Information Course Schedule spring 2010

Upper Division Courses

According to conventional wisdom, the “information age” began just a few decades ago and promptly superseded everything that went before it. But the issues we are wrestling with now—questions about piracy, privacy, trust, “information overload,” and the replacement of old media by new—all have their roots in the informational cultures of earlier periods. In this class we will take a long view of the development of these cultures and technologies, from the earliest cave painting and writing systems to the advent of print, photography and the telegraph to the emergence of the computer and Internet and the world of Twitter, Pinterest and beyond. In every instance, be focused on the chicken-and-egg questions of technological determinism: how do technological developments affect society and vice-versa?

TuTh 9:30-11 | 88 Dwinelle
Instructor(s): Geoffrey Nunberg, Paul Duguid

This course looks at the quickly developing landscape of mobile applications. It focuses on Web-based mobile applications, and thus covers issues of Web service design (RESTful service design), mobile platforms (iPhone, Android, Symbian/S60, WebOS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry OS, BREW, JavaME/JavaFX, Flash Light), and the specific constraints and requirements of user interface design for limited devices. The course combines a conceptual overview, design issues, and practical development issues.

MWF 1-2 | 130 Wheeler
Instructor(s): Erik Wilde

This course will encourage students to think broadly about the interplay between technological systems, social processes, economic activities, and political contingencies in efforts to alleviate poverty. Students will come to understand poverty not only in terms of high-level indicators, but from a ground-level perspective as ‘the poor’ experience and describe it for themselves. The role played by individuals and societies of the developing world as active agents in processes of technology adoption and use will be a central theme. Technologies connection to socio-economic development efforts will be put into historical context by exposing students to several phases of intensive interest including the ‘green revolution,’ the push towards industrialization, the ‘appropriate technologies’ movement, and more recent interest in digital technologies.

Introductory material for the course will challenge students to think about exactly how ‘technology’ is defined and about the wide variation amongst devices/systems covered by the term. Course topics will be explored through a series of case studies that will be supplemented by cross-disciplinary readings. The use of illustrative case studies will make the course accessible to undergraduates with diverse disciplinary backgrounds. In our discussion of ‘information technologies’ we will explore not only key form factors such as computers, the Internet, and mobile phones, but also their incorporation into broader practices such as micro-business and agriculture.

TuTh 11-12:30 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Jenna Burrell

This course focuses on understanding the Web as an information system, and how to use it for information management for personal and shared information. The Web is an open and constantly evolving system which can make it hard to understand how the different parts of the landscape fit together. This course provides students with an overview of the Web as a whole, and how the individual parts it together. We briefly look at topics such as Web design and Web programming, but this course is not exclusively designed to teach HTML or JavaScript. Instead, we look at the bigger picture and how and when to use these and other technologies. The Web already is and will remain a central part in many information-related activities for a long time to come, and this course provides students with the understanding and skills to better navigate and use the landscape of Web information (for example, Wikipedia), Web technologies (for example, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript), Web tools (for example, delicious and Yahoo pipes), and common Web patterns (for example, mashups).

Section: 2
MW 3-4 (Lab 1: F 11-12, 110 South Hall or Lab 2: F 2-3, 202 South Hall | 160 Dwinelle
Instructor(s): Erik Wilde

How can we critically think about emergent phenomena of the Internet? Is the Internet a democratic medium for political action (a "networked public sphere") or a surveillance apparatus of centralized control? Who has access to digital information and what techniques are used to make information artificially scarce? How do trade group lawsuits against digital "piracy" affect a generation's perception of the law? Should we look at the growing sphere of copyright as a public interest problem, or celebrate the expansion of creators' rights? Can free software thrive independently from ideological backing? Why are peer production communities like Wikipedia and Linux affected by extreme gender disparity?

In this course, we will examine the societal implications of computer networks from critical and technical perspectives. We will collectively engage with issues of intellectual property, access to information, privacy, freedom of speech, representation, and peer production. We will be discussing provocative texts and media, doing hands-on exploration of emerging technologies, and practicing ethnographic fieldwork in online communities. We will also offer opportunities for field trips and guest speakers to provide us with different perspectives. Additionally, students will engage in a semester-long collaborative project in a flexible format.

This is a student-initiated group study course (DE-Cal). Please contact the student coordinator(s) for specific questions.

Must be taken on a passed/not passed basis.

Section: 1
M 5-6:30 | 156 Dwinelle
Instructor(s): Paul Duguid Matt Senate

Core Courses

This course is designed to be an introduction to the topics and issues associated with the study of information and information technology, from a social science perspective. As a result, this course will continuously introduce students to applied and practical problems, theoretical issues, as well as methods for answering different types of questions.

The following three questions will guide the material throughout the course: 1) Why do social scientists study information and information technology, 2) What are some of the key topics and issues that are studied, and 3) How do we study these issues? As we work our way through many different topics and problems in information, we will focus on various levels of analysis. This includes the micro (i.e., interpersonal relationships and information in small groups) to the macro level (i.e., organizational and institutional problems of information). By the end of the course, all students will be familiar with the social science approach to information and information technology, as well as many of the key problems and the methods used to solve these problems. This knowledge is essential to having a well-rounded understanding of information issues in professional environments.

NOTE: Before Fall 2016, this course was named Social and Organizational Issues of Information. The course was offered for 3 units in Spring 2010 and Spring 2011.

TuTh 12:30-2 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Coye Cheshire

Three hours of lecture per week. Law is one of a number of policies that mediates the tension between free flow and restrictions on the flow of information. This course introduces students to copyright and other forms of legal protection for databases, licensing of information, consumer protection, liability for insecure systems and defective information, privacy, and national and international information policy.

NOTE: Before Fall 2010, this course was offered for 2 units.

M 2-4 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Deirdre Mulligan

Delivering value to enterprises and ensuring long-term career success requires much more than pure technology skills. As information becomes increasingly strategic for all organizations, technology professionals must also develop the core business skills required to build personal brand, expand influence, build high-quality relationships, and deliver on critical enterprise projects.

Using a combination of business and academic readings, case discussions and guest speakers, this course will explore a series of critical business topics that apply both to start-up and Fortune 500 enterprises. Subjects to be explored include: communication and presentation skills, software and product development methodologies, negotiation skills, employee engagement, organizational structures and career paths, successful interviewing and CV preparation.

Note: This course is being offered on an S/U (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) basis and will involve reviewing and presenting updates on the School of Information final project.

Until 2015, this course was titled “Professional Skills Workshop.”

F 10-12 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Michael Schaffer

General Courses

Three hours of lecture per week. User interface design and human-computer interaction. Examination of alternative design. Tools and methods for design and development. Human- computer interaction. Methods for measuring and evaluating interface quality.

This course covers the design, prototyping, and evaluation of user interfaces to computers which is often called Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). It is loosely based on course CS1 described in the ACM SIGCHI Curricula for Human-Computer Interaction (Association for Computing Machinery, 1992).

HCI covers many topics including:

  1. Human capabilities (e.g., visual and auditory perception, memory, mental models, and interface metaphors);
  2. Interface technology (e.g., input and output devices, interaction styles, and common interface paradigms); and,
  3. Interface design methods (e.g., user-centered design, prototyping, and design principles and rules), and interface evaluation (e.g., software logging, user observation, benchmarks and experiments).

This material is covered through lectures, reading, discussions, homework assignments, and a course project. This course differs from CS 160 primarily in two ways:

  1. There is an emphasis on interfaces for information technology applications; and,
  2. There is less emphasis on programming and system development, although some simple prototyping (for example, in visual basic or using JAVA GUI development tools) may be required. (CS 160 has a big programming project.)
TuTh 3:30-5 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Jeffrey Nichols

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.

TuTh 2-3:30 | 110 South Hall
Instructor(s): Nancy Van House

“Information” is a versatile word. It’s the name we attach to the age we live in, to and the technologies that define it, to the society and economy that they give rise to, and to the "revolution" that these technologies launch. It characterizes a variety of professions, activities, and social conditions (information architect, CIO, information overload, information haves and have-nots, information warfare), and not incidentally the new faculties that take “information” as their unifying focus. The word figures as a theoretical or technical term in a number of disciplines, including AI, computer science, philosophy, psychology, linguistics, economics, political science and information theory. In short, the word stands (along with its sister “data”) for a welter of social, technological and intellectual connections that seem to define a large swath of modern life.

In this class, we will not be trying to define “information” or “data” (though we’ll look at some attempts to do so). Rather we want to take the word as a point of entry to explore the connections and ideologies that it evokes. Why do people assume, for example, that the bits and bytes sitting on their hard drives are the same as the stuff that creates social revolutions and whose free exchange is necessary to the health of democratic society? (Would we make those connections if we didn’t use the word “information” to describe them?) How are the notions of information deployed by management science or artificial intelligence connected to the information theory developed by Shannon?

We’ll be taking on these questions by discussing readings both from historical periods and from a range of disciplines, focusing on the some of notions (such as “information,” “data,” “platform,” “technology,” “knowledge”) that seem to connect them.

TuTh 12:30-2 | 110 South Hall
Instructor(s): Paul Duguid, Geoffrey Nunberg

This course will introduce students to policy issues and analytical methods in the areas of information systems, communications, computing, and media. Economic, political, social, and legal perspectives will be introduced. The specific topics will vary from year to year and will reflect the current interests of the students and the instructor, but the following list should suggest the range of areas likely to be covered.

Possible Outline of Topics:

  1. Background on Information Policy — Domestic
  2. Background on Information Policy — International
  3. Infrastructure Issues and Technological Change: The Case of NREN, the Internet, NGI, etc.
  4. Ownership of Information: Property Rights
  5. Intellectual Freedom
  6. Access to Information
  7. Public vs. Private Provision of Information
  8. User Fees for Government-Provided Information
  9. Information Markets
  10. Privacy
  11. Mass Media & Common Carriers
  12. National Security
  13. Standards, Elements of Industrial Policy
  14. Trans-border data flows
  15. Consumer information
  16. Medical and health information
TuTh 11-12:30 | 107 South Hall
Instructor(s): Yale Braunstein

Three hours of lecture per week. The emergence of global digital networks, such as the Internet, and digital technologies that enhance human abilities to access, store, manipulate, and transmit vast amounts of information has brought with it a host of new legal issues that lawyers preparing to practice in the 21st century will need to understand and address. Although many are trying to "map" existing legal concepts onto problems arising in cyberspace, it is becoming increasingly evident that this strategy sometimes doesn't work. In some cases, it is necessary to go back to first principles to understand how to accomplish the purposes of existing law in digital networked environments. The course will explore specific problems in applying law to cyberspace in areas such as intellectual property, privacy, content control, and the bounds of jurisdiction. Students with familiarity with the Internet and its resources or with backgrounds in some of the substantive fields explored in this course are especially welcome, but there are no formal prerequisites. Grades for the course will be based either on a series of short papers or on a supervised term paper.

Note: This course is cross-listed with Law 276.1.

MW 11-12:30 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Brian Carver

Three hours of lecture per week. Theories and methods for searching and retrieval of text and bibliographic information. Analysis of relevance and utility. Statistical and linguistic methods for automatic indexing and classification. Boolean and probabilistic approaches to indexing, query formulation, and output ranking. Filtering methods. Measures of retrieval effectiveness and retrieval experimentation methodology.

This course is intended to prepare you to understand the underlying theories and algorithms of advanced information retrieval systems and to introduce the methodology for the design and evaluation of information retrieval systems. The course will introduce you to the major types of information retrieval systems, the different theoretical foundations underlying these systems, and the methods and measures that can be used to evaluate them. The course will focus on the both the theoretical aspects of information retrieval design and evaluation, and will also consider the practical aspects of how these theories have been implemented in actual systems. These topics will be examined through readings, discussion, hands-on experience using various information retrieval systems, and through participation in evaluation of different retrieval algorithms on various test collections. The prerequisite for the course is INFOSYS 202, though this may be waived with the consent of instructor. A good familiarity with computers and programming is highly desirable.

MW 11-12:30 | 107 South Hall
Instructor(s): Ray Larson

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 12:30-2 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Cecilia Aragon

This course offers a multidisciplinary inquiry into the technology, business, economics, and public-policy of computer networks and distributed applications. We will cover the technical foundations of computer networks, including: Internet architecture, network technologies and protocols (e.g., 802.*, TCP/IP, HTTP), routing algorithms and policies, network applications (e.g., p2p overlays, VoIP), emerging network technologies, and network security. Tightly integrated will be coverage on the business, economics and policy of networking, including: economic characteristics of networks, network industry structure and ISP competition, wireless spectrum auction, network neutrality, and incentive-centered design of networks and applications.

TuTh 2-3:30 | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): John Chuang

This seminar reviews current literature and debates regarding Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD). This is an interdisciplinary and practice-oriented field that draws on insights from economics, sociology, engineering, computer science, management, public health, etc.

Th 2-5 | 205 South Hall

Special Topics Courses

The lowering of transaction and coordination costs through the internet, and the distribution of productive capital in the form of the personal computer has occasioned the rise of a form of production based on the collaborative efforts of autonomous individuals interacting online, often called "peer production." In this interdisciplinary graduate course, open to advanced undergraduates, students will analyze and contribute to some self-selected phenomena of peer production. An instructor-led component will seek to increase understanding of the challenges presented by and to peer production by both communicating the history and theory of network-enabled commons-based peer production.

Students will further explore these issues through first-hand research or development experience contributing code, analyzing legal, policy, social, and managerial issues, evaluating user interfaces, or otherwise engaging directly with a peer production process. While open source and free software projects will receive significant attention, the course will seek to explore peer production in varied contexts and may include discussion of Wikipedia, crowd-sourced news aggregation sites, distributed computing projects, or other volunteer scientific or literary projects.

To accommodate the interests of students from multiple disciplines, the hands-on aspect of the course allows the student to choose from one of six tracks and to work alone or in a group:

  • Computer Science: contribute code to an open source project or create a new project;
  • Management: analyze a peer production community or communities to study management approaches that  succeed and fail;
  • Law and Policy: analyze potential legal issues facing a peer production community, ask whether such communities face unique legal challenges, and propose potential solutions;
  • Design: study the user interface design used by a peer-produced product, proposing improvements.
  • Technical Writing: contribute to a peer production process such as Wikipedia or contribute documentation for an open source project;
  • Social Science: analyze the social dynamics, motivating factors, or persistent trends in a peer production community or across communities.

The above are illustrative examples and students may propose their own projects. Students in each track will be evaluated on the basis of written case analyses, proposals, and lab reports detailing their research on and contributions to a peer production process. Students are also encouraged to form groups across tracks focusing on the same peer production process or processes in order to collectively study multiple facets of the same phenomena.

Two hours of seminar per week. One hour of lab per week (devoted to the student's selected project, though students should expect to spend between 45-60 hours total on their project over the course of the semester).

Section: 4
W 2-4 (Lab: F 2-3 Room 110 South Hall) | 202 South Hall
Instructor(s): Brian Carver

This course focuses on employing XML and web services to reuse or "remix" digital content and services. Students will learn practical tools and techniques to recombine personal information through hands-on explorations and projects.

Topics include:

  • weblogs, wikis, and their underlying technologies
  • content syndication via RSS
  • building applications on top of Flickr, the image sharing site, and delicious, and other social bookmarking sites
  • incorporating content from libraries via new digital library technologies
  • sending content to the campus' new learning management system, bSpace
  • exploiting the XML of and Microsoft Office to create and manipulate "smart documents"
  • incorporating geospatial services into the mix of services


Students are expected to have some basic knowledge of XML. No experience with web services is expected.

Section: 5
MW 12:30-2 | 110 South Hall
Instructor(s): Raymond Yee

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 12-1:30 | 205 South Hall
Instructor(s): Paul Duguid

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

Networks... and all that... have long been the subject of study in disciplines as diverse as organizational sociology, engineering, political science, economics, telecommunications management, business, and so on.... The key proposition behind this seminar is that the recent explosion of interest in 'social networks' (as economic, political, social, information, and business model phenomenon) can benefit from a directed survey and analysis of some of what we know about networks from other fields. This class will read and dissect a broad swathe of literature on networks with an eye toward framing up and developing important questions for future research.

Section: 2
Tu 3-5 | 205 South Hall
Instructor(s): Steven Weber

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has emerged as the primary regulator of online privacy. In a recent case, the FTC marked the end of contract law approaches to online privacy in favor of a more interventionalist approach. Years of protecting consumers against “harm” has evolved to an attempt to protect consumer “dignity” in online commerce.

This transition has profound implications for US online commerce. In grounding privacy rights in dignitary interests, the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors will become less clear. Those wishing to represent online businesses should have a strong understanding of this agency, its norms, and approaches to address clients’ business challenges. This seminar will explore the agency’s dominance in the law of online privacy and security, its policy approaches, and in particular, how it should address growing concern over online privacy.

Students will be required to prepare a significant policy document on the FTC that will be shared with the agency’s leadership. Additionally, students will author a shorter paper focusing upon some aspect of the FTC or its leadership. (We post these on 

Note: In Fall 2011, this course is cross-listed as Law 279.7 section 1.

In Spring 2010, this course was offered for 2 units and cross-listed with Law 276P.1.

Section: 3
Th 3:30-5:30 | 110 South Hall
Instructor(s): Deirdre Mulligan Chris Hoofnagle