Computers and Society
(CPSC 430, Term 1, Session 101, 2018-19)
|Overview||Grading Scheme||Weekly Reading, Writing & Peer Review||Text and Online Resources||Schedule|
Course Description: This course explores the interplay between information technology and society, with an emphasis on ethical issues. Students will come away from the course with greater understanding of the social and ethical implications of computer use and abuse, an improved ability to think critically and defend their decisions logically, and a greater appreciation for alternate points of view. The focus of the course is on reading, writing and discussion; each week students will complete an assigned reading, write a mini-essay in response, and evaluate the written work of others.
Meeting Times: Tuesday, Thursday, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
First Class: Thursday, September 6, 2018
Location: DMP 110
UBC Web Page: main course; waiting list
Instructor: Kevin Leyton-Brown
Instructor's Office Location: ICCS X565
Instructor's Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays 3:30 - 4:00 PM, or by appointment
TAs and Their Office Hours:
Mondays 10AM-12PM in the project room ICCSX139
David Johnson (email@example.com): Tuesdays 11-12 AM, Demco Learning Center Table 5
Anna Offenwanger (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hedayat Zarkoob (email@example.com): Fridays 11 AM - 12 PM, Demco Learning Center Table 5
Mechanical TA (Student
enrolment code: "b1ca954a". Problems logging in: email
Course Topics: History of computing, networking, and information storage; Essay writing; Ethical theories (Kantianism, utilitarianism, social contract theory); Networked communications (spam, censorship, filtering); Intellectual property; Privacy; Security; Reliability; Progoogfessional Ethics; Automation, globalization, and other changes to the workplace.
Prerequisites: The course requires only third year standing and 3 credits of computer science. Beyond these formal requirements, an ability to speak, read and write fluently in English is essential for success in the class.
Equity, Inclusion and Wellness: Please see the CS Department's resources on this topic.
Academic Honesty: Plagiarism is a serious offence (see the CS Department's statement) and will be dealt with harshly. I consider plagiarism to be the unattributed use of an external source (e.g., another student, a web site, a book) in work for which a student takes credit, or the inappropriate use of an external source whether or not attribution is made. The seriousness of the offence depends on the extent to which the student relied upon the external source. You must cite all external sources that you use, and write in your own words. Any text that you take verbatim from another source must be in quotation marks and followed by a citation. We will use TurnItIn (an online commercial service) to detect plagiarism including the resubmission of essays used in previous offerings of this course.
In order to pass the course, a student must receive a passing grade on the final exam. It's possible I'll make changes to the exact percentage breakdowns shown here.
|Course Element||Fraction of Grade|
|In-Class Participation||20 %|
|Weekly Essay Questions||25 %|
|Weekly Peer Review||10 %|
|Midterm Exam (80 minutes)||15 %|
|Final Exam (2.5 hours)||30 %|
Your credit for in-class participation will break down roughly as follows:
- 10 grades for clicker responses to questions in class. These points will be assigned weekly (with no clicker activity in the first class, the next four classes counting as one week, and the three classes before the midterm again counting as one week). You only become eligible for these points when you have registered your clicker on Connect, so do this by September 9! We'll grade you out of 90% of the total to allow some slack for days you forget your clicker, have a justified absence, etc.
- 10 grades for verbal contributions in class, engagement in groups,
and activity on
Piazza. First, we count the number of classes in which
you participated; contributing once or more to Piazza can substitute for
participating in one class from the same week.
Spending the majority of a class obviously disengaged (e.g., on facebook
or playing games) subtracts one half from your total count. Given this
count, we calculate your grade as follows:
Participate at least this many times... Get this many points 20 10 11 9 7 8 4 7 2 6 1 5 0 3.5 -1 2 -2 0
Weekly Reading, Writing and Peer Review
This course emphasizes making and evaluating arguments about ethics and the social impact of technology. Each week, we'll follow the same format.
Between Thursday, 3:30 PM and Tuesday, 1:30 PM (sharp)
- Do assigned readings of up to one chapter from the textbook.
- Take a multiple-choice quiz online to test your comprehension of the readings. You get three tries, and must get a perfect score. If you don't succeed, you can go to TA office hours and demonstrate understanding of the readings to get credit.
- Do at least 3 calibrated reviews if you're in the supervised review pool.
- After completing the quiz, answer one essay question (some weeks, your choice from two or three given questions). You'll be allowed up to 300 words; that's less than one single-spaced page.
Between Tuesday, 3:30 PM and Thursday, 1:30 PM (sharp)
- Perform your own peer review of four randomly assigned students' written questions (and/or calibration questions).
- For the first few weeks, you'll receive examples of TAs' answers to the essay questions, and other TAs' peer reviews of these questions.
Quizzes You won't receive any grades directly for completing the multiple choice quiz each week. However, you'll only be eligible to perform a given week's essay and peer review if you get a perfect grade on the quiz, which makes the quiz important to your grade. You'll be allowed three tries to complete the quiz. If you don't succeed, you can go to TA office hours and demonstrate understanding of the readings to get access to the week's essay.
Calculating Your Essay Grade Your essay will be graded between 0 and 5 in the following four dimensions.
- Was the essay well structured, stating a thesis, supporting it with argument(s) that are clearly related to this point and (if relevant) distinct from one another, and linking these arguments in a logical way?
- Did the essay do a good job of making its case, choosing relevant arguments, backing them up with evidence and examples at an appropriate level of detail, and responding to contrary views as appropriate?
- Did the essay demonstrate a good understanding of the course's subject matter, including both the topic and the wider context?
- Was the essay presented clearly and in correct English?
Each week you'll receive at least 3 peer reviews of your work (and will perform 4 such reviews). These reviews will be double-blind: neither an essay's author nor its reviewer will know the other's identity. Reviews will explain the rationale for your grade in each dimension, using at least 20 words. Initially, you will also receive a review by a TA, and only the TA evaluation will matter for your grade. In this case you will also see your peer reviews, along with the scores the TAs assigned to these reviews. When your essay is not graded by a TA, your essay grade will be the median of your peer review scores. If you were evaluated only by other students and disagree with their assessments, you can appeal, explaining in 100 words or more why you feel that the grade you were actually assigned was unfair. (Observe that a single unfair review will not affect the median--for your grade to go up, your lowest grade would have to increase above your middle grade, or your middle grade would have to increase.) If you do not provide a convincing argument, a TA may reject your appeal without regrading your essay; however, you can refine your argument and resubmit the appeal. If a TA regrades your assignment, you will receive the TA's grade regardless of whether it increases or decreases your score; furthermore, the TA will grade all of your reviewers.
Essays will contribute increasing amounts towards your final grade as the term progresses, as follows:
- the first 4 essays will be scaled to 1.5 points each;
- the next 3 essays will be scaled to 2.5 points each;
- the final 4 essays will be scaled to 3.5 points each.
Calculating Your Peer Review Grade You'll only be eligible to perform peer review when you have submitted an essay, which means you will need to have completed the quiz as well. Initially, TAs will evaluate each peer review you submit, assigning them grades between 0 and 10. You will also perform "calibration" reviews of carefully pre-graded essays from previous years; these will automatically be graded by the system on a 0 to 10 scale. These calibration reviews are a great way to understand how to grade well and also how to write good essays; you're required to do 3 each week, but are free to do as many as you like. Once you achieve consistently good grades in your reviews, you will start evaluating papers without being double-checked by a TA. Specifically, to review independently, you must achieve a total score of at least 35/50 on your five most recent graded essays (regardless of whether these are calibration essays or TA-graded essays). Thus, you can become an "independent reviewer" in the first week if you do more than the minimum amount of calibration essays.
Grading independently benefits you: at the end of the term, every review that was never graded by a TA will automatically receive a perfect score. Furthermore, when you're grading independently you don't have to do Tuesday calibration reviews. However, independent reviews will still sometimes be graded by a TA. About half of these checks will be completely random; the other half will concentrate on cases where there is high variance among reviews (if reviewers disagree, we will take a look) and where essays receive unusually high scores (such essays are unlikely to be appealed, so we watch them closely). TAs performing these checks will override essay grades as appropriate, and may also go back and grade your previous independent reviews. If new review grades cause you to fall below any of the thresholds above, you will leave the pool of independent reviewers until you again meet the threshold. For calculating your grade, we'll scale your peer review grades according to the same proportions as essay grades:
- the first 4 reviews will be scaled to 0.6 points each;
- the next 3 reviews will be scaled to 1 point each;
- the final 4 reviews will be scaled to 1.4 points each.
Late and Missing Submissions At the end of the course, we will drop your worst essay and peer review grades. (That is, your grade will be calculated based on your best 10 essays and best 10 peer review weeks, even though you will be required to submit 11. Each grade will be computed as the sum of the number of points assigned on your 10 best contributions, divided by the total number of points available for these contributions.) Think of this as permission, given in advance, to not submit one week because of illness, travel, starting the course late, conflicts with other courses, etc. No further allowance will be made for failure to submit essays or peer review, except in truly exceptional circumstances such as a prolonged and serious illness.
Text and Instructional Resources
Textbook We will be using the textbook Ethics for the Information Age, 7th Edition, by Michael J. Quinn. It's important that you have a copy, because we'll be reading pretty much the whole thing. You can buy or rent a digital copy for a lower cost than buying the book. Copies of the book are also on reserve at the UBC CS Reading Room.
Mechanical TA You will submit your quizzes and weekly essays, perform peer review of others' essays, and read articles on the course blog using our Mechanical TA site. This site requires you to have a UBC CWL account. If you don't yet have one, you'll need to create one. You also will need to know the student enrolment code "b1ca954a".
Clickers We will use i>Clickers in class to perform polls, track how opinions change, and measure attendence. Clicker use will be responsible for about 10% of your final grade. Your grade for this portion of the course will be calculated as the number of responses you submitted divided by the total number of questions asked. (Thus, some classes will count more than others.) Every class will begin with a "participation quiz" that counts towards your grade, so don't be late!
If you don't already have a clicker, you can buy an i>Clicker from the bookstore. You need to register your clicker on Connect to start earning your weekly clicker participation scores; if you register late, you'll miss out on some marks. If the ID on your clicker is worn off, don't despair. You can drop by the help desk at Chapman Learning Commons to get it retrieved. This is found on the 3rd floor of the Irving K Barber Learning Centre.
Additional Resources Your second week of readings, on essay writing, will not come from the textbook. Instead, you'll read the following set of publicly available resources. For your convenience, they're also gathered together into one PDF in MTA.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Developing Strong Thesis Statements
- Douglas College writing: The essay
- Douglas College writing: Making an outline from the top down
- University of Chicago Writing Program: Argument: A key feature of college writing
- Harvard Writing Center: A Brief Guide to Writing the Philosophy Paper
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Logic in Argumentative Writing (parts a, b, c, d, e, f)
UCLA graduate writing center: The writing process
You're additionally encouraged to read these optional articles:
- New York Times: The Sentence as a Miniature Narrative
- New York Times: Where do sentences come from
- New York Times: Other men's flowers
- Thou shalt not commit logical fallacies
The Computer Science Reading Room has prepared an online list of resources related to technology and society, which you can access here.
Slides from each lecture may be accessed by clicking on the links under "topic"; applicable chapter numbers from the textbook are also given. Slides will not typically be available in advance.