Working Groups for Impact of New
Information Resources: Multimedia and Networks
Students will divide into working groups to focus their studies during the
course of the semester. The instructor expects that many individual and group
projects will come out of these working groups. These groups will allow for
more in-depth discussions from particular perspectives, and should be
especially helpful in formulating ideas for the final projects. The groups
will also periodically report back to the class as a whole to encourage a
cross-fertilization of perspectives. Each group will consist of students from
both campuses. Group members will hold weekly meetings, and will
continue online discussions between meetings.
From time to time, groups will be given class time for discussions.
Each group will start and manage its own Web site with summaries and pointers
to relevant resources. The group will also manage an electronic communications forum to
discuss relevant topics between face-to-face meetings. The group will choose
thread names (subject headings) within the forum, periodically purge older messages, and
perform all necessary management functions. Each forum will be open to
students in other groups and (to a limited extent) to the general public.
The following is a sample list of groups likely to form, and the topics they
are likely to discuss. Which of these are actually formed depends upon student
interest, and some of these groups might be combined.
- Creative Arts -- Use of high technology and interactive media in the
visual arts. Changing physical media (film to video to digital media) and
distribution channels (theaters to the home) for media arts. The changing role
of cultural institutions (such as museums) in an age of widespread digital
distribution. Effects of a digital society on creativity (including
Virtual Communities -- How does one-way communication differ from
two-way communication? Is there a difference in information produced for mass
consumption from that produced as part of a helping community? How can
computer networks be used to help bring people together who may not have met
otherwise? What is the nature of new online communities which develop without
any sense of "place"? How will commercialization of networked information
affect virtual communities?
Critical Theory -- Can information be a commodity? How can we extend
an analysis of representation to computer-based communication? What is
the changing nature of discourse in a mediated electronic environment? What is
the relationship between communications, information, and technology? Is there
an ideology to the information age? What is the likely result of the loss of
community spaces (movie theaters, museums, and even department stores) that is
likely to accompany the new "information age"? What is the likely impact of
the disembodiment that will accompany virtual reality and its
descendants? Is the attraction to cutting-edge technologies really a form of
spectacle? How can we apply theories from Lyotard, Baudrillard,
Derrida, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Habermas, Debord, etc. to answer these and other
questions arising from new information technology?
Public Policy -- What is the government's role in relation to
telecommunications and high technology? What kind of projects does (and
should) the government fund? What are the effects of licensing the air waves
as the distinction between television, telephones, and computers begins to
blur? Can government regulation protect the public interest in the battles
between newspapers, broadcasters, the cable companies, the telephone companies,
computer companies and the entertainment industry? What are the issues around
privacy raised by the new information technologies? What about the role of
intellectual property? What issues are raised in the flow of information into
developing countries? What are the pros and cons of privatizing the Internet?
Should Internet access be free?
Future of Publishing -- Will electronic books, online newspapers, and
on-demand news (via phone, cable, or computer) become the major delivery
systems for information? What are the technical, economic, social, and
cultural issues involved in these coming into widespread use? How will these
change the nature of publishing, and how will people use these published
materials in new ways? What kind of legal and technical protections
will be used for intellectual property and what are the advantages and
disadvantages of each? What are the ethical, preservation, and copyright
issues around digital photography?
Information Retrieval -- What are the issues in networked multimedia
information retrieval? How can one find the desired information somewhere on
the network? What does one need in order to find it (indexing, standards),
retrieve it (coordinating stream data, bandwidth), find the correct portion of
it (scene in a film or paragraph of text), play it (decompression, storage
standards, user interface)? What are the issues involved in creating entities
(such as knowbots) to search the networks for the information we need? How can
we filter through large bodies of information, and what are the consequences of
relying on filters?
Media Views of New Technologies -- How does the contemporary mass media (television, newspapers, magazines) cover the Internet, electronic communication and related issues? What framing devices are used, and why do those frames shift between dist
opian and utopian views? What is the interplay between the media and popular views (and which influences the other)? What spurs the development of magazines like Wired and Internet World?
Digital Commerce --
What are the technical issues involved in buying and selling through electronic communication? Can online transactions be protected?
What schemes will online vendors use to prevent reuse or misuse of the information they sell?
Will these schemes pose onerous barriers to access to intellectual property?
What are the advantages of giving some information away for free and charging for other information?
Do online marketing schemes pose a threat to the culture and character of the Internet?
How might online vendors capture data detailing what a user looks at and for how long?
What kind of privacy issues are raised by the capture and use of this data?
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