This course is structured into a number of units which span 2-4 days. Each of these has specific outcomes and threads (like themes):

  1. Groundwork
  2. Data
  3. Critical Perspectives (theory)
  4. Facial Recognition
  5. Misinformation and Platforms
  6. The Society of Tech
  7. Participating in The Society of Tech

We will spend the majority of our time in conversation with one another. The format of the discussions will vary from class meeting to class meeting. The most common format being small-group discussions of questions introduced by the instructor, but there will be plenty of more creative activities and different formats as well.

The quality of the discussions as a whole will depend on individual students’ contributions and decorum. Hallmarks of such include asking clarifying questions, encouraging each other to speak, delivering summaries, and offering commentaries. Together we will use these to arrive at our desired learning outcomes while being mindful of the multiple and diverse experiences of all class participants. We ask students participate to the extent of their abilities, respect each other and review some tips on leading discussions.

In each class, we will:

  • come prepared to discuss the day’s readings and assignments,
  • occasionally review background material on the day’s themes,
  • warm-up to participate in an active-learning environment,
  • discuss, in various group sizes, those readings and assignments,
  • synthesize those themes (often through group activities),
  • and make personal the themes of the day through reflections (exit tickets).

We also expect our most vocal students to actively create space for others’ contributions by bringing in quieter voices to the discussions.

Given that this is a discussion seminar, attendance is crucial. We do not plan to record class discussions.

Relevant responses and political action

In addition to reading and assignments, each day has associated relevant responses. These responses are examples of how others have acted regarding technological systems before. They show students how participation comes in many forms—not just through code. Some of these forms include:

  • appealing for accountability from organizational leadership,
  • exercising discretion in ones choice of work,
  • engaging with technological issues publicly,
  • and engaging in direct action.

We encourage students to share their own examples of responses throughout the course.


Each week we expect students to complete the day’s readings and assignments. While the readings vary in their difficulty and length, we expect students will spend approximately two hours on a day’s readings, with considerable variance. You may find that shorter readings are denser and require more time than some of the longer, yet lighter, readings. If you fall behind, begin with the next set of readings which are due so you can participate in the day’s discussion. Our discussions and assignments are closely tied to the readings, so it is incumbent upon you to make your best effort in completing the readings.

If you are stuck on a reading, do not hesitate to reach our to the instructor. We also encourage you to discuss the readings with your classmates before class, if possible.

Daily assignments

Students will submit daily assignments through Canvas the day before class (except for our first meeting). We choose early due dates for assignments in the hopes that students do not stay up late completing them and so the instructor can read them to prepare for class.

Daily assignments should demonstrate your attempts to understanding the readings. If not otherwise directed, students should submit a couple of paragraphs that summarize the work, raise or answer questions, connect the work to previous readings, critique the work, etc. Please attempt to limit your response to at most one page. We will not accept late assignments or those which do not make a good faith attempt at understanding the readings.

Questions may include clarifications of particular portions of the text, relationships between the reading and a current event, or an interrogation into the values and underlying premises on which the reading was based.

Longer assignments

During the term, students must also research and write about a technology or system for the course project.


This course will be graded credit or no credit. In order to receive credit, students must submit 17 of the 20 of the daily assignments, attend, and participate in, 16 of the 20 classes, and receive a passing grade on the course project parts. That said, the point of this course is not a grade. Students should attend because of the readings and discussions—not in spite of them.


There is no required textbook for this class. All readings will be available on the home page of the course website—the majority of which will be either scans or online articles. While the course website may show the readings and assignments for the entire course, they are only finalized one week before they are due.


We welcome students from all backgrounds and adhere to the Allen School’s Inclusiveness Statement.


Many of the topics explored in this class are relevant because of their contentious and often unresolved nature. Students should bring an open mind and a desire to examine perspectives possibly different than their own. It is important that everyone be particularly respectful of each other’s positions. We do not want or expect you to agree with everything you are assigned to read — your instructor doesn’t either.

Spring 2020: The Virtual Quarter

This course begins, and may well conclude, while the world in general and Seattle in particular are consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Like all Spring 2020 classes, we will interact virtually, without coming to campus. To state the obvious, this is not what any of us originally planned for when choosing a discussion seminar.

We are going to make it work, and we want your help to make our course an interactive, meaningful experience where you get to know your fellow students. Please come to virtual class with the same energy and attention you would come to a conventional discussion.

We also know you may face additional challenges during Spring 2020, which could include managing the technology to participate remotely, financial challenges from lost income, emotional challenges from social isolation, or the health of you or people close to you. We are all in this together and Spring 2020 is a time for maximal flexibility and speaking up if challenges arise.

We need you to participate in class — at the scheduled time and with video and audio — for the discussion seminar to succeed. But if hardships arise, given the state of the world right now, take care of your health and safety! Let the instructor know, so we can figure out a plan together.

Accommodation and Resources

Disability Accommodations

Embedded in the core values of the University of Washington is a commitment to ensuring access to a quality higher education experience for a diverse student population. Disability Resources for Students (DRS) recognizes disability as an aspect of diversity that is integral to society and to our campus community. DRS serves as a partner in fostering an inclusive and equitable environment for all University of Washington students. The DRS office is in 011 Mary Gates Hall.

Please see the UW resources at

Religious Accommodations

It is the policy of the University of Washington to reasonably accommodate students’ religious observances in accordance with RCW 28B.137.010

Please see the UW resources at

Academic Integrity

We follow the Allen School’s policy for academic integrity and misconduct.

Particular to this course, all writing you submit should be your own. You should not consult writing of other students in this quarter or previous quarters in preparing your submissions.