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The Core Curriculum

University Writing: Readings in Data and Society

Everyday digital technologies are making visible the ways that our data-saturated society shatters old definitions of autonomy, identity, and privacy while making information ever more accessible for use and abuse. At Columbia, faculty in disciplines ranging from biology and engineering to economics and urban development are contributing to emerging conversations among international scholars about data. We will read essays from participants in this conversation that may raise questions about the individual: How is data gathering redrawing the boundary between public and private? How do digitized representations of yourself, from your Facebook profile to your genetic code, challenge the notion of a unified self? Many of the questions posed may alternatively have a global reach: What role does social media play in political change? How can we mobilize data to fight the outbreak of a deadly disease or reduce poverty in a developing country? This class will have the special opportunity to delve into these issues in connection with scholars working out of Columbia’s Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering. We will examine the analytical, revision, collaboration, and research practices that they use to produce their writing, and we will learn to apply some of those practices to generate our own academic essays.

This course does not presume that students will arrive with any background in data sciences and engineering. Rather, the class will focus on developing your ability to employ two skills--reading and writing--that will enable you to make your own contribution to conversations about data. After all, while quantitative reasoning is central to data sciences, it is the people who can write most compellingly about the implications of data on our lives who will wield the power to craft privacy legislation, lead public health initiatives, win venture capital to create a life-changing app, and so on. The main goal for this course is for you to emerge as a more confident reader and writer who can discern the most compelling principles of academic discourse and leverage them in future writing.  These classes will have section numbers in the range of CC/GS1010.500 to CC/GS1010.599.  Each semester approximately 3-4 sections are offered in the College/SEAS and 1 in General Studies.