CS 4001B: Computing, Society, & Professionalism

Instructor: Amy Bruckman
Email: asb at cc.gatech.edu
Office: Technology Square Research Building (TSRB) 338
(On 5th Street; the building with Moe's in it.)
Office Hours: Find me after class, or email for an appointment.


TA: Nick Cooper
Email: ncooper6 at gatech.edu
Office Hours: Find me after class, or email for an appointment.


Location: College of Computing 101

Tuesday, Thursday 1:35-2:55

Wiki: On T-Square

Class Schedule

Learning Objectives

In this class. you will learn about:

What do "right" and "wrong" mean anyway? How is "ethical" different from "legal"? We'll learn about several philosophical approaches to ethics including utilitiarianism, Kantianism, stakeholder analysis, and virtue ethics. The goal is for students to be able to address ethical dilemmas with reasoned arguments, grounded in a combination of these ethical theories.
Professional Ethics
What special responsibilities do we have as computing professionals? What do the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and ACM Code of Ethics say, and how can we use these in our daily practice?
Computing and Society
In what ways does computer technology impact society? We'll talk about a host of issues including privacy, intellectual property, and freedom of speech.
How do you construct a well-reasoned argument? Whatever you go on to do in your professional career, your success will arguably depend more on your oral and written communication skills than on your technical skills. This class is one of your few and precious opportunities to work to improve those skills.



Required Texts:

Please make sure to get the correct edition of the Quinn and Ramage et al books.

Assignments and Grading

Class attendance is required. Please remember to sign the attendance sheet each class. Please do not sign the attendance sheet if you are more than 15 minutes late to class. If you need to miss class for a legitimate reason, please send email to the instructor and TA, preferably before class. Legitimate reasons for missing class include illness (please keep your germs to yourself--we'll give you good notes--we promise!), a job interview, or attending a conference. Excuses that will not be accepted include for example picking someone up at the airport, having something due in another class, or having furniture delivered.

You may miss up to two classes without it affecting your grade. However, please note that exams are strongly based on material that is covered in class, and being there is the best way to know what you need to know. If you do miss a class, please do get notes from a classmate.

Use of Laptops in Class
Some people like to use laptops in class to take notes. I personally prefer to take notes on paper, because I find if my laptop is open I end up getting too distracted. Please think carefully about whether using a laptop in class is the right choice for you. Whatever you decide, please do not do anything that distracts your fellow students. In particular, please do not play video games during class.

Homeworks will be graded on a list of criteria (specified on the assignment) such as quality of writing, completeness, insight into technical issues, insight into social issues, etc. For each criterion, you will receive either a check plus, check, or check minus. Most criterion will receive a check. A plus means "you impressed me." A minus means the assignment is incomplete, incorrect, or sloppy in some fashion with respect to that criterion. Pluses and minuses are combined to give your grade for the assignment. For most assignments, you start out half way between a B+ and A-. One plus makes it an A-; one minus makes it a B+. These are general guidelines to let you know what to expect. Grading on specific assignments may differ.

Please hand all assignments in on paper unless explicitly instructed otherwise.

You will have the opportunity to revise your term paper. Your final term paper grade will be the average of your first and revised grade. To hand in a revised paper, you must hand in three things: a copy of the original paper with instructor comments on it, a copy of the revised paper, and a copy of the revised paper with changes highlighted. You may highlight changes with a highlighter pen, or use the 'version tracking' feature of many word processors.

If English is not your first language, you may request to not be graded on your writing for a particular individual assignment, including the term paper. This means you won't be penalized for bad writing, but you also won't get credit for good writing. To take advantage of this option, you must mark "ESL" (English as a Second Language) on the first page of your assignment/paper. This option is not available for group assignments. We still of course expect you to try to write in correct English, and will do our best to offer useful feedback on your writing.

Late Policy

Assignments are due at the start of class on the day they are due. Over the course of the term, you have three "late days" where work may be late with no explanation needed.

Once you have used up your late days, late assignments will be penalized at a rate of 3 pts (one grade step: A becomes A-) per day. Assignments more than one week late will not be accepted.

Honor Code

This class abides by the Georgia Tech Honor Code. All assigned work is expected to be individual, except where explicitly written otherwise. You are encouraged to discuss the assignments with your classmates; however, what you hand in should be your own work.


Assignments and ideas on this syllabus build on those from everyone who has taught it before, especially Colin Potts, Mary Jean Harrold, Bill Ribarsky, and Spencer Rugaber.

Lots of useful references about ethics and computing are on this page maintained by Cindy Meyer-Hanchey.