Death of a seminar

Most of the time I am complaining about too many students, now I find myself in the odd position of complaining about not enough. It turns out that my surveillance seminar only has 3 people enrolled in it. I guess the UB cancels seminars with less than 5. The chair of the department said not to worry much about it, but the fact is that with only three of us there, it won’t be much of a seminar! I am thinking I may roll it into the RING project. I’ll have to get emails out to the three who signed up to let them know.

I thought teaching a course on surveillance would be pretty popular, especially given the current political environment. Part of the problem was scheduling conflicts with two required courses. But I think part of the problem is that I have a reputation, perhaps fair, of assigning a lot of work. Anyway, I’m going to teach a techy class next year aimed mainly at the MI students. At least that should get some comers.

Another possibility is “the philosophical foundations of com theory.” I’ve talked to a bunch of grad students who have said that they wished they had been able to get a better grounding in basic social theory. This becomes especially evident when our students go to sociology or political science, and find names being tossed around without really understanding what those names mean. But given that I am married to 515 (Communication Theories) next year, I don’t know that I want to teach another theories course.

So, I guess it will be: “Programming for Informaticians.” :)

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  1. Posted 1/8/2003 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    What about letting some undergrads in?

  2. Posted 1/8/2003 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    If I didn’t have to “triage” my time, I really would be there.
    I’ve even already read Secrets and Lies.

  3. Posted 1/8/2003 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    On of the reason, I guess, is that most of Asian students would show little interest at this topic? At least for Chinese, we did not have strong sense of privacy in the culture. And as you know, the majority of the new graduate students in our Dept. are from Aisa. So you should not take it too personal.
    I think it is a great idea to open this course to senior undergraduate students. From my experience in teaching Internet, they will have more enthusiasm on this issue

  4. alex
    Posted 1/9/2003 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    I have no problems with (selected :) undergrads taking my grad classes. I’m checking on the nuts and bolts of this. I’ve been told once before that it is impossible, at least unless I crosslist the course (which I cannot do, I don’t think, for this semester). I’ll double-check, though.

    I find the idea that Asian students wouldn’t be interested in a class on surveillance (yes, privacy is impossible to divide from surveillance, but the focus was on how, e.g., governments watch their own populations) seems more than a little ironic.

    Chinese may not think of privacy in the same way, but especially recent history of the last four decades or so shows that they have a complex process of evading the eyes of the public or of the government in certain circumstances. There is an additional issue now regarding the transparency of regulation and judicial proceedings. The Japanese have been protesting new national ID programs on the streets and arguing publicly about how much the government should be allowed to watch them. Singaporeans have had an interesting and ongoing tug of war over censorship and monitoring of their Net usage. So, while I would agree that conceptions of privacy differ from culture to culture, it seems to me that Asians remain affected by and interested in how they are watched. Am I wrong?

    I suspect that the real reason is that most students in the program right now have been forced to go through either my 515 or last year’s 628 and they don’t get much out of my seminars. It’s that ongoing tension though–I know which seminars in the department are popular, and that’s not the way I’m interested in doing work. I demand a lot of work from my students (sometimes), and I fear this has made me unpopular.

    Hm. I’ll have to think about this. It actually goes back a bit to the discussion of the undergrads: how much am I willing to change in order to meet the wants and needs of the grad students. I am not set in my ways, I am always willing to try new things, but not if it results in students that aren’t getting their money/time/effort’s worth. And, frankly, not if I find it boring.

  5. Posted 1/11/2003 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I was thiking the same thing re the admittance of undergrads when I read the blog entry.

    If I had the time I’d sign up for a com course on surveillance in a heartbeat. I don’t mind a lot of work when it’s for a course on such an interesting and current subject matter.

  6. alex
    Posted 1/11/2003 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Sam & Fabio, I haven’t heard yet on the question of undergrads. As it turns out (this depends a bit on the students now enrolled), the seminar is likely to revert more to an independent study at this point. That is, we’ll read the books and discuss them informally, then do some sort of collaborative research.

    Another possibility is the RING.

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