TPL Syllabus, Spring 2011

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This is the syllabus for the Spring 2011 Technology & Policy Lab, taught by Deirdre Mulligan and Nick Doty.

Course description

In this lab course, students will engage in hands-on examinations of the policy implications of technical standards currently under consideration, the technical and policy impacts of legislation before state and federal government, and ongoing efforts to address policy implications of the introduction of new technology into government processes. Through research, analysis and direct participation in standards setting and other processes, students will gain experience applying law and policy theory to real world cases.

Read full course description

Class schedule

Class meetings for the first half of the semester will be spent covering broad topic areas (privacy, net neutrality, voting technology, etc.) and introducing relevant literature and tools around technology/policy interactions. In the second half of the semester, class meetings will cover topics of particular interest in more detail and include guest lectures from practitioners; we will not meet every Thursday.

This is a project-based course, so most of the associated time should be spent on student-driven projects in policy analysis, technical standards work or research. We expect that projects will be most successful when pursued in small groups. Groups will present the status of their work during and at the end of the semester, primarily to get feedback from the entire class that can guide future work. The Tuesday afternoon slot is reserved to enable group meetings and checkins with the instructors.

The class as a whole meets on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 3:30, with occasional project group meetings on Tuesday afternoons, also from 2 to 3:30. Please note the dates marked in bold which aren't regular Thursday meetings. The exact schedule and readings are subject to change.

Date Topic Readings
January 20th First class, introductions of potential projects Excerpts:
January 25th Policy and the Internet Read: The Tao of IETF, particularly: 1, 3, 4-4.4, 4.14, Skim 5, 6, 7, with special attention to 7.4.4, 8.1;

Read or re-read: Tussle in Cyberspace: Defining Tomorrow's Internet by Clark et al.; Comments, questions and other resources: Internet Engineering Task Force

February 3rd Privacy on the Web Leave notes and questions on the W3C page



February 9th

1:00 - 5:30

Browser Privacy Mechanisms Roundtable
Project proposals due February 11th
Suggested readings:

More resources on Do Not Track:

February 17th Lorrie Faith Cranor Read (or re-read): Designing a Social Protocol: Lessons Learned from the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project by Cranor and Reagle

Read two of:

February 22nd Comparing decisional tools (See readings for Feb. 17)
February 24th No class. Instructors out of town.

Revised proposals (if necessary) due Feb 27th

March 1st Identity and attribution; Susan Landau Read: Untangling Attribution by Landau and Clark;

See also: Workshop on the Economics of Securing the Information Infrastructure; National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

March 3rd Technology and the regulatory process (BCLT event) The whole schedule may be of interest, but in particular please come to "The Case of Privacy-by-Design", 2:30 to 3:45.
March 8th Nick available to talk about decisional tools assignment.
March 10th Decisional tools assignment due No class.
March 15th P2PU prototyping exercise Browse:
March 17th Neutrality Read:
March 24th No class. Spring break.
March 31st Project status presentations
April 7th Neutrality requirements (exercise) See readings for March 17th.
April 14th
April 21st
April 28th
May 5th Final class (RRR), final presentations of projects


Our goal with this class is to provide students with the background, guidance and time to complete a substantive project in technology and policy; we expect most of students' time to be spent on their projects rather than readings for class. We have provided a list of possible project topics (feel free to add to this list!), but welcome students to pursue their own projects or reach beyond this list. See the non-exhaustive List of possible project topics.

We imagine projects to fall roughly along two tracks (though this is not a strict limitation): research and creation.

  • Research projects will tend to analyze some information technology to determine its public policy implications or some piece of legislation/policy and its technical implications. This may involve using one of the decisional tools we discuss in class, or modifying/developing a new such tool. Although this is research, we ask that students choose some audience beyond just the instructors: produce a report that might be informative for a government agency, technical standards body, industry group, etc.
  • For creation projects, students may actually build a prototype of some technology in order to test or demonstrate its potential policy implications or author a new specification or policy to support a particular technical or policy aim. Students should provide a retrospective analysis of the process and/or the results.

Projects are likely to be most successful when completed in small groups, but individual projects may be acceptable.


Grades will be based 20% on participation in class (including providing feedbacks to other project groups), 20% on the decisional tools assignment and 60% on the group project (including your proposal, presentations and final product). Groups should be clear about the contributions of each group member to the project.

Assignments (proposals and final projects) are due at noon of the assigned day. Late assignments will be penalized: each day an assignment is late will result in a half a grade deduction. Recognizing that emergencies arise, exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.