Courtney Glazer, Ph.D.

My first assignment as a student at Stanford University was a close analysis of a piece of software of my choice. In an effort to link my new life with my previous life, I chose a program called The Essential Frankenstein. I wanted to make a very good impression on my professor and advisor, Decker Walker, and also on my classmates as our assignment was sent via email to everyone. As our preliminary analyses dealt with the architecture of software, I also worked up the first of a long line of graphical illustrations to explain our work.

Also during the summer of 1998, I worked with Katherine Emery and Cindy Mazow to examine and evaluate a multimedia program in development called Holiday Lake. Our work on Holiday Lake was extremely satisfying as it progressed through three versions. In Holiday Lake: A Multimedia Evaluation version 1.1, we examined the software looking specifically at how it met its educational goals and looking at the affordances of the product on cd rom. During this phase of the project I learned about time management as well as the time required to do detailed HTML coding without using a wysiwyg product. In Holiday Lake version 2.1, we conducted user tests on the product. Through this assignment I learned about the administration of Stanford University as we searched for the best user sample. I also learned the importance of clear communication and division of labor while working in a group. In Holiday Lake version 3.1, we created a protoype for the next version of the product and outlined further study of the product. Here I learned the limitations of Microsoft FrontPage as a prototyping tool and the importance and scope of a redesign process.

My first elective in the Spring quarter was Science, Technology, and Society. By taking this class I began my departure from my LDT-mates and found myself in a world of undergraduates and beginning to take all the "fuzzy" computer science classes I could find. Basically STS took me back to my humanities roots and was a survey of STS topics. Looking back I think this course was the history of responsible technology use and that Computers, Ethics, and Social Responsibility gave me current events in responsible technology use. Aside from drinking in every word, I composed a short paper tying together oral reports given by my undergrad compadres, and took my final exam in Dallas via fax at the same time as my peers in Cali (Robert McGinn will be talking about that for years).

In the Winter LDT seminar I and most of my colleagues encountered a problem. We were faced with an assignment that was poorly constructed and that appeared to serve a more profit-making interest than our own. The problem was to determine why the product Rocket Reader failed and to offer suggestions to the software developer. Our beef with this is that failure was defined mainly terms of profit and the problem and subsequent research took on a marketing slant that did not seem appropriate for the LDT program. Furthermore, the project had been divided for several teams which overlapped and overly relied on each others' work. This project was supposed to be completed in two weeks time leaving little or no time for any jigsawing that would have been beneficial. Since I had been so quick to write off the previous quarter's seminar, I decided to fight to make this assignment valuable for my learning. Along with many classmates I engaged in a participatory reorganization design for this assignment. This proposal led to a full class discussion and our being given what we needed to accomplish this lofty task. Our efforts resulted in a comprehensive document, Rocket Reader: Research and Development for the Next Versions, and presentation by the project managers Everett Harper, Debbie Stephens, and myself.

I continued my new-found love of "fuzzie" computer science classes in Eric Robert's Computers, Ethics, and Social Responsibility. Not only did this class give me time to feed my head on current events in technology, but it also let me interact with undergraduates - the closest I could get to teaching high school while in the program. This class was also a "writing in the major" class which meant that I would go need to meet with a writing tutor to assist me in my work. This part caused me great amusement. My research on the software bug that could have prevented the crash of Korean Airline flight #801 challenged me to understand the technical issues, while my research into the Microsoft anti-trust case challenged me to understand legal and economic issues.

Eric promised that the most enjoyable project in the course would be the patent debates and he was right. I teamed up with Dave Panitz - apparently we were the only two in our section who had not found partners. We debated the negative side: software patents should not be abolished. We had fun preparing for the debate, were able to think creatively (65 students were debating the same topic), and received an A.

Our final project for the course was a larger group: myself, Zaz Harris, Wendy Marinaccio, Dave Panitz (don't mess with a good thing), Katie Pittman, and Mike Zhu. Although Wendy told me we were going to examine the ethical issues of online prostitution, she actually meant pornography. In an attempt to manage the size of the topic, we focused on the effectiveness of software filtering for kids. I especially enjoyed our meetings at Xanadu, dinner at Theta Delt, and my first all-nighter in who-knows-how-long. Katie and I presented our work orally and worked with Dave to synthesize the content of the web site. Again, working with undergrads (and another grad student, Katie) was terrific.