2012), "Facebook Is Using You"

Ken Auletta (April 30, 2012), "Get Rich U.: There Are No Walls Between Stanford and Silicon Valley - Should There Be?"

James Bamford (July 12, 2013), "They Know Much More Than You Think"

Yochai Benkler (2011), "A Free Irresponsible Press: Wikileaks and the Battle Over the Soul of the Networked Fourth Estate"

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (October 2011), "Race Against the Machine" Excerpts from The Atlantic Monthly pt1. pt2. pt3.

Ron Deibert (September 16, 2013), "To Protect Canadians' Privacy, Telcos Must Shut the 'Back Door'"

Jesse Drucker (October 2013), "Man Making Ireland Tax Avoidance Hub Proves Local Hero"

Michael Erard (September 20, 2013), "No Comments"

Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani (October 30, 2013), "NSA Infiltrates Links to Yahoo, Google Data Centers Worldwide, Snowden Documents Say"

Glenn Greenwald and others (2013), Selections from the "NSA Files"

Woodrow Hartzog and Frederic D. Stutzman (2013), "The Case for Online Obscurity"

Tim Kreider (October 26, 2013), "Slaves of the Internet, Unite!"

Ethan Kross, Philippe Verduyn, Emre Demiralp, Jiyoung Park, David Seungjae Lee, Natalie Lin, Holly Shablack, John Jonides, and Oscar Ybarra (August 14, 2013), "Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults"

Paul Lukas, Interviewed by Bob Garfield (May 31, 2013), "A Writer and His Troll"

Andrew Leonard (July 19, 2013), "The Internet's Greatest Disruptive Innovation: Inequality"

Meghan Neal (September 24, 2013), "Can There Be a Non-US Internet?"

George Packer (May 27, 2013), "Change the World: Silicon Valley Transfers Its Slogans???and Its money???to the Realm of Politics"

Nick Statt (October 19, 2013), "A Radical Dream for Making Techno Utopias a Reality"

Daniel Trottier (February 4, 2013), "The Business of Conversations: Market Media Surveillance and Visibility"

Terry Winograd (July 1, 2013), "What's Wrong with Technological Fixes?" Terry Winograd Interviews Evgeny Morozov

Mark Zuckerberg (August 20, 2013), "Is Connectivity a Human Right?"

Ethan Zuckerman (April 2013), "Cute Cats to the Rescue? Participatory Media and Political Expression"

Links to Programs of Interest:
Center for Internet and Society - Events

Program on Liberation Technology -