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CS4001: Computing, Society & Professionalism

[Details] [Objective] [Texts] [Assignments & Grading]


Class Details

Location: CCB 101
Time: Monday, Wednesday 4:35 - 5:55

Instructor: Casey Fiesler
Email: casey.fiesler @ gatech.edu
Office: Technology Square Research Building (TSRB) 338A (on 5th Street - the building with Moe's in it - on the third floor, to the right of Amy Bruckman's office.)
Office Hours: Immediately after class, or email for an appointment.

TA: Jeff Hubbs
Email: jhubbs@gatech.edu
Office Hours: after class or by appointment


In this class, you will learn about:
  1. Ethics. What do "right" and "wrong" mean anyway? How is "ethical" different from "legal"? We'll learn about several philosophical approaches to ethics including utilitarianism, 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. Argumentation. 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.


Two textbooks are required for this course:
  • Ethics for the Information Age, Fifth Edition, by Michael Quinn (also available on Kindle) (EIA)
  • Writing Arguments: A Rhetoric with Readings, Concise Sixth Edition, by John Dr. Ramage, John C. Bean, & June Johnson (WA)
Note the editions! These are both fairly new.

There will be additional articles available online and through electronic reserve. See T-Square under "Resources" for up-to-date information on how to access articles.

Assignments & Grading
  • Class Attendance & Participation (15%)
  • Homework Assignments (25%)
  • Midterm (15%) [example midterm]
  • Term Paper (25%)
  • Final Exam (20%)
  • Note that the term paper proposal and outlines count as homework assignments.
Attendance & Participation

Class attendance is required. I will be checking attendance after the first 15 minutes of class, and if you are later than that, you will need to see me after class. If you need to miss class for a legitimate reason, please send me an email before class. Legitimate reasons for missing class include illness, 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 two classes unexcused without this 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.

Your class participation is also considered in this part of your grade. This includes speaking up in class, answering questions, and otherwise being an active participant in class and small group discussions.

Points will be deducted for unexcused absences, and added for meaningful participation.


Readings. You are expected to complete readings before class on the day for which they are assigned. Occasionally extra readings (particularly current news articles) will be added (no later than the previous class). Syllabus changes and additional readings will be announced in class and on T-Square.

Grading. Homework 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. You may gain or lose points on each of these criterion separately, which will combine for your total grade. Criteria for each assignment will differ.

Turning in Assignments. Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day they are listed on the syllabus. To turn in assignments, turn in a paper copy in class. Though please be sure to maintain an electronic copy as well. If you are missing class on the day an assignment is due, email the instructor. If your absence is unexcused, points will be deducted for not handing in a paper copy.

ESL. If English is not your first language, you may request to not be graded on your writing itself (as opposed to the content) 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. I still of course expect you to try to write in correct English, and will do my 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 two "late days" (24 hour periods) 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 points 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. A failure to cite referenced work will also be considered a violation of the honor code.

Acknowledgements: Assignments and ideas on this syllabus build on those from everyone who has taught it before, especially Amy Bruckman and Irfan Essa.


Image Source: Surrounded by papers | 99/365 / Surat Lozowick / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0