Thursday, 2:00 - 4:45, Aug. 20 - Dec. 3, 2015

Instructor: Evelyn Daniel

Objectives ... Readings ... Conduct of Course ... Assignments and Exercises ... Grading Policy


Welcome to Information Policy. We will begin with some brief definitions and discussion of the terms policy, policy analysis, and how policies in the public sphere are formed. We will explore a number of information policies during the course, the specific set to be determined by the class participants. Some candidate subject areas include intellectual property (copyright, ownership and licensing), Internet access (Internet governance, filtering, the digital divide), identity in cyberspace (big data and mining, digital presentation, personal information management), privacy (social media, comparison of US vs European practices), security and secrecy (government spying, Freedom of Information, denial of service attacks, acceptable use policies), e-government (e-commerce and regulations, citizen access to services through the Internet), free expression vs blasphemy and hate speech, misinformation and disinformation (trust and the role of the professional in helping to define the quality (e.g. cognitive authority) of information content). We will also examine through case study some information policy organizational actors and how they seek to influence policy in a particular direction.

The course is designed as a policy primer. You will read and discuss literature on a number of policy issues, become more informed on these important issues and more articulate about issues important to you. You will be introduced to reliable sources to enable you to further educate yourself and others on these important, absorbing and volatile topics.

Objectives of the Course

On conclusion of this course, you will be able to:

Demonstrate understanding of the key instituional, regulatory and legal processes shaping current and future information policy in the U.S. (and to a lesser extent internationally)

Identify and characterize the key policy positions, interests, and strategies of major actors and stakeholders for a subset of information policies

Analyze the relationship among key information policy issues and some central concepts of the information/library science field such as information access, universal service, privacy, and public goods.

Understand how information affects and changes individual and national identities

Compare and contract domestic information policy approaches with those of other countries and international bodies

Analyze, argue and contribute to current debates on information policy and write a concise and well-informed policy brief

Demonstrate good collaborative skills in working with class colleagues and the instructor to make the course an effective, efficient and joyful learning environment.

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There is no required textbook for the course. All readings will be available either on the Sakai course site, on the Internet, or accessible through SILS reserve or through UNC Library's journal holdingss. The assigned readings are introductory in nature for most topics. You may need to supplement the assigned readings with material you find on your own or material listed as recommended but not required.

Information policy is becoming more mainstream and, as a result, we are beginning to see a number of novels exploring some of the themes. Some of this literature reaches back in time to sci-fi titles like Brave new World and 1984. Others, like Dave Eggers' The Circle are more contemporary and look at issues of privacy or explore the commodification and sale of information, like Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer. Alena Graedon's The Word Exchange, called a "bibliothriller", describes a future where people get "word flu" as a result of too heavy reliance on technology. And, of course, there are many thoughtful current non-fiction books on related topics, like Common as Air (Lewis Hyde), Code: Version 2.0 (Lawrence Lessig), The Master Switch (Tim Wu), The Shallows (Nicholas Carr), The Information (James Gleich), Who Owns the Future? (Jaron Lanier), Here Comes Everybody (Clay Shirky), After Snowden (Ronald Goldfarb, ed.) and many more. You will have your own favorites to share. We will make time to share and perhaps read and discuss a few pages from particularly relevant items.

A journal of particular interest to us for this class is the Journal of Information Policy. Various other law, economics, policy, and information science and society journals have relevant articles from time to time. Some of the assigned readings for the class will come from these journals. You will want to seek others in support of your policy paper.

In addition to textual readings, there are some excellent short videos on the Internet on relevant topics. We will watch some in class and you are encouraged to explore additional possibilities.

Several non-profit organizations are set up to focus public attention on particular information issues, sometimes with advocacy in mind, but usually with a strong informing component. Here's a partial list:

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Conduct of the Class

This course will operate as a graduate seminar, therefore class participation by everyone is necessary. You will be expected to discuss, query, challenge, and agree or disagree with the assigned readings, the instructor, and one another. The aim of the course is to provide lively, instructive and supportive discussions about the controversies covered in the course. Of course the manner of our interaction will be respectful and inclusive. Let us model the kind of good citizenship we want to see in our government.

An underlying assumption of this course is that students learn best and retain knowledge longer through active participation in the learning process. Therefore, classroom sessions will consist of a mixture of short lectures, student discussions of material and assignments, case discussions, media presentations, active learning exercises, and some lively and inspiring guest speakers. We will occasionally meet virtually using Sakai rather than face to face.

Class policies that you should be aware of:

  • You are accountable for each class session's material whether you are in class or not. Most students find it helpful to identify a class buddy at the outset who is will willing to collect handouts and share notes in your absence.

  • All assignment deadlines will be posted in advance, usually on the written assignment and on the Schedule page. I will use a weekly agenda announcement to keep us all on the same page. I will plan to post this by Sunday afternoon before each coming week.

  • A learning community with an open atmosphere in which members of the class comment in helpful ways on each other's work is encouraged. To this end I encourage you to post your assignments and thoughtful comments on designated spaces within the Sakai class site. If for any reason you do not wish to post your papers to a forum public to class members, you may send or give them directly to me.

  • Assistance to one another in owrk on your policy analysis paper is encouraged. One direct way of providing such assistance is through the required feedback provision on sections of the paper. Finding and posting or forwarding relevant readings or news items is another way.

  • Attendance at every class session is expected. If you have an unavoidable absence, please let me know, in advance if possible.

  • Asssigned chapters of the text and other assigned activities are to be completed prior to scheduled sessions. You will be asked to reflect on the course material drawing on your reading and your personal experiences. You may occasionally be asked to post your reflections and discussion questions prior to class.

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Assignments and Exercises

There is one major assignment for the class: a policy analysis paper which will count for 50% of your grade and will be developed in several parts with opportunities for feedback throughout the course. Alternatives to this assignment may be negotiated with the instructor if you believe some alternative or variation will lead to a better or more relevant learning experience for you.

In addition, in most weeks you will be asked to complete a brief exercise allowing you to apply the skills and concepts from the material we will be reading about in some practical way. For example, an early exercise will be to investigate a non-profit organization (from the list above or your own negotiated choice) to determine how and for whom information policy analysis is conducted. Another exercise might be to search for and select a good supplementary video on a topic we will be discussing during the week. You may be asked, perhaps with another class member, to put together talking points for an editorial in favor of or opposed to a particular information policy. These short exercises will comprise 30% of your grade. The final 20% of the grade will be based on class participation, e.g., class attendance, attention, demonstration of good citizenship in the class community, contribution to discussions either in-class or as posts to a Sakai forum.

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Grading Policy

Graduate students may receive the following grades:

H - Clear excellence
P - Entirely satisfactory (the norm for good quality graduate work)
L - Low pass
F - Fail
IN - Work incomplete

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Revised August 11, 2015.
Evelyn Daniel, Instructor