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This course explores how digital media has led to both the creation and reimagining of human rights issues across the world. With human data being more available than ever before, the world has encountered new concerns and debates over what is ethical and what is legal when it comes to the internet. Throughout the semester, we will explore real cases of people who have had their lives and reputations disrupted by the power of the internet as well as governments and major private entities that have used technology for their own agendas. We'll explore questions like: should private citizens be able to use the internet to enact their own visions of social justice; can and should you be able to erase your digital footprint; how does the right to privacy work when governments are involved -- are they entitled to it, and should they have to respect it? Through the use of many articles, case studies, and documentaries, we'll dive into some of the darker sides of technology, as well as its undeniable power.
Many studies from the last decade have shown that we, as a human population, have a lot of pessimism about the way the world is headed. In 2015, only 3% of citizens of France and Australia said that the world is improving, with several other countries coming in at less than 10% (Yougov, 2015). There are a lot psychological and social reasons for this—not to mention the looming existential risks like global warming and worldwide pandemics. At the same time, Steven Pinker (2018), a cognitive psychologist and author of many social science books, says we have a lot of reasons to celebrate and provides evidence for dozens of way the world is getting better. But what do all the statistics say? Where is the world really heading? Even if it is improving in some categories, does it matter if human cognitive biases prevent us from looking at the glass half full and are stuck on the nostalgia of “the good old days”? This semester, we will explore worldwide trends, data, and projections and compare them with human psychology and perceptions to see what areas we can be optimistic about and where there’s reason for concern.
Laura has been teaching at Bilkent since 2016. Prior to coming to Turkey, she completed bachelor's degrees in English Language & Literature and History from Central Michigan University, a master's degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Michigan State University, and a DELTA Diploma from Cambridge. In addition to working at these two universities in Michigan, Laura has also taught at Lingnan University in Hong Kong and Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, China.