Adapted from an assignment devised by Jean-François Blanchette.

1. Rationale

Each week, you will be asked to apply the concepts covered in class to your chosen topic, in the form of a 1000-word write-up. In this way, by the end of the semester, you will have already gathered much of the material relevant to your policy brief. The purpose is to force you to spread the research, analysis and writing of your brief over the entire term, rather than cram during the last two days of the term.

2. Process

Each write-up is worth 5% of your final grade. The grading schema is as follows:

Explanationnot received/unacceptable0-25%26-74%75-100%

Some write-ups will be returned with feedback; some will not. The grader will decide whether it’s warranted, and you can contact or meet with him for further information.

Submit the write-ups via CCLE, via the assignment located under the appropriate week.

Write-ups are due at the start of your class section for the appropriate week.

The write-ups will be returned to you via CCLE by classtime the following week.

Should you have questions regarding write-ups, please consult with the course reader.

3. Substance

The write-ups should answer the following questions:

Write up #1: Infrastructure (due week 4)

In “Steps Toward an Ecology of Infrastructure,” Star and Ruhleder describe a communication technology that failed, not because its design or operation was faulty, but because it could not be integrated into the practices of the community of intended users.

With respect to the technology you have chosen for your final project, address the following questions:

  • What are the characteristics of the community of intended users?
  • On what “installed base” (i.e., infrastructure) does this technology build? Examples could include campus wifi, a laptop lending system, etc.
  • Anticipate first-, second-, and third-order challenges (as defined by Star and Ruhleder) to this technology’s adoption, and discuss how these challenges might be mitigated.

Write up #2: Architecture (due week 5)

  • Describe how the technology organizes the fundamental elements of processing, storage, networking, and data. (Use diagrams to clarify the architecture or complement the discussion).
  • Describe all devices used for processing, storage, and communication (embedded computers, mobile devices, internet, etc.)
  • Which kind of network does the technology rely on? How much bandwidth is required? Is there any particular pricing structure involved for the network resource?
  • How does the data flow inside, within, and outside the system? (Illustrate with a diagram.)

Write up #3: Standards (due week 6)

It’s likely that your technology adheres to many different standards — probably too many to investigate at length! Therefore, I’d like you to include a paragraph-long overview of the major standards used by your technology, and then, in the bulk of the write-up, focus on just one or two standards to explore at greater length. Choose the standard(s) that you find intriguing, controversial, or especially relevant to your technology.

I’ve provided some direction for performing research on standards here.

  • What are the major standards operating with regard to your topic? From which other standardization efforts did they grow?
  • Who are the major participants in the standardization process? What interests do they represent?
  • What are the major elements of tension in the development of the standards?
  • How do your standards “embody ethics and values”?

Write up #4: Privacy and Equity (due week 7)

Given the concerns addressed by commentators such as Gilliand and Glass, does the technology you’ve chosen raise issues about privacy, digital redlining, or equity? What are they? (How) could they be mitigated?