A few of you have emailed asking about our midterm exam. I mentioned the basics in class, but I’ll go over it again here.
You need to be ready to discuss The Hacker Crackdown. That is, not just repeat what Sterling wrote. What I expect is the following:
You should be able to discuss the basic concepts and ideas in the book. For example, you should be able to list the Four Stages of a Technology from Part I, and apply it to various technologies: telephones, the Internet, cars, whatever.
You should be able to offer your own opinion on these same basic concepts and ideas in the book. For example, you should be able to argue whether you think that Sterling’s model of the Four Stages of a Technology is correct, or outdated, or doesn’t apply to all technologies. Or you should be able to point out how it works differently for certain technologies.
You should be able to discuss the basic argument of the book as well. Sterling provides profiles of companies, hackers, computer cops, and civil libertarians. You should be able to discuss them in various ways.
You should have some ideas about why Sterling thinks Stanley’s invisible enemy is so important, and be able to apply it to any of the four major groups Sterling discusses.
You should have some ideas about what Sterling means at the end of the book when he says it is the End of the Amateurs, and how it applies to the earlier content of the book.
You should have some idea about all of this applies to your life, personally or as a society — that is, how questions of authority, ownership, and power get connected to technologies when we become dependent on them. You should have an opinion on this subject.
I also asked you, in our last class, some questions which WON’T be on the exam. The main point of those questions was this:
I asked you to think about the idea of a Commons, or what is sometimes called a Public Domain, when it comes to common and important technologies like The Internet.
I asked you to consider who does, or should, have the authority to decide what can be published on the Internet, and how they ought to go about enforcing it.
I asked you to consider whether the rights that the Civil Libertarians in The Hacker Crackdown were defendingshould apply to the Internet in Korea. I raised a few examples, such as Dog Poop Girl and photographs of a stranger’s foot, but you can think of other examples. I also asked you to consider whether free speech is more important, or less important, than security.
If you don’t have answers to these questions, that’s fine — they’re complicated, and we’ll be discussing them in detail in the second half of semester! But they’re worth thinking about, and considering them might make your answers on our exam more interesting. As I said, you’ll be writing a couple of short essays for me on our exam. I’ll see you Thursday!
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"For the correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting..."—Plutarch, "On Listening," Moralia
This is the website for Prof. Gord Sellar. It back up and running, though it is supplemented by the proprietary Blackboard course management system used the university where he works.