Assignment Topics

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Here are (in an early draft version!) some topic suggestions for the final assignments. Of course you can choose your own (provided we agree on it in advance!), but if you do not know what to write about you can choose between the following ones:

Topics for academic year 2011-2012

  • The Cheap Internet: we are accustomed to a "rich" Internet, both in contents and in price (computers needed to show it, bandwidth, and so on). However, there are still alternatives to it that somehow "resisted" from the past. Does a cheap alternative need to be old? Is there space for a more modern one? Is there a need for a cheap Internet anymore?
  • Living on a Cloud: how much of our data is "in the cloud" and not on our computers anymore? How does this affect the way we are using the computers? What are its pros and cons (see, for instance, what Richard Stallman thinks about it here)?
  • Legitimate Peripheral Participation (look here, here, here, and here!) has been witnessed in wiki systems. What other systems or communities are characterized by this phenomenon? Provide extensive examples to prove your assumptions.
  • After almost forgetting (for years!) the possibility to access Internet contents offline, a new wave of "offline-enabled" applications has become available such as news readers, flash video downloaders, email clients (i.e. Thunderbird and Gmail itself with Gears), and so on. Comment the phenomenon (why? how are people using their data? is offline better than online or vice versa?).
  • As Eli Pariser's talk highlights, we should beware online "filter bubbles" trying to provide us more and more personalized contents but sometimes ignoring what we should see (even if we might not like it). Eli Pariser provides information about google and its personalized results. Which other search engines are following this trend? How serious is this problem becoming? What are the ways in which we could make our search results better, or improve serendipitous discovery of potentially interesting, or even unmissable despite not recommendable to us, pieces of information?
  • ESCAPE! A criminal organization, with lots of resources and expert hackers working for it, is chasing you. How can you escape without living traces in the digital world? How would you move, where would you go, how would you communicate with your family (without letting anyone else know that, and making sure it's your family you are talking to)? Tell us the story of your escape, by providing technical material (and references!) supporting your choices. It would be best if you actually tested the technologies you write about, but please don't really escape ;-) (hint: Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, despite being a fiction book, has some useful, real-world links to different anonymous systems)
  • Find a topic you are interested in and try to delve deeper into it by searching related material on the Internet (i.e. Web and not only that). Describe: (1) what kind of searches you performed and their results, (2) the media types you have found and whether you used different techniques to get them, (3) the communities you have found which are interested in that topic too and whether they share a common language strictly related to the subject and mostly unknown to others, (4) whether you have found all you were searching for and, if not, how you are planning to search for it. (hint: is a good starting point to learn searching)
  • Thinking about Web2.0 counterparts of former technologies/services, how do you think a medium such as TV has evolved into becoming 2.0? Looking at currently available televisions, how do you think they suit the idea you have of a 2.0 TV? What is the next step you envision for social TV?
  • Online reputation is strongly affected by the contents you and others leave on the web about yourself. Suppose you decide to "clean your records" and need to remove information (or add new one) on many different platforms (i.e. blogs, social networks, websites you do not own, and so on). How would you proceed? What is the current state of the art in removing contents from the Web?

(Chosen) Topics for academic year 2010-2011

  • The Web is dead, long live the Internet. See the article on Wired and the "reply" on BoingBoing
  • Online robots: from IRC channels to search engine scrapers, from Wikipedia vandalism detection to denial of service attacks, the Internet is full of robots who automatically perform more or less simple tasks in place of humans. Study and comment this phenomenon.
  • Deep Web, Dark Internet and Darknets. Three concepts that might seem similar but introduce three totally different worlds. What are they? What happens in there?
  • The phenomenon of machine tags. Even if tags are born as free-text strings, some communities decided to give them some structure and use them in a different way. What are machine tags used for and how does this affect the way people tag things and recover information about tagged resources?
  • Lots of systems available on the Web are on the edge between legality and illegality (i.e. they are often used to share copyrighted information, but are still officially alive). Is that just a dark niche on the Web or a business model? (suggested reading material: Cory Doctorow, "Content", available here).
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