comp 380         computers & society         

             fall 2010         dr. tessa joseph nicholas

(o) sn 133; 962-1930   (e)


Note: this syllabus is preliminary and is subject to change!


In this course, we identify and explore cultural, social, ethical, and economic issues that arise from individuals', groups' and societies' use of digital and information technologies. We read, discuss, and apply a selection of ethical theories, including those of contemporary thinkers and scholars in the field of computer and internet ethics. Possible areas of inquiry include: intellectual property and digital rights management; media representations of computers and IT; privacy; technologies of friendship; gaming, virtual worlds, avatars, and identity; IT and business; usability, reliability, and security; net neutrality; enabling technologies; and AI and the technological singularity.

In this course, you will be working with Graduate Research Consultants who will assist you in your research project. The GRC Program is sponsored by the Office for Undergraduate Research ( I encourage you to visit this website to see other ways that you might engage in research, scholarship and creative performance while you are at Carolina.


IMPORTANT: Section 001 (and only section 001) of COMP 380 will be offered as a service-learning course in fall 2010, partnered with APPLES ( It carries a minimum of 30 hours of community service, which will be built into existing course research, discussion, and assignments.



You will be expected to participate actively in class discussions and take notes. Lecture slides will be made available for download, but will not be sufficient as a replacement for class attendance.

There will be assigned readings from our textbook, as well as additional readings that will be posted as the semester progresses. Substantial quizzes will be given on these readings. Short writing assignments will also be given. There will be no midterm or final exam.

A research paper will be developed through a number of iterations (proposal, outline, drafts). You should expect your written work to be graded on substantive content, evidence of careful research and thoughtful analysis, and on organization, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and style. You will also give a mixed-media research presentation as a member of a team.


All section 001 students will be expected to complete a required 30 hours of community service.




Ess. Charles. Digital Media Ethics. Polity, 2009.


course policies


Since much of this class depends on group work and discussion, attendance is important. Participation grades are assigned based on your attending and participating in class discussion and activities, and on refraining from excessive non-class-related computer use. Guidelines will be provided.


late assignments

A paper copy turned in after the deadline (start of class) but during class time is penalized a "third" of a letter grade: A becomes A-, A- becomes B+, etc. After that, your grade drops 1/3 of a letter grade each 12 hours it is late. Reasonable extensions granted 24 hours in advance of a due date will be granted.



Grading responsibilities will be shared by the TA and instructor.

You will be graded on content, organization, style, creativity, and precision. A high level of professionalism and quality will be expected from your work.

These weights may be adjusted. Any changes will be announced.

term project:          

    paper proposal           5%      

outline                  15%
   research paper  (1 or 2-person)   20%
  research presentation (4-person; may be graded individually)   15%

participation:    15%
quizzes and short written assignments:  (averaged together)    30% 

  total:                         100%

sample course schedule for COMP 380.001 (APPLES service-learning section)

sample course schedule for COMP 380.002 and 003