Connections Topic 1: Impacts of Computational Technologies


Part of the intellectual discovery that one engages in a liberal arts education is the pursuit of knowledge. This pursuit of knowledge is not a one-time, individual endeavor. Instead, it is a continuous and collaborative process (or a series of processes) that affects and requires large groups of people. At a very high level, when we think of knowledge processes, we can identify these interrelated processes:

  1. Knowledge creation (or acquisition)
  2. Knowledge storage (or preservation)
  3. Knowledge distribution (or sharing)
  4. Knowledge use (or application)

Technological support for creating, preserving, sharing and applying knowledge has been a constant during the evolution of our societies. Technological tools for knowledge destruction, erasure, limitation, and denial have also been developed. The composition strategies used to pass down oral traditions, the inscription tools used to carve the Rosetta Stone, the paper and ink used to write Mayan codices, Gutenberg's printing press, and modern Digital Rights Management (DRM) software are some examples of technologies that have shaped and reshaped knowledge processes.

The computer and the internet are two technological inventions of our modern time that together have greatly impacted knowledge processes in many disciplines and professions.

In this task, working as part of a group, you will create a joint presentation to illustrate the impact of these computational technologies (CT) on aspects of the knowledge processes (listed above) related to a domain or profession of your choice.

Presentations will happen during lecture meetings on September 23 and 24.


In each lecture section, students will be randomly assigned to teams of 5 students each. In the Sections 1 and 2, some teams of 4 students are necessary, given that these sections have 31 students each. Depending on your section, you can access the team assignments in these links:

  1. Section 01 (Prof. Davis)
  2. Section 02 (Prof. Anderson)
  3. Section 03 (Prof. Mustafaraj)
  4. Section 04 (Prof. Turbak)

Each team (within a section) will choose a unique theme to research, for example: CT and music, CT and endangered languages, CT and finance, CT and medicine, CT and creativity, CT and journalism, the choices abound.

Each team will also choose a team captain (or a team captain may put themself forward), who has these tasks:

  1. Coordinate among team members about the subtopic each of them will research (e.g. knowledge acquisition or knowledge sharing)
  2. Give them feedback on their draft (in order to get information on what each team member is doing before the submission deadline)
  3. Be in charge of summarizing the individual contributions into a single three-minute presentation, and give that presentation in class.

The team captain should be someone who can work well under time constraints, since there is a short time between the deadline for submitting the individual contributions (the same as the problem set deadline) and the day for the presentation (the next lecture after that).

The remaining team members will each independently research a different aspect of the impact of a computational technology on a specific kind of knowledge process in the team's chosen domain. By researching impacts on the four different knowledge processes listed above, the team members will avoid duplicating each others' work, and ensure that at the end the team has sufficient material to create a cohesive presentation. If a team has only 4 members, one of the knowledge processes can be dropped.

Note that the team captain does not also have to do this research: their job is to coordinate between team members, provide feedback on members' reports, and synthesize the final presentation from those reports.

Also note that this is a mini research project. We expect each team member to consult only at least two sources, and the process of consulting sources, summarizing them, and creating a one-page report should take you 2-4 hours in total.

The team captain may spend a bit more time because they have to coordinate for their team and provide feedback on each report, but likewise, time spent coordinating the team, reading the reports, providing feedback on the reports, creating a presentation, and practicing that presentation should take 3-5 hours.

We encourage students who have experience with team projects from their other Wellesley courses (or extra-curricular activities) to put themselves forward as team captains by emailing the members of their team and starting a group chat that will decide the joint topic and individual subtopics. The success of each team depends on some students taking a leadership role.

What to Submit

Each student except the team captain will submit the individual research work they did for their team. This needs be no more than a one-page PDF containing text, images, and links to sources consulted (you may follow whatever citation style you prefer, but your citations should include valid links). Each report should link at least two sources.

Students will submit their one-page reports via a Google Form. Notice that the form will only accept PDF files of up to 1MB of size. The files should be titled using the section number, group number, and your last name. For example: 01-Group-3-Rodrigo.pdf.

Google Form to Upload your Report

Each team captain will share a Google presentation that contains a slide with names/photos of all team members, and the slides for the presentation (which must take no more than 3 minutes). The deadlines for submitting the presentation files are listed in the submission instructions.

With such a short presentation time, we recommend condensing the group's results into just two or three slides (relying on images and bullet points), and explaining them at a very shallow level. The team captain alone will give the presentation, since there is no time to have every group member participate.


Here are some brief examples of how computational technology has affected the knowledge processes of various domains. Your descriptions should be more elaborate than these, we only want to give you an idea of what we intend with these processes.

Knowledge acquisition in astronomy: Scientists have built robots that can autonomously move on surfaces in other planets and search for signs of life by taking various samples.These samples are then transmitted to Earth, where joint teams of scientists can analyse them.

Knowledge storage in medicine: Digital instruments allow doctors to store images from various scanning/imaging devices. In addition to making these images more easily accessible to various health providers, the stored images can be "fed" to algorithms to learn to automatically detect anomalies.

Knowledge distribution in meteorology: Before the internet, we learned of the weather forecast through the newspaper, radio, or TV. Nowadays, we have weather apps in our phones that give us accurate predictions on the weather in our location and send various weather alerts if needed.

Knowledge applications in anthropology: Humans have always been curious about where they come from. Using genetic materials from historical burial sites and DNA sequencing techniques, scientists can trace the evolution of the history of life.


Students except the team captain will be graded individually on their submitted research reports. These are graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis, where an unsatisfactory report is one that falls significantly short of our expectations. Key aspects of the report are:

Examples of unsatisfactory reports include:

For this research report, Wikipedia, blog posts, and other informal knowledge sources are permitted. You might also consider citing technical documents such as standards documents related to the technologies you are focusing on, or informative videos or other explanations about them. Your sources do not have to be in a textual format.

For the team captain, a satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade will be assigned based on the in-class presentation. You will not be penalized for failure on the part of group members to complete their work, since we will be able to see the material that you had available to work from. Key aspects of the presentation are:

Examples of unsatisfactory presentations would include:

If you are facing a logistical challenge with your presentation, please reach out to an instructor as soon as possible so that we can help you figure things out and make alternate arrangements if these prove necessary.