About the Course

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.

Location, Time and Instructor Information

Time: Tuesday and Thursdays, 12:30-2pm

Location: 202 South Hall


Coye Cheshire

Office: 305A South Hall

Office Hours: Tuesday 3:30-5:00 and by appt.


coye [at] ischool

Instructing Assistant:

Erin Knight

Office Hours: TBD and by appt.

eknight [at] ischool

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 methods 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 focus on various levels of analysis. This includes the micro (i.e., interpersonal relationships and information in small groups) to the macro level (i.e., organizational and institutional problems of information). 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 environments.


Take-Home Writing Assignments (40%)

There will be two take-home writing assignments. These will draw from topics and issues in the course readings and lectures. In addition, some assignments may have aspects designed to help motivate your final paper. The three take-home assignments will each represent 20% of your grade, for a combined total of 40%.

Reading Response Papers (20%)

There will be 2-3 reading response papers due over the course of the semester (times to appear on syllabus). Reading response papers can be on issues related to readings since the beginning of class (or since the last reading response paper for subsequent papers). Response papers can be many things, including (but not limited to): exploring the issues that are most interesting to you in some detail, relating the current readings to other material within or outside of this course, critiquing readings carefully, etc. As past students have consistently demonstrated, you get out what you put into these papers. We grade these papers on a check, check-plus, and check-minus scale (A, A+, B+). With the authors’ permission, we may occasionally post exemplary response papers to the website.

Participation/Discretionary (10%)

10% of your grade will come from participation and instructor discretion. Your class participation is a combination of your attendance and activity in the class.  Your participation in discussion sessions and the paper round table sessions will directly affect this part of your grade.

Final Research Paper (30%)

The remaining 30% of the course grade will come from the final research paper (approximately 25-35 pages). Details about choosing topics for the final paper as well as specific requirements will be distributed during 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).


  1. Traweek, Sharon. (1988). Beamtimes and Lifetimes. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
  2. Course Reader: Available at Copy Central on Bancroft

Mailing List

School of Information students can join the mailing list through intranet mailing list options.

Non I school students should join by sending an e-mail to majordomo@ischool.berkeley.edu with the line “subscribe i203″ in the message body.