CS009: Computers and Human Values
Department of Computer Science, Brown University
Notes, November 9th -- Roger B. Blumberg

Sunstein II: Citizens, Consumers, Democracy and Regulation

Introduction: Explanations, Descriptions and Values

We'll begin the session today with a discussion of the first essay and possible topics for the second. One thing that nearly all the papers motivated was a reminder of the ways explanations (and the arguments that offer them) depend on descriptions. We'll talk about the way this dependency colors political discussions as well.

Introduction 2: What Makes Democracies Work?

As a preface to today's discussion of republic.com, we'll share answers to two questions:

Although the statement "All Politics is Local" has become somewhat of a cliche, one can make a very strong argument that, even in this digital age, effective political action is most often rooted in the particular concerns of particular constituencies. Traditionally, this has meant "local" constituencies.

On the other hand, a technology like the Internet, that facilitates personal communication and empowerment, would seem to offer great opportunities for improving both the quantity and quality of political participation by citizens in government, even though the technology makes "local" participation more an option than a necessity.

Reflecting on the Election last week, on Cherny's views, and on Sunstein's views (as well as your own degree of political participation), do you think that the institutions of political representation currently in place in the US can make revolutionary use of information technologies, and if so how might our institutions change to accommodate such use? Similarly, do you imagine the slogan "All politics is local" will seem antiquated in 50 years?

Cass Sunsetin's republic.com

We'll continue our discussion of Sunsetin's book, and here are some questions we might consider:

From Digital Democracy to Computer Ethics

On Thursday we'll discuss the third unit of Computers and Human Values and, rather than identity or politics, whatever we decide to read the subject will be ethics.

For Thursday:: Post your second paper topic to the WebCT account by the end of the day on Wednesday (and come to class prepared to talk about it a bit).

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