I’ll be leading two Critical Writing Seminars this Fall for University of Pennsylvania’s Critical Writing Program.
Do we need help choosing what to eat? How much to save for retirement? Whether to check the organ donor box at the DMV? Certain behavioral economists think so. This section will explore how everyone from urban planners to nutritionists to the Internal Revenue Service engages, knowingly or not, in design that influences everyday decisions. Fusing economics, psychology, public policy, and rhetoric, such “nudges” aim less to incentivize or discourage choices than gently encourage “better” habits for individuals and, in turn, society at large. The course will address questions of freedom, choice, and paternalism at the heart of Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sustein’s bestselling book Nudge, with the broader goal of learning how we ourselves might become perceptive and influential in designed contexts we encounter each day.
Big Data Revolution
The terms “big data” and “analytics” abound in contemporary discourse, but few nonspecialists understand their purposes or promises beyond monetization of our clicks, content preferences, and geolocations. Alongside their overt commercial ends, analytics may also provide “insights” about who we are, what makes us tick, and how we might live productive, healthier, and even more fulfilling lives. This section will examine the rewards—and costs—of scaled data and their social utility with reference to MIT data scientist Alex Pentland’s notion of “social physics,” quantified expressions of how we interact, produce, consume, and relate with information from cat videos to stock tips. Equal parts technology, information studies, and social science, this section may also be of interest to anyone with a Facebook account or mobile device.
This section has been primarily populated with students from Computer & Information Systems.
Post Image: Nudge Penguin paperback cover art.