Every day large data sets are impacting our world in increasing profound and potentially damaging ways. Combined with machine learning and AI, computers are yielding even more power to companies, political parties, and web savvy individuals. For instance, the science of gerrymandering is reaching unseen precision, face recognition is becoming commonplace, and we are willingly helping companies gain more of this power. Where do we even start to address these issues?

On a personal level, we can follow safer social media practices and approach media and information from a more critical standpoint. More importantly, we can bring attention to the increasing surveillance in our world and engage our students in conversations about surveillance capitalism, digital redlining, and everyday media interactions.


Before kicking off discussion we watched an excerpt (14:32-18:21) from the Zeynep Tufekci Ted talk. This clip laid the foundation to kickstart our conversations about data privacy. The idea that we’re constantly “leaking data” into the world by merely participating in online spaces enveloped our first conversation. Since companies and governments feel entitled to collect this leaking information on its users/citizens, we talked about the pros and cons to these practices. The common example of this happening is when companies track your internet usage to try and sell you products they predict you’d actually want. However, due to the clip we watched, our discussion also ventured into surveillance capitalism and our rights as individuals in a connected world.

These conversations eventually led us to the issue of Net Neutrality and the socioeconomic factors at play when data is not equally accessible. We also explored the relationships between internet technologies and society, going so far as to question the direction of smart speakers and search engines seeking to provide the “one true answer.”

Finally, we delved into data privacy options and safer social media practices. Many of these ideas were aimed at what can be done to tighten up our own data leakage in the world. Our conversations gravitated towards making students aware of their own data practices and selecting technologies in the classroom that respect their privacy and independence.

Final Steps

Based on your interests, continue to explore the readings, videos, and podcasts listed below. Finally, you’re invited to reflect on all of these resources and this week’s topic using the form located at the bottom of this page.

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