Course Overview

Meeting Time: Tuesdays/Thursdays 9:30-11am, 210 South Hall
Instructor: Deirdre K. Mulligan (dkm@ischool)
Office Hours:  Tuesdays 11am-12pm in 212 SH
TAs:  Galen Panger (galen@ischool), Isha Dandavate (isha@ischool) and Ryan Baker (ryanfbaker@ischool)
Office Hours: Monday afternoons by appointment (Galen), Thursdays by appointment (Isha), and Fridays by appointment (Ryan)


This course is divided into three sections that correspond to information law and policy issues I School students are likely to face in their roles as individuals, as designers and developers, and as employees in an information society.

It begins the exploration from the largest lens: what policy and legal issues arise from the use of information and communication technologies to facilitate and mediate interactions between and among individuals, individuals and corporations, and individuals and the government. As John Schwartz aptly wrote in the Washington Post in 1998, “Because the global computer network known as the Internet isn’t just a communications medium for swapping e-mail and surfing Web sites. It has become a new battleground for refighting the wars that shape our culture: society’s attitudes toward sex and obscenity, libel, search and seizure, patent and copyright law, gambling, personal privacy and more.” As technology becomes more deeply and richly embedded in our personal, political, civic, social and marketplace activities, the things it enables, disables, and makes visible and invisible force society to revisit policy choices, rethink laws, and explore the goals that motivate them. This is where we start.

The second section of the class looks more specifically at the way in which existing laws and policy considerations influence the design space in which information technologists and researchers work: the law informs, enables and constrains in significant ways. This section aims to provide you with some working, practical knowledge about evolving law, policy and norms to assist you in thinking through legal and policy issues in your current and future work.

Finally, being in the information technology workforce—whether it’s in the corporate, non-profit, governmental or academic sector—brings you into direct daily contact with a set of laws and policies around intellectual property, privacy and security that affect you personally. The final section of the class is designed to increase your awareness of your rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

At various places in the syllabus you’ll find optional readings. Some provide additional information about the law and legal institutions predominantly focused on the U.S. Others provide more detail on the issues at stake and greater exposure to underlying legal, policy and ethical considerations and theory. These readings are optional.

Photo Credits

Header images of South Hall are from the School of Information Flickr photostream. The statue image is “Man Controlling Trade” from outside the FTC building. It was taken by Victoria Pickering. The photo of the Supreme Court is from Wikipedia.