Overview and syllabus

by richgazan

Welcome!  This site serves as the hub of activity for ICS 491, The Social Information Infrastructure, a course offered by the University of Hawaii Department of Information and Computer Sciences in the Spring 2012 semester.  I’m the instructor, Rich Gazan.  This is an online, asynchronous course, and it probably has a different pace and structure than you’re used to, so take some time to read through this post and see if it’s right for you.  As a department, we’ve experimented with this structure in several previous online courses for graduate students, but this is the first time we’re offering it to undergrads.  If it goes as well with you as it has with the grad students, we’ll offer courses like this more often, so please feel free to email me anytime throughout the course with questions or suggestions.


In your professional lives you will be evaluated not just on how well you can accomplish tasks, but in how well you can link your skills with those of other people to solve larger problems.  This course surveys the current and near-future landscape of this medium of information creation and exchange: the social information infrastructure.  You will learn some of the ways information can be created, translated, transported, coordinated or blocked through this socio-technical medium, and how people navigate through it.

One of the ways you will apply the skills developed in this course is by participating in the 2012 Google Online Marketing Challenge (http://www.google.com/onlinechallenge/), where you will work with a local business or nonprofit, and receive US$200 of free online advertising and access to professional Google backend tools to help drive traffic to the organization’s site.

This is an online course designed for advanced undergraduates with a high level of internal motivation.  This course has no prerequisites, and is open to students from all majors, but ICS majors who have taken ICS 413, 414, 419 or 464 will have a useful grounding in the main concepts.


The course will be divided into seven two-week sessions, each centered around a subtopic of the social information infrastructure.  Here’s the current list, but you should expect topics, readings and assignments to change throughout the course:

  • Session 1: The social information infrastructure
  • Session 2: How ideas emerge and flow
  • Session 3: Why are people on the Web?
  • Session 4: Social information seeking
  • Session 5: Collaboration and coordination
  • Session 6: Grand challenges in ICS
  • Session 7: How solutions happen

Course structure

This course blog (http://ics491s12.wordpress.com) will be the center for information exchange.  You will create your own blog, specific to this course (i.e. not your existing blog), and use a feed aggregator to follow the blogs of your fellow students.  Please post under a handle or pseudonym, and use the same one consistently throughout the course.  Email me individually so I can link your blog handle with your real name.

The course will be conducted as a series of seven two-week sessions, loosely organized by topic.  Each session will follow this pattern:

  • First week: Every other Monday, I will post the session’s readings on the course blog, with comments and a related assignment.  I’ll use the Resources section of laulima (http://laulima.hawaii.edu/) to post readings not available online.  Assignments will usually take the form of questions to address and/or sites to visit and evaluate in the context of the session’s readings.  Respond to the assignments with a post on your blog by 11:59 pm Sunday, i.e. in one week.  An acceptable blog post will be between 500-1000 words (more is fine), will specifically and critically address a majority of the session’s readings, and will address all aspects of the associated assignment.  An outstanding blog post will use the readings and assignments as starting points for further exploration about points you find interesting.  You may use a formal or informal tone, as long as the content is there.  A friendly but serious reminder: don’t plagiarize.  Copying, adapting or otherwise borrowing ideas without proper citation will be considered a violation of the UH Manoa Student Conduct Code (http://studentaffairs.manoa.hawaii.edu/policies/conduct_code/) relating to academic honesty, and will result in an F in the course.
  • Second week: Read as many of your fellow students’ blog posts as you like, but comment substantively on at least five per session.  Acceptable blog comments will engage specifics of the blog author’s and/or paper author’s points, possibly including illustrative links to content from other sessions and elsewhere.  Respond to other students’ comments on your own and other students’ posts as appropriate.  Not all blog posts will generate long comment threads and lively conversation, but one of your goals in the second week of each session (and in the course as a whole) is to take every opportunity to move productive conversations forward, to both create and benefit from a collaborative learning environment.

For the final project, you will put what you have learned into practice, and participate in the 2012 Google Online Marketing Challenge (http://www.google.com/onlinechallenge/).   Student teams receive US$200 of free online advertising and access to professional Google AdWords backend tools, and work with a local business or nonprofit to help drive traffic to the organization’s site.  The GOMC includes several standardized reports that will form the basis of your grade—your grade will not be based on the outcome of your group’s campaign or standing in the competition.  We’ll be talking more about GOMC as the course progresses, but here’s a list of some local organizations past UH students have worked with:

  • University of Hawaii Foundation
  • The Wedding Café, a resource center for brides and grooms
  • University of Hawaii Press
  • Hawaii Bicycling League
  • INPEACE, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Native Hawaiians through early childhood education, employment training and land stewardship
  • Youth Speaks Hawaii, a nonprofit dedicated to teen poetry workshops and events
  • Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii
  • Cara Mia, a gift boutique for girls
  • Kanu Hawaii, an online community where people post and join ‘commitments’ to improve the local community and engender collective action


As this is an online, asynchronous course, active, timely and substantive participation is critical.  You must complete all assignments in order to pass the course.  Late work will be penalized 50%, unless you make arrangements with me (and your team, if applicable) prior to the due date.

  • Quality and timeliness of blog posts and comments (10 points/session=70%)
  • Google Online Marketing Challenge (25%)
  • Individual reflective assessment (5%)

For feedback, I will post comments on most blogs most sessions, and I’ll send you individual email as needed to make sure you’re on the right track.