Introduction to Social Informatics
Assignment #4 and #5: Position Paper
Your assignment is to write a short (about 1000 words) position paper on one of the topics below (both of which we have discussed or will be discussing in class). You are welcome to draw from course material, but you must also strengthen your argument using research and outside resources. Your paper must have a clear thesis and be supported by evidence.
Option A: In July 2015, hackers working with a reporter for Wired remotely hacked into a Jeep Cherokee’s control system while it was being driven by the reporter and managed to kill the engine (see http://www.wired.com/2015/07/hackers-remotely-kill-jeep-highway/ (Links to an external site.)). In September 2015, Volkswagen reported that 11 million of its vehicles were configured with software that enabled the vehicles to cheat on emissions tests. Both of these events have led to large vehicle recalls. It is notable that these recalls are for software flaws, rather than for strictly mechanical problems, and that the vehicles are equipped with computer networks, wireless access points, and sophisticated sensors and software, which present many new problems but for which safety testing may not exist or may even be hard to define. Write an essay that takes a position on whether consumer and highway safety regulation need to be changed to accommodate these changes in technology.
Option B: In 2014, Facebook released the results of a study that found that Facebook users are likely to be emotionally influenced by the posts that appear in their Facebook news feed. The study argues that when researchers changed the algorithm that determines which posts show up in users’ news feed to show positive posts, more users demonstrated positive emotions and likewise when the algorithm was changed to show more negative posts, the users were more likely to post their own negative posts. The results of this study can be found here: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788.full (Links to an external site.). Many people, scholars included, objected to the ways in which Facebook conducted this study, calling the study unethical. Write an essay in which you either argue for or against the notion that Facebook’s study was ethical; in doing so you must meaningfully consider the role of Facebook’s algorithm in the social lives of Facebook users. Please note that you are not being asked to debate the legality of Facebook’s actions, but rather the ethics of such research.
This is an academic paper. You must support your argument with evidence drawn from at least three (3) sources. These sources should be of quality that is acceptable for citation in academic writing, which means that they cannot include sources such as Wikipedia.com, About.com, Ask.com, etc. You must cite your sources (both in the text and in a bibliography) using a recognized citation style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.).
Successful papers will have (1) an organized, structured argument with (2) strong support (quality citations used to back up claims made in the paper) and (3) most importantly, a clear thesis and supporting claims.
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