Elizabeth Fuller

Adventures in ITP

Information Contours

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We hear a great deal about neural networks, social computing, intuitive algorithms, and Web 2.0 and 3.0 to name a few of the exciting new information based techniques that are lighting up contemporary culture. What do these tools have in common -- just focusing information? Why are these digital tools generating so much economic, social and political buzz? Do they represent a shift away from an individualistic to a communal civic culture? Does this signify a nascent 'information society' dependent on an 'information state' to regulate phenomenon such as 'net neutrality'? Information Contours explores the nature of the information flows that are generated by evolving, innovating, IT and the role of an emerging 'information state'. For example, will the current economic crisis, with its collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps, signal the onset of new digital economic information tools that will be government mandated to track risk and verify financial products? As the variations of IT (computers, telephony, bio-engineering, software, ecology, DNA, surveillance, simulation, mapping, etc.) increase the quantity of, and applications for, information in society, the cultural, social, economic, political, legal, and ethical ramifications multiply. This class explores these interactions through diverse readings that stimulate class discussion of these exciting topics. IT now suggests the contours that information assumes as the lifeblood of democracy. Yet information, this assumed basic ingredient of democracy, is increasingly produced, manufactured, privatized, and marketed as a commodity. What is "intellectual property" and what role does copyright and patent protection play in expanding or constricting accessible information? Has the free flow of information been undermined by the increasing application and expansion of copyright and patent law to further the privatization, commodification and control of information? As IT becomes more ubiquitous and embedded in culture, transformative issues arise as to its applicability, extension and direction. Civil society is experiencing a shift in the value of information including its nomenclature, applications, and its normative function. Progress in IT increasingly focuses our attention on the way in which information influences culture and thereby informs contemporary democracy. What is the relation between information flows, culture, economics, government, and democracy? Note: This two-point class meets every other Friday beginning January 23. Note: This two-point class will meet every other Friday beginning January 23.