Spring 2023

CS 8803: Issues in Civic Technology

Office: TSRB 332
Office Hours: By appointment
Email: ledantec@gatech.edu

Class Meetings: Monday/Wednesday, 3:30–4:45PM
Location: CCB 53 (TSRB 222)

Course Description

This course offers a survey of theory and methods for students interested in interrogating the role of computation in our civic lives. Engagement with theory will focus on empirical and critical perspectives on data, surveillance, and the contemporary imaginaries of the smart and connected community. The method focus will bring examples of participatory and reflective design practices that are (or intend to be) critical and productive of the civic context. The class will develop critical perspectives on the role of computational systems in governance, advocacy, and activism and will enable students to explore specific civic contexts through design-based projects and critical writing.

Course Objectives

This class is designed to help students develop and use critical thinking skills and evaluation techniques necessary to solve real-world problems related to the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI).

In completing this course you will:

  • Have a more comprehensive understanding of the technologies and interaction techniques available and appropriate for mobile application design.
  • Be able to use the theories and works presented in this course to frame and support discussion and critique of mobile technologies.


The total grade for the class will be based upon the following factors and weights:

Participation 10%
Reading Discussant 20%
Design Provocations 30%
Project 40%

Late Work

I do not accept late work except in rare instances where arrangements were made ahead of time.


Class attendance and participation is mandatory. Participation in discussion is imperative because it allows you to explore content and design process collaboratively. Participation in class also challenges you to continuously question, refine, and articulate your own ideas and interpretations.

You have 2 no-questions-asked absences. More than 2 will result in the loss of a 1 letter grade for the class.

Reading Discussant

To help drive discussion and engagement with the readings, each week two students will be assigned as Reading Discussants. Your responsibility will be to engaged more deeply with the readings that week and to develop a set of questions to drive discussion.

Design Provocations

Each design provocation will follow the same general pattern. The first deliverable will include 5-7 prototype sketches. These will be presented in-class for critique and discussion and handed in. The second (revision) part of each assignment will have you focus your attention on one or two of your prototypes where you will more fully develop the ideas, taking into account feedback from the critique.

In the first part of each assignment I will be looking for breadth: you will need to present several different ideas that approach the theme from different angles, that play off different constraints, and that challenge and interrogate our notions of mobility with respect to the theme.

In the second part of each assignment, I will be looking for depth: you will need to thoroughly expanded the initial ideas, developing a plausible scenario more thoroughly, providing more depth to the experience and to what the system or application or device would look like. As you select the one or two ideas to further develop, the fidelity should go up—more detail in the mockups, more complete narrative arcs in storyboards, etc.

Design provocations are just that, provocative ways to think through complex social and technical situations. I do not expect working (or near working) systems; I also do not expect you to be fully constrained by current technical limitations. Use these assignments to critically explore ideas by providing a prototype ‘how’ to a speculative ‘what if?’

Each assignment will be centered around a particular theme that should be used as a launching point for the prototypes:

Location: Place/space, environment, boundaries, context, time/temporality.
Participation: Who uses/does not use the technology, consequences of use, inclusion, exclusion.
Identity: Notions of self, privacy, safety, individual/collective.


There are two options for the final project:

Option 1 – Interactive Prototype: You may choose to design an interactive prototype that further explores the themes of the course. The scope and fidelity of your system will far exceed that of the design provocations.

Option 2 – Research Paper: You may choose to author a research paper as a final class deliverable. We will work together to agree on the topic and scope of the paper so that it aligns with course and individual research goals.

More details about the project will be shared as the semester progresses.

Course Schedule

What follows is an outline for the semester. As the semester progresses, we may adjust dates and materials.

Week 1 Intoduction & Administrivia

Readings, Assignments, Project.



Mattern, S. (2020). A city is not a computer. In The Routledge Companion to Smart Cities (pp. 17-28). Routledge.

Rashida Richardson and Eric Corbett. 2022. Racial segregation and data-driven society. interactions 29, 3 (May – June 2022), 28–31. https://doi.org/10.1145/3529389

Graham Dove, Charlie Mydlarz, Juan Pablo Bello, and Oded Nov. 2022. Sounds of New York city. interactions 29, 3 (May – June 2022), 32–35. https://doi.org/10.1145/3527726

Yanni Alexander Loukissas. 2022. Who wants to live in a filter bubble? from ‘zillow surfing’ to data-driven segregation. interactions 29, 3 (May – June 2022), 36–41. https://doi.org/10.1145/3529958

Patrick Olivier and Peter Wright. 2015. Digital civics: taking a local turn. interactions 22, 4 (July – August 2015), 61–63. https://doi.org/10.1145/2776885


+Design Provocation #1

Week 2 No Class

MLK Day.

Sites and Settings


Jennifer Manuel and Clara Crivellaro. 2020. Place-Based Policymaking and HCI: Opportunities and Challenges for Technology Design. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1145/3313831.3376158

Williams, A., Robles, E., & Dourish, P. (2009). Urbane-ing the City: Examining and Refining the Assumptions Behind Urban Informatics. In M. Foth (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Urban Informatics: The Practice and Promise of the Real-Time City (pp. 1-20). IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-60566-152-0.ch001

Evans-Cowley, J. (2010). Planning in the Real-Time City: The Future of Mobile Technology. Journal of Planning Literature, 25(2), 136–149. https://doi.org/10.1177/0885412210394100

Week 3 Sites and Setting


Gilman, H. (2017). Civic Tech For Urban Collaborative Governance. PS: Political Science & Politics, 50(3), 744-750. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1049096517000531

Gordon, E., & Lopez, R. (2019). The Practice of Civic Tech: Tensions in the Adoption and Use of New Technologies in Community Based Organizations. Media and Communication, 7(3), 57-68. https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v7i3.2180

Kristine Lu. 2021. Designing Democratic Systems for Civic Collective Action. In Companion Publication of the 2021 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW ’21). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 270–274. https://doi.org/10.1145/3462204.3481792



Design Provocation #1 Crit

Week 4 Food Systems as Civic Systems


Rosemary Steup, Arvind Santhanam, Marisa Logan, Lynn Dombrowski, and Norman Makoto Su. 2018. Growing Tiny Publics: Small Farmers’ Social Movement Strategies. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 2, CSCW, Article 165 (November 2018), 24 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3274434

Sebastian Prost, Clara Crivellaro, Andy Haddon, and Rob Comber. 2018. Food Democracy in the Making: Designing with Local Food Networks. In Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’18). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Paper 333, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3173907

Katie Berns, Chiara Rossitto, and Jakob Tholander. 2021. Queuing for Waste: Sociotechnical Interactions within a Food Sharing Community. In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 301, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1145/3411764.3445059



Design Provocation #1 Crit / fin
+Design Provocation #2

Week 5 Methods


Lynn Dombrowski, Ellie Harmon, and Sarah Fox. 2016. Social Justice-Oriented Interaction Design: Outlining Key Design Strategies and Commitments. In Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS ’16). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 656–671. https://doi.org/10.1145/2901790.2901861

Christina Harrington, Sheena Erete, and Anne Marie Piper. 2019. Deconstructing Community-Based Collaborative Design: Towards More Equitable Participatory Design Engagements. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 3, CSCW, Article 216 (November 2019), 25 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3359318



Ian G Johnson and Clara Crivellaro. 2021. Opening Research Commissioning To Civic Participation: Creating A Community Panel To Review The Social Impact of HCI Research Proposals. In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 597, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1145/3411764.3445113

Christopher A. Le Dantec and Sarah Fox. 2015. Strangers at the Gate: Gaining Access, Building Rapport, and Co-Constructing Community-Based Research. In Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (CSCW ’15). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1348–1358. https://doi.org/10.1145/2675133.2675147

Week 6 Networks / Collectives


Mandarano, L., Meenar, M., & Steins, C. (2010). Building Social Capital in the Digital Age of Civic Engagement. Journal of Planning Literature, 25(2), 123–135. https://doi.org/10.1177/0885412210394102

W. Lance Bennett & Alexandra Segerberg (2012) The Logic of Connective Action Information, Communication & Society, 15:5, 739-768, https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2012.670661

Larsen, L., Harlan, S. L., Bolin, B., Hackett, E. J., Hope, D., Kirby, A., Nelson, A., Rex, T. R., & Wolf, S. (2004). Bonding and Bridging: Understanding the Relationship between Social Capital and Civic Action. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 24(1), 64–77. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739456X04267181



Design Provocation #2 Crit

Week 7 Empowerment & Participation


Silvia Cazacu, Nicolai Brodersen Hansen, and Ben Schouten. 2021. Empowerment Approaches in Digital Civics. In Proceedings of the 32nd Australian Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (OzCHI ’20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 692–699. https://doi.org/10.1145/3441000.3441069

Quick, K. S., & Feldman, M. S. (2011). Distinguishing Participation and Inclusion. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 31(3), 272–290. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739456X11410979

Leah A. Lievrouw. 2006. Oppositional and activist new media: remediation, reconfiguration, participation. In Proceedings of the ninth conference on Participatory design: Expanding boundaries in design – Volume 1 (PDC ’06). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 115–124. https://doi.org/10.1145/1147261.1147279



Design Provocation #2 Crit / fin
+Design Provocation #3

Week 8 Surveillance 1


Philip E. Agre (1994) Surveillance and capture: Two models of privacy. The Information Society, 10:2, 101-127, https://doi.org/10.1080/01972243.1994.9960162

Elmer, G. (2003). A Diagram of Panoptic Surveillance. New Media & Society, 5(2), 231–247. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444803005002005

Zuboff, S. (2019). Surveillance Capitalism and the Challenge of Collective Action. New Labor Forum, 28(1), 10–29. https://doi.org/10.1177/1095796018819461

Surveillance 2


Roger Clarke. (1988) Information technology and dataveillance. Commun. ACM 31, 5 (May 1988), 498–512. https://doi.org/10.1145/42411.42413

Emily Troshynski, Charlotte Lee, and Paul Dourish. 2008. Accountabilities of presence: reframing location-based systems. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’08). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 487–496. https://doi.org/10.1145/1357054.1357133

Gilliom, J. (2006). Struggling with Surveillance: Reistance, Consciousness, and Identity. The New Politics of Surveillance and Visibility. R.V. Ericson and K.D. Haggerty, eds. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada, 2006, 111–129.

Week 9 Data / Justice 1


Dencik, L., Hintz, A., & Cable, J. (2016). Towards data justice? The ambiguity of anti-surveillance resistance in political activism. Big Data & Society, 3(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/2053951716679678

Johnson, J.A. (2014). From open data to information justice . Ethics Inf Technol 16, 263–274 (2014).https://doi.org/10.1007/s10676-014-9351-8

Data / Justice 2


Taylor, L. (2017). What is data justice? The case for connecting digital rights and freedoms globally. Big Data & Society, 4(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/2053951717736335

Anna Lauren Hoffmann (2019) Where fairness fails: data, algorithms, and the limits of antidiscrimination discourse. Information, Communication & Society, 22:7, 900-915, https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2019.1573912

Week 10 Critique


Design Provocation #3 Crit / fin

Community Action


Yoon, A, Copeland, A. (2020). Toward community-inclusive data ecosystems: Challenges and opportunities of open data for community-based organizations. J Assoc Inf Sci Technol. 2020; 71: 1439– 1454. https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.24346

Sallie Keller, Vicki Lancaster & Stephanie Shipp (2017) Building Capacity for Data-Driven Governance: Creating a New Foundation for Democracy. Statistics and Public Policy, 4:1, 1-11, https://doi.org/10.1080/2330443X.2017.1374897

Christopher A. Le Dantec, Adriana Alvarado Garcia, Ciabhan Connelly, and Amanda Meng. 2021. Resisting Resolution: Enterprise Civic Systems Meet Community Organizing. Multimodal Technologies and Interaction 5, 4: 20. https://doi.org/10.3390/mti5040020

Week 11 No Class

Spring Break!

No Class

Spring Break!

Week 12 Values in Civic Design


Verbeek, P.-P. (2006). Materializing Morality: Design Ethics and Technological Mediation. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 31(3), 361–380. https://doi.org/10.1177/0162243905285847

JafariNaimi, N., Nathan, L., & Hargraves, I. (2015). Values as Hypotheses: Design, Inquiry, and the Service of Values. Design Issues, 31(4), 91–104. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43830434

Shilton, K. (2013). Values Levers: Building Ethics into Design. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 38(3), 374–397. https://doi.org/10.1177/0162243912436985

Sustainable Civics


Nicolai Brodersen Hansen, Gwen Klerks, Maria Menendez Blanco, Laura Maye, Angelika Strohmayer, Martijn de Waal, and Ben Schouten. 2020. Making Civic Initiatives Last: Ecosystems, Technologies, Approaches and Challenges. In Companion Publication of the 2020 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS’ 20 Companion). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 433–436. https://doi.org/10.1145/3393914.3395921

Claude P. R. Heath, Clara Crivellaro, and Lizzie Coles-Kemp. 2019. Relations are more than Bytes: Re-thinking the Benefits of Smart Services through People and Things. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’19). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Paper 308, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1145/3290605.3300538

Quick, K. S., & Feldman, M. S. (2011). Distinguishing Participation and Inclusion. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 31(3), 272–290. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739456X11410979

Week 13 Sustainable Civics


Amy Voida, Lynn Dombrowski, Gillian R. Hayes, and Melissa Mazmanian. 2014. Shared values/conflicting logics: working around e-government systems. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’14). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 3583–3592. https://doi.org/10.1145/2556288.2556971

Andrea Hamm, Yuya Shibuya, Stefan Ullrich, and Teresa Cerratto Cerratto Pargman. 2021. What Makes Civic Tech Initiatives To Last Over Time? Dissecting Two Global Cases. In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 87, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1145/3411764.3445667



Project crit

Week 14 alt.civics


Christine T. Wolf, Mariam Asad, and Lynn S. Dombrowski. 2022. Designing within Capitalism. In Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS ’22). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 439–453. https://doi.org/10.1145/3532106.3533559

Vasillis Vlachokyriakos, Clara Crivellaro, Pete Wright, Evika Karamagioli, Eleni-Revekka Staiou, Dimitris Gouscos, Rowan Thorpe, Antonio Krüger, Johannes Schöning, Matt Jones, Shaun Lawson, and Patrick Olivier. 2017. HCI, Solidarity Movements and the Solidarity Economy. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’17). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 3126–3137. https://doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3025490

Mariam Asad. 2019. Prefigurative Design as a Method for Research Justice. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 3, CSCW, Article 200 (November 2019), 18 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3359302

No Class

Research Travel

Week 15 Final Presentations

Schedule TBD

Final Presentations

Schedule TBD

Week 16 No Class

CHI 2023

General Class Policies

It is important to keep in mind that this class focuses on the principles and processes of information design, not on technical skills; it is therefore up to you to develop and/or hone your facility with Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop.

Students whose work meets all criteria outlined for an assignment will receive a grade of C; students whose work meets all criteria and shows additional sophistication, thoughtfulness, research and creativity will receive a grade of B; students whose work meets all criteria and goes well beyond the expected in terms of sophistication, thoughtfulness, research, and creativity will receive a grade of A; students whose work fails to meet to all criteria outlined for an assignment will receive a grade of D or F.

Two points will be deducted for all typographic, spelling, and grammatical errors in all writing assignments.

Late assignments will not be accepted. Presentations must be given on the designated day.

Lectures will not be posted. It is your responsibility to take notes and remain attentive in class.

If you have questions or concerns about this or any other course policies stated in this syllabus, class assignments, email correspondence, or announced in class, please speak with me in class, during office hours, or via email as soon as possible so that we can discuss your concerns.

Debate, Diversity, and Respect

In this class, we will present and discuss a diversity of perspectives. Although you may not always agree with others’ perspectives, you are required to be respectful of others’ values and beliefs. Repeated inappropriate or abusive comments and/or behavior will be cause for disciplinary action. If you feel that your perspectives are being ignored or slighted, or you in anyway feel uncomfortable in the classroom, please contact me immediately.

The Communication Center

The Communication Center is located in Clough Commons, Suite 447. It is an excellent resource for any student (undergraduate or graduate) who wants help with a communication-related project. You can visit the center for help at any stage of the process for any project in any discipline. The knowledgeable and friendly tutors are available to help you develop and revise your projects. They are not available to “fix” your projects. Please do not ask the tutors to proofread or edit your projects.

For information on making an appointment please visit their website. If you need assistance with the appointment system, you can call 404-385-3612 or stop by the center.

All services are free and confidential.

Students with Disabilities

Students should self-report to the Access Disabled Assistance Program for Tech Students at:
220 Student Services Building
Atlanta, GA 30332-0285
404.894.2564 (voice) or 404.894.1664 (voice/TDD)

Scholastic Dishonesty and Academic Misconduct

This class abides by the university’s policies relating to plagiarism, scholastic dishonesty, and academic misconduct. Per the Georgia Tech Code of Conduct, plagiarism is defined as:

  • Unauthorized Access: Possessing, using, or exchanging improperly acquired written or verbal information in the preparation of a problem set, laboratory report, essay, examination, or other academic assignment.
  • Unauthorized Collaboration: Unauthorized interaction with another Student or Students in the fulfillment of academic requirements.
  • Plagiarism: Submission of material that is wholly or substantially identical to that created or published by another person or persons, without adequate credit notations indicating the authorship.
  • False Claims of Performance: False claims for work that has been submitted by a Student.
  • Grade Alteration: Alteration of any academic grade or rating so as to obtain unearned academic credit.
  • Deliberate Falsification: Deliberate falsification of a written or verbal statement of fact to a Faculty member and/or Institute Official, so as to obtain unearned academic credit.
  • Forgery: Forgery, alteration, or misuse of any Institute document relating to the academic status of the Student.
  • Distortion: Any act that distorts or could distort grades or other academic records.