Writing With Substance: You Can Haz it! SRSLY!

Reading and Writing: Assignment 4

At this point in the course, we've now watched the documentary film, Terms and Conditions May Apply. We've also read a number of articles and other posts available online on the intersecting subjects of data and privacy, including "scandals" involving both at social media platforms (Facebook) and dating sites (OkCupid).

For this assignment, you'll need to reflect upon your use of sites such as those that have come up in our previous reading and class discussions alongside your use of those you are required or encouraged to use in your courses at the university.

You'll start by reading the transcript of Audrey Watters' talk (delivered at Columbia University in 2013)Watters has been has been tracking the rise of Ed-Tech as private sector phenomenon with significant impact on public institutions on her site HackEducation.com. This talk continues to work through the implications of a question she raised in an earlier presentation: Who owns learners' data? 

When you finish reading the transcript, advance the slides at the top of the post, embedded via Slideshare. You may be able to observe the same presentation list I see now after the last slide, which, as of August 8, 2014, includes the following presentation thumbnails: 

As you can probably tell from the bottom right corner, SlideShare knows that "Unlocking the Value in Social Media Data" takes up issues that are related to Watters' talk. What can you infer from this title about the content of that presentation? Unlike Watters, the author does not provide a transcript of the talk that accompanied the slides. What are the implications of this author's title? How does it bear upon your data? 

Once you've read Watters' transcript, you're ready to start forming and articulating your thoughts in writing. Below, you'll find a set of questions that should guide your responses. 
1. Building upon any document we've produced in class brainstorming sessions, open a document and type a list of the sites you regularly access via a login, university or otherwise. You may, of course, omit the precise names/brands of the sites, and you need not report your use of sites you consider personal or for any other reason do not wish to include here. You need not include the list in the document you submit for credit. But before you delete anything, count and respond to the following questions in short answers: How many different accounts do you have? How many of them serve an educational purpose of some kind? How many of them are sites you are required to visit regularly? How many are sites provided to you by the university that you could access but are not required to use for class? 

2. How many courses out of your total load this semester make use of Blackboard, the university's Learning Management System (LMS)?  (You may include the course/department prefix here, but do not list your professors' names or the specific courses you're taking). What sorts of ways do your professors use Blackboard so far in the semester? Do you think it serves a vital function in each course that "relies" on it? Why or why not? How would your experience be diminished or negatively affected if Blackboard were not available to you? Now consider an even more challenging question: do you have any choice as to whether you use it or not? What makes you think so (or not)?

3. Choose one of the accounts that is not Blackboard that you log into regularly and look for the terms of use and the way the particular entity explains issues related to your data and your privacy. Here's an example of what you're looking for in order to respond to this question. Now examine Blackboard as you see it once you've logged into the site. Can you find any information about privacy and how your data will be used there? What about on Blackboard's corporate web sites? Write a paragraph or two about what you find (or don't find), including how you found this information (how accessible was it?) and how you feel about it in light of your reading and viewing of the film. 

4. Save your document and upload it to the submission link for Assignment 4 on our course Blackboard site. You need not write an additional response, but as you hit the submit button, think about whether you find our use of Blackboard for this purpose an acceptable way to handle your intellectual work.


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