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Unit information: Computer Science in Society in 2018/19

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Unit name Computer Science in Society
Unit code COMS20005
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Mr. Marshall
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Computer Science
Faculty Faculty of Engineering


Computer Science has an important and rapidly evolving relationship with society that is distinct from that of other science and engineering disciplines. This unit focuses on the role of the computer scientist in society. We will consider both how societies, groups and individuals can be impacted by computing technologies, and how professional frameworks and working cultures can influence the practices of computer scientists. We will cover a range of professional, personal, ethical, social, and legal issues, such as:

  • Responsible computing and ethics
  • Legal frameworks
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Ownership, commons, and intellectual property
  • Social media and mental health
  • Algorithmic bias
  • Sustainability
  • Maker and DIY cultures
  • Crowd work
  • Persuasive technologies and behaviour change
  • Work-life boundaries and technology use

Intended learning outcomes

Students successfully completing the unit will be able to:

  1. Reflect upon their careers within the computing industry and their learning objectives.
  2. Critically discuss some of the ways that information technologies can impact societies, different groups, and individuals.
  3. Apply ethical frameworks to consider the potential impacts of future information technologies.
  4. Understand how legal and professional frameworks might influence their work
  5. Develop an idea for a start-up company, social enterprise or similar CS-driven activity into a video pitch.

Teaching details

20 contact hours of lectures

Assessment Details

Group video pitch (50%)

Individual coursework (50%)

Reading and References

The BCS code of conduct:

Frank Bott (2014) Professional Issues in Information Technology (2nd Edition). Swindon: The British Computer Society.

Readings drawn from research papers and online sources.