Saturday, January 07, 2006

Syllabus for INFO679: The Basics

Here is the rest of the syllabus for INFO679.

College of Information Science and Technology
Drexel University Winter, 2005-2006
INFO679 Online
Information Ethics
Martha M. Smith, Ph. D.
January 5, 2006

Course Description:
This course presents the philosophical foundations of applied ethics and technology with primary focus on (1.) the uses and abuses of information, (2.) human moral agency in relation to new information and communication technologies (ICTs), and (3.) the meaning of social responsibility in the global information society, including the concepts of global information justice and human rights.

Specifically this course will consider ethical dilemmas, decision-making strategies, and public policy issues around the broad themes of Access, Ownership, Privacy, Security, and Community including headline topics such as intellectual property rights vs. intellectual freedom; the USA Patriot Act vs. civil liberties; the uses of genetic information for health care vs. for discrimination in insurance. The course will build understanding of major and alternative ethical traditions to inform personal moral agency, professional conduct, and civic participation.
Overview of Topics:
Week 1: Introduction to information ethics in relation to other areas of applied ethics, including computer ethics, cyberethics, bioethics, engineering ethics, media ethics, and related areas in research and public policy;
Week 2: Philosophy of information and philosophy of technology as applied in contemporary life—family, work, entertainment, sports, national and global security;
Weeks 3 and 4: Various models of decision making in professional practice and civic participation;
Weeks 5 and 6: The application of information ethics to professional practice and participation in public policy, including the relationship between ethics and law;
Weeks 7 to 10: Current ethical dilemmas under the broad categories of:
Ø Access,
Ø Ownership,
Ø Privacy,
Ø Security, and
Ø Community such as intellectual property rights, copyright, and copyleft; the USA Patriot Act and civil rights; the digital divide and information democracy; and global information justice.

Assignments and Grading:
Electronic Portfolio: The major assignment for this course will be the building of an electronic portfolio including required blog postings, any other course work, and an electronic pathfinder focused on current topics such as (1.) the protection of personal information, (2.) information ethics in healthcare, (3.) the global digital divide, (4.) national security and civil liberties, (5.) intellectual property rights vs. the right to know, (6.) DNA information and cloning, (7.) nanotechnology, and (8.) the information industry. More topics will be suggested.

Blog Postings: Five blog postings (Weeks 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7) will be due on Mondays by noon of each week. These postings should be between 500-700 words and should reflect the readings with engagement with the assignment question or topic. You may use charts, tables, and hotlinks in your text and may attach small audio and video files. You will post your reflections to your own blog forum on the course site and interact with others in your small, blog ring group.

Grades will be based upon the following:
(50%) Major Term Project: The Completed Electronic Portfolio containing an E-Pathfinder (Progress report—Draft of E-Pathfinder-- due before Wednesday in Week 5— 5%; Website operative before Wednesday in Week 8—5%; Final due at the Friday of Week 10—40%)

(40%) 5 Blog Postings and Interaction with Other Students in a Blog Ring and Other Discussion Forums or Group Areas (Weeks 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7)

(10%) Additional Collaboration and Cooperative Learning (Class Participation, Initiative, Creativity, and Enthusiasm)

Grading Scale
A= 90-100
B= 80-89
C= Below 79

An A student will complete all required assignments with excellence and on time and also model above average communication and collaborative skills.

A B student will complete all required assignments adequately and on time and participate actively in interactive communication and collaboration.
A C student will be unable to meet minimum requirements and may be on probation.

To be eligible for an Incomplete, you must have completed more than half of the work.

Students can withdraw from the class until Week 9.

Special Needs and Accommodations: If you have a disability and need special help, you must identify yourself to the Drexel Disability Office in time for your needs to be reviewed and appropriate plans made for help.

Required Texts:
Herman Tavani. (2004) Ethics and technology: Ethical issues in an age of information and communication technology. John Wiley. See
Richard A. Spinello and Herman T. Tavani (eds.) (2004). Readings in cyberethics. 2nd ed. Jones and Bartlett. Also see web resources at

Fiction, Movies, and Media for Enrichment (Optional)
Using selected short stories, novels, movies, radio, and audio resources may be of interest to you in this class. For examples, please refer to the Master Syllabus for Global Information Ethics. We will be adding more selections throughout the term; your suggestions are welcome. For this term, we’ll focus on fiction and nanotechnology.

Print and Electronic Resources
Examples of Optional Readings and Resources: You will want to take advantage of the excellent resources available through the Drexel libraries. See Look for good resources in your local area as well.

The reading books below may be valuable in your professional library. Other readings and resource lists will be given throughout the term.

Richard Holeton (ed.) (1997). Composing cyberspace: Identity, community, and knowledge in the electronic age. WCB/McGraw Hill. Also see companion website at
Richard A. Spinello and Herman T. Tavani (eds.) (2001). Readings in cyberethics. Jones and Bartlett. Also see web resources at

Albert Teich (ed.), Technology and the future. Wadsworth. Most recent edition. Also see companion website, Albert Teich’s Technology and the Future Toolkit, at

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