Big Tech & Society: Policy & Activism

Eugene Lang College Lib Arts: Culture and Media

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Degree Students (with Restrictions)
Big Tech & Society
Spring 2023
Taught By: Peter Asaro
Section: A

CRN: 13630

Credits: 3

A handful of internet companies have captured vast global markets for their products and services, and leveraged their platforms to capture even more. Several are now valued at more than $1 trillion, with greater wealth and reach than many countries. These companies and their technologies have become integral to our economy and reshaped our social lives. These companies are also increasingly being accused of holding monopolistic power, violating anti-trust laws, engaging in anti-competitive practices, violating individual privacy rights, engaging in unfair labor practices, enabling anti-social behaviors, contributing to political division, and empowering violent extremism including terrorism and genocide. Given the power and resources these companies have, and the great potential for both positive and negative impacts on society, how can the public hold them accountable? This course will examine the social and legal issues raised by the biggest and most influential of these companies, from Amazon's growing monopoly over retail sales, to Google and Facebook's growing monopoly over advertising, to the impact on traditional media from newspaper journalism to film and television, to the rise of the sharing/gig economy, to the battle over net neutrality, to social media's anti-democratic effects, and to how the algorithms these companies deploy impact society and how much of their power is derived from the collection of personal data and its often biased analysis and application. In addition to analyzing the legal and social issues raised by the practices of these companies, we will examine the various policy proposals for reigning in their power, from anti-trust laws to privacy protections, we will consider what regulations might achieve a better society. We will also look at grassroots activism aimed at confronting the power of these companies. From boycotts to worker-led initiatives and platform co-operativism, we will consider the power of the people to shape these companies outside of governmental regulation. Students will be required to make regular blog entries based on the assigned readings, participate in online class discussions via Zoom, and write two 7-9 page papers, or create short multi-media presentations, during the course of the semester. NOTE: This course is open to Lang Juniors and Seniors majoring in Culture and Media only. Students who register for the UG section will earn undergraduate credit at the completion of the course. Students wishing to earn Graduate credit must register for the graduate section of the course. Students intending to apply a graduate course toward the senior capstone requirement must register for the graduate section. [Tracks C, M]

College: Eugene Lang College Lib Arts (LC)

Department: Culture and Media (LCST)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: Online - Synchronous

Max Enrollment: 11

Add/Drop Deadline: February 5, 2023 (Sunday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 16, 2023 (Sunday)

Seats Available: No

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 11:20pm EDT 9/27/2023

Meeting Info:
Days: Monday
Times: 6:00pm - 7:50pm
Building: Online Course
Room: 999
Date Range: 1/23/2023 - 5/15/2023