Course Syllabus

Information in Social and Cultural Context

INF 380C


Fall 2015

UTA 1.208

Wednesdays, 12-3 pm


Instructor:                    Dr. Kenneth R. Fleischmann  

UTA 5.534


Office Hours:              Mondays 2:45-3:15 pm, Wednesdays 2:45-3:15 pm, by appointment, or via e-mail


TA:                              Ms. Rachel Simons



  1. Official Course Description

Examines the role of information in human activities, particularly in relation to particular social and cultural contexts. Examines how individuals, groups, organizations, institutions, and society at large create, find, use, understand, share, transform, and curate information.


  1. General Objectives

Through the activities in this class we will examine the role of information in human activities, particularly how it shapes and is shaped by its social and cultural context. Students will consider how creating, finding, using, understanding, sharing, transforming, and curating information impacts and is affected by the social and cultural contexts of individuals, groups, organizations, institutions, and society at large. The goal of this course is to ensure that students have a general understanding of the ways in which information scholars study information and information technologies in social and cultural context.


III. Specific Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, you will:


  • Connect theory and practice by understanding that they are mutually beneficial.


  • Formulate and clearly communicate creative ideas in writing and orally.


  • Critically examine the role of information in human activities and the role of social and cultural contexts.


  • Examine how groups, organizations, and institutions create, find, use, understand, share, transform, and curate information, and connect them to individuals on the micro side and society at large on the macro side.


  • Demonstrate your ability to work with others and independently effectively and professionally.


  1. Course Schedule





Readings – to be completed before class


Week 1




N/A (no readings before first class)

Class Attendance and Participation (CAP)

Module I: Values and Epistemology

Week 2


Information and Personal Identity


·  Barker, L., Cohoon, J., & Sanders, L. (2010). Strategy trumps money: Recruiting undergraduate women into computing. Computer, 43(6), 82-85.

·  Feinberg, M. (2011). Expressive bibliography: Personal collections in public space. Knowledge Organization, 38(2), 123–135.

·  Fleischmann, K.R. (2014). Information and Human Values (pp. 1-5). San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool.

·  Floridi, L. (2011). The informational nature of personal identity. Minds and Machines, 21(4), 549-566.

·  Turkle, S. (2011). The tethered self: technology reinvents intimacy and solitude. Continuing Higher Education Review, 75: 28-31.

Discussion Questions (DQ)

Critical Examples (CE)


Week 3


Information and Collective Identity


·  Ackland, R., & O’Neil, M. (2011). Online collective identity: the case of the environmental movement. Social Networks, 33, 177-190.

·  Bell, G. (2006). No more SMS from Jesus: Ubicomp, religion, and techno-spiritual practices. Ubicomp 2006, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 4206, 141-158.

·  Frost, J. H., & Massagli, M. P. (2008). Social uses of personal health information within PatientsLikeMe, an online patient community: What can happen when patients have access to one another’s data. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 10(3).

·  Oudshoorn, N., Rommes, E., and Stienstra, M. (2004) Configuring the user as everybody: Gender and design cultures in information and communication technologies. Science, Technology & Human Values, 29(1), 30–63.

·  Veinot, T. C., & Williams, K. (2012). Following the “community” thread from sociology to information behavior and informatics: uncovering theoretical continuities and research opportunities. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(5), 847-864.

















Week 4


Information in International Context


·  Aspray, W. (2010). IT offshoring and American labor. American Behavioral Scientist, 53(7), 962-982.

·  Castells, M. (2010). Globalisation and identity. Quaderns de la Mediterrània, 14, 254-262.

·  James, J. (2011). Are changes in the digital divide consistent with global equality or inequality? The Information Society, 27, 121-128.

·  Kolko, B. & Putnam, C. (2009). Computer games in the developing world: The value of non-instrumental engagement with ICTs, or taking play seriously. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (pp. 46-55). Piscataway, NJ: IEEE.

·  Warschauer, M. & Ames, M. (2010). Can One Laptop Per Child save the world’s poor? Journal of International Affairs, 64, 33-51.





Module II: Information Policy

Week 5




·  Bates, M. J. (2006), Fundamental forms of information. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 57, 1033–1045.

·  Fish, A., Kelty, C., Murillo, L.F.R., Nguyen, L., & Panofsky, A. (2011). Birds of the Internet: towards a field guide to the organization and governance of participation. Journal of Cultural Economy, 4(2), 157-187.

·  Olson, H. A. (2007). How we construct subjects: A feminist analysis. Library Trends, 56, 509-541.

·  Renear, A. H., & Palmer, C. L. (2009). Strategic reading, ontologies, and the future of scientific publishing. Science, 325, 828-832.

·  Star, S.L. & Lampland, M. (2009). Reckoning with standards. In M. Lampland & S.L. Star (Eds.), Standards and Their Stories: How Quantifying, Classifying, and Formalizing Practices Shape Everyday Life (pp. 3-34). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.




Project Proposal

Week 6


Intellectual Property


·  Dryden, J. (2012). Guidelines to support professional copyright practice. Journal of Archival Organization, 10, 150-154.

·  Howison, J., & Crowston, K. (2014). Collaboration through open superposition: A theory of the open source way. MIS Quarterly, 38(1), 29-50.

·  Jenkins, H. (2006). Searching for the origami unicorn: The Matrix and transmedia storytelling. In Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: NYU Press.

·  Lessig, L. (2010). Getting our values around copyright right. EDUCAUSE Review, 45(2), 26-42.

·  Moore, A. (2011). Intellectual property. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.





Week 7


Privacy and Surveillance


·  Blanchette, J.-F., & Johnson, D. G. (2002). Data retention and the panoptic society: the social benefits of forgetfulness. The Information Society, 18 (1), 33-45.

·  Doty, P. (2011). Privacy, reading, and trying out identity: the digital millennium copyright act and technological determinism. In W. Aspray and P. Doty (Eds.), Privacy in America (pp. 211-245). Lanham: Scarecrow.

·  Dourish, P., & Anderson, K. (2006). Collective information practice: exploring privacy and security as social and cultural phenomena. Human-Computer Interaction, 21(3), 319–342.

·  Goodman, A. & Goodman, D. (2008). America’s most dangerous librarians: Meet the radical bookworms who fought the Patriot Act – and won. Mother Jones.

·  Lease, M., et al. (2013). Mechanical Turk is not anonymous. Social Science Research Network, 1-15.







Module III: Information Institutions

Week 8




·  Immroth, B. (2009). School and public youth librarians as health information gatekeepers: Research from the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. School Library Media Research, 12, 1-30.

·  Kinney, B. (2010). The Internet, public libraries, and the digital divide. Public Library Quarterly, 29, 104-161

·  Roy, L. (2013). The Role of tribal libraries and archives in the preservation of indigenous cultural identity through supporting native language revitalization. International Preservation News, 61, 8–11.

·  Westbrook, L. & Gonzalez, M.E. (2011). Information support for survivors of intimate partner violence: Public librarianship's role. Public Library Quarterly, 30(2), 132-157.

·  Zhang, Y. (2014). Beyond quality and accessibility: Source selection in consumer health information searching. Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, 65(5), 911-927.




Interactive Activity (IA)


Week 9




·  Carter, R. G. S. (2006). Of things said and unsaid: Power, archival silences, and power in silence. Archivaria, 61, 215-233.

·  Galloway, P. (2014). From archival management to archival enterprise to the information domain: David Gracy and the development of archival education at the University of Texas. Information & Culture, 49(1), 3-33.

·  Manoff, M. (2004). Theories of the archive from across the disciplines. Libraries and the Academy, 4(1), 9-25.

·  O’Meara, E., & Tuomala, M. (2012). Finding balance between archival principles and real-life practices in an institutional repository. Archivaria, 73, 81-103.

·  Trace, C. (2011). Beyond the magic to the mechanism: Computers, materiality, and what it means for records to be “born digital.” Archivaria, 72, 5-27.





Week 10


Museums and Parks


·  Bennett, T. (1998). Speaking to the eyes: Museums, legibility and the social order. In S. Macdonald (Ed.), The Politics of Display: Museums, Science, Culture (pp. 25-35). New York: Routledge.

·  Kidd, J. (2011). Enacting engagement online: Framing social media use for the museum. Information Technology & People, 24(1), 64–77.

·  Marty, P. F. (2011). My lost museum: User expectations and motivations for creating personal digital collections on museum websites. Library & Information Science Research, 33(3), 211-219.

·  Neufeld, D. (2008). Parks Canada, the commemoration of Canada, and Northern Aboriginal oral history. In P. Hamilton & L. Shopes (Eds.), Oral History and Public Memories (pp. 7-30). Philadelphia: Temple U. Press.

·  Palmer, C.L. et al. (2014). Building a framework for site-based data curation. Proceedings of ASIS&T 2014, 50(1), 1-4.





Individual Project

Module IV: Information Work and Workers

Week 11


Professional Ethics


·  ACM Code of Ethics

·  ALA Code of Ethics and Core Values of Librarianship

·  SAA Code of Values Statement and Code of Ethics

·  SLA Professional Ethics Guidelines

·  Balsamo, A. & Mitcham, C. (2011). Interdisciplinarity in ethics and the ethics of interdisciplinarity. In A. Balsamo (Ed.), Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work (pp. 259-272). Durham, NC: Duke U. Press.

·  Beghtol, C. (2005), Ethical decision-making for knowledge representation and organization systems for global use. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 56, 903–912.

·  Budd, J. M. (2006). Toward a practical and normative ethics for librarianship. Library Quarterly, 76(3), 251-269.





Week 12


Roles for Information Professionals


·  Bailey, D.E., Leonardi, P.M., & Chong, J. (2010). Minding the gaps: Understanding technology interdependence and coordination in knowledge work. Organization Science, 21, 713-730.

·  Bias, R. G., Marty, P. F., & Douglas, I. (2012). Usability/user-centered design in the iSchools: Justifying a teaching philosophy. Journal of Education For Library & Information Science, 53(4), 274-289.

·  Clement, T., Hagenmaier, W., & Knies, J. (2013). Toward a notion of the archive of the future: Impressions of practice by librarians, archivists, and digital humanities scholars. Library Quarterly, 83(2), 112-130.

·  Dillon, A. (2012). What it means to be an iSchool. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 53(4-5), 267-273.

·  Xie, B. & Bugg, J.M. (2009). Public library computer training for older adults to access high-quality Internet health information. Library and Information Science Research, 31(3), 155-162.





Week 13


Invisible Work


·  Anderson, T.D. (2011). Beyond eureka moments: Supporting the invisible work of creativity and innovation. Information Research, 16(1), 1-24.

·  Bates, M. J. (1999). The invisible substrate of information science. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50, 1043-1050.

·  Shapin, S. (1989). The invisible technician. American Scientist, 7, 554–563.

·  Star, S. L., & Strauss, A. (1999). Layers of silence, arenas of voice: The ecology of visible and invisible work. Proceedings of CSCW 1999, 8(1-2), 9-30.

·  Suchman, L. (2002). Located accountabilities in technology production. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 14(2), 91-105.






Week 14


Group Project Presentations

No Readings – Project Presentations

Group Project & Slides


  1. Course Requirements


  1. Class attendance and participation policy


(a) Because the vast majority of the learning in this class will occur within the classroom, you are required to attend class regularly. Attendance will be taken during each class period. Absences will only be excused in situations following university policy (illness, religious holy days, participation in University activities at the request of university authorities, and compelling absences beyond your control) with proper documentation and timely notification (prior to class for non-emergencies). Excessive tardiness may be considered as an unexcused absence except in situations following university policy.


(b) Class participation is a critical element of this course. The effectiveness of the course will be significantly impacted by the quality of your participation. Class participation is not merely attendance, but rather factors in your overall contributions to the collaborative learning environment, based on both the quantity and quality of your interactions in all aspects of the course. Discussion of class participation with the instructor is encouraged in order to ensure that you are making the most of the classroom experience and the accompanying opportunities for learning. You are expected to participate in all aspects of class discussion. You should come to class prepared to discuss the required readings, as well as your perspectives on these readings. You should strive for balance in your contributions, and your participation will not be based on who speaks the loudest or the longest, but on consistent participation of significant quantity and, most importantly, quality.


(c) Your attendance and class participation grade will be calculated by multiplying the numerical assessment of your class participation by the percentage of classes that you attend (with exceptions made for documented, university-recognized absences as noted above). Please note that regular attendance and active participation in each class session are critical for receiving a good grade in this course. For example, by actively participating in each class, you will receive a full letter grade higher than if you were to skip half of the classes or to be half-awake for all of the classes.


(d) Religious Holy Days

By UT Austin policy, you must notify me of your pending absence at least fourteen days prior to the date of observance of a religious holy day. If you must miss a class, an examination, a work assignment, or a project in order to observe a religious holy day, I will give you an opportunity to complete the missed work within a reasonable time after the absence.


  1. Course Readings/Materials


                     (a) All course readings are available on the course Canvas site


                     (b) Please make sure to complete all readings before coming to class


                     (c) You will need to do additional reading to prepare for interactive activities and projects.


  1. Use of Canvas in class


To supplement our in-class discussions we will use Canvas to distribute course materials, to communicate and collaborate online, to post questions and grades, and to submit assignments. You can find Canvas support at the ITS Help Desk at 475-9400, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm, so please plan accordingly.


  1. Discussion Questions


What: Post a discussion question that addresses a theme that spans multiple readings; look for that which is worth discussing, such as gaps in reasoning or segments you find confusing. Perhaps an article raises new questions for you or you would like to apply ideas to a particular context. The key to writing successful questions is synthesis and synergy across readings. Before class, examine your colleagues’ questions and be prepared to discuss them in class. Your reactions to and insights on the readings will seed our discussion.


When: Mondays at noon, Weeks 2-13


Why: Developing critical reading skills and intellectual curiosity are essential for success in the information field and in this course. The discussions initiated by the discussion questions contribute to all four course objectives.


How: Read and synthesize the assigned material thoroughly through personal, social, and cultural prisms.


Grading criteria: Effective, challenging questions with the capacity to spark and enrich our discussion.


TIPS: Make sure to explicitly refer to and synthesize multiple readings to improve your grade.


  1. Critical Examples


What: Identify an example of the reading(s) from everyday life. This critical example may pertain to one or more readings or to a theme/question the readings inspire.


When: Mondays at noon, Weeks 2-13


Why: The information interactions that we experience can help bring the course concepts to life. The discussions initiated by the critical examples contribute to all four course objectives.


How: Apply concepts from the assigned readings to everyday life, finding examples to which others can relate.


Grading criteria: Effective, challenging critical examples with the capacity to spark and enrich our discussion.


TIPS: Ten minutes with the news (e.g., web sites of The New York Times, PBS, BBC, etc.) may show you the implications and even outcomes of our course material.


  1. Interactive Activities


What: Create and lead an engaging interactive activity that furthers our understanding of the day’s material.


When: During the second half of class in the second half of the semester (Weeks 8-13).


Why: This assignment requires you to move from the reflective thinking of our question/example discussions into active application of the material.


How: During the first few weeks of class you’ll see several of these activities used in our work. You’ve also seen engaging activities in other classes, but feel free to be creative. Lay out a carefully planned activity with a clear goal, supportive materials as appropriate. Open your activity firmly, close with a tight summary, and keep our minds going at all times.


Grading criteria: Your activity should take 30-40 minutes, require your colleagues’ judgment, and challenge our actual practice as professionals. Solid preparation (e.g., tight structure) and professional execution are essential.


TIPS: Be creative – push the boundaries of class engagement by doing outside reading beyond the syllabus. Coordinate with your group members over several weeks to ensure you’ll be able to produce a coherent and dynamic interactive activity.


  1. Projects


What: The project proposal involves deciding on a group, organization, or institution to study, and articulating the social and cultural context for information in that group, organization, or institution. The individual report involves writing your own report on how the cultural and social context of your study group, organization, or institution impacts the aspect of the information lifecycle you have proposed to study. The final report should provide a comprehensive overview of the information lifecycle within the context of your selected group, organization, or institution’s social and cultural context, including providing answers for all questions from the individual report. The final presentation is an opportunity to share your collaborative work with the entire class.


When: In our first class meeting, we will form teams with 5-6 students per team. You will work with your team throughout the semester on your interactive activity, project proposal, final report, and final presentation.


Each team will submit a project proposal (including all team members’ names) via Canvas by noon on Wednesday, September 23, 2015.


Individual reports must be submitted via Canvas by noon on Wednesday, October 28, 2015.


Final reports must be submitted via Canvas by noon on Wednesday, December 2, 2015.


Each team must submit PowerPoint slides via Canvas by noon on Wednesday, December 2, 2015.


Why: Projects combine teamwork with individual accountability, and include a project proposal, individual report, final report, and final presentation.


How: Please use APA format:


Project Proposal: Focusing on the different aspects of the information lifecycle (how they create, find, use, understand, share, transform, and curate information), you will submit a two-page proposal addressing:

i) What group, organization, or institution have you decided to study?
ii) Why have you selected this group, organization, or institution?
iii) What do you expect are the social and cultural context for this organization?
iv) What is their mission or goal?
v) On which 4-5 aspects of the information cycle will your team focus?
vi) Who will focus on which component (each student picks a different component)?
vii) What approach will you use across components and for each particular component?


Individual Report: Your report should be 5-10 pages in length and can be based on any kind of research, including literature review, interviews, surveys, or any other appropriate research methods. Please note that experience with research methods is not necessary, as you may elect to write a literature review. You should make sure to answer the following questions in your report:

i) How did you study your selected aspect? Please be as detailed as possible.
ii) What did you find? What were the findings of the lit review, interviews, survey, etc.?
iii) What does it mean? What would you conclude based on your findings?
iv) What can we learn from? What best practices used here can apply elsewhere?
v) What can be improved? e.g., Based on what you have articulated as the organization’s social and cultural context, how could the information they produce or use better serve them?


Final Report: You will need to work together to synthesize your answers into a coherent report that must begin with an executive summary and end with takeaways. Your final report should be 20-30 pages in length, and must be collaboratively written by all team members based on each team member's individual reports.


Final Presentation: Each presentation will be 15 minutes in length, with an additional five minutes for questions and discussion. All team members must participate in both preparing and presenting the final presentation.


TIPS: Carefully select an organization involved in creating, finding, using, understanding, transforming, sharing, and curating information. Develop a coherent theme across the different individual components of the report.


  1. Late Assignment Policy


All assignments are due by the start of class for that week, except as noted in the course schedule. All assignments must be submitted via Canvas. Late assignments will only be excused in situations following university policy (illness, religious holy days, etc.) with proper documentation and timely notification (prior to the deadline for non-emergencies). In all other cases, assignments received after the deadline will be penalized 10% per 24-hour period. If you turn in an assignment (without prior authorization or extreme emergency circumstances) even one minute late, you will have an automatic deduction of 10% prior to grading of the assignment; if you are five days late, even an otherwise perfect assignment will only receive half-credit; and if you are ten days late, your assignment will not be graded and will not receive any credit.


  1. Grading Procedures


            Grades will be based on:

  1. Individual activities that occur weekly:
  2. Attendance and Participation (20%), Weeks 1-14
  3. Discussion Questions (10%), Weeks 2-13
  4. Critical Examples (10%), Weeks 2-13
  5. Group activities that occur once:
  6. Interactive Activity (10%), Weeks 8-13
  7. Individual and group projects that span the entire semester:
  8. Project Proposal: (5%), Week 5
  9. Individual Report: (20%), Week 10
  10. Group Report: (15%), Week 15
  11. Group Presentation: (10%), Week 15


Grading Scale:

































VII. Academic Integrity


University of Texas Honor Code

The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity, and responsibility. Each member of the university is expected to uphold these values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness, and respect toward peers and community.


Each student in this course is expected to abide by the University of Texas Honor Code. Any work submitted by a student in this course for academic credit will be the student's own work, although collaboration is allowed and required in the project proposal, group report, group presentation, and interactive activity.


The projects combine teamwork with individual accountability. For the project proposal, you will need to work with your team members. For the individual report, you will need to complete your own report without help from other students. For the final project and presentation, you will need to share your individual project results with your team members (after first submitting them to the instructor).




VIII. Other University Notices and Policies


Use of E-mail for Official Correspondence


  • All students should become familiar with the University's official e-mail student notification policy. It is the student's responsibility to keep the University informed as to changes in his or her e-mail address. Students are expected to check e-mail on a frequent and regular basis in order to stay current with University-related communications, recognizing that certain communications may be time-critical. It is recommended that e-mail be checked daily, but at a minimum, twice per week. The complete text of this policy and instructions for updating your e-mail address are available at .


Documented Disability Statement


Any student with a documented disability who requires academic accommodations should contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at (512) 471-6259 (voice) or 1-866-329-3986 (video phone). Faculty are not required to provide accommodations without an official accommodation letter from SSD.

  • Please notify me as quickly as possible if the material being presented in class is not accessible (e.g., instructional videos need captioning, course packets are not readable for proper alternative text conversion, etc.).
  • Please notify me as early in the semester as possible if disability-related accommodations for field trips are required. Advanced notice will permit the arrangement of accommodations on the given day (e.g., transportation, site accessibility, etc.).
  • Contact Services for Students with Disabilities at 471-6259 (voice) or 1-866-329-3986 (video phone) or reference SSD’s website for more disability-related information:


Behavior Concerns Advice Line (BCAL)


If you are worried about someone who is acting differently, you may use the Behavior Concerns Advice Line to discuss by phone your concerns about another individual’s behavior. This service is provided through a partnership among the Office of the Dean of Students, the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC), the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and The University of Texas Police Department (UTPD). Call 512-232-5050 or visit


Emergency Evacuation Policy


Occupants of buildings on the UT Austin campus are required to evacuate and assemble outside when a fire alarm is activated or an announcement is made. Please be aware of the following policies regarding evacuation:

  • Familiarize yourself with all exit doors of the classroom and the building. Remember that the nearest exit door may not be the one you used when you entered the building.
  • If you require assistance to evacuate, inform me in writing during the first week of class.
  • In the event of an evacuation, follow my instructions or those of class instructors.

Do not re-enter a building unless you are given instructions by the Austin Fire Department, the UT Austin Police Department, or the Fire Prevention Services office.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due