Xtra Exercises

Questions for students of computing cultures:

The following might be used in actual classrooms or for deeper thinking. We might publish comments and solutions on this websites.

Computing Culture

  1. Protagonist Casey regrets never teaching ethics at Dellville PolyTech when she was an adjunct covering software engineering and databases. Has anything changed? Find a proclamation of professional ethics.
  2. Draw an architecture diagram for CumuLinker and the Whisperer. What are the components and their interactions?
  3. Is there a viable business case for the Whisperer? Consider models, threats, and benefits. Which computing fields support wearables?
  4. The WWW is often termed ‘hypertext’, permitting unstructured, ‘loose links’. Read up on hypertext of the 1980s and re-design some web pages to exploit the power of structured linking. What are good hypertext patterns to follow?.
  5. 20xx programming languages are platforms for objects, data, and processes. The 1980s offered a paradigm the novel calls ‘Consequential Computing’, based on a language akin to Prolog. Could a language model real world questioning or predict social faux pas such as ‘algorithmic cruelty’ ‘or biases from ‘weapons of math destruction ‘or threats for fictional scenarios or policies for computing uses?
  6. When did software engineering acquire a curriculum? What subjects are omitted or emphasized that you would change? Does computing history matter?

Threat Casting

  1. ‘Algorithmic cruelty’ kicks off a theme of forewarned, but ignored, threats. List similar threats and real incidents in the news, Risks Digest, your experience, and collected stories.
  2. Is ‘vocal terrorism’ a real threat yet? How could it be controlled? Consider school shootings.
  3. The DellVille city suffers an afternoon of full-scale interruption, similar to reports in Northern Arizona in February 2015. Are such incidents frequent? How long before such an outage becomes a catastrophe? what are your preparation plan?

The Characters

  1. Sally depicts a minority world utilizing technology to overcome disabling environments. Read the accessibility instructions for a smart phone, or laptop. Then turn off the screen and live for a day without visual cues. How well did that go? Talk to a person with low vision about their assistive technologies.
  2. The novel’s characters are from different generations but seem able to communicate. Are their interactions realistic? What distinguishes differences from ages 15 to 75? Ask your relatives how they view their generation’s technology practices, and also yours.
  3. What does ‘a chip on his/her shoulder’ mean? Does everybody have one? Does social media influence the syndrome?


  1. What are your reference points for historical eras of computing? What are the lessons from an earlier era to now, e.g. Godwin’s Law, nuclear missile defense reliability, privacy,
  2. How did military computing needs influence computing history? Who invented the name Ada for the competitive language designed by US and international teams (open question)?

Social Media

  1. How did Google, then Facebook, slip into the era of ‘if you are not paying for the product, then you are the product’? When did journalists, among other authors, start asking questions about the practice that became ‘surveillance capitalism’. What is wrong with that model, and what is better?