Social Implications of Computing

CS 195, Fall 2014

Course description and policies

CS 195 is a discussion-intensive course about the social implications of computing. The purpose of this course is to help you and your fellow computer science students make informed and thoughtful choices about your careers, your participation in society, and your future development activities. Readings and lecture topics are drawn from a range of fields that together seek to describe our contemporary global society: sociology, philosophy, economics, public policy, education, and journalism.


Discussion questions will not be determined only by the wisdom of your instructors. Instead, you will collectively choose your own adventure through the material. A brief survey about the upcoming topic will be emailed to the class each Friday. By 11:59pm on Tuesday before class, you will complete a survey, in which you can vote on the issues or questions most interesting to you. The results of these surveys will guide our discussions.


The topics discussed in this class are all broad and deep, and so the course includes a lot of reading. You should try to read it all, but you should definitely read about the topics that interest you the most.

For some topic, you will help write and share a short summary of an important readings, so that everyone can follow the main ideas of the discussions even if they don't read the article in its entirety. All students are expected to prepare for every class by reading the assigned articles or their summaries.

Near the beginning of the semester, you will sign up for a topic that interests you. You will be expected to help write a summary for an article on that topic. The summaries are short: they should take about three minutes to read.

Weekly Schedule

The week before each Wednesday class meeting will be used to prepare for the upcoming in-class discussion.

  • On Thursday and Friday, any student who is helping write the summary that week may attend a small group discussion with the course staff on the upcoming topic. Expect a lively small-group conversation over tea.
  • Over the weekend, students will collaborate on the summary itself, to be completed by 5pm Sunday.
  • On Monday, the summary will be released along with a survey, due Tuesday.
  • On Wednesday, class will start with discussions, then conclude with a short presentations by the instructors of the following week's topic.


In addition, you will write three short essays that contain your original thoughts about issues from the class. All students will write about the same topics, and your work will be reviewed by your peers. Essay assignments will appear in the reading list and be announced in class.


The course is graded P/NP. The reason for that policy is to ensure that you can feel free to express opinions different from those of the instructors, both in class meetings and in written work.

In order to receive a passing grade in CS 195, you must:

  • Attend at least 10 of the 12 class sessions (not counting the first)
  • Complete at least 10 of the 12 before-class surveys
  • Help summarize an article
  • Submit the 3 short essays and receive a passing peer review (2/2) on each
  • Provide peer reviews for 9 essays