STP 308: Design for Values

Professor: Jean Camp


Course times: Tuesdays and Thursday, 2:40 - 4:00

Location: L 380

Professor: L Jean Camp


How does Google choose to order the displayed news stories and web sites? Does it matter that "The Unauthorized Biography " is the fifth or fiftieth link on a search for George Bush?

Will the Total Information Awareness project work in terms of obtaining government profiles of all citizen digital action, or will the project have all of the flaws of the fictional Minority Report without any corresponding decrease in terror?

The answer to these political questions - news coverage, privacy, consumer rights - are inherently interdisciplinary. Changes in technology can reify or undermine existing power relationships. Individuals and institutions choose technology that undermines or verifies their own practices and values.

How are values embedded into technology? As software and computer networks become more complex policy makers are faced with a bewildering array of claims about the future. In this course you will learn the tools to make technical choices that support, rather than undermine, your goals and values.

The bulk of this class consists of examinations of particular technologies which have been designed for particular values or have had those values assigned to them by social or technical critics. Technologies have been designed for privacy, to defeat censorship, and to provide anonymous platforms for speech. Yet these technologies do not always support the values the designers claim to address.

This class requires weekly single page writing assignments and a final project. The final project need not be about information technology design but can address issues of values in design in transportation, architecture, etc.

Understanding how technical design is political is the fundamental basis of this class. This class examines how values are embedded into software. Code is not law, yet code can rule and limit. Through your own project, evaluating the projects of others, and hearing peer evaluations you will master the management techniques needed to select technologies that will enhance program and personal values.

Grading & Important Dates
One page question from the reading 20% due in class, 10 classes
Final paper 80% as follows:
topic proposal 10% due Thurs. Oct. 30
bibliography and outline 10% due Thurs. Nov. 20
presentation 10% due Tues. Dec. 9
evaluations of others' presentations 10% due Tues. Jan. 13
final paper 40% due Tues. Jan. 13

recommended text:

"Human Values and the Design of Computer Technology" Batya Friedman (Editor) C S L I Publications; 2001

recommended texts:

"Peer-to-Peer Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies" by Andy Oram (Editor) O'Reilly and Associates, 2001

"Does Technology Drive History" by Smith & Marx (Editors) MIT Press 2001 (5th edition)


    Sept. 9: Shopping Day


    Assignment on technological determinism.

    If you choose to take the class give me your name and I will ensure you have access to the class web page.

    Section I: Technological Determinism

    Sept. 11: Society as Technologically Determined


    Sept. 16: Technology as Socially Determined


    Sept. 18: Technology and Society in ICTs


    Sept. 23: Code and Other Laws: Is Coding Inherently a Values Based Act


    Sept. 25: Voting, or Who Won the Georgia Senate Election

    Guest lecture by Rebecca Mercuri

    Reading: Available in class.

    Sept. 30: Accountability and Bias in IT


    Section II: Case Studies

    Oct. 2: Values in IT: A Case Study


    Oct. 7: DNS: Constant technology and Shifting Values


    Section III: Privacy and ICTs

    Oct. 9: What is Privacy


    Oct. 14: PGP & Technical Politics of Privacy


    Oct. 21: P3P & Privacy as a Preference


    Section V: Digital Rights Management

    Oct 21: Digital Rights Management & Copyright


    Oct. 23: Digital Rights Management & Technology


    Oct. 28: CSS & DeCSS


    Section V: Filtering

    Oct. 30: Filtering and Content Control

    Project Topic Due.


    Nov. 4: The Search for Values-Neutral Filtering Technology


    Nov. 6: Searching


    Nov. 11: University Holiday

    Section VI: Equity

    Nov. 13: Distribution as a Social Value: Intro to Peer-to-Peer


    Nov. 18: Network Design for Universal Service, QoS and Wi-Fi


    • Babb "Surfing the Knowledge Waves: Access for Caribbean Development" Information, Communications & Ethics in Society Vol 1, No 2, pp. 70- 80.
    • L. Jean Camp & Rose Tsang, "Universal service in a ubiquitous digital network", Journal of Ethics and Information Technology, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2001. Previously presented at INET 1999.
    • John Palfrey on Super DMCA Testimony regarding Massachusetts House Bill No. 2743
    • Summary of super-DMCA laws.

    Nov. 20: Values in Open and Closed Code

    Outline and bibliography due.


    Nov. 25: Technical Design for Universal Access


    Nov. 27: University Holiday

    Section VI: General Principles & Presentation

    Dec. 2: Hactivism and Cases


    Dec. 4: A Policy Approach to Values-Based Design


    • Clark, Wroclawski, Sollins, and Braden, A Tussle In Cyberspace Proceedings of the ACM SIGCOMM 2000 Conference on Applications, Technologies, Architectures, and Protocols for Computer Communication.
    • L. Jean Camp, "The Shape of the Network", Governance in a Globalizing World, ed. J. Donahue, Brookings Press (Washington, DC) 2001.

    Dec. 9: Project Presentations


    • Other Students Project presentation
    • Guidelines for Peer Evaluations

    Dec. 11: End Notes


    • Final discussion of final papers
    • Social Human-Computer Interaction in Friedman
    • Reasoning About Computers as Moral Agents in Friedman