Information Science, Technology and Society

The immense information processing capability of computers and the easy access to information enabled by the internet form the basis of the modern society. Among all technologies, information technology has had the largest impact on our daily lives and on society as a whole, because it directly affects the way we communicate, work, shop and vote. Information technology has been initiated by breakthroughs in fundamental science and engineering, and then transformed into smartphones, tablets and the like through the technological developments of the semiconductor industry (Intel, ASML, …). Using these devices, over three billions people are now connected to the internet, a network of unrivalled complexity. This technology is exploited in applications, based on innovative business concepts (Google, Facebook, …), whose success has revolutionized the way people live, work and interact. 

The learning line provides insights in the interaction between information science, the related technology and their applications in economy and society. An interdisciplinary introduction to the four pillars of the information society will be given: How information is processed (computing), how it is transmitted from point to point (communication), how these point-to-point links are connected within complex networks such as the internet, and how the security of these networks can be guaranteed (or violated). In parallel, students will explore how these technical advances have led to new technologies and enabled new businesses and new business models that have fundamentally changed aspects of economy and society. The future frontiers of information will also be addressed within a project, by analyzing practical cases related to the technologies being developed at TU/e. With the knowledge acquired in this learning line, students will be well prepared to take a leading role in creating and managing the information technologies of the future.

Course 1: Communications and computing

In this course, the physical and technological basis of communication and computing systems will first be reviewed, with an emphasis on the way information is transmitted (through radio and optical waves), and processed (in computer chips). The future frontiers of information technologies will also be addressed, including the Internet of Things, novel forms of computing and quantum technologies. In parallel we will address the related USE aspects, specifically which fundamentally new products and services have been enabled by these technologies, what are the specific characteristics of firms, industries and markets and which societal challenges these technologies pose for regulators.

Course 2: Networks and security

This course deals with two key aspects of the information society, namely the complexity of networks and the security of information, and with their relation to society and enterprise. The internet is a communication network and shares similar features as the complex social networks formed by humans, organizations and countries. To deal with the size, complexity and uncertainty inherent in these networks, radically new ways of thinking need to be developed. The first part of the course will introduce the state of the art in terms of argumentation, models, and algorithms developed for understanding complex networks of both humans and devices. The second part explores the technology which aims at guaranteeing security of communication in networks, in its different aspects: Encryption for confidentiality, digital signatures for authentication, and the cryptography algorithms enabling bitcoins as digital currency. The enterprise aspect of security will also be analyzed, by studying cyber-criminal business models and their economic impact.

Course 3: Information technologies of the future

At the TU/e novel information technologies are pioneered and investigated in a wide variety of fields: from new concepts and technologies for computing and data communication, to improved mathematical descriptions of networks and novel ways of securing data. In this project, students explore – in small groups - the potential and societal impact of these future information technologies. Depending on the technology being analyzed, the focus will be either on economical, societal, ethical aspects, or a combination thereof. The project will be carried out in close collaboration with the involved research group.