Fall 2020 - IS 350W D100

Seminar on Global Problems in Interdisciplinary Perspective (4)

Class Number: 5003

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 8:30 AM – 11:20 AM

  • Prerequisites:

    60 units. International Studies major or honours students.



An in-depth examination of select global problems. Focuses on developing policy-related writing skills valuable for careers in government and in intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations. Assignments may include: briefing papers, policy papers, grant writing, and op-ed essays. Students with credit for IS 450W may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


Global health and development crises like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, an illiberal turn in politics globally, and climate change all pose dire threats to the survival of humanity. From Manaus to Mumbai, the world now faces its most lethal pandemic in a century, a stark movement away from democratic rule, and a level of carbon emission that could end life on Earth as we know it. Further, social media has changed the way that many people consume information about these problems, creating new opportunities and challenges for those trying to understand and address them. This class builds familiarity with social scientific and journalistic explorations of these problems, their interconnections, and potential solutions. It develops writing skills that help students comprehend and critically engage arguments about the causes, consequences, and implications of such problems, as well as prominent approaches to solving them.


By the end of the course, students:

  • gain substantive knowledge about how major, online platforms operate;
  • improve their comprehension of social scientific and journalistic arguments about them;
  • improve skills in synthesizing such arguments;
  • improve skills in crafting argumentative essays that critically examine such arguments


  • Participation 10%
  • Critical Discussion Papers (5 x 5%) 25%
  • Responses to Discussion Papers (5 x 1%) 5%
  • Writing Assignments (3 x 20%) 60%


Students will be required to submit their written assignments to Turnitin.com in order to receive credit for the assignments and for the course.

The School for International Studies strictly enforces the University's policies regarding plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty. Information about these policies can be found at: http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/teaching.html.

The instructor reserves the right to change the syllabus as needed throughout the semester.

Some portions of this class will be taught through synchronous instruction. Please look at the schedule and contact the instructor in advance if you foresee any issues with attending these meetings due to your time zone or caregiving responsibilities.  


Remote learning for this semester requires the following:



The following texts are required and should be purchased before the class begins:

McNamee, Roger. 2020. Zucked: Waking up to the Facebook Catastrophe, Revised and Updated Paperback Edition. New York: Penguin.

Zuboff, Shoshana. 2019. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. New York: Public Affairs.

Selected articles, book chapters, and other textual sources constitute much of the required reading for the course. These readings will be made available in digital form online through our Canvas website, through the SFU Library website, or through links to downloadable materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).