Technology and Delegation, Fall 2018

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This is the syllabus for the Fall 2018 INFO 239 Technology and Delegation Lab 2018, taught by Deirdre K. Mulligan (dmulligan@berkeley[dot]edu) and Richmond Wong (richmond@ischool.berkeley[dot]edu).

(See also the 2017, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2011, 2010 and 2009 versions.)

Class meeting
Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-5:00 PM; 210 South Hall
Office hours
Deirdre: Wednesdays 2pm-3pm, 303b South Hall
Richmond: Thursdays 11am-noon, Rm 2 South Hall (PhD Office at the south end of the lower floor. Knock if the door is locked), or by appointment.
mailing list
#techdel on Slack
(email Richmond if you have problems joining either - non-I School students will need to email Richmond to get access to the Slack channel)

Course description

Themistocles said his infant son ruled all Greece -- "Athens rules all Greece; I control Athens; my wife controls me; and my infant son controls her." Thus, nowadays the world is controlled by whoever buys advertising time on Dora the Explorer.
XKCD highlights technology and delegation.

Technology is often put forth as inevitable progress toward modernization and as a value-neutral means for implementing the policies of law, agency rules, or corporate planning. The introduction of technology increasingly delegates responsibility for some function — sensing, sensemaking, deciding, acting — to technical actors. These handoffs of function between people, processes and technologies are rarely as inconsequential as they are initially made out to be. Often these shifts reduce traditional forms of transparency—as black boxes embed rules and make decisions less visible—and challenge traditional methods for accountability.

Meanwhile, policymakers are asking those who design technology to build-in values such as privacy and fairness—handing off some responsibility for their expression and protection. It is rarely a simple case of a function being handed wholesale from people to technology, or one technology to another; but rather a complicated interleaving in which a value is shaped and constrained by multiple modes of regulation.

We will draw on a wide range of literature, including: design, science and technology studies, computer science, law, and ethics, as well as primary sources in policy, standards and source code. We will explore the interaction between technical design and values including: privacy, accessibility, fairness, and freedom of expression. We will investigate approaches to identifying the value implications of technical designs and use methods and tools for intentionally building in values at the outset. And we will be not only critical, but also constructive: this lab will give us a hands-on opportunity to try out technologies for ourselves and experiment with building alternatives that address rights and values.


First, we will look at the theory and examples of social values and the effects of technological delegation on those values; next, we will review and test the practices, tools and methodologies to design for values we care about; and finally, we will consider some ongoing case studies to discover what affirmative agenda or common principles we can elicit for embedding values in design.

Typically, Tuesday meetings will be discussions based on the readings and Thursday meetings more lab exercises, but this will vary.

Week 0: Introduction

Thursday, August 23

We will introduce the content and methods of the course, and introduce ourselves to one another.

Read, or skim over if you've read it before:

  • Winner, Langdon. "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" Daedalus, Vol. 109, No. 1, Modern Technology: Problem or Opportunity? (Winter, 1980), pp. 121-136 The MIT Press on behalf of American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Week 1: Values

Tuesday, August 28; Thursday, August 30 (Richmond away Thursday)

What are values? How do different disciplines view values? How do they relate to ethics, human rights, laws, etc.?




  • Before class: work with a partner to find a value that interests you, and see how that value is discussed in different ways, or by different fields (sign up on the class sign up sheet)
  • Class: Provide a short oral presentation on your findings. (3 minutes maximum, followed by 4-5 minutes of feedback and discussion by the class)

Assignment 1

Due Tuesday September 4 Wednesday, September 5 at 11:59pm

  • With your lab partner, provide a write up on your value from this week's lab (which will be posted to the TechDel repository) and the multiple ways it gets discussed. 2-4 pages (single spaced). Make sure references are cited (use any citation style you’d like, but be consistent). Submit as a pair via email to Deirdre and Richmond.
  • If you need help thinking about what values to look at, consider the examples listed on the TechDel repository, Koops paper, or the following paper (see Table 2 in particular): Cheng, An-Shou, and Kenneth R. Fleischmann. 2010. "Developing a meta-inventory of human values." Proceedings of the 73rd ASIS&T Annual Meeting on Navigating Streams in an Information Ecosystem-Volume 47.

Week 2: Why Does Technology Matter?

Tuesday, September 4; Thursday, September 6 (Deirdre away Thursday)

We'll continue discussing artifacts and politics, as well as what things regulate.




  • Before class: work with a partner to interrogate a consumer device or system or service to identify a hidden value. (sign up on the class sign up sheet)
  • Class: Provide a short oral presentation (3 minutes max, with 6-7 minutes of discussion) on your findings
    • Document your methods: how you explored the artifact
    • Explain why you chose them
    • Which method(s) were most useful?
    • What did you find

Assignment 2

Due Friday September 14 by 10:00 pm

  • With your lab partner, provide a write up on your analysis from lab (which will be posted to the TechDel repository). 2-4 pages (single spaced). Make sure references are cited (use any citation style you’d like, but be consistent). Submit as a pair via email to Deirdre and Richmond.

Week 3: How Do We Think About Addressing Values?

Tuesday, September 11; Thursday, September 13 (Deirdre away Tuesday & Thursday)

We'll talk about ways to think about how things regulate.



  • We'll do some brainstorming activities to think about potential Final Project ideas

Week 4: Legitimacy and Governance

Tuesday, September 18; Thursday, September 20



Assignment 3

Due October 19 October 26 10 pm

  • Individually, write a short analysis looking at governance issues in relation to a specific case (could be something related to your final project ideas, or could be another case you’re interested in). Your analysis should deeply engage with (not just summarize) at least one of the readings from the course (we suggest using the readings from week 4 or 7). You’re also welcome to engage with additional readings from other weeks.
  • 2-4 pages (single spaced). Make sure references are cited (use any citation style you’d like, but be consistent). Submit individually via email to Deirdre and Richmond.

Week 5: Conceptualizing the Values Problem

Tuesday, September 24; Thursday, September 26 (Deirdre away Tuesday)



  • We'll do some activities with the Moral Machine and Moderation Machine websites. Bring your laptop/tablet to class.

Week 6: Values in Design

Tuesday, October 2; Thursday, October 4 (Deirdre away this week)

Now that we’ve done an overview of values and how they relate to technology, let’s come back to the idea of values in design. Toward what ends might we want to design?



  • Let’s apply the ECC Privacy Analytic from last week, and think about how this week's readings fit into the "provision" and other aspects of the analytic.

Week 7: Designing for Law & Regulation

Tuesday, October 9; Thursday, October 11

What are different ways to think about the relationship between law and technological design?



Lab (First half):

Lab (Second half)

Week 8: User Centered Design & Value Sensitive Design

Tuesday, October 16; Thursday, October 18

Week 8 Questions Doc



  • Norman, Don. (1988). The Psychopathology of Everyday Things, Chapter 1 in The Design of Everyday Things (1-33)
  • Maguire, Martin. (2001). Methods to support human-centred design. International journal of human-computer studies, 55(4), Read Sections 1-3 (pg 587-593 and skim the rest).
  • Friedman, Batya, et al. "Value sensitive design and information systems." in Early engagement and new technologies: Opening up the laboratory. Springer Netherlands, 2013. 55-95. Read 4.1 - 4.3 (pg 55-61), Read 1 case study in section 4.4 & skim the others, read 4.6 (pg 74-79), and read "4.8.1:Practical Value Sensitive Design Challenges" (pg 85-88) after the citations.


  • Let’s try out some of the Value Sensitive Design tools (envisioning cards, etc)

Week 9: Critically Oriented Design Approaches

Tuesday, October 23; Thursday, October 25

Questions sheet for this week


Optional Reading:


Week 10: Engaging Stakeholders

Tuesday, October 30; Thursday, November 1

Week 10 Questions Doc



  • Before class, meet with your team and identify stakeholders, models and tools for engagement for your final project
  • Prepare a brief presentation for class to get feedback

Week 11: Impact Assessments & Frameworks

Tuesday, November 6; Thursday, November 8 (Richmond away this week)


Choose 1 of these to look at (will be updated with more):

  • Natalie Cadranel, Anqi Li, An Xiao Mina, Caroline Sinders. 2018. Digital Security and Privacy Protection UX Checklist
  • Ethical OS Toolkit
  • EFF Know your customer standards applied to ICE [11]
  • Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, An Ethical Toolkit for Engineering/Design Practice [12]
  • Ethics and Algorithms Tool kit [13]
  • IEEE Ethically Aligned Design [14] (feel free to look at general principles and a section or two if you don't want to look at the entire doc, its long)
  • CDT's Digital Decisions Tool [15] and backgrounder [16]
  • Model Cards for Model Reporting [17]

(Tuesday we'll be discussing the variety of toolkits and frameworks that folks have looked at; Thursday we'll try implementing some of them)


Assignment 4

Due Nov 21 10 pm Sun. Nov 25 at 10pm

  • During weeks 5-12, we’ve discussed different methods and tools for thinking about values in design. Individually, apply one of the methods or tools to a problem or artifact. Write up an analysis, including:
    • Your problem/artifact that you are apply the method/tool to.
    • Document your method/tool used and why you chose it
    • What did you find?
    • What was useful about this method/tool? What was less useful or difficult?
    • What outstanding issues have not been addressed by this method/tool
  • This does not have to be focused on your final project topic. However, you might find it helpful to use this as an opportunity to apply some of the methods/or tools to your final project topic
  • 2-4 pages (single spaced). Make sure references are cited (use any citation style you’d like, but be consistent). Submit individually via email to Deirdre and Richmond.

Edit: You may optionally complete the assignment in pairs, but if you do so, we expect the analysis to be a little more deeper and submit a single paper in the 4-8 page range)

Week 12: Analyzing Systems

Tuesday, November 13; Thursday, November 15

Questions Week 12

We've talked about a lot of tools and approaches to use in the design of systems, but how might we evaluate the tradeoffs of the choices we have? And how might we critique and analyze existing systems?




  • Let's apply the handoffs model to a system

Week 13: Organizational Change

Tuesday, November 27; [no class 11/20 or 11/22, Thanksgiving]

Questions Doc

How might we consider the organizational, social, and cultural contexts in which we try to apply the methods and tools we've discussed? What challenges might occur?




  • No Lab, Happy Thanksgiving!

Week 14: Final Project Presentations

Thursday, November 29; Tuesday December 4

Each group will give a short presentation on their final project for class feedback.

Week 15 (RRR): No Class, Work on Final Projects

Thursday, December 6

Final projects are due December 14

Course policies


This is a 3-unit class. Meetings each week will include seminar-style discussion, lab-style exercises, and collaborative design and technical work. Readings should be read carefully. Throughout the semester students will complete short writing assignments, lead class discussions, and critique artifacts during the semester. During the second half of the semester students will work collaboratively in teams of 2-4 on a larger design-oriented final project.


Your grade is based on class participation 15% and assignments 85%. This class is designed to hone your critical inquiry skills. You are expected to fully participate—present, actively listen, engage with your classmates and the materials, bring your own insights to the discussion, share your experience and knowledge. Please come prepared to argue, explain, revise, borrow, refine, and of course junk your ideas. Thinking out loud is encouraged. This is how one learns. The success of this class depends upon student’s diligent preparation and active participation—listening, speaking, designing, building—in class. Readings will be assigned throughout the semester. Everyone is expected to read and reflect on the readings.

Assignments account for the remainder of your grade. They will be graded primarily on substance, however a minimal portion of each grade will reflect organizational clarity, grammar, and presentation style as appropriate. The assignments are staggered throughout the semester.


1. Written Assignments 50% (4 assignments, 12.5% each) The written assignments are an invitation to apply both the theoretical and practical learning from the course to new problems. They are designed to develop your skills as readers--critiquing, building upon, relating various pieces we read. Reflection pieces should synthesize readings and ideas from class discussion, and use the resulting insights to analyze an issue or object of interest to you, critique readings, or anything else you would like. Specific requirements are described in each assignment, but for all assignments, you must 1) seriously engage with the readings (could be 1 could be 2 could be more); and 2) write about something that interests you.

Do not, under any circumstances, provide a summary of the articles. You've read them. We've read them. We know you've read them. The form is in between short essay and journal entry. This is a playful style. We want to get a sense of what you are taking away from the class and what sorts of thoughts, ideas, questions it is raising for you. 2-4 normal single spaced pages typed. More details for each assignment can be found here:

2. Critiques 10% The second half of the semester we will begin each class with a student led critique of an information or physical artifact. The students assigned (teams of 2) will select an interface, object, algorithm, design, instructable, kickstarter, toy, etc. and offer a brief—4 minute maximum—critique that introduces the item and reflects on its values implications drawing on class readings and assignments up to that point. The class will then collectively critique the artifact.

3. Final Project 25% DUE December 14 (hard deadline) During the second half of the semester students will work collaboratively in teams of 2-4 on a larger final project. While we are flexible on the type of project, projects might include: a design-oriented project where something is analyzed or prototyped, writing out a research protocol for further exploration, or writing a part of a paper aimed toward publication.

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.

Scheduling: Use this spreadsheet to choose which week you'll do a design critique, and to list who you're working with for Assignments 1 and 2.


Academic integrity for this course depends on clear citation of ideas, text and code. At this level, we harbor no romantic illusions that work is born whole from your mind alone; instead, we want you to engage with the assigned readings and ideas you connect from other classes or the world around you, and to make those connections clear. Programmers often copy-paste code or re-use libraries in order to build upon the shoulders of giants without reinventing the wheel. This is encouraged, but we expect students to be careful in their assignments to note what they wrote themselves and to attribute code snippets and libraries to their original authors.

Research Ethics

Class projects for the purpose of learning are typically exempt from Berkeley’s Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (our Institutional Review Board) review. However, if you are conducting a research project that might result in publishable work (and many of you may!), keep in mind that UCB policy and publication venues will typically require you to have gone through the IRB process even if it is to receive an exemption. In addition, being exempt from IRB review does not mean that you are somehow exempt from ethical norms or that you wouldn’t benefit from advice or review. Feel free to come to the instructors for advice on a project which involves intervention with, data collection, or use of data about, human subjects.