Eric Schmidt's MacTaggart Lecture, delivered at the Edinburgh International Television Festival 2011 raises some of the issues we will cover in this course. You can watch the video, or read a full transcript.

The recent release of a quarter of a million classified US diplomatic cables, was precipitated by a Guardian journalist, who (if we take a charitable view) didn't know what he was doing because he didn't understand enough about password-protected files. Students who have taken this course shouldn't make such mistakes.

The government of Iran recently found a way to compromise Diginotar a certifying authority in the Netherlands. They generated bogus certificates that allowed them to spy on dissidents using tools such as Facebook, Google and Skype. Students who have taken this course should understand the fragility of the web of trust that they may rely on for the confidentiality of private communications.

More generally, we will be looking at information technologies, their limitations, and potential; and at the interactions between economic, social and political forces that will shape the regulation and exploitation of the digital world.

Someone literate in informatics can appreciate the use of appropriate information technologies to collect, store, communicate, analyse and visualise a wide variety of types of information.
They are aware of some of the fundamental principles underlying the capabilities of information systems, and have some understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of current technologies.
Although they may not be technology experts, they have enough understanding and historical perspective to appreciate the importance of being aware of how these systems may change in years to come, and of the potential hazards and benefits that information technology brings to science, industry and society.

1. Degrees and degree requirements

Informatics Literacy is intended for students who would not otherwise study any Informatics course. This course, given in semester 1, is open to visiting students and to undergraduates registered for any degree.

2. Course Activities

There are two lectures per week, and you will be assigned to a weekly supervised lab session. Attendance at lectures and labs is required, as some of the material covered will be topical, and the coursework contributes 30% of your final grade.

The EUCLID web page for the course provides information on the formal syllabus, learning outcomes, etc.
The Informatics Literacy Blog will be updated (at least) weekly to provide information and feedback. We welcome your comments on the blog.

The IL1 calendar shown below is available online so you can add it to your own Google Calendar. It will be updated with details of each lecture, and any changes to the programme. Scheduled classes run during the first semester for 11 weeks.

The examination for Informatics Literacy will be held at the end of the first semester. The precise date and time of the exam will be published by Registry in due course.


19/09/2011 Fourman Introduction to Computational Thinking .mov Chapter 1
20/09/2011 Fourman Social and Legal Issues .mov slides (1.8MB) slides with audio (600MB)
Chapter 2
26/09/2011 Iain Mitchell Iain Mitchell
Chair: Scottish Society
for Computers and Law
Canute and the Digital Tide audio G.07 Informatics Forum
27/09/2011 Fourman From data to information .mov Chapter 3
03/10/2011 Fourman Information on the web: structure (html) and form (css) .mov
04/10/2011 Fourman Data on the Web (XML) .mov
05/10/2011 Rick Rashid
Chief Research Officer,
Microsoft Research
It's a data-driven world:
get over it!
Distinguished Lecture
G.07 Informatics Forum
10/10/2011 Fourman Overview of the Internet .mov Blown-to-Bits Appendix (pp. 301-316)
11/10/2011 Moore The Internet Spirit .mov
17/10/2011 Moore Finite-state Machines .mov audio1 audio2 audio3 audio4 audio5 audio6 Chapter 6
18/10/2011 Moore Regular Expressions .mov
24/10/2011 Fourman Algorithms 1: structured instructions .mov Chapter 7
25/10/2011 Fourman Algorithms 2: some things are not computable .mov
31/10/2011 Fourman Multimedia Representation: Images .mov
01/11/2011 Fourman Multimedia Representation: Sound .mov Vi Hart "What's up with noises?"
07/11/2011 Moore Search - Indexing the web Chapter 4 Google tutorial on Map-Reduce
08/11/2011 Moore Page rank and search engine optimisation
14/11/2011 Moore Lecture: Natural Language Processing 1 Chapter 8
15/11/2011 Moore Lecture: Natural Language Processing 2
21/11/2011 Fourman Multimedia Searching
22/11/2011 Fourman Encryption & Compression Chapter 5
23/11/2011 Subramanian Ramamoorthy Games robots play.
28/11/2011 Moore Privacy
29/11/2011 NO CLASS Conclusion (pp. 295-299)
30/11/2011 Review in Lab AT 3.02

Lectures are on Mondays and Tuesdays, 17:10-18:00 in Faculty Room South on the Ground floor of the David Hume Tower.

Assignments must be submitted by 16:00 on the hand-in day.

20/09/2011 30% The Internet: Assignment 1 issued
07/10/2011 for better or for worse? Assignment 1 handin
10/10/2011 20% Data on the Web: Assignment 2 issued
21/10/2011 XML and HTML. Assignment 2 handin
24/10/2011 20% Drawing Assignment 3 issued
04/11/2011 SVG and CSS. Assignment 3 handin
07/11/2011 30% Policy and technology: Assignment 4 issued
25/11/2011 can we save the Internet? Assignment 4 handin


Blown to Bits The course text, Blown to Bits, can be downloaded free-of-charge or purchased as a book.
In addition, the blog will point you to relevant content on the internet, for each lecture.
Readings and slides for each lecture will be available online. Students are expected to augment these with their own more detailed notes, gathered from lectures, from the recommended reading material, and from their own internet searches.


Labs are scheduled in the Mac Lab on the 3rd floor of Appleton Tower, with demonstrators available. You will be assigned a weekly lab slot, 17:00 - 18:00 on Wednesday. These are "formal" sessions, where you will be given hands-on introductions to various tools that are required for the coursework. You can also use the Mac Lab informally at other times (when there are no scheduled classes) to work on your own (or in groups).


Coursework plays an essential part in the process of learning computer science skills and should be one of the most enjoyable aspects of studying Informatics at the University. The assignments will contribute toward your course mark.

Note that the late coursework submission policy has been updated. See further information on coursework below.

Please see the individual course pages for details of these assignments. Please read the further information on coursework below.

3. Staff

Course Organiser:
Michael Fourman.
Michael Fourman
Johanna Moore

Demonstrators and lab groups:
See the relevant section of the ITO database.
Labs start week 1.
Class rep:
Aara Cleghorn

4. Assessment

Requirements for passing the courses

In order to pass this course you must satisfy all of the following requirements:


There will be an examination at the end of the first semester.

The degree examination is weighted at 70% and the coursework is weighted at 30% to get the combined total mark for the course.

Past Informatics exam papers can be found here and in the University library.

Assessed Coursework

A handout detailing the requirements of each assignment will be provided by the course lecturer. Each assignment should be submitted either on-line, using the submit program, or to the ITO (see the individual assignment handouts for details). All will be returned with comments and a mark approximately 2 weeks after the handin deadline. Note that all marks returned during the course are provisional and may be revised by the Board of Examiners.

We take plagiarism in coursework very seriously. Please read the Guidelines on Coursework and Plagiarism.

Late Coursework

Normally, you will not be allowed to submit coursework late.

If you have good reasons for needing to submit late, you must contact the ITO via the Support Form. Your request will be logged and passed on to the Course Organiser, who will then make a decision based on your reasons and any supporting evidence that you may have provided. Please note that you should not email the Course Organiser directly.

Note: Only in exceptional circumstances, e.g. illness that stopped you getting to email, would an extension be granted after a deadline has passed.

Any extension to an assignment deadline for a student must be approved by the Course Organiser, and the reason for the extension must be recorded by the ITO and your Director of Studies.

"Good reason" for an extension means something that, in the judgement of the member of staff responsible, would prevent a competent, well-organised, conscientious student from being able to submit on time. Examples include:

You should always inform your Director of Studies of any such thing that seriously affects your work, whether or not you ask for an extension as a consequence. If you prefer, you can choose to discuss details only with your DoS; s/he can advocate with other members of staff for you without going into details.

Note: Non-examples, i.e. things that will not be considered good reasons, include anything you could have planned for or avoided: difficult clusters of deadlines, attending social events, the demands of any job you undertake during the semester, last-minute computer problems, loss of work through (your) backup failure, etc.

In general, you are expected to plan your time well and include contingency time. For example, if you expect a piece of work to take two days, you should begin it more than two days before its deadline.

Checking your coursework progress

In order to succeed in your studies you should keep up with the material of the course and make a good attempt at all the assessed assignments. The requirements stated above represent a bare minimum and do not indicate good progress. Your marks for each assessed practical assignment will be returned to you as soon as they are available so that you can (and indeed should) keep your own record.

For your convenience and as a means of helping you to check your progress, the ITO will do its best to collect the following information for you at just after half way through each half course and email it to your University sms account:

It is your responsibility to check your sms email account regularly.

5. Time Management

Time management makes the difference between enjoying Informatics 2 and not, and often between passing and failing, too. You are strongly encouraged to have a look at some slides of an Informatics talk by Perdita Stevens on the subject. We also recommend this talk given by Randy Pausch: Video and PDF of slides

6. Facilities and communication mechanisms


The School has a number of labs located in a number of buildings and open at various times. Please follow this link for a list of computing labs, access permissions and open times.

For location and times of Inf2 drop-in labs, please see the Inf2 top page.

You should already be familiar with the DICE system used in Informatics. You may want to refresh your memory by reading the Inf1 introduction to the system

Extensive documentation about the Informatics computing environment, including how to request technical support can be found here.

Communication mechanisms

The Informatics Literacy blog will always contain up to date information about most aspects of the course. You should check this several times a week, preferably every day, as there will often be notices concerning current assignments and running of the course. Please check it regularly for updates, especially if you miss a lecture. Students are also expected to check their email frequently.

If you have problems during the year, the following sources of help may be of use:

Course Administration Problems:
the lecturers or the ITO (Room 4.02 Appleton Tower. Tel: 0131 6509970)
Informatics Literacy Related Academic Questions:
your teaching assistant or the appropriate lecturer.
General Academic Worries:
your Director of Studies.
Computing Problems:
your teaching assistant or the appropriate lecturer.
Financial Difficulties:
your Director of Studies, or the Advice Place, the Potterrow, 5/2 Bristo Square (6)50 9225.
Medical Problems:
University Health Service (6 Bristo Square (6)50 2777).
Personal Problems:
your Director of Studies, or the Advice Place, the Potterrow, 5/2 Bristo Square (6)50 9225.

If you have problems with staff or other students, or with some aspect of Informatics 1 organisation, contact:

the Class Representatives:
one or more student representatives are elected to represent each class. They will pass feedback on to the School of Informatics and represent the course at Informatics Teaching Committee meetings.
the Course Organiser(s):
for problems with the course or for problems with lecturers, tutors, or demonstrators.
the Director of Teaching:
for problems with the Course Organiser.

In particular, if illness or some other problem prevents you from submitting any assessed work, or from attending lectures and tutorials for any length of time, please inform your Director of Studies, the ITO and your tutor. Also, obtain a medical certificate from your doctor or Director and give it to the ITO: it will be considered when your work is being assessed.

Feedback mechanisms

Please see the Informatics Literacy blog for news, links to lecture slides, and general feedback on coursework.
We also welcome your comments on the blog. Constructive feedback from staff or students is always welcome. Informal comments and suggestions can be made by anyone to the Course Organiser at any time. The class will be invited to elect Class Representatives, to act as a channel to the Course Organiser on class-wide issues.

Complaints can be made confidentially: for example, if you complain to the Course Organiser about a lecturer/tutor/..., the Course Organiser will take the matter up with the member of staff without divulging your identity. If the member of staff concerned is the Course Organiser, you may address your complaint to the Director of Teaching.


InfBase supports student learning by providing a way of getting answers to questions when they are needed. Someone at InfBase should be able to answer most queries relating to Informatics Literacy. You can just drop-in to InfBase or arrange an appointment on the InfBase wiki. InfBase publishes all questions and answers on the InfBase wiki to form a growing repository of knowledge about courses.

7. Regulations and Guidelines

There are a number of on-line documents covering guidance and regulations on various aspects of the School and the University available here.

Coursework and Plagiarism

Coursework is an important component of Informatics Literacy. As well as contributing to the final mark of each course, coursework plays an essential part in the process of learning about computation.

Because coursework contributes to your own individual assessment, it is essential that any work you submit is your own work. Of course it is perfectly acceptable to discuss general aspects of the coursework with other students, lab demonstrators, your tutor, and lecturers. However, you must not copy (or disguise) someone else's work and present it as your own. If you do so, it will be treated as plagiarism and disciplinary action will be taken. The School of Informatics has its own guidelines on plagiarism in addition to those set out by the University. Please make sure to read the Informatics Guidelines on Plagiarism.

The University provides detailed guidance on plagiarism, including guidance on the avoidance of plagiarism. The official policy on plagiarism is set out in Section 14 of the Degree Exam Regulations.


The University has a Code of Practice on Personal Harassment and the School treats harassment seriously.

The University Computing Regulations point out that the holding or distribution of any material which is defamatory, discriminatory, obscene or otherwise illegal or is offensive or calculated to make others fearful, anxious or apprehensive can result in legal proceedings, and the regulations permit the examination of computer files and emails in the investigation of such activities.

If you feel you are a victim of harassment, don't keep quiet - report the situation to your Director of Studies and/or the Course Organisers.

Academic problems or medical circumstances

If you find yourself experiencing special difficulties (for example, trouble coping with the workload), you should approach your Director of Studies for guidance as soon as a problem becomes apparent.

If you experience a medical problem during the year, and if you believe it has either prevented you from completing your coursework satisfactorily or that it will impair your performance in the examinations, you should notify your Director of Studies.

Be assured that such matters are treated confidentially by everyone involved.


Appeals against the final mark awarded may be considered by the University where there are irregularities in the conduct of the assessment or the Board of Examiners did not have all available information at the time of assessment. Appeals in cases where the information was available but not given to the Board (for example, you broke your leg the week before the examination but didn't tell anyone until the results were published) are generally not considered. Tell your Director of Studies before the Board of Examiners if you feel there are factors that may have affected your performance.

Students are advised to consult their Director of Studies before initiating an appeal. An appeal must be submitted in writing to the Secretary to the University as soon as possible; only in exceptional circumstances are appeals considered more than three months after the results of an examination have been made known to the appellant.

Student records

The use by the university of personal details concerning students, and the use by students of personal details from on-line university records, university publications, and other sources, is governed by the Data Protection Act. An explanation of the responsibilities of staff and students with respect to the Data Protection Act 1998 can be found on-line at the The Records Management Section of the University of Edinburgh.


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