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Ask Slashdot: High-School Suitable Books On How Computers Affect Society? 140

Posted by timothy
from the novelization-of-wargames-is-all-you-need dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We are teaching an introductory class in computer science for high school students. We have the technical aspects of the course covered, there is a lot of information on the internet on designing that aspect of the class. We also want to cover some aspects of how computers affect society, privacy, expectations, digital divide etc. We were suggested Blown to Bits, which covers a lot of this but I'm not sure high school students are really going to enjoy it or even take away the right implications ... any recommendations for anything else ? Movies, Fiction, Non-Fiction Books and any other media are all welcome. Students are expected to read no more than 200 pages (that's all the time they have)."
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Ask Slashdot: High-School Suitable Books On How Computers Affect Society?

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  • by JonZittrain (628028) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @11:27AM (#44406345) Homepage
    How about Lessig's Code 2.0? It's cyberlaw's pathbreaking book, and it's written in a very accessible way. It's free online at http://www.codev2.cc/ [codev2.cc].
    • The submitter explicitly asks that suggestions be limited to works of 200 pages or less, so you suggest something that's ~400 pages long.

      Yeah, that'll work.

      • It has chapters -- I trust the submitted can assign a subset, especially since it's a modular book.
      • The submitter explicitly asks that suggestions be limited to works of 200 pages or less, so you suggest something that's ~400 pages long.

        1) Cut the book into two roughly same-sized pieces.
        2) Read piece one.
        3) Read piece two.

    • You're teaching an introductory class on computer science. Not sociology. Teach them computer science.

      • by grahamlee (522375)
        Ethics and social implications are an important part of the discipline of computer science, just as they're an important part of other science disciplines like biology and neurology.
        • by Motard (1553251)

          So include ethics and sociology classes into the degree curriculum. If Computer Science faculty start to take over everything that involves a computer, there will be nothing Computer Science doesn't cover.

    • by LienRag (1787684)
      Actually, I'm supposed to make a small presentation about "code is law" (the concept, not the book) and I found that Lessig's conference is not really relevant to my public (too much stress on privacy, which we haven't here anyway, and nearly nothing on how code embeds decisions that are not democratically discussed). Is there some other text or video or book about this question?
  • 1984 (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by mwvdlee (775178)

    Orson Welles' masterwork "1984" will teach them all they need to know about how computers have changed their society.
    As an added bonus, it will also teach them to understand what politicians means when they use innocent sounding words.

  • by sandbagger (654585) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @11:27AM (#44406349)
    True, too true.
  • 1984

  • I haven't seen anyone as good as Clay Shirky in studying and predicting the effects of the internet on society.
    http://www.amazon.com/Here-Comes-Everybody-Organizing-Organizations/dp/1594201536 [amazon.com]

    • This would be a good one - students could see the further changes which have happened in the five years since it was written.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    start with http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_Power_and_Human_Reason

    although it's 37 years old it's concise and still applicable.

  • by RedLeg (22564) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @11:40AM (#44406439) Journal
    My first thought is Neromancer, but that may bust your page limit.

    You might also look at selecting a story or two from Gibson's Burning Chrome, but as I don't have a copy handy at the moment, I can't make a hard recommendation.

    Another consideration might be George Alec Effinger's When Gravity Fails. READ this one before you assign it, as it touches on some racy subject matter.

    Finally, consider Daniel Keys Moran's The Long Run. Not as well known as the others, but a great read.

    Hope this helps....

    -Red

    • by fermion (181285)
      Neuromancer is ideal science fiction. It investigates how technology has and might effect the way we live. Unlike the classic and wonderful pulp books, if does not have many of the assumption of the 40's and 50's.

      The Difference Engine, although a bit racy, would lead to wonderful discussion about ideas, production, and mass production of technology. Why was the difference engine never built? What were the technological innovation that allowed the Enigma machine to be produced in quantity, the digital

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The silicon jungle is an interesting read about the effects of wide-spread collection of data by the large email/social sites.

  • Why not spend the time you have teaching them some practical information they can use? How are they going to benefit from hearing someone's social agenda? Are the students there for your benefit, for you to use to advance your societal goals? Or are you there for their benefit, to help them learn things and improve their future lives?

    My suggestion: skip these "society" lessons and use the time to teach them how to search text with regular expressions.

    • Why not spend the time you have teaching them some practical information they can use? How are they going to benefit from hearing someone's social agenda? Are the students there for your benefit, for you to use to advance your societal goals? Or are you there for their benefit, to help them learn things and improve their future lives?

      My suggestion: skip these "society" lessons and use the time to teach them how to search text with regular expressions.

      Are there any humanities or social science topics that aren't a useless liberal plot?

      • by Kohath (38547)

        How about teaching social science topics in social science classes?

        • Because the real world is not as neatly compartmentalised as you would like it to be, and these are high school kids, not grad students?

          • by Kohath (38547)

            All the more reason to stick with teaching them useful knowledge instead of trying to groom them for whatever societal role you have in mind for them.

          • Because the real world is not as neatly compartmentalised as you would like it to be, and these are high school kids, not grad students?

            If you're teaching high school auto shop, does their class need to include the social and economic impact of the automobile? Hint: The answer is no. It's a course on a specific subject. It's supposed to be compartmentalized.

            They can and will hear all about social issues in all the classes that don't actually prepare them for real jobs. No, they're not grad students, but they're old enough to complete a course that focuses purely on the technical. Previous generations somehow managed it.

      • by hutsell (1228828)

        Why not spend the time you have teaching them some practical information they can use? How are they going to benefit from hearing someone's social agenda? Are the students there for your benefit, for you to use to advance your societal goals? Or are you there for their benefit, to help them learn things and improve their future lives?

        My suggestion: skip these "society" lessons and use the time to teach them how to search text with regular expressions.

        Are there any humanities or social science topics that aren't a useless liberal plot?

        Not sure myself. Social and Political Studies were never considered a science. Although some of it is responsibly rigorous enough to give it the appearance of being science, it still falls into being observational best practices determined by a committee occasionally subject to group-think. The educational community made the change in the late nineteen sixties for personal gain. Unfortunately, although it probably was an unexpected side effect, by eliminating from the vocabulary studies and transferring t

        • by ppanon (16583)
          I think there's a lot of merit to describing the risks of computer science in a course, from exploitable security vulnerabilities in applications and operating systems, to bugs/failures in life-critical systems. Having students understanding that bugs have consequences and that there is a potential downside to computer use should be part of any introduction to computer science. It doesn't have to veer off into sociology, but lack of risk awareness is at the root of many current problems with computers, so s
    • by Seumas (6865)

      And here I am without mod points . . . damn.

    • How about we attempt to encourage kids to become responsible participants in society by getting them to think critically about society through having them read and discuss social topics?

      • by Kohath (38547)

        Why not focus on serving the kids instead of serving your own notions of becoming "responsible participants in society"? What if a kid wants to be a successful and knowledgeable individual rather than merely a tool to bring about whatever societal goals you might have?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    is to provide fodder for discussion on topics like these, which are simultaneously too staid and too confusing for the classroom. It reminds me of an old economics textbook I once had that started with the sentence "Government is big and important in our society." Well, computers are even bigger and more important.

    You can look at sci fi flicks for glimpses of what might be in store for us. But given the ages of your students, it might resonate more to assign them programs that show how people lived in th

  • Ob (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @11:47AM (#44406475) Homepage Journal
    • by Anonymous Coward
      When the thread you're posting in is in the top five hits, I'm not really sure a LMGTFY is appropriate.
  • A russian woman wrote a work called 'We' about the changes that science (including political) was making to society. 1984 is a pretty unabashed ripoff of the book, and since you're studying the effects of tech, copyright issues are at the forefront. Making that read uniquely suited to the modern dialogue. Anyway, We can feel dry before you realise what the author is doing, which is another good reason for students to read it. The voice is mathematical to the point of lunacy, so statements like 'we fired th
  • Sounds like an autobiography of a Muslim
  • gift of fire (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/giftfire/

    Used this in university, but should be easy enough of a read for HS students.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 28, 2013 @11:52AM (#44406513)

    It's fiction, it's exciting, the protagonist is a high schooler, and it talks about crypto. Neil Gaiman approved.

    • I'll second this recommendation. I read it a few years ago when I was in my early twenties and it was still a good read. It's absolutely captivating and it's message will not be lost on high school students. Oh, and it's a friggin' *free* eBook, what have you got to lose?
  • by psergiu (67614) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @11:53AM (#44406521)

    http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/ [craphound.com]

    FREE BOOK. 136 Pages PDF. Other formats also available.

    • huge +1 for this, I am currently reading it and it is fucking awesome (though he has to work on word repetition sometimes ;))
      Not to forget, if the students like it there is "Homeland" as a sequel, though I didn't read that one yet.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Also, the sequel, Homeland [craphound.com], and other books by Cory Doctorw, including Pirate Cinema [craphound.com], For The Win, and Makers [craphound.com] (maybe not highschool appropriate).
  • Written in 1995 at the dawn of the Internet, The Future Does Not Compute: Transcending the Machines in Our Midst by Steve Talbott (and it's also available free online! [netfuture.org]) is even more applicable now with the arrival of texting and the smartphone. It's about the reductionism enforced by computers, and how while initially luxuries, every new device soon becomes a necessity to compete and survive in the modern world, and how each additional technological dependency reduces our humanity and severs our rich conne

    • by bmo (77928)

      how each additional technological dependency reduces our humanity and severs our rich connections to each other

      And then you read "Life On The Screen" by Sherry Turkle, written about the same time, which says just the opposite.

      --
      BMO

    • by kfogel (1041)

      +1 on "The Future Does Not Compute". One of my favorite books on this topic; IMHO it didn't get enough notice when it was new -- would be nice to see it get some now.

      And Chris Daw, if you're out there: I still have your copy! I bought my own long ago; I've been trying to track you down ever since to return yours.

  • Fahrenheit 451 might be too long, but germane.

  • _1984_ would be my book of choice, but a look at recent tinfoil-hatter screeds...err, wait, I mean legitimate and verified news stories... in newspapers about such things as metadata about all our phone calls and postal mail being recorded forever, license plate databases tracking our vehicle's (and therefore in many cases our own) movements, etc, would also be instructive.

  • Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by educator Neil Postman. Written about TV, but equally applicable to what the internet has become today.

    The book's origins lay in a talk Postman gave to the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1984. He was participating in a panel on Orwell's 1984 and the contemporary world. In the introduction to his book Postman said that the contemporary world was better reflected by Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, whose public was oppressed by their addictio

    • Thankfully, the extraordinary productive power of division of labor and fossil fuels allow us to afford both amusement and repression! Take that, dystopian future!

  • It's really not your job to indoctrinate students.

    Since it's a computer science course, how about focusing on how computers work and making them do things instead of politics?

    People really should not be allowed to teach until they have at least 10 non-teaching years (full time, paid) of experience in the area they want to teach.

    If the students can't be bothered to read more than 200 pages about a subject then it really doesn't belong in school anyway. That's a little over 1 page per school day.

    • by Arker (91948)

      I thought that remark showed a lack of respect for these students, as did the whole idea that blown to bits was too adult for them. It would actually be perfect for this.

      But the 200 page limit would require the questioner to become thoroughly familiar with the work, so as to select the correct 200 pages to make a coherent course out of it.

    • by melikamp (631205)

      People really should not be allowed to teach until they have at least 10 non-teaching years (full time, paid) of experience in the area they want to teach.

      May be useful for vocational schools, where a particular trade is taught, but what does this mean for sciences? What would full time, paid experience in theoretical physics look like? Math? Computer science? Keeping in mind that the difference between programming an computer science is like that between writing a novel and methodically studying 1000 novels written by others. Understanding the nature and the laws of computation is not at all the same as churning out java script snippets, and no amount of cod

      • by KalvinB (205500)

        Why are we teaching theoretical stuff in HS? A HS student isn't going to become a computer scientist. That's college level material. HS is about hands on exploration of the world. A theoretical anything doesn't belong in a HS. They belong in a university.

        An English teacher should have experience writing in some form. A math teacher should have experience in a career that makes heavy use of math. A science teacher should have experience in a career applying science. A computer science teacher should

  • ... that you keep the course limited to the 'technical aspects' of the course?

    The students would likely be better served if the course focused on the computer science instead of those other sociological and/or political matters.

    I remember taking my first similar class in high school. Already being a very limited hobbyist programmer at the time, it was easier for me that most of my classmates. I did learn some better practices, and it was rewarding for me to be able to help out my classmates, some of w
  • You may be trying to cast your net a little wide looking for a single (or even a few) books, articles, and movies that illustrate technology and its impact on our lives, privacy, culture, etc. You might be better off giving them a laundry list of books (I would stick to books for a high school level course) and giving them the opportunity to answer that extremely broad question in the form of a 5 page paper, or something along those lines. Almost none of them are under 200 pages... You're well within "sho
  • Because they spend the rest of their time on Facebook, Twitter, and WoW.

  • It's got a ninja-lady in space!

  • Okay, you may think you only have time for 200 pages. And you may have some students putting in only the minimum effort but you really ought to have more than 200 pages. One of the best teachers I had assigned 100 pages a week for 11 grade history. I haven't read Blown to Bits yet (downloading) but it looks good. I would stay away from fiction even near reality works like Little Brother and 1984 as the primary source but they are important if only in how they have changed how we look at technology. Put them
  • Neal Stephenson's books are bigger than 200 pages, but is just hard to stop reading some them. The Diamond Age is a great start, essentially is how a poor homeless 6 year old girl becomes a superpower by herself and changes the world because got access to Wikipedia++

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday July 28, 2013 @12:58PM (#44406943) Homepage
    • "The Machine Stops" [illinois.edu], by E. M. Forster. Covers the collapse of a technological society. Written in 1909, 12,000 words, copyright expired, and still relevant, readable, and worrisome.
    • Doug Engelbart's demo, 1968" [stanford.edu] Today, you can do this on your phone. This is where it all began - point and click, editing, search engines, the first mouse, hyperlinks, networks, online collaboration.
  • Hackers by Steven Levy. It is not so much about the effect of computers on society as it is the effect of computers on early computing pioneers. It is very readable and makes the early history of the PC revolution both human and exciting.

  • Looks like there are several book suggestions. How about a movie? I suggest Terry Gilliam's "Brazil".
  • The kiddies these days already get enough social engineering in all their other classes. Why not actually teach computer science in a computer science course?

    I realize it's an introductory class, but surely you could actually teach them something useful where they end the course with some accomplishment, like enough html to make a simple hand-coded web page, or some other language that will end with a finished program of some sort. Even the old Commodore Basic I was taught gave me a foundation in the struc

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Joseph Weisenbaim, "Computer Power and Human Reason"
    Paul Virilio, "The Information Bomb"
    Lev Manovich, "The Language of New Media"
    Dalai Lama, "Ethics for the New Millennium"
    Orson Scott Card, "The Memory of Earth" (sci. fi.)

    Films:
    "Surviving Progress"

  • "High-School Suitable Books On How Computers Affect Society?"

    What's that 'book' thing you're talking about?

    I think that has already been affected in Society.

  • http://www.amazon.com/The-Cuckoos-Egg-Tracking-Espionage/dp/1416507787 [amazon.com]

    Historical and a fun read. Also teaches you what a PhD. in Astrophysics got you ;-)

    "On the Edge; The Rise and Fall of Commodore Computers" is another good read, albeit business centric.

  • Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut....
  • Networked Life: 20 Questions and Answers is a new book by Mung Chiang at Princeton which picks a few major features of our modern technological society and explains them in some detail. Doesn't require math, very clearly written and also relatively cheap.

  • David Brin's 1998 book "The Transparent Society" (ISBN 9780738201443) is cogent and still timely -- http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/transparent-society-david-brin/1100622841 [barnesandnoble.com] and see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Transparent_Society [wikipedia.org] -- consider mentioning it as supplementary reading at least.
  • You can't go wrong with "Free as in Freedom 2.0" and "Free Software, Free Society". Both are just a little over 200 pages, and available as free PDFs.

  • Greg Egan - Diaspora, Ray Kurtzweil - The Singularity
  • I'm not sure high school students are really going to enjoy it or even take away the right implications ...

    In other words, you're not teaching them computer science, you're going to indoctrinate them politically - and you want to be sure they aren't exposed to anything or reach any conclusions that doesn't agree with your views.

  • I would want them to be introduced to things like media theory by Marshall McLuhan, so they could grab whole picture, not just load of detail.
  • There's still some cryptography news, but so much of it lately is the very best insight and analysis on the intersection of technology, privacy, security, government, and society that is available [schneier.com].

  • How about the new documentary, Terms and Conditions May Apply: http://tacma.net/ [tacma.net]
  • "Ypsilon minus" by Herbert W. Franke. It touches upon prism controversy, hacker ethics, singularity...
  • Alvin Tofler's take on societal future written in 1970 is still a revealing read. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_Shock [wikipedia.org]

    Also (not sure how many of these are in print currently - but - still may be available 2nd hand if not):

    What will be: Michael Dertouzos: 0062515403
    Release 2.1 A Design for living in the Digital Age: Esther Dyson: 0140266623
    Interface Culture - How new technology transforms the way we create and communicate: Steven Johnson: 0062514822
    The Technological Society: Jacques Ellul: 0394703901
    Com

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Ylee/The_Two_Faces_Of_Tomorrow [wikipedia.org]
    "An artificial intelligence system solves an excavation problem on the moon in a brilliant and novel way, but nearly kills a work crew in the process. Realizing that systems are becoming too sophisticated and complex to predict or manage, a scientific team sets out to teach a sophisticated computer network how to think more humanly. The story documents the rise of self-awareness in the computer system, the humans' loss of control and failed att

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday July 29, 2013 @10:48AM (#44412281)
    Start reminiscing about the days of punch cards and teletypes. Few peopel are interested in last years technology much less decades ago.
  • "Program or be Programmed". "Present Shock".

    It really depends on what you're trying help the students get out of the reading. While some aspects of Sci-Fi (Gibson, et. al.) would be interesting - and many things explored in some of those novels became in some ways, science fact... their primary purpose is one of imagination. Possibly selected a few chapters as excepts for that sort of content? In the realm of non fiction - you could do a lot worse than some of Rushkoff's titles, or "In the Beginning was

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