Meeting the General Education Computer Requirement with a Course on Technology and Society

For a number of years, college and university general education requirements have , at many institutions, included some sort of mandatory course on computers and technology.  Several decades ago when I met the requirement, I did so by completing a course that was mostly about how to use AppleWorks.  These days, students are more likely to use Microsoft Office and various web applications.  If we are educating our students for citizenry, that’s not good enough anymore.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been thinking about what I want my children to know about computers, technology, and the net, and I’ve decided that it’s not MS Office.  It’s not even how to code. Instead what I want them and everyone to learn about is how technology is changing our society.

As a thought exercise, I’m going to set down in writing a sketch of what such a course might look like.  I haven’t done much comparison research, and I’m sure some other institutions have already created such a course.  Nevertheless, here it goes with  a topic list and some suggested readings:

A Brief history of networked, decentralized , and recentralized computing.

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace – John Perry Barlow
The Web We Lost
– Anil Dash (Video)
“Reclaiming the Internet” with Distributed Architectures: An Introduction – Francesca Musiani and Cécile Méadel
The Mission to Decentralize the Internet – Janus Kopfstein


Big Data: It’s Worse than You Thought – Frank Pasquale
Weapons of Math Destruction – Cathy O’ Neil
We’re Building a Dystopia Just to Make People Click on Ads – Zeynep Tufekci (video)


The Trust Machine – The Economist

Data Collection and Surveillance

Snowden and the Future – Eben Moglen


Don’t Panic: Making Progress on the “Going Dark” Debate – Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University
The Case Against a Golden Key – Patrick Ball

The Control of Technology and the Technology of Control

Lockdown: The Coming War on General-Purpose Computing – Cory Doctorow
Twitter and Tear Gas – Zeynep Tufekci

I recognize that many of my sources here have a leftward lean. Does anyone have suggestions for:

  1. Writers who are more politically conservative but have a good understanding of the capabilities and limitations of technologies?
  2. Topics and/ or resources I should have included but didnt?

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