Alderman Stacks

Information and Disinformation

The twenty-first century has seen an unprecedented proliferation of information and of the technologies people use to process that information. The enlightenment promised the potential of greater mastery of the environment and decisions with more and better information. We drown in data, yet we can’t seem to agree on basic facts. After all the recent changes we seem no closer to solving the great problems facing the Earth or the human species. This Forum will examine from a wide array of positions and disciplines how we have arrived at this condition and how we might live better with all this information and all these technologies. The courses that inform this forum examine the tools and methods of data science, computer science, and the natural sciences. By delving into the social and human sciences, the Forum would range across issues and fields of study such as privacy, literacy, visual culture, intellectual property, intellectual history, philosophy of science, ethics, law, and policy.


Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Media Studies

Rafel Alvarado, Program Director School of Data Science


Navigating the Forum

Students will take the introductory Forum (FORU 1500) course in their first semester. They will follow that with one-credit continuation courses the next two semesters (FORU 1510). They will complete the core Forum courses with the capstone seminar (FORU 2500) in their fourth semester. In addition to these four courses, students will select courses to satisfy competency requirements and courses from three categories of electives to complete the general education area requirements of the Forum and the College.

Speaker Series and Events
The Forum is a project of the Democracy Lab called the Deliberative Media Initiative. The Democracy Lab will bring a series of scholars to Grounds to deliver talks and hold workshops. Students will be expected to attend one of these events per semester in each of the four semesters.

Introductory Course: FORU 1500 Information and Disinformation
Ranging from Gutenberg to Google, this course will introduce first-semester, first-year students to a range of work about the history of information production, organization, and distribution. It will also explore both utopian and dystopian visions of the proliferation of information. Ultimately, the course will introduce students to the framing of problems: When we have more information, why don’t we seem smarter? When we have more information and more people can speak, why are we still so susceptible to misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda? How might we imagine a better global information ecosystem?

Capstone Seminar: FORU 2500 Free Speech and its Limits
This seminar course will expect students to select a controversy about the limitations on or regulation of speech or expression and write a 20-page research paper examining the subject. The reading for the course will introduce students to the history and theory of free expression.


Forum Core Classes       

FORU 1500 Introductory Seminar: Introduction to Information and Disinformation (Fall ’20)

            Instructor: Siva Vaidhyanathan and Rafael Alvarado

FORU 1510 Contimuing the Forum (Spring ’21 and Fall '21)

 FORU 2500: Capstone Seminar (Spring ’22)

           Instructor: Siva Vaidhyanathan and Rafel Alvarado      

Forum Literacy Requirements

All students must complte the following Literacy Requirements 

  • First Writing Requirement
  • Second Writing Requirement
  • World Langauges Requirements


Category I. Required Forum Classes

All students must enroll in a STAT class int he first year


Students must take three courses from each of the first two pillars and two from the third pillar.

Category II: Humanities and Histories. Take three courses, of three or more credits each, from at least two different course subject codes.

  • GETR 3462     Neighbors and Enemies
  • GETR 3470     Literature of the Holocaust
  • GETR 3695     The Holocaust and the Law
  • HISA 1501      Free Speech and Blasphemy
  • HIST 2201       Technology in World History
  • MESA 2700     Revolutions in the Islamic World
  • PHIL 1730      Introduction to Moral and Political Philosophy
  • PHIL 2060      Philosophical Problems in Law
  • PHIL 2500      Environmental Ethics
  • PHIL 2690      Justice, Law, Morality
  • PHIL 2750      Democracy
  • PHIL 2850      Finding the Way
  • PLPT 1010      Introduction to Political Theory
  • PLPT 3020      Modern Political Thought
  • PLPT 3050      Survey of American Political Theory
  • PLPT 3200      African-American Political Thought
  • PLPT 3999      Philosophical Perspectives on Liberty
  • RELG 2630     Business, Ethics, and Society
  • PLIR 3310       Ethics and Human Rights in World Politics
  • SAST 1600      India in Global Perspective

Category III: Media and the Human Sciences. Take three courses, of three more credits each, from at least two different course subject codes

  • ANTH 2240    Progress
  • ANTH 2250    Nationalism, Racism, Multiculturalism
  • ANTH 2375    Disaster
  • ECON 2010    Principles of Microeconomics
  • ECON 2020    Principles of Macroeconomics
  • ECON 3330    Public Choice
  • PLAP 3140      Mass Media and American Democracy
  • PLAP 3270      Public Opinion and American Democracy
  • PLAP 3610      Introduction to Public Administration
  • PLCP 3210      Russian Politics
  • PLCP 3630      Politics in India and Pakistan
  • MDST 2000     Introduction to Media Studies
  • MDST 2660     The Internet Is Another Country
  • MDST 3050     History of Media
  • MDST 3102     Copyright, Culture and Commerce
  • MDST 3120     Global Media & Cybersecurity
  • MDST 3140     Mass Media and American Politics
  • MDST 3230     Basic Multimedia Reporting
  • MDST 3410     Media Ethics
  • MDST 3402     War and Media
  • MDST 3404     Democratic Politics in the New Media Environment
  • MDST 3680     The News Media
  • MDST 3703     Introduction to the Digital Liberal Arts
  • MDST 3706     Media in China: Technology, Policy and Commerce
  • MDST 3755     Social Media and Society
  • MDST 3760     #BlackTwitter and Black Digital Culture
  • PSYC 1010       Introduction to Psychology
  • PSYC 2150       Introduction to Cognition
  • PSYC 2300       Introduction to Perception
  • PSYC 2600       Social Psychology
  • SOC 1010        Introductory Sociology
  • SOC 2220        Social Problems
  • SOC 2230        Criminology
  • SOC 2320        Gender and Society
  • SOC 2730        Computers and Society
  • SOC 2900        Economics and Society
  • SOC 3059        Sociology of Science & Knowledge

Category IV: The Natural and Computational Sciences; One course from Pillar 3-A and one course from Pillar 3-B

  • Part IV-A: Take one three-or-more credcit class from BIOL
  • Part IV-B: Take one three-or-more credit class from another natural sciences (ASTR, CHEM, EVSC, PHYS, PSYC 2160 or PSYC 2200)