The purpose of this exam is to have you bring together some of your thoughts about the semester's readings, the discussions we've had, and the ideas you've written about in your papers, in the context of an interpretation and analysis of particular questions and themes concerning the personal, social, economic and political consequences of computers/computing.
There are two parts to this exam. The first asks you to identify several passages, each drawn from the texts we've read and discussed. The second part asks you to write an essay based on the essays in at least one section of the Information Society Reader.
This exam is only slightly different than the one I would have given in a 3-hour block, had we been able to schedule something in-class. I would still (and strongly) prefer that you complete Part One is approximately an hour, and the essay in approximately two hours.
The exam is due by noon (EST) on Sunday, February 18th.
For any four (4) of the quotations given below, identify the author and the text in which it appears. Then briefly explain whether/how it represents or is indicative of particular positions taken or arguments made by the author. Your answer needn't be longer than a paragraph or two, but it should make clear the significance of the passage by relating it to one or more of the major themes in the text and/or the course as a whole. You need not repeat the entire quotation in your explication and can refer to it simply by number if you wish.
The following essay topics are designed to elicit your thoughts about computing and its consequences. Choose one (1) of the topics, and write an essay that communicates your thoughts as clearly as possible, while drawing on specific examples and/or arguments from the texts you've read in The Information Society Reader. You may of course make reference to other texts as well, though you are not required to do so. Please know that none of the topics has been formulated to elicit a "right" or "correct" view or response, and your essay will be evaluated based on the quality, coherence and inspiration of your insights, arguments, and readings of the texts you discuss.
"Consider, if you will, Me++.
"I consist of a biological core surrounded by extended, constructed systems of boundaries and networks. These boundary and network structures are topological and functional duals of each other. The boundaries define a space of containers and places (the traditional domain of architecture), while the networks establish a space of links and flows. Walls, fences, and skins divide; paths, pipes, and wires connect." (Me++ (MIT Press, 2004), p. 7)
Today it is fairly common to find texts by computer scientists, cultural critics and futurologists who claim that computing has (and should) alter our intuitions, senses and certainties concerning the nature, boundary, and value of the Self. Choose at least two (2) of the essays/excerpts from your section of The Information Society Reader and, in a brief essay (e.g. 2-3 pages) that interprets their views and presents your own, discuss the contemporary concept of the Self as a consequence of computing.
Today one hears a great deal about the future of education in light of the Internet, the Web, and of course "information society". In their "Introduction" to a special issue of the Journal of Philosophy of Education devoted to computer technology and its educational consequences, the editors wrote:
"Nothing is predictable as one explores education on the Net. Huge and exciting potentials open up, alongside aspects that occasion alarm or even horror. Minor innovations take on major significance (word processing perhaps, or the listserv) whilst elaborate technological developments begin to look educationally marginal or trivial (is multimedia as important as e-mail or file transfer? how useful is videoconferencing really?). Some intellectual possibilities seem to close down whilst others open up, ... and the more one thinks about the Internet, the less one seems technologically at its mercy, yet the more locked in conflict with the forces in society who seek to control or promote it." (Nigel Blake and Paul Standish, Journal of Philosophy of Education, vol. 34, No. 1, 2000, p. 5)
Choose at least two (2) of the essays/excerpts from your section of The Information Society Reader and, in a brief essay that interprets their views and presents your own, discuss the future of schooling in a digital age. You may focus on a particular level of schooling (e.g. undergraduate education) or on schooling generally.
Choose at least two (2) of the essays/excerpts from The Information Society Reader that you think speak to these issues and, in a brief essay that interprets their views and presents your own, discuss the consequence of computing for the public/private distinction.
In the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), the philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote that the three questions with which all reason is concerned are:
These three questions have informed and perhaps determined the study and practice of Western philosophy ever since Kant. But perhaps less attention has been paid to the third question than to the first two, and it's especially reasonable to consider this third question in light of technology.
Choose at least two (2) of the essays/excerpts from The Information Society Reader that you think speak to the question of what we can/should hope for as a consequence of computing; and, in a brief essay that interprets their views and presents your own, answer the question: "For what may I hope?"
Thanks for all your patience with and hard work for this class.