Informatics 203: A Networked World

Welcome to Informatics 203!

There are over 7 billion people on earth, more than 6 billion mobile cellular telephone subscriptions, and nearly 2.5 billion Internet users. The number of other devices being connected to the Internet – cameras, sensors, appliances, control systems, cars, picture frames and more — is also increasing rapidly. Our planet is truly becoming a “networked world”.

In this course, we’ll cover the technical, social, policy, economic and legal foundations for these networks. We’ll focus mostly on the Internet, but also touch on telephone (mobile and landline) and critical infrastructure networks. This course covers computer science topics, but all material will be presented in a way that is accessible with or without a strong technical background.

We’ll dive into how the Internet works. We’ll look at the protocols that make web servers and browsers work, how information is routed among billions of Internet devices, how Internet devices can reliably communicate with each other over an inherently unreliable Internet infrastructure, and we’ll learn how the Internet has been able to scale from a network with less than a hundred devices 40 years ago to several billion devices today – arguably the largest and most complex human-engineered system ever. We’ll examine privacy enhancing technologies such as Tor, and learn how the blockchain that powers BitCoin and related cryptocurrencies works. We’ll also learn about the “dark side” – Internet attacks – and ways to secure networks against attacks and to protect personal information on the Internet.

But this course is about much more than network concepts and technology alone. Interspersed throughout the course we’ll also investigate policy and legal issues - wiretapping laws, “network neutrality” and the “open Internet,” looking at recent FCC and court rulings. And we’ll look at the business side of networks – how Internet service providers make money, how companies track, harvest and use your personal information, and how historically innovation begets industry and then industry begets empire in the networked world.


David Wemhoener
wem at cs dot umass dot edu

Teaching Assistants:

Course Time:

Tuesday Thursday 8:30am - 09:45am, Engineering Lab 306


This course will draw its technical material primarily from Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach, 7th edition. You will not require the “online access codes;” while the material they provide access to is nice, it’s not essential.
You will also require an i>clicker 2 remote.