Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Fall Semester, 2019
MIT 6.805/STS085/STS487: Foundations of Information Policy
Meets: Thursday 1-4, room 66-168
In this class, we will consider the interaction between law, policy,
and technology as they relate to the evolving controversies over
control of the Internet. Our goal is for participants to develop the
technical, legal and rhetorical skills to analyze and participate in
the evolution of the global public policy environments that govern
human behavior on the Internet.
Topics include: history of Internet policy, relationship between
technical architecture and law, privacy, cybersecurity, freedom of
expression, intellectual property, electronic surveillance, trade
policy, and international affairs.
Examples will be drawn primarily from US law but take an explicitly
global perspective on policy, politics and online activism. Students
will interact with leading public-policy experts in classroom settings
and through remote participation. There is an extensive final project
that will be done under the guidance of mentors who are
national leaders in internet information policy issues.
6.805 counts as a Course 6 Independent Inquiry (II) subject and
also as a communications intensive (CI-M) subject.
MIT Course 6 students may count 6.805 as one of the general
engineering concentration subjects required for the S.B. or M.Eng.
programs, or use this subject for HASS elective credit (but not both).
Students wishing engineering concentration credit should enroll under
the subject number 6.805, and students wishing HASS credit should
enroll under the number STS085. Graduate credit can be granted
via STS487 (not Course 6), although this will require making special
arrangements with Prof. Fischer for extra work.
Enrollment limited, Permission of instructor required
Students enrolling in the Course 6 MEng program in the spring can
arrange to do an associated MEng thesis related to their work in 6.805
by simultaneously enrolling in 6.UAP in the fall and completing an
extended thesis proposal and preliminary implementation work by the
end of the semester. The thesis can be continued in the spring, and
there is a possibility of RA support for appropriately ambitious
6.805 can be a pathway
to 6.S978 in spring 2020 and
also to research with the
MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative.
Exemplary papers by students in the class in previous semesters.
A near-invisible niche for the vast majority of its
existence, computer culture has only recently stepped into the big
leagues and has yet to even learn the rules. Sprung from a world of
digital absolutes, nerd brains are woefully unprepared for the fuzzy
gray shadings inherent in the legal system. But if they can't play the
game, they might as well just forfeit to save themselves the beatings.
-- Greg Knauss (Suck Magazine, Sep. 8, 2000)
The law is the instrument through which a technological revolution
[the Internet] is undone. And since we have barely understood how
technologists built this revolution, we don't even see when the
lawyers take it away.
-- Larry Lessig (The Future of Ideas, 2001)