Technology takes top billing at UC Berkeley as students return to Cybersemester '97

by Kathleen Scalise

Berkeley -- Students returning to UC Berkeley next week may think they are coming back for the spring semester. But it won't take long for them to realize they've returned to "Cybersemester '97."

All semester long technology will take top billing across campus. Along with engineers and scientists, UC Berkeley's artists, musicians, social scientists, historians and even archaeologists studying the distant past will examine computers and consider their effects on society.

And, it won't just be students benefiting. Anyone with an interest in how technology is shaping the world around them will be able to expand their knowledge through several public lectures and World Wide Web sites.

The expression "Cybersemester" was coined on campus and is the first official "theme" semester ever at the University of California at Berkeley.

"We are creating a public profile for the kinds of things that are already happening here, achieving more visibility and unity," said The Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol T. Christ. "But we are also stimulating a campus conversation for where we want to be in the future."

The semester will also provide faculty an opportunity to integrate new communications technologies into their teaching and research, added Cybersemester coordinator Diane Harley, who is with the UC Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education.

"In essence, new media forces us all to rethink how the university does business whether it is teaching, research or service," she said.

Technology is a good theme, said Peter Berck, chair of the Academic Senate committee that put the theme initiative forward.

"Students are caught up in technology, they are the users of it and they need to see how technology can be viewed from many different disciplines," he said.

During Cybersemester, students can expect to hear all sides of the technology story. For instance, freshmen can select from more than a dozen new seminar courses on the theme of computers and society.

Students will also be able to choose from such courses as "From Wagner to Virtual Reality: A History of MultiMedia" to "Introduction to Artificial Intelligence."

"Technology rears its head in a lot of different ways," said Gary Handman, who will teach a course on how technology is portrayed in the movies. "It is rejiggering almost everything we do. There are a lot of issues that could be addressed in a place like Berkeley about technology and society."

Cybersemester plans include demonstrations, conferences, workshops and lectures looking at different facets of technology and society. Many activities are open to the public.

Among these is the Cybersemester Speaker Series each Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. in 2050 Valley Life Sciences Building. Students will earn a unit of credit for the course. Members of the public, who are invited to attend one or all of the lectures for free, will get world-class insight into issues facing computers and their lives.

Sun Microsystem's chief scientist, John Gage, a UC Berkeley alumnus, will kick off the series on Jan. 29. Each Wednesday will feature a different speaker. For example, on March 12, those attending will learn about the future of automated highways from UC Berkeley Professor Pravin Varaiya.

Among other Cybersemester highlights:

"Art, Technology and Culture: A Campuswide Colloquium at UC Berkeley," will be begin Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. in 160 Kroeber Hall and meet five times over the course of the semester. This new art seminar series will be launched with speaker Aaron Betsky of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

FCC Commissioner Reed Hundt will deliver a public lecture on telecommunications and Internet regulation, March 7 at 4:30 p.m. in Andersen Auditorium at the Haas School of Business.

All nine campuses of the UC system will meet at UCLA March 25 and 26 for a conference on teaching and learning technology. Broadcast segments will be available at UC Berkeley and online over the Internet.

Many other activities are planned for UC Berkeley's Cybersemester. For details, consult the Cybersemester web page, updated daily, at:

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