[SIGCIS-Members] Information culture in 2017: recommendations for student readings/other lit?

M. Hicks mhicks1 at iit.edu
Mon Jan 2 05:03:19 PST 2017

Hi James,

I would recommend the Intersectional Internet book that recently came out, edited by Safiya Umoja Noble and Brendesha Tynes. I used the book to good effect in my women in computing history class this fall. Safiya is one of the invited speakers at the SIGCIS conference being held at the computer history museum this year: http://meetings.sigcis.org/

I would also recommend the work of Latanya Sweeney (on racism in google ad algos) and some of the other readings listed under class 7 and 8 of my Digital Labor class might be helpful: http://www.mariehicks.net/syllabi/DigitalLaborSyllabusv4.pdf

I also ask students to experiment with google image search so we can have a discussion along the lines of the #ilooklikeanengineer and #ilooklikeaprofessor critiques.

Hope this helps-- sounds like a great class. Please share the syllabus with all of us once you are done!


Marie Hicks, Ph.D.
Asst. Professor, History of Technology
Illinois Institute of Technology
Chicago, IL USA
mhicks1 at iit.edu | mariehicks.net | @histoftech
Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing

On Jan 2, 2017, at 7:21 AM, James Sumner <james.sumner at manchester.ac.uk> wrote:

Happy New Year, and best wishes for more than usually unsettled times. 
I'm writing with a request for suggested sources which arises from my annual attempt to update my introductory survey course for undergrads, The Information Age – a task that always leaves me hugely envious of the local early-modern and medieval historians, who can usually get by with rolling the course content forward from one year to the next without any seismic geopolitical events leaving their priorities and interpretations wildly outdated. The Spring 2016 version, for what it's worth, is in the Syllabus Repository at http://www.sigcis.org/files/2015-2016%20HSTM%2020282%20Information%20Age%20course%20booklet_0.pdf

I'm looking both for straightforward, accessible material that can be used directly by a mixed group of STEM (mostly computer       science) and humanities (mostly history) students, a few of whom will have little background in any branch of the field, and for more complex literature I could digest for lecture content. 
Like others – see in particular Lee Vinsel's howl of frustration at https://twitter.com/STS_News/status/807580040116445184 – I'm wondering how best to use the recent rise of public concern about online information and the social cultures formed around it, given that the analytical discourse over the past 25 years has been strongly shaped by optimistic, sometimes utopian techno-determinist accounts, and that the more nuanced and seemingly level-headed accounts that have so far opposed this trend are now starting to look overly optimistic themselves, giving too little agency to the nature of the platforms that dominate info consumption. 
On a related note, I'm also keen to give more specific coverage to the workings and influence of digital formalisations and automated processing in everyday information culture, particularly bearing in mind the mixture of disciplinary backgrounds of these students. One of my concerns is obviously to wean CS students away from the common IT-solutionist mindset that presents technical answers to social problems and expects them to work in defiance of every single lesson of recorded history – but I see a corresponding problem on the humanities side, in that many students don't have a working familiarity with algorithmic processing, and will routinely size up blind and bulk processes in terms of intentions and individualisations that may not be there. I usually open these areas up for group discussion with questions       like the classic "What do you do if your identity doesn't match any of the boxes on the form?", or why supermarkets (at least in the UK) occasionally display posters for special offers that are obviously poorer value than the regular price. 
I notice that Tarleton Gillespie and Nick Seaver have put together a very detailed reading list of "Critical algorithm studies":

and also that there's a new collection titled Algorithmic Cultures edited by Robert Seyfert and Jonathan Roberge, so there are plenty of promising leads in the academic literature – but I'm also looking for good journalism. All recommendations gratefully received! 
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