CS 480: Computers and Society

Catalog description : Computer and network security measures; encryption protocols. Ethical theory and applications in computing. Seminar discussion on value systems, social impact, and human factors, and about use and misuse of computers. Four hours lecture.

Translation: This course is about the ways in which computers and information technology affect our lives and society. It's about the moral and ethical choices we are faced with as producers and consumers of computing technology. It's also about the political dimentions of information technology, and the ways in which these areas influence each other.

What's the class like? The class is scheduled to meet MWF. Monday and Wednesday are classroom days, and Friday is an on-site day, where you will be performing Service Learning in conjunction with a community partner. (More on that below). Classroom days will be a mix of lecture, student-led and guided discussion, and guest speakers. This will definitely be an 'active learning' class; rather than sitting and listening, learning will come through discussion and debate. I hope to also learn a lot from you!

What's this service thing about? CS 480 is a Service-Learning course, and has the SL core designation. During this course, you will be working with a San Francisco-based agency that provides computer access, training, and support to local communities. This experience will allow you to apply your knowledge to directly help others, and also give you first-hand experience about the ways in which technology (and the lack thereof) can affect the lives of the disenfranchised.

You will also be working on some specific projects with a more political dimension, which will provide a better understanding of how political infrastructure can be used to address the digital divide, and also how computers and the Internet are reshaping political discourse.

Service learning is an educational methodology that provides students with experiental education that is grounded in a project with a community partner. It is important to note that this is different from volunteering; you are not working in the community just to be nice, or solely to help out the underprivileged (although that's a part of it). It's also meant to be an educational experience for you; you'll be learning from the commuity partner as well as providing them with a service. By working with a community partner, you will learn about the way in which the issues we discuss in class are actually manifested in real-world community settings.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to: Requirements

The course will consist of the following graded components with the percent contribution to the grade listed. Grades (including +/-) are assigned as follows: A 92% and above; A- 90-92%; B+ 89-90%; B 82-88%; B- 80-81%; C+ 78-79%; C 72-78%; C-70-71%; D 60-69%; F 59% and below. For CS majors, C = 72% is the lowest passing grade.

Grading Rubric

One thing to be aware of is that many of the assignments for this course involve a written component or a presentation. This requires a more subjective grading assessment than, for example, a computer program does.

I will grade your written and presentational work as follows:

The required texts are:
We will also have supplementary reading (provided as handouts or online) from time to time.