In this course, we will survey a broad range of “alternative” thinkers and computing visionaries — including, but not limited to, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Ivan Illich, Paulo Freire, and E.F. Schumacher — and try to derive some potential implications of each of their ideas for the design and use of technological artifacts. For each, we will try to understand their perspectives on technology, society, and human development and the underlying values that drive these perspectives, and to apply these values to practical design considerations.  We will also read some early works from computing visionaries, particularly those with non-traditional views on the use and implications of computers and associated technologies. The course will consist of weekly readings, discussion, and regular design activities.

The format of the class will be a weekly student-led discussion, followed by brainstorming activities. Discussion leaders will have flexibility in framing these discussions and activities, with guidance from the instructor.

Professor: Tapan Parikh, 303B South Hall
Office Hours: Wed 12-1PM (please email me if you plan to come)

with special guest Nipun Mehta

Class meets on Wednesdays from 10AM – 12PM in 205 South Hall.

Mailing List
Course mailing list is alt-tech@nullischool.berkeley.edu. Subscribe here.

Students will be responsible for completing the reading each week (which may be significant), and contributing questions, observations and responses to the blog before each discussion (see below for details). Blog entries will be posted to this website, using your I-School account. In addition, students will also be required to lead the class discussion for one week in the semester, optionally in teams of two. Grades will be determined by a combination of class participation and responses to the readings.

Readings will be posted to the course schedule. Most will be provided online, some with restricted access. You will be able to use your I-School password to access the readings.

Blog Posts

You will be responsible for two blog posts for each reading – one question / observation, and one response to those questions / observations. See below for details.

  • Monday before 8PM: Please post your response to the reading. These could be observations, reflections or questions the reading generated for you.
  • Tuesday before 8PM: Please comment on at least two responses posted by others.

Some questions you  can have in mind while reading and responding:

  • What are some of the underlying values guiding the author’s perspective?
  • What would be this author’s ideal for an “information technology”? How might it look and work?
  • How would the author react to some existing technologies, like personal computers, the web, the Internet? What would they see as positives? What would they see as negatives? What would they seek to change? How would they use them, or want them to be used?
  • How does this author’s perspective relate to others’ we have read in the class? What are some common themes? Where do they disagree?