Social Inequality in the Age of Algorithms

Eugene Lang College Lib Arts: Sociology

Liberal Arts

Undergraduate Course

Degree Students

Social Ineq/Age of Algorithms

Spring 2021

Taught By: Zoe Carey

Section: A

CRN: 8470

Credits: 4

This course looks at the ways in which social inequality may be alleviated, amplified, or otherwise altered by algorithmic decision-making. Computer algorithms that promise greater accuracy, efficiency, and objectivity are replacing decisions formerly performed by humans. But these algorithms are difficult to understand and evaluate, and often cannot be challenged if they make a mistake. Using real world examples of automated decision systems, this course will examine the promises and pitfalls of algorithmic decision-making. The first part of the course will provide a very brief overview of major sociological theories of stratification (it is preferable that students have some familiarity with social inequality, but not necessary). The remainder of the course will look at case studies from criminal justice reform, social service administration, and access to media and information. The case studies will focus on both the technical processes that generate inconclusive or inaccurate results and the social consequences of these systems. Throughout the semester, students will conduct in-class coding exercises, learning simple skills like scraping and cleaning digital trace data, structural topic modeling, and social network analysis using a combination of open source analytical tools and coding in R (no prior coding experience is required). The goal of these exercises is to demystify computational ontologies by cultivating skills in coding and quantitative analysis, allowing students to critically understand how algorithms function and produce biased outcomes. Course material will consist of readings from both academic and popular sources, videos & podcasts, and simple coding assignments. Students are expected to bring laptops for in-class coding exercises. This course counts towards the Code as a Liberal Art Minor.

College: Eugene Lang College Lib Arts (LC)

Department: Sociology (LSOC)

Campus: Online (DL)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Max Enrollment: 21

Add/Drop Deadline: February 8, 2021 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 13, 2021 (Tuesday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every five 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: 6:00am 2/25/2021 EST

Meeting Info::

Days: Tuesday, Thursday

Times: 12:00pm - 1:40pm

Building: Online Course

Date Range: 1/19/2021 - 5/6/2021