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Science Fiction and Big Data Classroom Unit

An Introduction to the Future Our Students Will Face

This science fiction unit focuses on Privacy and Big Data, and the effect technology has and will play in affecting our personhood.

This unit took an entire term (roughly two months) to complete at the Grade 12 level. It can be definitely broken up into two distinct sections, however, the content does link together quite well.

It’s quite involved, so the following infographic is a brief summary of the progression of the unit. The finer details will be listed below.

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Phases of Unit
Big Data and Privacy Resources

Phases of Unit

The following phases account for roughly four to six one hour school periods at the Grade 12 level. Underlined items are linked to resources. 

Phase 1

Review and/or teach Story Arc and Theme. After teaching concept read The Perfect Match and put recognition skills to work.

Introduce and review The End of Human Specialness by Jaron Lanier.

End with discussion of the connection of personhood between Lanier’s piece and The Perfect Match.

Phase 2

 

Explore the Cambridge Analytica Scandal.

Review the first few episodes of Navigating Digital Information by Crash Course. The connection between this and Cambridge Analytica is to ensure that the students are aware of using proper sources and understanding misinformation and the affect it has on society. 

Phase 3

Assign Op-Ed geared towards Big Data and Privacy. 

 

Phase 4

Learn about the infographic form.

Students create an infographic or poster of raising awareness of the issues the presented in their Op-Ed. 

Phase 5

Introduction to Science Fiction.

Read The Minority Report. Follow up questions touch on theme, story arc, and the philosophical elements of The Minority Report. 

Phase 6

Watch film adaptation by director Steven Spielberg. 

Connect with materials that cover the science-fiction futurist industry. 

Phase 7

Assign differentiated project:

  • Adapt a short story to a feature film outline/treatment
  • Draft a sci-fi short story
  • Create an pitch a project that’s ahead of it’s time technologically speaking

Phase 8

Present projects and reflect on unit. 

Text and Resources Overview

Big Data and Big Brother

Are you a persuadable? Data companies in our world mine data of all social media users with the intention of determining if they vulnerable to be persuaded to act through voting or activism. These campaigns provide personalized fake news stories and advertisements that prey on the fears of people. 

For the sake of democracy, it’s important to understand how you’re targeted as a social media user. It is nearly impossible to live off the grid, so to speak, and evade big data companies — you merely need to be associated with a social media user. 

The following resources are not meant to demonize social media and the internet. The internet is perhaps humankind’s greatest technological achievement since the printing press. However, with great power comes great responsibility, both from the powers that create application online and from its users. 

Understanding Data Collection and Privacy Through Facebook, Brexit, and Trump

Understanding How Brexit unfolded through Social Media

The decision for Britain to leave the European Union was largely influenced by the news and ads shared through Facebook misinformation campaigns. Carole Cadwalladr is a journalist for The Guardian leading the charge on exposing how voters can be manipulated on social media.

Christopher Wylie on A.I. in the News and Social Media

Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, explains how AI operates to create an environment that can be misleading.

Please note that I’m not telling you to subscribe to Wylie’s beliefs. There are aspects of his discourse that I don’t agree with — mainly with his tone and assumptions. However, it gives you insight from someone who is quite active in this field.

Christopher Wylie on A.I. in the News and Social Media

Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, explains how AI operates to create an environment that can be misleading.

Please note that I’m not telling you to subscribe to Wylie’s beliefs. There are aspects of his discourse that I don’t agree with — mainly with his tone and assumptions. However, it gives you insight from someone who is quite active in this field. 

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash


Privacy is Power (essay)

Opening Paragraph… Imagine having a master key for your life. A key or password that gives access to the front door to your home, your bedroom, your diary, your computer, your phone, your car, your safe deposit, your health records. Would you go around making copies of that key and giving them out to strangers? Probably not the wisest idea – it would be only a matter of time before someone abused it, right? So why are you willing to give up your personal data to pretty much anyone who asks for it?  (posted from aeon.co)

Photo by Benjamin Lizardo on Unsplash


The Perfect Match

Ken Liu is a futurist and writer with work experience as a software engineer. His short story “The Perfect Match” illustrates the realities of a not-too-distant big data driven world.  The above link as has an audiobook option. 

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash


The End of Human Specialness

Jaron Lanier, the philosopher, innovator, and man who coined the term “virtual reality”, writes on the loss of “specialness”, in terms of being a human being, due to the way we interact with mobile devices. 

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