Information Course Schedule fall 2005

Upper Division Courses

Two hours of lecture per week, one hour of discussion per week. Open to all undergraduate students and designed for those with little technical background.  Web search engines (such as Google and Yahoo) are technologies which have enormous influence on how people find and think about information. In this course students will first gain an understanding of the basics of how search engines work, and then explore how search engine design impacts business and culture. Topics include search advertising and auctions, search and privacy, search ranking, internationalization, anti-spam efforts, local search, peer-to-peer search, and search of blogs and online communities.

M 4-6 | 100 GPB
Instructor(s): Marti Hearst

Three hours lecture per week. Focuses on European Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, and in the western United States, Asian Americans and Chicano/Latinos. The course explores the nature of oral and print societies as found in the focus cultures to assess the impact of the dominant print culture on oral cultures. This course satisfies the American cultures requirement.

This course uses contemporary print material to understand the interaction of print and oral cultures in America. It examines the role of print in shaping political policy, ethnic and religious identity, distribution of resources, and resolution of conflict. Topics include the definition and interaction of orality and print, Native American interaction with colonialist empires, African American and education, the bestseller Uncle Tom's Cabin, the newspaper of many cultures in West, the power of the image from woodcut to photograph to poster, the centralization of control of publishing in the emerging cities, and the role of print in emerging law on Chinese citizenship in the late nineteenth century.

Section: 2
MWF 11-12 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Mary Kay Duggan

Three hours of lecture per week. In the last decade, information technology (IT) has moved from back-office applications aimed at improving productivity to strategic applications that can radically change the dynamics of companies, industries, and economic sectors. This course will explore the technological, economic, and social conditions that have made such "killer apps" possible. Students will learn how to think strategically and entrepreneurially about IT, whether for personal, business, or nonprofit applications. Also listed as Interdisciplinary Studies C184.

TuTh 5-6:30 | 155 Dwinelle
Instructor(s): Larry Downes

Core Courses

8 weeks; 3 hours of lecture per week. This course introduces the intellectual foundations of information organization and retrieval: conceptual modeling, semantic representation, vocabulary and metadata design, classification, and standardization, as well as information retrieval practices, technology, and applications, including computational processes for analyzing information in both textual and non-textual formats.

This is a required introductory course for MIMS students, integrating perspectives and best practices from a wide range of disciplines.

NOTE: Before Fall 2017, Info 202 was offered as a full-semester course for 4 units.

TTh 10:30-12 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Robert Glushko

7 weeks - 4 hours of laboratory per week. This course introduces software skills used in building prototype scripts for applications in data science and information management. The course gives an overview of procedural programming, object-oriented programming, and functional programming techniques in the Python scripting language, together with an overview of fundamental data structures, associated algorithms, and asymptotic performance analysis. Students will watch a set of instructional videos covering material and will have four hours of laboratory-style course contact each week.

NOTE: Before Fall 2017, Info 206 was titled “Distributed Computing Applications and Infrastructure” and was offered as a full-semester course for 4 units.

TTh 12:30-2 (Lab: Tu 2-3) | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): John Chuang

General Courses

This course addresses concepts and methods of user experience research. The emphasis will be on methods of collecting and interpreting many kinds of data about real-world user activities and practices and translating them into design decisions. The course includes hands-on practice with a number of major user experience research methods, including heuristic evaluation; observation; interviews, surveys and focus groups. The emphasis will be on naturalistic/ethnographic (qualitative) methods, but we will also address major quantitative methods. Finally, we will discuss methods of bringing user experience research into the design process.

This course is appropriate for both 1st and 2nd-year MIMS students, and for students from other departments with a strong interest in user experience research, with the instructor's permission. Students will complete at least one major group project related to needs assessment and evaluation. Second-year MIMS students may use this project to meet their capping project requirement.

M 1-4 | 110 South Hall
Instructor(s): Kevin McBride

Factors strongly impacting the success of new computing and communications products and services (based on underlying technologies such as electronics and software) in commercial applications. Technology trends and limits, economics, standardization, intellectual property, government policy, and industrial organizations. Strategies to manage the design and marketing of successful products and services.

TTh 3:30-5 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Hal Varian

Information visualization is widely used in media, business, and engineering disciplines to help people analyze and understand the information at hand. The industry has grown exponentially over the last few years. As a result there are more visualization tools available, which have in turn lowered the barrier of entry for creating visualizations.

This course provides an overview of the field of Information Visualization. It follows a hands-on approach. Readings and lectures will cover basic visualization principles and tools. Labs will focus on practical introductions to tools and frameworks. We will discuss existing visualizations and critique their effectiveness in conveying information. Finally, guest speakers from the industry will give an insight into how information visualization is used in practice.

All students are expected to participate in class discussion, complete lab assignments, and create an advanced interactive data visualization as a semester project.

Priority for attending this class is given to I School students. The semester project involves programming; therefore students are expected to have some coding experience. Interested students from other departments are invited to join the class if they can demonstrate the required skills.

Note: This course is offered for a letter grade only.

Note: Until 2014, this course was offered for 3 units.

MW 10:30-12 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Marti Hearst

Three hours of lecture per week. This course is concerned with the use of Database Management Systems (DBMS) to solve a wide range of information storage, management and retrieval problems, in organizations ranging from large corporations to personal applications, such as research data management. The course combines the practical aspects of DBMS use with more theoretical discussions of database design methodologies and the "internals" of database systems.

A significant part of the course will require students to design their own database and implement it on different DBMS that run on different computer systems. We will use both ACCESS and ORACLE.

In the theoretical portion of the course, we will examine the major types or data models of DBMS (hierarchical, network, relational, and object-oriented). We will discuss the principles and problems of database design, operation, and maintenance for each data model.

MW 9-10:30 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Ray Larson

Special Topics Courses

Web search engines (such as Google and Yahoo) are technologies which have enormous influence on how people find and think about information. In this course students will first gain an understanding of the basics of how search engines work, and then explore how search engine design impacts business and culture. Topics include search advertising and auctions, search and privacy, search ranking, internationalization, anti-spam efforts, local search, peer-to-peer search, and search of blogs and online communities.

Note: This course is being offered on a S/U (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) basis only.

Section: 2
M 4-6 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Marti Hearst

The “traditional” approach to strategic planning doesn’t work for industries in the midst of revolutionary change brought about by disruptive technologies—and every industry is in the midst (or soon will be) of such a change.

This course will define a pragmatic approach to strategic planning for companies facing major transformations of their industries and those of their suppliers and customers.

We will begin with a review of the basic theories of strategic planning and its limitations. We will then focus on a few key industries and disruptive technologies that are remaking them, and ask how winning companies recognize the change and know what to do with it.

Topics include:

  • Lessons of the Industrial Revolution: Rules for Revolutionaries
  • The Information Revolution: The Next Phase
  • The Three Stages of Industry Transformation: Efficiency to Exchange to Emergence
  • The Information Supply Chain: Turning Data into Products and Services
  • Information Assets: The Physics of Invisible Capital
  • Perpetual Strategy: The Portfolio Approach to Planning
  • Eight Execution Problems: From Obstacles to Catalysts

Readings will include a mix of theoretical and practical, with some Harvard cases and some non-traditional texts.

Section: 8
TTh 11-12:30 | C220 Cheit
Instructor(s): Larry Downes

This course will explore issues of information quality in mediated communication. How do people reach conclusions about the reliability, value, or authenticity of content? We will consider the problem across time, media and modes, from the coming of the book to the blog, paying particular attention to the interaction of technology, communicative forms, market forces, and institutional and legal frameworks.

Section: 10
W 1-4 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Paul Duguid, Geoffrey Nunberg

Web-based services have become popular since the Web was invented in 1989. The first wave of Web-based services were user interfaces to systems which before the Web could not be easily accessed over the network. This development made the Web as successful as it is today, as a medium delivering a globally accessible interface to services. The second wave of Web-based services are Web Services, using basic Web technologies (HTTP/XML) and robust protocols (WS-*) for implementing application programming interfaces and business-class composite applications. A more recent third wave of Web-based services uses lighter-weight protocols and ad-hoc design approaches to merge or "mash-up" information or services for use primarily by individuals. In this course, all facets of Web-based services will be examined, starting with server-side technologies for the Web, and then moving on to Web Services basics (SOAP/WSDL). Coordination and orchestration of Web Services are covered with BPEL, user interfaces to Web Services (XForms), and questions of how to design Web Services (openness and extensibility) are discussed as well.

Section: 3
Th 5-8 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Adam Blum

Mass communications technologies have been profound influencers of human identity, from the printing press and the rise of vernacular political cultures to television and the power of celebrity. While the Web is still a work in progress, salient characteristics such as the collapse of distance, the discovery of like-minded groups, and information delivered in short bursts are already affecting the way people see themselves and the way they consume information. Following an overview on the relationship of technology with identity and communications, the course will look at the uses of narrative in news, public relations, advertising, entertainment, and online gaming.

Section: 2
Tu 4-7 (5 weeks: Oct. 4 — Nov. 1) | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Quentin Hardy

Three hours of lecture per week for five weeks. XML, with its ability to define formal structural and semantic definitions for metadata and models, is the key enabling technology for information services and document-centric business models that use the Internet and its family of protocols. This course introduces XML syntax, styles and transformations, and schema languages. It balances conceptual topics with practical skills for designing and implementing conceptual models as XML schemas.

Much of the material in this course was formerly part of Document Engineering, which is taught in the Spring semester; XML Foundations is now a pre-requisite. Making XML Foundations a separate course allows students who want to learn XML to do so without taking Document Engineering. In addition, teaching XML separately from Document Engineering enables that class to dig deeper into conceptual modeling and model-based application design.

Section: 1
TTh 3:30-5 (5 weeks: Aug. 30 — Sep. 20) | 110 South Hall
Instructor(s): Robert Glushko

Seminars & Colloquia

One hour colloquium per week. Must be taken on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. Colloquia, discussion, and readings are designed to introduce students to the range of interests of the school.

M 2-3:30 | 107 South Hall
Instructor(s): Peter Lyman

Economics and network design have always been intimately intertwined. The infrastructural nature of networks, the decentralization of ownership and control, and the derivation of utility by heterogeneous users and applications, all point to the need for incorporating economic considerations into the design of networks.

In this research seminar, we will read and discuss recent papers exploring the many different areas in which network design and economics intersect, including: economic characteristics of networks, modeling strategic behavior in network games, information asymmetries in networked environments, incentive engineering and market-based resource allocation, etc., with applications to Internet architecture, peer-to-peer, ad-hoc, and overlay networks, and network security, etc.

Section: 3
M 12-2 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): John Chuang

The seminar will explore the technical, social and cultural aspects of informative objects in any and all forms (aka “documents”). We will adopt three strategies:

  • Analyze examples of powerful documents (i.e. having social, intellectual, and/or emotional impact) in politics, business, subcultures, sciences, religion, and the arts.
  • Read and discuss selected literature on the "nature" of documents, past, present and in future.
  • Imagine and design possible new or emerging kinds of document and speculatively consider their likely uses, impacts, and relationship with existing genres.


Documents and their role in society cannot be understood unless they are examined concurrently from three perspectives:

  • Technical / technological forms and constraints;
  • Social roles and uses, intended and otherwise; AND
  • Humanities: meaning, perception, representation, language, cultural codes.


All three are required to comprehend the complex character of documents being physical, social and cultural all at the same time.

In “reading sessions” there will be discussions based on reading of texts by Jay David Bolter, Neil Gershenfeld, Brenda Laurel, John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid, David Levy, Bernd Frohmann, Michael Buckland, Niels W. Lund, Roger T. Pedauque, and Herbert A. Simon.

In “studio” sessions students are asked to present ideas and sketches of documents in a broad sense like a website, a zine, a poster, a poem, an official form and last but not least kinds of documents which never have been seen before, new forms of artistic documents. The main question will be to imagine and outline a number of options for making a satisfactory document according to social and cultural criteria as well as possible technical solutions. One solution and some technical means may function in principle, but challenge one or more of the social and cultural criteria and vice versa. Some documents may, as a whole, work better within an analogue environment instead of a digital environment, highlighting the discussion of new and old media.

Some of the sessions will be connected online with a similar course at the University of Tromso in Norway, as part of an international distributed document lab, The Document Academy.

Instructor: Visiting Professor Niels Windfeld Lund, is professor in Documentation Studies, University of Tromsø, Norway. He has a M.A. in History and Ethnology (University of Aarhus, Denmark) and a D.E.A. in History and Civilisation (L'Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris). He taught a course in "Documents in Society" in SIMS in 2001, and organizes The Document Academy / SIMS conferences.

Section: 4
TTh 9-10:30 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Niels Windfeld Lund

The seminar explores selected advanced topics relating to 'digital libraries' with special emphasis on:

  • Access to networked resources
  • Use of two or more resources in conjunction
  • Combined use of two or more retrieval systems (e.g. use of pre- or post-processing to enhance the capabilities)
  • The redesign of library services

It is expected that these issues will require attention to a number of questions about the nature of information retrieval processes, the feasibility of not-yet-conventional techniques, techniques of making different systems work together, social impact, and the reconsideration of past practices. More generally, the seminar is intended to provide a forum for advanced students in the School. Anyone interested in these topics is welcome to join in — and to talk about their own work. This is a continuation of the previous Lynch/Buckland seminars.

Section: 1
F 3-5 | 107 South Hall

Substantial investments are being made by many individuals and firms in the development and distribution of open source software and other information artifacts. This seminar will consider economic and business rationales for adoption of open source modes of production and dissemination and will consider how open source projects might be made sustainable by looking into the social and organizational dynamics used to coordinate their activities. The seminar will examine licensing models widely used by open source developers, which generally grant rights to use and modify licensed information on condition that users agree to carry over to derivative works the same license restrictions imposed by the open source developer. For software, this includes free publication of source code. Open source licensing models are being adapted to apply to more than just computer software, such as databases of scientific information, certain biotechnology innovations, and music. Whether the metaphor of open source has wider social ramifications as a modality of community governance will also be given attention.

Section: 2
M 4-6:30 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Mitch Kapor, Pamela Samuelson Steven Weber

Three hours of seminar discussion and hands-on practice per week. This participatory class explores political activism in the Net context, as well as key aspects such as mass media, political communications, and smart mobs: emerging forms of technology-enabled collective actions. We will read and discuss issues, theories and real world examples from the US, Philippines, Korea, Mexico, China, and elsewhere. We will focus on blogging, online forums and other emerging media forms such as podcasting, photo-sharing, tagging, RSS, wiki-based communities and read about theoretical aspects of socio-technological networks as well.

In addition to analytic readings, students will learn how to use a wiki for collaborative work, to blog and read and comment on blogs via RSS as part of the coursework, to listen to and produce podcasts. The class will directly engage in collective knowledge-gathering and construction of a public good. Students will engage in social bookmarking and collectively construct a resource wiki on class topics.

Section: 5
Tu 7-9 pm | 107 South Hall
Instructor(s): Xiao Qiang, Howard Rheingold