Course Materials for New 113, "Digital Technologies and Society II", at University of Toronto
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NEW 113

New 113 is the second course in a two-course sequence taught to first-year students at New College, University of Toronto. Both courses carry the title Digital Technology in Society, and are part of the “Learning Without Borders” program at New College. Students participate in a small-group seminar (maximum 25 students) and also in large plenary sessions with the other Learning Without Borders classes.

While the first course in the sequence, NEW103, is fairly stable from year to year, in NEW113 we explore different topics each year.

Technologies for Democracy

I made a late-breaking decision this year to change the direction for the course in 2017. Our topic this year will be “Technologies for Democracy”, and will critically examine the idea of democracy, lay out the challenges posed by contemporary information technologies to democratic traditions and institutions, and suggest types of interventions that might ameliorate those challenges.

This Repository

This repository is part of a more general effort to move all of my course materials to text-based formats, and to keep them as open as possible for reuse by other instructors. Since there are few lectures in this course, the repository currently contains only the syllabus and the course assignment (which is a single, scaffolded, research project).


Most links to materials are routed through the U of T library proxy, so instead of a URL like you will see something like If you are coming from another school, you might want to find and replace the proxy portion throughout. A couple of really long links have been shortened using the URL shortener; those you’ll have to replace on your own, sorry.


These materials are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0; see the license for details.

Generating documents in other formats

I use GNU Emacs and org-mode to write. To create student-friendly rich-text document formats such as .odt and .pdf, I use org-mode’s export features. Another option would be to use the incredibly powerful pandoc package. In either case, customizing ODT output takes a certain amount of work, and unfortunately customizations don’t carry over from one system to the other. I hope to some day put up a repo that makes it very easy to reproduce all of my formatting changes, but I haven’t gotten around to that. For now I’m afraid you’ll have to experiment.