FSEM 142, Fall 2013
Information About the Final Exam

The final exam for FSEM 142 will be given at 8:30 AM on Tuesday, December 10, in our regular classroom. The exam is scheduled for three hours, but it will probably not take anyone longer than two hours to complete. The final exam counts for 14% of your grade for the course. Remember that the day of the final exam is also the last day when you can hand in a rewrite of your final paper.

The exam will be six pages long. The first three pages will be on material that we have covered in class since the second test, including: the introduction and Chapters 1, 8, 9, and 14 from Alone Together; Chapter 10 from 9 Algorithms That Changed the Future; computer Lab 4; and "Prince Ferrix and the Princess Crystal." The format of this first part of the final exam will be similar to the first two tests; that is, it will consist mostly of factual questions that can be answered with a sentence or a paragraph. There might be some questions about programming, but you will not have to write any code. I might give you a mouse or keyboard function and ask you to figure out what it does. For that, you will need to remember the basic graphics functions that we have been using in labs.

The second part of the final exam will be three full-page essay questions. Essay questions are graded not just on factual content but on presentation and organization. I will choose two of the three essay questions from the following list of four questions. (Note: I will choose the questions, not you, so you should be prepared to answer any of the four questions.) The third essay question, you will not know in advance.

Four candidate essay questions:

1. People's experience on the Internet is becoming more personalized. It can be argued that this has both good and bad consequences. In The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser surveys the dark side of personalization. Discuss Pariser's concerns about personalization and how it could damage civic society, and discuss the contrary view that personalization is good. What do you think?

2. Eli Pariser's The Filter Bubble and Sherry Turkle's Alone Together both deal with the way that technology can isolate us at the same time that it makes us feel more connected. Discuss and compare Pariser's and Turkle's ideas about isolation in a connected world.

3. Clay Shirky (Cognitive Surplus) and Sherry Turkle (Alone Together) have very different views about digital connectivity and its implications for society. Discuss their views and how they differ, and speculate about how each might respond to the other's opinion.

4. One goal of this course—for the computer labs and for 9 Algorithms that Changed the Future in particular—was to give students some perspective on how computers work and what they can do. Discuss the nature of computers and computing as revealed in the course. Did the material about computing help you to understand and evaluate the other readings? How?

And here are some terms and ideas for the first part of the exam:

From Alone Together:

   the analogy between digital connectivity and sociable robots
   "the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship"
   "what if a robot companion makes us feel good but leaves us somehow diminished"
   robots can be "alive enough" for a given purpose (like a Galapagos tortoise exhibit)
   Paro (robot baby seal), robot companion for the elderly
   Eliza, by Joseph Weizenbaum, an early and very simple psychotherapy program
   how people reacted to Eliza and why Weizenbaum found it disturbing
   Tamagotchis and Furbies: "the first toys that asked for love"
   movement from "better than nothing" to "better than some things" to "better than anything"
   the "human cyborgs" at MIT in the 1990s: always connected but cumbersome equipment
   "we are all cyborgs now"
   Second Life:  a multiuser computer "place" where you can have an online "life"
   the "life mix"
   the changing nature of communal spaces like airports, parks, etc:
       no longer communal spaces, people are tethered to other places by their devices
   multitasking; the illusion of increased productivity
   the difficulty of getting away from our digital connections like email, texts, blogging
   "we have created a digital culture that has decreased the time available to sit and think"
   "Fearful Symmetries": treating robots more like people and people more like objects
   "growing up tethered": the first generation who have grown up always connected
   using digital connectivity for continuous emotional support;
        the danger of not developing an "autonomous self";
        but changing ideas of what is normal and what is psychologically problematic
   online profiles, like at Facebook, as "performances," and the stress that can cause
   "Social media ask us to represent ourselves in simplified ways.  And then, faced
        with an audience, we feel pressure to conform to these simplifications."
   "the nostalgia of the young"
   the pressure to respond immediately: "Who says we always have to be ready to communicate?"
   "Longed for is the pleasure of full attention, coveted and rare."
   "Children contend with parents who are physically close, but mentally elsewhere."
   the shallowness of texting compared to conversation

From Chapter 10 of 9 Algorithms:

   Are there limits to what computers can do, even in theory?
   computable versus uncomputable problems
   the idea of programs that analyze or process other programs
   automated software-checking tools
   the provable impossibility of perfect automated software checks
   Alan Turing's result:  the Halting Problem is undecidable:
       There is no program that can correctly predict, for all
       computer programs, whether that program will halt or not.
   many questions in computer science are undecidable (by computers)
   undecidability has limited practical implications
   the Church-Turing Thesis: All computers have the same computational power

About programming related to Lab 4:

   responding to events with event-handling functions
   mouse events and keyboard events
   data for mouse events:  location of mouse, whether special keys are pressed
   data for keyboard events;  which key was pressed
   how event handlers can use the current program state and can change that state