FSEM 142: The Algorithmic Life
Final Writing Assignment
You will work on the third and final major writing assignment for the
remainder of the semester. The paper is due on Monday, November 26, just
before Thanksgiving break, with a rewrite due at the end of the semester.
However, there will be a few preliminary assignments due along the way.
Your paper should be typed and double-spaced. The paper should be six to
ten pages long, plus a bibliography. You will probably need at least eight sources
for the bibliography, and the majority of them should not be things like Wikipedia articles
or blogs. The paper should have a title at the top, in larger
type, followed by your name. You should print a copy to turn in and
bring the printout to class on November 26.
About the Assignment
The final writing assignment is a research and analysis paper.
You will select a topic for a paper, do substantial research on the topic,
and write an analysis that integrates the research. The analysis can include
your own ideas and opinions, but a large portion of the paper must be research
based. The topic can be controversial but does not have to be. If it is
controversial, you do not necessarily have to take a definite position on the
controversy; you could just analyze the various positions.
You should choose a topic related to computer and information technology, its
history, or its impact on people and society. You should get my approval for the
topic before you start working. Here are some ideas for you to think about, but you are certainly
not restricted to this list:
- Any of the topics from the second writing assignment, including Big Data, the Singularity,
software patents, digital activism, online courses, bots, or the Internet of Things. (You should
probably not do the same topic you did for assignment two.)
- How the hacker ethic plays out in today's debates about technology.
- The video game industry. (The third section of Hackers is about the first
generation of video game programmers.)
- How children relate to computers. (Sherry Turkle, who wrote one of the books we will be
reading, has an early book on this topic.)
- Something about the history of computing such as the early history of computers or the origins of the Internet.
- The quest for self-driving cars.
- Computer chess.
- Something about the privacy debate
- The effect of the technology revolution on employment.
- How computers and robotics are being used to help the disabled.
- The Semantic Web -- the project to bring more meaning and understanding to the web
and web searches.
- Computers or robots in science fiction.
- Computers in the movies -- you could look at how computers are portrayed in film. For example,
film hackers versus the real thing, or killer machines in movies like 2001 or The Terminator.
- Tubes -- this is the title of a book by Andrew Blum about his search for the physical
infrastructure of the Internet.
- The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains -- this is the title of a book
by Nicholas Carr that claims that using the Internet can make us dumber by literally modifying our brains.
- The Victorian Internet -- this is the title of a book by Tom Standage about the
telegraph and its impact on society in the 19th century, comparing it to the Internet.
- You could probably look through a week's worth of Ars Technica or Slashdot articles and find
something that interests you. Or look at the New York Times technology section.
- October 11. The assignment is handed out and discussed in class.
- October 16–24. Meet with me during office hours or by appointment to discuss your ideas for the paper.
- October 25. Our second visit to the library. The research librarian will probably ask you to check out a book from the library before this session.
- November 1. Before this date, you should have a definite paper topic and my approval of the topic.
- November 4 (approximately). You will turn in statement of your paper topic along with a list of research sources that you are considering for your bibliography.
- November 4–8. You will meet with me to go over your plans for registration for the Spring term. We will talk about your progress on the papers at the same time.
- November 26. The paper is due.
- December 2.. Paper is returned, with comments.
- December 6. Revised paper is due, but you can request an extension until no later than noon on December 11.