Technology and Delegation


3 units

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This course is not currently offered.

Course Description

Information technology has been integrated into an array of complex interactions between individuals and the state. Often these technological changes are put forth as inevitable progress toward modernization and as value-neutral means for acting upon policies established through the political branch of government. However, the adoption or introduction of specific technology can obscure profound policy choices and options. Obscurity can arise due to barriers to transparency created by law, such as intellectual property rights asserted to prevent the analysis of software code used in electronic voting systems, due to a lack of necessary expertise to understand the ramifications of a technological shift within the public and private sector entities focused on the relevant policy issues, or, more fundamentally, due to shifts in technology that remove or shift the assumptions on which earlier policies were developed. As a result, the agency, the public, and the political branch of government may overlook the policy-implications in the choice of a new technology.

Through background readings from a range of disciplines and case studies this class will explore instances of discretion delegated to, or embedded in technology--unpacking the process, the substantive outcomes, and the responses from various communities--policy makers, academics, vendors--and disciplines. We will consider techniques for identifying policy issues in technical design, and delegations to technical experts through technology adoption. We will consider the risks and benefits of embedding value and policy choices through technical design versus the adoption of policies or procedures, and rigorously consider the hand-off among them. Topics will include the policy implications of standards, the process and implication of translating law into technological forms, governance implications of government adoption of technology, and government use of technology to regulate behavior and make decisions. 

Note: Before Fall 2016, this course was offered for 2 units.


Last updated: March 30, 2017