IS 203 Social and Organizational Issues of Information

Basic Information


Class Slides


Exemplary Papers

Writing Links

Time: Tues and Thurs, 12:30-2pm
Location: 202 South Hall

Instructor: Coye Cheshire
Office: 305A South Hall
Office Hours: Tues and Thurs 3-4

GSI: Yuri Takhteyev
Office: Rm 105 or 1st floor veranda
Office Hours: Thursday 2:30 - 3:30 or by appointment (Mon, Tue or Thu only)
650-281-7360 (during office hours only)

Course Description:

Three hours of lecture per week. This course focuses on the relationship between information and information systems, technology, practices, and the social environment. We will examine information and information technology on several levels: individual, group, organizational, and societal. Key topic areas include: information production and use, social networks and information dissemination, and social problems associated with information. In addition to exposing students to current research and issues in information and information technology, one of the primary goals of this course is to help students learn to identify social problems. Thus, students will also be introduced to qualitative and quantitative social science research methodologies.

Course Design:

This course is designed to be an introduction to the topics and issues associated with the study of information and information technology, from a social science perspective. As a result, this course will continuously introduce students to applied and practical problems, theoretical issues, as well as methodologies for answering different types of questions.

The following three questions will guide the material throughout the course: 1) Why do social scientists study information and information technology, 2) What are some of the key topics and issues that are studied, and 3) How do we study these issues? As we work our way through many different topics and problems in information, we will also move from the micro (i.e., interpersonal) to the macro (i.e., organizational and institutional) levels of analysis. By the end of the course, all students will be familiar with the social science approach to information and information technology, as well as many of the key problems and the methods used to solve these problems. This knowledge is essential to having a well-rounded understanding of information issues in professional and research-oriented environments.


There will be two writing assignments in this course (in addition to the final exam paper). Each assignment will deal with a set of topics and issues from the course readings and lectures. The purpose of these papers is to teach you how to think critically about the course topics, but also to help you develop good skills for writing and organizing your thoughts. The two course assignments will each represent 25% of your grade, for a combined total of 50%.

Students are also required to submit weekly 1-page reflection papers on the readings (due each Thursday before class). These papers are not graded on content. Instead, the papers are an opportunity for you to express your thoughts and demonstrate your understanding of the material. The weekly papers together represent 10% of your final grade in the course. These papers will not be handed back every week, though I will choose some weeks to provide feedback on your writing and use of course materials.

The remaining 40% of the course grade will come from the take-home written final exam. The final exam will give students an opportunity to demonstrate their comprehension of the entire range of course material while examining a current problem or topic in information and information technology. Details about choosing topics for the final exam will be distributed at the midpoint in the semester. Unlike the other course writing assignments, the final paper will require you to use material outside of the class readings (though this can be in addition to relevant course readings).


Kollock, Peter and Marc Smith, eds. (1999). Communities in Cyberspace. New York, Routledge.

Fischer, C.S. (1992). America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940. Berkeley, University of California Press.

Course Reader: Available at Copy Central, Shattuck Ave.