Carnegie Mellon University

Grand Challenge First-Year Seminar: Democracy & Data

Course Number: 66-125

From gerrymandering to online political ads, data is being used in ways that raise urgent questions about the integrity of democratic elections. But the relationship between democracy and data goes far beyond elections. In a world of constant surveillance, in which vast amounts of data are gathered from our phones, our computers, and from other facets of our lives - and in which new breakthroughs in machine learning and data analytics make such data dramatically more powerful - what does it mean for average citizens to have control over their own lives? What does democracy mean?

We will not assume any particular definition of democracy. Indeed, the nature of democracy—and of data—will be a central question in this course. We will approach that question from an explicitly transnational framework. We will examine the challenges to democracy in Pittsburgh, in the United States, and in several other countries and regions throughout the world. In addition to being transnational, our approach will also be interdisciplinary. We will approach the relationship between democracy and data from multiple angles and methods: from comparative history and literary analysis to data analytics and internet-based technologies.

Semester(s): Fall