Special Topics in Information Studies: Digital Labour


From mobile apps to social media platforms, digital technologies are crucial factors in the evolution of contemporary work. In this course we will analyse their significance in contexts such as creative labour, student and academic work, platform economy, start-up culture, peer production, automation and work refusal, and prosumerism.  The  course will have a specific focus on the Italian and continental school of autonomist Marxism, including feminist political economy and grassroots approaches to precarious labour. Among others, we will read Federici, Gramsci, Lazzarato, Negri, Tronti, and Virno, as well as a number of empirical studies of digital labour. We will also watch and read relevant fiction. The main goal is to sharpen critical tools to analyse the material and ideological configurations of work in the social factory of digital capitalism.


INF2306H (summer 2018): Special Topics in Information Studies: Designing for Knowledge Work

Broadly speaking, the design of information resources encompasses a large range of human activities, from entertainment to commerce, from immersion in social media to solitary exploration of a topic.  Designing for knowledge work (DKW), however, is specifically concerned with facilitating finding, reading, learning, knowing, and sharing information as part of workplace activities where information and knowledge use are central.  DKW can be examined at the level of the individual, the group, and the organization itself.  At the level of the individual, central topics include understanding human cognition, from reading performance to decision-making, and implications for textual and graphical information displays.  At the level of the group, the use of tools for communication, information sharing, and decision support are central topics; intranets, corporate portals, enterprise information portals, and even ‘website’ are all different names given to the tools for collaborative knowledge work.  At the level of the organization, central topics include information culture, organizational structure, and computing infrastructure.

Among the key issues to be addressed in this course are: (a) the effect of electronic information mediation on judgment and decision-making; (b) the relative merits of paper-based vs. screen-based information provision; (c) the relationship between reading motivation and information design; (d) the visual display of information to facilitate learning; (e) design considerations for frequent (“expert”) workplace users; (f) design research tailored to users in workplace environments; (g) designing to facilitate unstructured collaborative work; (h) accommodating organizational information culture in how information is provided; (i) designing information provision to support behaviour change to improve how information and knowledge are used.

The course unfolds as a trichotomy, orienting to the individual, the group, and the organization, respectively: (I) Cognition and Design; (II) Information and Intranet Design; (III) Culture and Behaviour in Organizations.  Appendix A includes an attached list of lecture titles which frame each of these in more detail.  Evaluation in the course includes a take-home test, an analytical group assignment, a group design assignment, and weekly ungraded quizzes.

Course Exclusion: INF2170H taken prior to September 2016