Reacting to Facemash: The First Day of Class

Today (1/26) was my first day of class! But I won’t be giving or recording any lectures this semester. In fact, this semester marks the first time in almost 20 years of teaching (I began teaching in August of 1998) that I will completely cede control of the classroom to my students, so suffice it to say that I am very excited — and terrified at the same time! Specifically, in place of lectures I have decided to try something new called “Reacting to the Past” in which students are assigned real-life historical roles and re-enact contentious debates that occurred during pivotal moments in the past. (See, for example, the text for the reacting game “India on the Eve of Independence” pictured below.) For my business law class, I created a new reacting game (available here) based on an infamous hacking incident — “The Facemash Affair” — that occurred during the 2003-04 academic year at Harvard, well before the first iPhone was ever sold and before websites like Twitter or YouTube were launched. For the first phase of my Facemash game, I created several pro-Facemash and anti-Facemash factions based on actual student groups at Harvard that existed in 2003, such as HackHarvardCollege (a hacker group) and the Radcliffe Union of Students (a feminist group), and I also threw some wild cards into the mix, such as the John Adams Society (a debate club) and the LowKeys (an a capella group). In our next class, the Harvard UC (Undergrad Council) will call an emergency meeting to order, and these groups will debate what position the UC should take regarding Facemash. Did Facemash violate Harvard’s Standards of Conduct? Could Harvard have done more to prevent the hack? My role will be that of a “Gamemaster.” Instead of lecturing, I will take a seat in the back of the room and try not to interfere during the proceedings, unless absolutely necessary. Stay tuned: we will consider some legal and ethical aspects of hacking in our next few blog posts …

Image result for reacting to the past
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4 Responses to Reacting to Facemash: The First Day of Class

  1. Abogada Guerra says:

    Wow! How was it? Did the students enjoy? Did you?

    • Today was what reacting Professors call a “set up session.” I just wish I had more time to discuss the law and ethics of hacking BEFORE the actual debates take place in the next phase of the class. To make up for the lack of class time, I’m going to blog on various legal and ethical aspects of blogging all next week! (As such, I will have to put my extended review of Nozick on hold.)

  2. Pingback: My first “reacting” class | prior probability

  3. Pingback: Debating Due Process (Game Day 2) | prior probability

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