Spring 2018»CSCI 392

CSCI 392

CSCI 392 - Seminar on Computing and Society


MW 4:00-5:15pm / HWW 217


A seminar course to prepare majors for careers in CS by discussing and studying professional, ethical, legal, and social issues and responsibilities in computing. Local and global impact of computing on individuals, organizations, and society will also be addressed. Oral presentations and written work will be required.


CSCI 221 with a C- or better

Course syllabus

Test Dates

  • Test 1: Feb 28, 2018 (after presentations)
  • Final: 4pm, Wed. Apr 25, 2018 (final paper due - no late submissions). See final paper specifications.

NOTE: Final will be held in room HWW 305.


Homework #1, Homework #2, Homework #3, Homework #4, Homework #5, Final Project.

  1. Select your presentation date.
  2. Make a contribution on a selected excerpt of the ACM Code of Ethics:
    • Identify examples of ethical issues, situations, or computing risks, etc.
    • Attach them (as comments) to the shared ACM Code of the Ethics (on Google drive).
      • We are looking for situations / cases in computing were ethical, design, coding or policy decisions were made with bad / terrible consequences… (but good ones may be interesting too).
      • The more the better - but focus on quality of examples (rather than quantity).
    • This will help us study professional, ethical, legal, and social issues and responsibilities in computing; and help us analyze and assess the impact of computing on individuals and society.
  3. The course features 13 research presentations from professors and professionals from various universities and companies. Attending these presentations is required. Attendance is taken at the beginning of class.
    • Each student in the class will need to research either the ethical, legal, or social implications of (or related to) one of the speaker’s research ahead of time. The research speakers present during the Monday class. During the following Wednesday class, the (2 or 3) students who have been assigned to that person must present their findings.
    • Each student presentation should be 15 minutes, interactive and thought-provoking for the other students. Each student must ask the audience at least 2 questions (for collective exploration / discussion) during their presentation.
    • At least one peer-reviewed, published article must be used/referenced that supports/guides the presentation.
      • At least one week ahead of time, send 3 PDFs of peer-reviewed articles to the instructor, for approval (send links, not actual PDFs).
    • Presentation topic and peer-reviewed article must be approved by the instructor. Your presentation must focus on the ethical implications - and NOT the actual research so much.
      • You can talk about the actual research but only as a vehicle to identify key points for discussion on ethics.
  4. By the end of the semester, students should submit a paper on their ethical, legal, or social topic that references several peer-review articles. Local and global impacts of their topic must be discussed in the paper. More details will be provided.

Readings & References

  1. The new Cold War? - By automatically infusing enough non-sense and fake news into the opponent's information networks, you play havoc with their society, political systems, and sociocultural cohesion.
  2. Don Gotterbarn (2016), "Codes of Ethics -- The Conscience of a Profession: Connecting Technology and Society", ACM Inroads 7(4), November 2016, pp. 33-35.
    • Captures how the computing world has changed within the last 25 years, since the ACM Code of Ethics was put together. Don Gotterbarn was one of the pioneer computer ethics researchers who help put it together.
  3. The ACM Code of Ethics (1992) identifies the elements of every member’s commitment to ethical professional conduct. It outlines fundamental considerations that contribute to society and human well-being and those that specifically relate to professional responsibilities, organizational imperatives, and compliance with the code.
    • The Code consists of 24 imperatives formulated as statements of personal responsibility. It contains many, but not all, issues professionals are likely to face. The Code and its supplemented Guidelines are intended to serve as a basis for ethical decision making in the conduct of professional work. Secondarily, they may serve as a basis for judging the merit of a formal complaint pertaining to violation of professional ethical standards.
  4. The Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice (1999) is the product of the ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Task Force on Software Engineering Ethics and Professional Practices.
    • The SE Code contains 8 Principles related to the behavior of and decisions made by professional software engineers, including practitioners, educators, managers, supervisors and policy makers, as well as trainees and students of the profession.
  5. The current ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (The Code) was adopted in 1992. Much has changed since then, and The Code needs to be updated to reflect shifts in both technology and society. The ACM has convened a task force of stakeholders from many organizations to produce an update of the Code, expected to be presented to ACM Council for adoption in spring 2018.
    • Annotated differences between the 1992 Code and the 2018 Code (Draft 1).
    • The Process leading to the creation of the new code.
    • The 2018 Code (Draft 3). This is meant to be an update of the 1992 code, not a wholesale revision.
    • ACM is particularly concerned about possible blind spots or anachronisms that may have resulted from changes in technology or the profession since 1992.
  6. The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics - created in 1992 by the Computer Ethics Institute.
  7. The Code of Ethics for Medical Records - A review and comparative analysis of the various codes of ethics for the US Health Information Management Association (1934 pledge, and codes of ethics from 1957, 1977, 1988, 1998, 2004, and 2011).
  8. Violent video game play is linked to increased aggression in players but insufficient evidence exists about whether the link extends to criminal violence or delinquency, according to a new American Psychological Association task force report.
    • “The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy and sensitivity to aggression,” says the report of the APA Task Force on Violent Media. The task force’s review is the first in this field to examine the breadth of studies included and to undertake multiple approaches to reviewing the literature.
  9. Groupthink lecture - a somewhat dated lecture on groupthink, which nevertheless captures / makes essential points about what may be happening at times in our classroom (at least in a couple of occasions).
    • Be aware of this effect, and be careful to avoid it.