CS 4001: 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: Duri Long
Email: duri at gatech.edu
Office Hours: Find me after class, or email for an appointment.


Location: West Village Dining Commons 277

Tuesday, Thursday 1:30-2:45

Discussion: On Piazza

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, social contract theory, 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.


Required Texts:
  • Ethics for the Information Age, Seventh Edition, by Michael Quinn (You may rent an electronic copy rather than buying it.)
  • Visual & Statistical Thinking: Displays of Evidence for Decision Making by Edward R. Tufte. Graphics Press, 1997.
    Note that this little book reproduces chapter 2 of Tufte's book Visual Explanations. If you're a Tufte fan, you may wish to buy the full book. However, it's expensive.
  • Articles on electronic reserve.
  • Articles available online.

Please make sure to get the correct edition of the Quinn book.

Assignments and Grading

  • Class Attendance (10%)
  • Class Participation (10%)
       Contributions to Piazza discussions count towards class participation.
  • Homeworks (20%)
       Note that the term paper proposal and outline count as homework assignments.
  • Midterm (15%)
    (Here is a sample midterm exam.)
  • Term Paper (25%)
  • Group Presentation (10%)
  • Final Exam (10%)

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.

Attending the career fair is not a legitimate reason, since it is open all day. However, you may choose to use one of your two allowed absences (see below) for the career fair, if your total class schedule makes it difficult to attend otherwise.

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.

Reference format
Please use APA format for all references. APA format is described here.

No Use of Laptops or Cell Phones in Class
Educational research shows that taking notes by hand on paper will lead to better retention of material than taking notes by typing. Also, in the past we have had issues with students not only not paying attention but also disrupting others during class-- by playing games, by accidentally clicking on a video with the sound on, etc. Requests to use laptops in class will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If you would like to use a laptop during class, please set up a time to meet with the professor.

You may use your laptop in class for the purpose of referencing assigned readings, including electronic copies of our textbook.

Please do not use your cell phone in 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.

Please hand all assignments in on paper unless explicitly instructed otherwise. Please also double space. The blank space leaves us room for comments.

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. 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.

Over the course of the term, you have three "late days" where work may be late with no explanation needed. Please mark “Use my late days” on the first page of your assignment/paper if want to use your late days when you make late submissions. Use your late days wisely as different submissions have different weights.

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.