|Bruce Umbaugh at Webster.edu|
|Philosophy on the Web|
By Bruce Umbaugh
Monday, August 25, 2003
Ethics for Cyberspace
Prof. Bruce Umbaugh
Fall 1, 2003
Pearson House Room 3 and online
- Instructor Information
- Course Description
- Course Outline (brief)
- Course Schedule (more detailed)
- Policy on academic dishonesty
Instructor InformationDr. Bruce Umbaugh
office: Pearson House basement
email: firstname.lastname@example.org office hours: by appointment
- Essays, to be distributed, or placed on electronic reserves, and things available via the World Wide Web.
This course treats ethical issues created, aggravated, or transformed by computing technology and by the movement of humans onto the "electronic frontier" of cyberspace. From a sufficiently abstract vantage point, the course is about how we ought to live our lives and arrange our society, given these new technologies. It is about how we ought to arrange our technologies to bring about good social and ethical outcomes.
At a lower level of abstraction, this course is about how facts of technology affect what ought to be or what we ought to do. It is about the differences between human and technological solutions to problems, and about developing appropriate metaphors to guide our conduct in the face of these new technologies. It is about things we value, such as privacy and freedom of expression.
Viewed another way, the course is about hacking, mind control, piracy, crypto-anarchy, Big Brother, the rush of re-inventing oneself and of confronting other minds, and about making the world a better place.
A slightly more detailed calendar of topics appears below. Topics overlap one another to some extent. On whim, the instructor may alter the schedule. Precise reading assignments will be announced later. Put simply, in outline, the course topics are:
- Privacy. Weeks 1-2.
- Property, piracy, computer intrusion. Weeks 3-4.
- Freedom of expression. Weeks 5-6.
- Community. Weeks 6-7.
- Personal and professional responsibility. Week 8.
GradingThree essays 35% Tangent project 15% Final exam 20% Collegial participation 30%
Each student will write short essays on assigned topics at intervals through the course. Topics may be an episode or pending issue relating to ethical concerns about cyberspace, or responding to claims in one of the readings for the course. Together, the essays count thirty-five percent towards your grade for the course.
A take-home final examination offers the opportunity to demonstrate your mastery of material covered in the course. Each exam will cover the entirety of the course to that point. The exams will mix essay and short answer questions. The two together account for twenty percent of your grade in the course.
In the first weeks of the course, I will twice "go off on tangents." Later, each student is to complete a "tangent project" of her or his own relating to the course. One part of the project consists in presenting information to the class and leading discussion. Students must also produce artifacts that summarize and further develop the work they do with the class, typically in the form of paper, but it could also be a Web presentation or some other form. In either case, it should be a substantial piece of work that treats an issue having to do with "ethics for cyberspace" in a thoughtful and professional way. (So, for example, a chatty, "Why I like (hate) computers a lot" probably does not qualify, nor does a collection of hot links "My favorite sites on the World Wide Web." I can assign topics, or offer choices, or else approve your suggestion.) The research you do to lead discussion should furnish a preliminary basis for the part of the project "handed in." Taken together, the parts of the tangent project constitute fifteen percent of your course grade.
Each student will be expected to participate in class discussion. Your efforts and success at contributing to your colleagues' education will be the basis for thirty percent of your grade in the course.
The basic structure of grading in the course does not involve me awarding you credits in virtue of your mere presence in the classroom. Rather, what we seek is active engagement with the course readings, with the instructor, and with classmates. It may go without saying that this sort of engagement is not possible without your being present in face-to-face class meetings. So, students are encouraged to attend every class. Moreover, there is ordinarily a strong correlation between good class attendance and good grades in a class such as this one. Much information will be presented in class, including examples and elaboration not to be found in our texts. Announcements will be made. Handouts will be distributed. You are responsible for knowing all this and for having any additional materials distributed in class.
Although I will make myself available to help students outside class, students who do not attend class meetings should not expect to be rewarded with intensive assistance. In addition, students who do not attend class cannot earn collegial participation credit in their absence. Finally, note that I reserve the right to reward students who have attended class faithfully, displayed significant effort, and made significant contributions to the class.
Policy on academic dishonesty
Students in this class are expected to do their own work and not to rely on the work of others. While students are welcome to work with one another to understand the material, any student plagiarizing, cheating on an exam, aiding another student to cheat, or committing any other act of academic dishonesty will be referred for appropriate disciplinary action. Please consult with me if you have any questions in this regard, either about your own work or that of another person.
Course ScheduleThis is an approximate schedule, subject to massive revision.
- Week 1: Metaphors, Privacy. Democracy.
Read Charles D. Raab, "Privacy, democracy, and information," Jean Camp, excerpts from Trust and Risk in Internet Commerce, and Bruce Umbaugh, "Privacy, Technology, and Care."
- Week 2: Privacy, continued. Tangent: The independence of cyberspace. No class meeting, Labor Day, Monday, September 1, 2003.
Read Dan Farmer & Charles Mann, "Surveillance Nation."
- Week 3: Property. Tangent: Sobig.F and other worms.
Read Helen Nissenbaum, "Should I Copy My Neighbor's Software?" Dorothy Denning, "Concerning Hackers Who Break Into Computer Systems," Pirate "So You Want to Be a Pirate?" CERT, "Overview of Attack Trends."
- Week 4: Property, continued. Also, borders.
Read Jack Valenti, tba, Negativland, tba, Jessica Littman, "Choosing Metaphors, Bruce Umbaugh, "On Fair Use By Design," Michael Froomkin, "The Internet as a Source of Regulatory Arbitrage," Dan L. Burk, "The Market for Digital Piracy," and Timothy C. May, "Introduction to BlackNet."
- Week 5: Freedom of Expression.
Read John Stuart Mill, excerpts from On Liberty, Julian Dibbell, "A Rape in Cyberspace," Mike Godwin, excerpts from Cyber Rights.
- Week 6: Freedom of Expression, continued. No class meeting, Webster Works Worldwide, Wednesday, October 1, 2003.
Read Jennifer 8. Lee, "Guerrilla Warfare, Waged With Code," Robert Corn-Revere, "Caught in the Seamless Web: Does the Internet's Global Reach Justify Less Freedom of Speech?" Sara Gordon, "Virus Exchange BBS: A Legal Crime?"
- Week 7: Community. Readings tba.
- Week 8: Personal and Professional Responsibility. Readings tba.