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UNIT 1. Introduction
1. Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change, Neil Postman, McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, 2003
Neil Postman, a well-known cultural critic, suggests that computer technology is too important to be left entirely to the technologists. “Embedded in every technology,” he says, “is a powerful idea….”
2. Whom to Protect and How?, Robert J. Blendon et al., Brookings Review, Winter 2001
“The United States,” the authors say, “is now in the second stage of a major technological transformation” that is changing American life. Some people are calling for more federal government protection.
3. P2P and the Promise of Internet Equality, Philip E. Agre, Communications of the ACM, February 2003
A sociologist presents four theories of how technology and society interrelate.
UNIT 2. The Economy
4. The Computer and the Dynamo, Brian Hayes, American Scientist, September/October 2001
Not long ago California suffered under rolling blackouts and startlingly high electric bills. Soon, Americans began hearing that the culprit was not deregulation and energy traders like Enron but, rather, the “gluttonous energy appetite of computers.” This struck Brian Hayes as “quite remarkable.”
5. The Productivity Paradox, Stephen S. Roach, The New York Times, November 30, 2003
Ever since some economists began to doubt that computers contribute to a company’s productivity, still others have been trying to prove the opposite. Productivity figures for the past couple of years seem to be on their side. Not so fast, says Stephen Roach, chief economist for Morgan Stanley.
6. As Silicon Valley Reboots, the Geeks Take Charge, Steve Lohr, The New York Times, October 26, 2003
Volumes have been written about the dot com boom and bust. Silicon Valley seems to be coming back. This time the geeks are in charge.
7. At Bell Labs, Hard Times Take Toll on Pure Science, Dennis K. Berman, The Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2003
Bell Labs, the legendary home of innovation in science and computing, is asking its scientists for results.
8. Playing the Search-Engine Game, Mylene Mangalindan, The Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2003
You have a company. You have a website. Now, how do you make it to the top of Google searches?
9. Free to Choose, Robert A. Guth, The Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2003
Microsoft is beginning to realize that Linux is a threat in the operating systems market.
UNIT 3. Work and the Workplace
10. Brain Circulation: How High-Skill Immigration Makes Everyone Better Off, Anna Lee Saxenian, Brookings Review, Winter 2002
Do immigrants displace native workers? Is the United States siphoning off talent from countries that can ill afford to lose it? This Berkeley professor argues that high-skill immigration is more complex than that.
11. Software, Stephen Baker and Manjeet Kripalani, Business Week Online, March 1, 2004
Highly paid programming jobs are being outsourced to places like India and other countries with educated workforces who are willing to earn less than Americans.
12. Letter from Silicon Valley, Rebecca Vesely, The Nation, May 26, 2003
The recession in Silicon Valley has been difficult for many. Santa Clara County, California combines some of the highest unemployment in the country with some of the highest housing prices.
13. They’re Watching You, Sarah Boehle, Training, August 2000
A majority of U.S. firms record and review some form of employee communications and the number is expanding rapidly. In this article, Sarah Boehle asks and answers the question, “What’s behind this rush to Orwellian oversight?”
14. Security vs. Privacy, Jonathan A. Segal, HR Magazine, February 2002
In this first part of a two-part series, a lawyer advises employers about how to violate employee privacy within legal parameters. Here, Jonathan Segal offers guidance on how to design policies that give employers the right to “search” employees (including their electronic communications).
15. Searching for Answers, Jonathan A. Segal, HR Magazine, March 2002
In this second part of a two-part article, Jonathan Segal tells employers how to be “circumspect” and to respect employees’ privacy rights when implementing the right to search.
UNIT 4. Computers, People, and Social Participation
16. Is That a Computer in Your Pants?, Jesse Walker, Reason, April 2003
“We’re entering a world in which the complexity of devices and the system of interconnecting devices is beyond our capability to easily understand,” says veteran tech observer Howard Rheinhold in this interview with Reason.
17. Dating a Blogger, Reading All About It, Warren St. John, The New York Times, May 18, 2003
What happens when your boss or your boyfriend reads what you said about them in your on-line diary or blog?
18. From Virtual Communities to Smart Mobs, Lane Jennings, The Futurist, May/June 2003
Would you wear a computer helmet that would let you filter out the “ever-greater intrusions by government and business” on your “personal space and freedom?” What is the cost of not having such an item?
19. The Lure of Data: Is It Addictive?, Matt Richtel, The New York Times, July 6, 2003
Multitasking is a computer term that has now entered the popular lexicon. Is using multiple communications devices simultaneously making us more productive?
20. Want to Rule the World?, Phillip Day, Far Eastern Economic Review, March 27, 2003
Novelist Max Barry has designed a game where you create a country of your own.
21. Making Meaning: As Google Goes, So Goes the Nation, Geoffrey Nunberg, The New York Times, May 18, 2003
How Google ranks web sites may mislead us into thinking that what is popular is also true.
22. The World According to Google, Steven Levy, Newsweek, December 16, 2002
When a company name, “Google,” becomes a transitive verb—“to google someone”—in just a few short years, you know that something big is happening.
UNIT 5. Societal Institutions: Law, Politics, Education, and the Military
23. The Copyright Paradox, Jonathan Band, Brookings Review, Winter 2001
According to the author, “the problem with piracy is not the inadequacy of existing laws, but the high cost of enforcing any law against the large universe of infringers.”
24. You Bought It. Who Controls It?, Edward Tenner, Technology Review, June 2003
Manufacturers are exercising increasing control over their products after they have left the store. Users gain security at the price of freedom.
25. Bad Documents Can Kill You, Valli Baldassano and Roy Speed, Across the Board, September/October 2001
Increasingly, companies that become targets of legal action find that “Exhibit A against them is their own employees’ written correspondence … and in more and more cases, the starring role is played by e-mail.” In this article, a former prosecutor and an expert on business writing offers advice on the do’s and don’ts of e-mail and how to legally prevent bad documents.
26. Why Women Avoid Computer Science, Paul DePalma, Communications of the ACM, June 2001
In this essay, Paul DePalma criticizes the view that women avoid computer science because of “math anxiety.” He argues, rather, that women “embrace” mathematics and that computer science programs would attract more women if they were more like math.
27. Point, Click…Fire, John Carey, Spencer E. Ante, Frederik Balfour, Laura Cohn, and Stan Crock, Business Week Online, April 7, 2003
“Whatever the problems,” write the authors, “the move to automate war has become an irreversible force.”
28. The Doctrine of Digital War, Stan Crock, Paul Magnusson, Lee Walczak, and Frederik Balfour, Business Week Online, April 7, 2003
“What’s being tested in Iraq is not just the mettle of the U.S. military but an entire philosophy of warfare,” say the authors. Is it true that large numbers of land troops aren’t “always needed in an era when powerful networked-computing systems…can do much of the work?”
29. Star Wars by ’04? Forget It., Stan Crock, Business Week, January 7, 2003
Even a modest missile defense system is years away.
30. As Goes Software…, The Economist, April 14, 2001
The institutional structure of the Internet may help solve some of the regulatory issues that networked computers raise.
UNIT 6. Risk
31. Homeland Insecurity, Charles C. Mann, The Atlantic Monthly, September 2002
Charles Mann learns from computer security expert Bruce Schneier that “the trick is to remember that technology can’t save you.”
32. Code Red for the Web, Carolyn Meinel, Scientific American, October 2001
In July 2001, “more than 359,000 servers were infected with the Code Red Worm in less than 14 hours.” Carolyn Meinel explains how the worm was spread and the damage it caused. She also reports on more virulent plagues in the making and the possibilities of future cyberwars and their potential consequences.
33. The Virus Underground, Clive Thompson, The New York Times Magazine, February 8, 2004
Clive Thompson states, “when Mario is bored…he likes to sit at his laptop and create computer viruses and worms.”
34. The Spam Wars, Wendy M. Grossman, Reason, November 2003
One of the significant risks to the viability of email as a communications medium is spam.
35. Spammers Can Run but They Can’t Hide, Saul Hansell, The New York Times, November 9, 2003
“Email is the most incredible communication vehicle invented and it is on the verge of being made useless,” says spam tracker Steve Linford.
36. The Level of Discourse Continues to Slide, John Schwartz, The New York Times, September 28, 2003
Sometimes the risks of computing are found in unlikely places. Critics complain that a slide show presentation underplayed the dangers facing the Columbia space shuttle.
UNIT 7. International Perspectives and Issues
37. Immigration and the Global IT Workforce, Lawrence A. West and Walter A. Bogumil, Communications of the ACM, July 2001
There is a worldwide shortage of information technology (IT) workers. Wealthy nations offer attractive incentives to lure IT specialists from other countries, but this strategy can exacerbate IT labor shortages in disadvantaged parts of the world. Therefore, IT may contribute to a “pervasive gap in the wealth-creation potential between nations.”
38. The Quiet Revolution, Suelette Dreyfus, The UNESCO Courier, March 2001
In many nations, human rights groups are learning the art of encryption. Other computer applications are allowing organizations to track abuses with scientific rigor. Such developments are subtly changing the balance of power between repressive governments and the human rights groups that watch them.
39. Dot Com for Dictators, Shanthi Kalathil, Foreign Policy, March/April 2003
According to Shanthi Kalathil, “many authoritarian regimes have realized that adapting to the information age means relinquishing a measure of control.”
40. Kabul’s Cyber Cafe Culture, Sanjoy Majumder, BBC News Online, June 13, 2003
Afghans are beginning to go online in Internet cafés.
41. The Hackers’ Lure, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post National Weekly Edition, June 9–15, 2003
This article shows “how the FBI tricked two Russian cybercriminals into justice in the United States.”
42. Japan’s Generation of Computer Refuseniks, Tim Clark, Japan Media Review, April 3, 2004
Japanese youth appear to be foresaking computers for cell phones.
UNIT 8. The Frontier of Computing
43. Humanoid Robots, Rodney Brooks, Communications of the ACM, March 2002
“The future promises lots of robots in our everyday lives.” Many of them may look and behave like people. Rodney Brooks gives us a brief overview of robot history as well as current and future developments in humanoid robotics.
44. The Real Scientific Hero of 1953, Steven Strogatz, New York Times, March 4, 2003
March 2003 was the 50th anniversary of the concept of a computer experiment, the idea that nature may be understood by running simulations on a computer. Real progress in many areas of medicine “will require a melding of both great discoveries of 1953,” the other being the structure of DNA.
45. The Race to Computerise Biology, The Economist, December 14–20, 2002
“Wet lab processes that took weeks to complete are giving way to digital research done in silico.” This marriage is called “bioinformatics.” Though powerful drugs are the promise, the danger “is that it is seductively easy for bioligists to rely on … computers and to ignore the scientific grind of hypothesis and proof.”
46. Why Listening Will Never Be the Same, Terry Teachout, Commentary, September 2002
Digitized music and high-speed networks are putting an end to records and record stores.
47. Minding Your Business, Peter Weiss, Science News, May 3, 2003
Digital assistants may one day help us control the flood of information.